By Jason Bryant, MTC Storm
While the official name of the event is the USA Wrestling Cadet & Junior Nationals, every high school wrestler, fan and coach for the past decade and a half refer to the tournament simply by it’s location – Fargo.
A look at the current roster of Minnesota Storm and Training Center senior athletes will show dozens of All-American medals and stop signs (parlance for the first-place octagonal trophy).
It’s rumored that a few of the non-championship medals are door stops at Zach Sanders’ home back in Wabasha. Another rumor is that Sanders’ older brother Eric, a North Dakota State alum, uses Zach’s non-championship trophies as coasters for his craft beer.
With thousands of wrestlers preparing for the tournament which runs July 18-25 in Fargo, who exactly has the “bragging rights” when it comes to the MTC and Storm athletes?
Minnesota’s rich history in Greco-Roman should provide a number of championships, and it does. In all, Greco-Roman athletes have earned 30 medals and six total championships.
On the senior freestyle side of things, there’s some serious bloat as eight of the freestylers have combined for 25 medals in Fargo and 11 titles. Can freestyle claim the title per-capita? Dustin Schlatter, an Ohio native, made a clean sweep of the stop signs when he was at the Cadet and Junior level, winning six titles in six apperances. Schlatter twice doubled up in Cadets and then finished off his Fargo career with double titles in 2003 in Juniors.
Zach Sanders has 10 of those 25 medals himself. Sanders won three titles in 10 total tournaments. He earned double All-American honors each of the five years he competed in the Fargodome.
Circling back to Greco, the most accomplished high school career had to go to Alec Ortiz, who is rumored to be coming out with another line of Storm-branded t-shirts that translate into Oregonian. Ortiz was a six-time All-American, winning the 2005 Cadet Greco-Roman championship. He wore crazy socks back then, too.
Ortiz, Parker Betts, Joe Rau, Donny Longendyke and two-time champion Jordan Holm are current Greco-Roman wrestlers with Fargo titles.
Freestylers Kevin LeValley, Sanders and Schlatter all won Greco-Roman titles in Fargo. Longendyke, who recently won a Division III title at Augsburg and wrestles Greco, won a Cadet freestyle championship in 2009.
Holm is the only active wrestler to have placed in the previous century, taking a Cadet Greco-Roman title in 1998. Jake Fisher comes close, finishing sixth in Greco-Roman from his home state of Missouri, in 2000.
But enough about bragging rights, this is a team component – Storm wrestlers have earned 55 medals and 17 championships when they were coming through the Cadet and Junior levels.
Does Andy Bisek, the 2014 World Bronze medalist at 75kg in Greco-Roman, look back to his seventh-place finish in 2004 and scoff at total titles? He’s got a World medal, he can scoff at whatever he wants to scoff at. This brings up another point -- success in Fargo at the U.S. age-group levels does not guarantee international success. As Bisek proves, it's also not always about winning major titles when you're young that gives you an advantage in making a World or Olympic team. Bisek's development came after high school, when he and numerous other Storm members decided to focus on the style rather than go through the grind of college wrestling. Fisher, a past World Teamer, did the same, making U.S. World Teams in 2010 and 2011.
In the U.S., Fargo can seem like the pinnacle, but when you take a broader look at the international landscape, it quickly becomes apparent that "Fargo" in other countries is just another age-group tournament. Getting the fundamentals at a young age does prepare you for the next step, but there are also numerous Fargo champions who didn't continue to improve. Peaking can happen in several different parts of life.
From where will the next line of Storm wrestlers emerge? A good place to look will be Fargo in mid-July.
Fargo Championships won by current Storm/MTC athletes
Dustin Schlatter (Ohio) – 6
Zach Sanders (MINNESOTA) – 3
Jordan Holm (MINNESOTA) – 2
Parker Betts (MINNESOTA) – 1
Kevin LeValley (Colorado) – 1
Donny Longendyke (MINNESOTA) – 1
Tony Nelson (MINNESOTA) – 1
Alec Ortiz (Oregon) – 1
Joe Rau (Illinois) – 1
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