Fargo Preview; event again loaded with talent

Updated: July 5, 2023

Photo: The Junior/16U Nationals were first held respectively in 1971 and 1986 and for two decades found different homes before the two age groups came to the Fargodome in 1993 for Junior freestyle and Greco-Roman … before adding the Cadet/16U freestyle and Greco tournaments in 1996 and Junior women’s freestyle in 2002 and Cadet/16U women’s freestyle in 2011. This year’s event will take place between July 15 and 22 with finals in women’s freestyle 16U and Juniors set for July 16, men’s freestyle 16U and Juniors on July 19, and Greco-Roman 16U and Juniors on July 22.

By Rob Sherrill

There’s a saying in the scientific world, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Although many wouldn’t confuse science with wrestling, that saying is as applicable to man’s oldest sport as it is to physics.

It wasn’t that long ago that the now 16U (formerly Cadet) and Junior Nationals were the crowning achievement of every elite wrestler’s season, year in and year out. With the increasing interest in qualifying for and competing on national teams at more age levels, a significant number of wrestlers we’d normally see at Fargo are competing on a bigger stage. They’ll be going not against the nation’s best, but the world’s best instead.

The week after the USA Nationals, 15 of the nation’s best will compete in the U17 World Championships, which take place July 31-August 6 in Istanbul, Turkey. Later in the month, five more Americans from WIN’s high school rankings will toe the line in the U20 World Championships, Aug. 14-20 in Warsaw, Poland.

This column appeared in the late June issue of WIN Magazine. Click on the cover or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe.

Four wrestlers ranked No. 1 at their respective weights in WIN’s newest rankings are competing on one of those World Teams: two on the U17 freestyle team (Ben Davino, 126, and Zach Ryder, 182), two on the U20 freestyle team (Luke Lilledahl, 120, and Christian Carroll, Hwt). All but five of the 20 in the two age groups are in our rankings, 15 of the 20 are in the top 10, and 11 are in the top five. That’s a lot of elite talent competing elsewhere.

But, since wrestling also abhors a vacuum, opportunities arise for plenty of other competitors. You won’t be facing that one elite opponent until another time. But the big stop sign awaits just the same.

First, the stars of the 16U and Junior Duals

Held a week apart, the 16U and Junior Nationals Duals both featured state sweeps. Iowa beat Illinois in both championship matches in the U-16 Duals at Loves Park, Ill. Illinois swept the Junior Duals at Tulsa, Okla. By now, you’ve probably read the All-Tournament Teams for both the freestyle and Greco-Roman events, and all were outstanding.

A total of 32 wrestlers, 15 from 16U and 17 from the Juniors, were undefeated in both styles. The upper weights were unusually strong in the U-16 Duals, with two wrestlers going unbeaten in each style at 195, 220 and 285. The 182-pound class was the deepest in the Junior Division. Three wrestlers finished unbeaten in two styles, and two others went unbeaten in their style without going the distance.

Before looking at this year’s Fargo event, here are three who shined in the 16U and Junior National Duals.

16U Duals

Lincoln Sledzianowski (106), Pennsylvania

Sledzianowski won’t be competing at Fargo — he’s a member of the U17 World team in Greco — but he made short work of his tune-up for that event in Loves Park. The rising sophomore won all seven Greco matches by technical fall, not allowing a point. He added an 8-0 freestyle log, with five more technical falls, to complete a 15-0 week.

Dreshaun Ross (195), Iowa

A teammate of Sledzianowski of the U17 Greco World Team at 92 kg, Ross also won’t be competing at Fargo, but the rising sophomore matched Sledzianowski’s feat of scoring a technical fall over every opponent. In going 8-0, Ross allowed only four points. He bettered that in freestyle, going 8-0 again with seven technical falls, not allowing a point.

Michael Mocco (220), Florida

Yet another rising sophomore, Mocco was the only wrestler in the Duals to complete his week without allowing a single point. He went 16-0, following up a 7-0 Greco record with a 9-0 freestyle mark. Those 16 wins included a pin and 11 technical falls.

Junior Duals

Sam Herring (132), Pennsylvania

Like his Johnstown Bishop McCort teammate, Sledzianowski, Herring owns a berth on the U-17 Greco World Team, so his Tulsa run was the last we’ll see of him this summer. Herring went 15-0 as a young Junior, starting out 8-0 in Greco with a pin and four technical falls. His freestyle run was even more impressive — 7-0 with six technical falls.

Collin Guffey (160), California

The rising senior went 14-0 for the week, starting out 6-0 in the Greco tournament and adding an 8-0 freestyle mark. What set Guffey apart? No other double champion came close to matching Guffey’s five pins in his 14 matches. Throw in seven technical falls and it was an impressive week. 

Tate Naaktgeboren (182), Iowa

With this weight class having more stars than any other, it was hard to pick one. We went with the Iowa State recruit because he allowed just a single point in 15 matches; that coming in the freestyle tournament. In going 7-0 in Greco and 8-0 in freestyle, Naaktgeboren racked up three pins and 10 technical falls.

And now, a Fargo 2023 Preview

It’s now time for WIN Magazine’s annual fearless forecast at this year’s 16U and Junior Nationals for men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling that will once again take place in the Fargodome this July. Who will make the U-16 and Junior National finals at Fargo?

As is our usual rule, everybody who makes these finals already has participated in at least one USA Wrestling event this year. In some years, that has limited the available talent pool significantly (though we’re not using that as an excuse). No Fargo walk-ins on this list, regardless of ability. Still, plenty of the nation’s elite wrestlers have come out for one or more events this year.

So, with apologies to blind squirrels everywhere as there could be late changes to who shows up in Fargo and what weights they wrestle, here’s a projection at what the 2023 16U and Junior National finals in freestyle (FS) and Greco-Roman (GR) could look like:

2023 Fargo 16U Nationals Finalists Predictions

88 pounds: FS, Ace Chittum (Tenn.) vs. Loc Webber (Ohio); GR, Vincent DeMarco (Ill.) vs. Eli Herring (Pa.)

94: FS, Kaison Schreier (Mo.) vs. Casen Villastrigo (Ore.); GR, Kael Davis (Pa.) vs. Turner Ross (Minn.)

100: FS, Case Bell (Ind.) vs. Caden Correll (Ill.); GR, Mason Brayfield (Mo.) vs. Dylan Ota (Texas)

106: FS, Ayden Dodd (Ohio) vs. Alexander Pierce (Iowa); GR, Czar Quintanilla (Wash.) vs. Dominic Thomas (Wash.)

113: FS, Dom Munaretto (Ill.) vs. Carter Pearson (Iowa); GR, Dominic Deputy (Pa.) vs. Nicolas Enzminger (N.D.)

120: FS, Jayden Raney (Kent.) vs. Michael Romero (Calif.); GR, Raney vs. Dustin John Snider (Colo.)

126: FS, Isaiah Jones (Okla.) vs. Timothy Koester (Iowa); GR, Declan Koch (Wisc.) vs. Gavin Rangel (Ore.)

132: FS, Sammy Spaulding (N.J.) vs. Evan Stanley (Ind.); GR, Ned Kauffman (Pa.) vs. Jake Miller (Okla.)

138: FS, Blue Stiffler (Ga.) vs. Jackson Tucker (Mo.); GR, Thomas Verrette (Colo.) vs. Arment Walterbaugh (Pa.)

145: FS, Nathaniel Askew (Ga.) vs. Brody Sendele (Ill.); GR, Israel Acosta (Wash.) vs. Will Deutschlander (Texas)

152: FS, Kyler Knaack (Iowa) vs. Jaxon Miller (Iowa); GR, Nicholas Singer (Pa.) vs. Mykel David Uyemura (Calif.)

160: FS, Elijah Brown (Pa.) vs. Aaron Stewart (Ill.); GR, Cy Fowler (Tenn.) vs. Willie White (Fla.)

170: FS, Maximus Norman (Tenn.) vs. Carson Thomas (Ohio); GR, Junior Bumenglag (Calif.) vs. Broedy Hendricks (Iowa)

182: FS, Jackson Rotterman (Mo.) vs. Ryler Wilder (Ga.); GR, Cason Howle (S.C.) vs. Nicholas Ronchetti (Ill.)

195: FS, David Calkins (Calif.) vs. Jace Renfro (Mo.); GR, Calkins vs. Connor Smalley (Pa.)

220: FS, James Bechtor (Ohio) vs. Kai Calcutt (Ill.); GR, Michael Mocco (Fla.) vs. Samuel Winkels (Minn.)

285: FS, Cooper Martinson (Iowa) vs. Jonathan Rulo (Ill.); GR, Micah Hach (S.D.) vs. Hayden Skillings (Minn.)

2023 Fargo Junior Nationals Finalists Predictions

100: FS, Mason Brayfield (Mo.) vs. William Jakeway (S.C.); GR, Saxton Scott (Ind.) vs. Hunter Sanchez (Utah)

106: FS, Ayden Dodd (Ohio) vs. Nathan Rioux (Ind.); GR, Kole Davidheiser (Pa.) vs. Adam Gruenenfelder (Wisc.)

113: FS, Christopher Kiser (Okla.) vs. Mack Mauger (Idaho); GR, Mauger vs. Kody Tanimoto (Texas)

120: FS, Bo Bassett (Pa.) vs. Seth Mendoza (Ill.); GR, Devon Miller (Okla.) vs. Anthony Ruzic (Ill.)

126: FS, Beric Jordan (Okla.) vs. Gage Walker (Okla.); GR, Phoenix Contos (Ohio) vs. Teegan Vasquez (Mont.)

132: FS, Jax Forrest (Pa.) vs. Teegan Vasquez (Mont.); GR, Elijah Cortez (Calif.) vs. Kyison Garcia (Utah)

138: FS, Cooper Hilton (Tenn.) vs. Jace Roller (Okla.); GR, Gable Porter (Iowa) vs. Isaiah Powe (Ala.)

145: FS, Pierson Manville (Pa.) vs. Kannon Webster (Ill.); GR, Alex Braun (Minn.) vs. Corbin Ramos (Wisc.)

152: FS, Leandro Araujo (N.D.) vs. Vince Bouzakis (Pa.); GR, Evan Parco (Calif.) vs. Jadon Skellenger (Idaho)

160: FS, Collin Guffey (Calif.) vs. Braeden Scoles (Wisc.); GR, Boeden Greenley (N.D.) vs. Griffin Lundeen (Minn.)

170: FS, Daschle Lamer (Ore.) vs. Noah Mulvaney (Wisc.); GR, Riggin Boger (Utah) vs. Jed Wester (Minn.)

182: FS, Jarrel Miller (Ohio) vs. De’Alcapon Veazy (Ind.); GR, Franklin Ordonez-Fernandez (Fla.) vs. Justin Rademacher (Ore.)

195: FS, Connor Mirasola (Wisc.) vs. Karson Tompkins (Texas); GR, Sawyer Bartelt (Fla.) vs. Payton Thomas (Okla.)

220: FS, Cash Henderson (Utah) vs. Cole Mirasola (Wisc.); GR, Nick Nosler (Ill.) vs. Jared Thiry (Iowa)

285: FS, Koy Hopke (Wisc.) vs. Dillan Johnson (Ill.); GR, Aden Attao (Idaho) vs. Daniel Herrera (Calif.)