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|NOTES FROM PRESS ROW IN FARGO, Thursday, July 26|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Each day, wrestling journalists on press row at the ASICS/Vaughan Junior Nationals and Accelerade Cadet Nationals will be filing interesting notes from the day's competition. Thursday, July 26 is the final day of competition, the completion of Junior freestyle with its gold-medal session.
Final freestyle day has college recruiters drooling
By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling
The ASICS/Vaughan Junior Nationals and Advocare Cadet Nationals is the world's largest tournament, with over 4,000 competitors spread out on 24 mats in an indoor football stadium for over a week. The nation's best wrestlers come to test themselves in the Olympic-styles of the sport, looking to make a name on the national level.
Things are a bit different on the final day of competition, when the tournament is wrapped up with the completion of the Junior freestyle tournament. Most weight classes had six or more rounds on the first day, weeding out many of the less talented athletes (and some other very talented ones also). The arena has been cut down to only eight mats, allowing fans a chance to better concentrate on the action.
All that are left are the elite high school wrestlers, those who college wrestling coaches and recruiters would like to scout and encourage to attend their schools. And the big name programs are all here in some aspect, enjoying the action and filling their notepads.
"This is a good one," said Oklahoma State assistant Mark Branch, who along with assistant Eric Guerrero have been busy watching the wrestlers. "It is so much easier to follow than yesterday. And these are the guys you want to see."
"The only ones left today are pretty darn good," said Pat Santoro, head coach of the Univ. of Maryland who is one of the coaches for Team New Jersey. "Even the bad ones are good!"
"This is the morning everybody is watching," said Bucky Maughan, head coach at host North Dakota State, which is making a push within Div. I wrestling. "On the second day, the cream rises to the top. This is what everybody is looking at."
"The last round of Junior Nationals have the best high school wrestlers in the country," said Zeke Jones, head coach at the Univ. of Pennsylvania. "This epitomizes wrestling. They are sore and tired. If they did Greco, they have had more than 15 matches. Now they have to wrestle the best matches of the week. Junior Nationals final day defines character. They have the will to put themselves on the line under pressure. These are good kids, the kids you want in your program."
In a loaded 119-pound class, Oliver shines
by Rob Sherrill by W.I.N. Magazine
It's funny how the individual drama seems to have gravitated to the 119-pound class this year… at least, since the freestyle portion of the week started.
A couple of days back, we mentioned the Pool B clash in the Cadet finals between Tony Ramos of Carol Stream (Ill.) Glenbard North and Chris Villalonga of Blairstown (N.J.) Blair Academy as one of the key matches of the day.
The two didn't disappoint, Ramos gutting out a 2-0, 3-1 victory to reach the finals. Then he ran into Pennsylvania standout Josh Kindig of Schuylkill Haven Blue Mountain High.
Ramos won the first period 3-0, only to see Kindig rally for victories of 3-2 and 5-5 and take the title.
Easton (Pa.) High standout Jordan Oliver had to avoid the same sort of letdown as he went to the finals against Washington ace Brian Owen of Spokane University High. And he barely did, pulling out back-to-back 1-1, 1-1 victories after dropping the opening period 1-0, his first dropped period of the tournament.
Oliver has already accomplished plenty. In another match with the crowd 10-deep around the mat, Oliver slipped by Minnesota's defending champion Zach Sanders, 1-0, 1-0 as the top two wrestlers on this year's ASICS team met, with second-teamer Oliver prevailing.
In the seventh round, Oliver avenged his only loss last season, taking a 4-2, 2-0 victory over Californian Nikko Triggas. Expect Oliver to get plenty of Outstanding Wrestler votes.
New England comes up big: What a performance Lehigh recruit Sean Bilodeau (152) of North Andover (Mass.) Brooks School turned in. He had the Gorrarian Trophy locked up prior to the finals, and wound up with his eighth of the tournament - the most by any wrestler in any of the four events - by pinning two-time Illinois champion Conrad Polz of Orland Park Carl Sandburg High.
All this came after Bilodeau, who had six first-period pins, five in under a minute, lost a period for the first time as Polz won the opener 4-2. Polz had his hands full for two reasons: trying to derail one of the tournament's hottest wrestlers while helping Illinois hold off hard-charging Iowa and New Jersey for the Wells Fargo Insurances Cup state team title.
But Bilodeau was just one of two All-Americans from the Bay State, and one of three from New England.
And those other two aren't among the region's superstars, which should give other New Englanders considering making the Fargo trek in future years cause for optimism.
Massachusetts' other All-American is Patrick Walsh of Stoughton High, who finished in seventh place at 215. Walsh didn't win the Massachusetts All-State tournament, finishing second. But he did bounce back to win the New England Championships the following week.
And Anthony Ricco of Stratford (Conn.) High, fourth at 105, didn't even qualify for the New England Championships. That's because Ricco, the Class M champion, finished only fourth in the State Open Championships at 112. Only the top three Connecticut wrestlers at each weight get their tickets punched to the New England meet.