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DAY 5 NOTES: Chris Perry continues family tradition of excellence

FARGO, N.D. - Two-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time World champion John Smith is his uncle.

NCAA runner-up Mark Perry Jr. of Iowa is his brother.

And former Oklahoma State and Nebraska assistant coach Mark Perry Sr. is his father.

So it should come as no surprise that Chris Perry is one of the favorites to win the 171-pound freestyle championship this week at the Accelerade Cadet Nationals. Perry won his first four matches Wednesday at the FargoDome. The Cadet Nationals continue Thursday with the finals set for Friday.

"The first day is really a grind and just making it through the day is a challenge," Perry said. "The key is to stay intense and physical."

Perry knows how important it is to make it through the marathon, two-session first day in Fargo. He didn't make it out of the first day last year in Fargo after receiving a tough draw. He drew the eventual champion and third-place finisher in the second and third round and was eliminated.

Mark Perry's little brother isn't so little. The 16-year-old sophomore-to-be in high school already is almost as big as his brother, who wrestled 174 for Iowa this past season.

Among Perry's wins on Wednesday was a pin of Michigan's Kamron Jackson, who was fifth in Cadet Nationals last year. In Perry's last match of the day, he used an array of leg attacks and displayed crisp technique to overpower Washington's Cameron Smith 8-0, 7-0.

Perry has a close relationship with his brother, who will be a junior at Iowa. Chris spent a month in Iowa City this summer training with Mark.

"That really helped me get to where I'm at right now," Chris said. "I wasn't in the greatest shape when I went up there, but I was when I left. My brother really motivates me to do well. He has called me before all of my matches - I don't think he's missed a call yet. He tells me to stay focused and treat every match like it's the national finals. He and my dad are my two biggest role models."

Perry said his brother is excited about Tom Brands taking over as Iowa's head coach and Dan Gable returning to coaching as a Hawkeye assistant.

"My brother really likes Brands and Gable," Chris said. "He said this is probably the hardest he's ever worked in the summer with the new coaching staff around now. He thinks those guys can take him to the level he needs to be at to win it."

Chris Perry won an Oklahoma state high school championship earlier this year. He chose not to cut down to 160 for Cadet Nationals because he wants to keep his weight up for the upcoming football season.

Perry said he developed an early love for wrestling.

"I've always loved going to the NCAA Tournament and watching those guys win it, and being like 'Wow, I want to do that one day.' And I always dreamed of coming to this tournament when I watched my brother wrestle up here at Junior Nationals."

Mark Perry placed second at Junior Nationals after his junior year of high school and did not compete the following year because of an injury.

Chris Perry said talk already has started about him possibly wrestling for his uncle at Oklahoma State or following his brother to Iowa.

"It's too early to even think about that - I've still got three years of high school left and I want to enjoy that," he said. "I like both schools a lot. I've enjoyed watching Oklahoma State win all these national titles. And I like watching the Iowa guys go hard and keep fighting until the end of a match."

Olympic champion Blatnick coaches freestyle too

It is not an uncommon sight to witness an Olympic wrestling champion on the floor of the FargoDome, coaching young athletes in the Cadet and Junior Nationals. Among the coaches in the arena today was Kenny Monday, the 1988 Olympic freestyle champion who is an active coach with Texas USA Wrestling.

Jeff Blatnick, the 1984 Olympic Greco-Roman champion, was among the prominent coaches who worked the Greco-Roman tournament earlier this week. Blatnick was working with Team New York, working as a coach in the corner for many wrestlers and helping them during the competition.

Blatnick was still working as a coach for Team New York on Wednesday, even though the style changed to freestyle. Blatnick is quick to remind people that he was talented in freestyle as well during his career.

"I love freestyle," said Blatnick. "I wrestled it. There are also a lot of things in Greco-Roman that translate to all styles. Plus, I believe I can coach any match well."

Family ties: Younger Schalles competing in Fargo

Florida's Jake Schalles, the son of past NCAA champion Wade Schalles, is among the wrestlers competing in Fargo. He had his father in his corner as a coach Wednesday and went 1-2 in Cadet freestyle at 140.

Wade Schalles won two national titles for Clarion and was a World University Games champion. In 2005, he was named to the NCAA's 75th Anniversary Team.

Cadet freestyle numbers top 1,000

Cadet wrestlers filled the floor of the FargoDome on Wednesday morning as the freestyle competition began for the Cadet Nationals.

A total of 1,080 wrestlers are competing in Cadet Nationals in freestyle.

Coming Up: Junior freestyle competition opens

The Juniors take the mats again on Thursday when the first session of the freestyle competition starts at 10:30 a.m. and runs through 2 p.m.

The Cadets will compete in Session III in freestyle from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. with Session II of the Junior freestyle event going at the same time.
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