Just four years ago, Arizona sent a contingent of 60 high school wrestlers to compete in the Fargo Nationals in North Dakota, the summer’s biggest national tournament each year. That was a 50 percent jump in participation from the previous years.
Those attending the prestigious event, both boys and girls, get a chance to test themselves against state champion-level competition in a field of thousands from just about every state in the country.
This year, 80 wrestlers headed out from Arizona as wrestling continues to grow and improve as a sport in this state and interest also grows in competing in a unique event like this one that offers a “big tournament” experience on a national stage. Fargo, as it is simply referred to in the wrestling community, just wrapped up its 46th year of operation.
And, just as local participation in Fargo has grown, so has success.
Team Arizona came back this year from the 10-day event with 15 All-American designations that were collected by 13 wrestlers in the two styles, Freestyle and Greco-Roman. The double winners were Chandler’s Jason Holmes and Safford’s Dawon Andrews.
Competitors qualified for Fargo by finishing in the top three of their weight classes at one of the six regional tournaments that were held in the spring. There are two divisions, Cadet (15- & 16-year-olds) and Junior (grades 9-12).
Once the regional qualifiers reach Fargo, they can expect to find more than 100 wrestlers competing in their class, with matches going on continuously each day on the two dozen mats scattered throughout the Fargodome at North Dakota State University.
Holmes could easily be considered this state’s feel-good story of the tournament. He was a winner last year at Fargo in the freestyle competition and had a successful high school season that made him a favorite to win a state title. But it ended ended in disappointment when he was suspended from the sectionals after an off-court incident. That meant he wasn’t able to compete for the state title.
So the Fargo tournament provided an opportunity to prove himself. The senior’s two All-American honors came with a first-place finish at the 106-pound weight class in the Junior Freestyle competition and a third place in Junior Greco-Roman. The top eight wrestlers in each class earn All-American distinction.
Andrews, a sophomore, earned his dual All-American honors with a first-place finish in Cadet Greco and an eighth place in Cadet Freestyle – the only Arizona All-American in that category.
Out of the 13 local wrestlers earning All-American distinction, eight, including Holmes and Andrews, finished in the top three in their respective divisions. The others included Trey Escobar, who finished runner-up at 120 in Cadet Greco, and four third-place finishers.
Those taking third included Brandon Courtney at 132 and Quentin Clovis at 152, both in Junior Freestyle. Clovis won three state titles wrestling at Chandler’s Seton Catholic. The final two third-place finishes went to Jacob Garcia (126) in Cadet Greco and Stefana Jelacic (108) in the Girls’ Cadet Freestyle.
Courtney, who has two state titles at Desert Edge High School in Goodyear, had to beat fellow in-stater Danny Vega to secure his third-place finish. Vega, who won three championships at Tucson’s Ironwood Ridge High School, finished in fifth.