Without a high school wrestler representing Arizona in today’s finals of the Junior Freestyle Nationals at Fargo, ND, those in the already-concluded Cadet division have the spotlight to themselves this year.
And some of that limelight falls on a couple of local wrestlers.
The national event, the summer’s biggest wrestling tournament each year and known in the wrestling community simply as “Fargo”, is the largest wrestling tournament in the world. There are more than 4,000 wrestlers who travel to the campus of North Dakota State for the six-day event run by USA Wrestling and sponsored by the US Marine Corps.
The junior division is for wrestlers in grades 9 through 12, while cadet competition is limited to 15- and 16-year-olds. Participants at both levels are selected based on the results of qualifying events in each state.
Arizona had a couple of big winners this year in the Cadet freestyle division, one of whom had to be considered a favorite to bring home a title, and the other somewhat of a dark horse.
Jesse Ybarra, from the Tucson wrestling powerhouse, Sunnyside High School, won the 120-pound division at Fargo. The junior-to-be rolled through seven straight victories in the 120-pound weight class, over competitors from six different states, to claim the crown.
Expectations were high for Ybarra this year. He was one of three Sunnyside wrestlers to bring home titles from both the Peoria Invitational Tournament of Champions and the prestigious Flowing Wells Invitational, competing at 115.
Then Ybarra joined three other teammates in winning individual titles, his at 113, to lead the Blue Devils to their first state championship since 2013. And they did it in convincing fashion, piling up 193 team points to run away from the field.
Sunnyside was the state runners-up the last four years and finally regained its traditional spot atop high school wrestling. Prior to 2013, the tradition-rich Tucson school won 16 state titles over a span of 20 years.
And this coming year, Ybarra will be able to step out from beneath the shadow of teammate Roman Bravo-Young, who graduated after going undefeated through his prep career, 182-0, and winning four state titles. Now Ybarra, who has pocketed two titles so far, will be able to move to center stage. He also won at 106 pounds his freshman year.
The other Fargo winner was Nathaniel Deasey, who will be a sophomore this year at Chandler High School.
Deasey had an impressive record as a freshman, finishing 57-16 with 45 pins. He qualified for state, but had trouble getting through the state tournament, losing his first match to Alexander Niederhaus from Sandra Day O’Connor HS. A win over Kofa High‘s Amilcar Perez kept him alive in the elimination bracket, but a loss to Ryan Cazares from Boulder Creek HS ended his run.
Those losses at state didn’t seem to dampen his confidence. When he got to Fargo, he won five straight matches to claim the individual title at 220 pounds.