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College Update for August 3: Fargo’s the last stop for high school stars on the way to college

By Jason Bryant

Jon Reader felt he had something to prove.

After his scholastic season ended with a loss in the 152-pound final of the NHSCA Senior Nationals in Pittsburgh this past March, Reader was determined to take home a title or two at the recent USA Wrestling Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D.

"After that loss, I went on a power trip," said Reader after his victory in the freestyle finals over North Dakota's Scott Glasser. "I didn't talk to anyone in a month. I was eating, sleeping and dying in the wrestling room."

While saddled with a loss in the pools, Reader recovered and finished atop a brutal 160-pound weight which saw former All-Americans Pat Wright of Michigan, Jason Welch of California, John Mangini of New Jersey, Torrey Line of Minnesota, Luke Rebertus of Maryland and Mike Powers of Connecticut not place.

Reader was one of several elite high school graduates to win titles in Fargo. Signing early with Iowa State, Reader is set to head to Ames with a bevy of accolades, but a double title was a primary goal. He won Junior National titles in freestyle and Greco-Roman in Fargo.

For Boise State signee Adam Hall, who beat Reader in that NHSCA final, his goal wasn't just finishing the season atop the scholastic ladder. He wanted a Junior title after sniffing the raised platform last year in a finals loss to current Iowa State redshirt freshman Cyler Sanderson.

"I've been there (the finals), I've lost there. I know what it feels like," said Hall after his victory over Oregon's Ryan Smith in the 152 freestyle finals. "Now I know what it feels like to win."

But with their high school careers over, both Hall and Reader saw a larger goal to accomplish before they headed to college.

A total of 36 graduated seniors that had signed with college programs came away with medals and the 36 represented 28 schools in Division I, Division II and the NJCAA.

Central Michigan and Old Dominion came away with three incoming signees bringing in freestyle medals (three each), while Arizona State, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech each had two.

CMU coach Tom Borrelli realizes the styles, especially with the new rules, are different, but still likes his incoming recruits wrestling in Fargo.

"We've always tried to encourage our guys to compete, it doesn't happen all the time, but we've always certainly encouraged them to compete out there," said Borrelli.

And regarding the style, Borrelli said: "It's hard to say how much that (success) translates into folkstyle, obviously the attitude to compete year-round and wanting to compete against the best is the right attitude to have."

Boise State's Hall earned medals in both freestyle and Greco, while future teammates Josh Strait and Eli Hutchison will come to Boise with Greco medals in hand as well.

Division II Central Missouri State was the lone Division II program to land a freestyle All-American, with 215-pounder John Ott of Missouri placing sixth.

In Greco-Roman, Iowa's Jeff Rau won the Junior title at 130 pounds while Kansas' Larry Perez finished second at 119. They were Division II's only incoming All-Americans in the style. Rau signed with Nebraska-Omaha and Perez signed with Nebraska-Kearney.

Iowa Central Community College, one of the top breeding grounds in the JUCO ranks for Division I talent, landed one All-American in each style - Jeremy McCoy of Nebraska in Greco and Colby Covington of Oregon in freestyle.

While Central Michigan is coming off a solid season overall, one program that has made strides in recruiting and getting top recruits to compete - and place - in Fargo is Steve Martin's Old Dominion program.

Of the three ODU signees to place, two made the finals, making ODU the only school with multiple freestyle finalists.

Martin stresses that his incoming recruits that are versed in freestyle, wrestle in Fargo.

"I think it's very important for them (recruits) to keep improving over the course of the summer. Colleges are year-round programs," said Martin. "Some of these kids have not made their mark in summers before, so what better time than the summer before their freshman year in college. Whether or not the other guys show up, that's their prerogative."

Newly appointed Virginia Tech coach Kevin Dresser has long sent his high school wrestlers to Fargo during the off-season. Now as a collegiate coach, Dresser feels the approach for his incoming freshmen is the same.

"Obviously we encourage our athletes to compete at any and all national level competitions," said Dresser. "I believe to beat the best, you must compete with the best anytime the opportunity presents itself. Fargo is an awesome opportunity."

As the broadness of the All-American signings dictate, it's also not just the power programs that are drawing all the upper-echelon recruits.

"It seems like the best programs year in and year out attract the kids that want to test themselves on a national level, regardless of style," said Borrelli. "What excites me is that we're attracting kids like that."
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