Area wrestlers to compete in biggest tourney in U.S.
FARGO — It’s that time of the year when kids in full sweats can be spotted running around the outside of the Fargodome with the temperatures at their Midwestern peak.
It’s called the USA Wrestling Junior and Cadet national championships, but Fargo could just as well be in the name.
The city and North Dakota State have hosted the Junior tournament since 1993 and the combined Junior and Cadet event since 1996.
NDSU is in the last year of a three-year contract with USA Wrestling, so it remains to be seen if the tournaments will return next year, but don’t bet against it.
Pete Isais, the director of national events for USA Wrestling, said he and NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor will discuss renewing the agreement sometime in the next week.
NDSU’s advantages are hard to beat: It offers a domed stadium with a turf field, college dormitories and a dining center within walking distance, big screens inside the dome and a dependable volunteer base.
If USA were to take its road show to a convention center somewhere, Isais said most likely it would be on a concrete floor and the big-screen technology would have to be brought in.
“It makes the facility cost-effective,” he said.
The tournament has meant in the neighborhood of a $150,000 a year for the NDSU athletic budget.
“At the end of the day, we try to create a win-win situation with NDSU athletics, and obviously USA Wrestling needs a piece of the pie to support our programs,” Isais said.
The other win for NDSU: recruiting. Once again, the Bison will have recruits competing in the Junior tournament. Last year’s recruiting class was ranked as one of the best in NCAA Division I.
“It’s getting the best kids in the country and bringing them to North Dakota State,” said NDSU head coach Roger Kish. “We’re hoping they get out of their shell and spend some time on campus, seeing the facilities and understanding the history of our program. I also think North Dakota State sells itself.”
Kish himself wrestled in the tournament when he was in high school in Michigan. The tourney has been in Fargo so long that the city is almost part of the name.
“When you think about nationals, you think Fargo,” Kish said. “It’s not Asics Junior Nationals anymore, it’s Fargo nationals. You could take the term Fargo nationals to any wrestler in the country and they would know what tournament you’re talking about.”
The tournament will see two new wrinkles this year. Six positions for the 2014 U.S. World Team in men’s and women’s freestyle and men’s Greco-Roman will be decided starting Saturday with the women’s freestyle challenge tournament.
The men’s Greco-Roman tourney will be Tuesday and the men’s freestyle next Thursday.
Also, the Junior and Cadet tournaments underwent a format change this year. Instead of the pool system of bracketing, USA Wrestling opted to go to a quarterfinal-semifinal-final matchup. Isais said it makes for a more consumer-friendly approach.
“A lot of people had a difficult time using the old pool bracket system,” Isais said. “It was like the World Cup. The U.S. goes 1-1-1 and people wonder how they made it to the next round.”
It also makes it more TV-friendly with the top matches being webcasted.
“You’ll be able to tune in, they’ll say next is the quarterfinals, and it will actually be the quarterfinals,” Isais said. “It makes for an advantage in the promotion.”
Northwest Wrestling Club to be represented
The Northwest Wrestling Club, which is based out of Detroit Lakes, will have nine wrestlers competing on Team Minnesota during the USA Junior Nationals next week inside the Fargo Dome.
Each state may enter a maximum of 51 wrestlers plus automatic qualifiers for the Cadet Division(15-16 years old), while each state may enter a maximum of 45 wrestlers plus automatic qualifiers for the Junior Division(17-18 years old).
“Our club has been sending wrestlers to participate for many years and have produced All-Americans,” said Northwest Wrestling Club coach Mike Fiedler. “It’s an honor for these wrestlers to be selected and represent Team Minnesota at the largest wrestling tournament in the world.”
Those Northwest Wrestling Club competitors will include Brayden Sorenson of Fosston, Braydon Ortloff of Detroit Lakes, Justin Dravis of Park Rapids, Ben Baumgartner of Park Rapids, Jonah Lange of Lake Park, Parker Jackson of Detroit Lakes, Sam Erckenbrack of New York Mills, James Huwe of Detroit Lakes, (2013 Cadet Freestyle All-American) and Ethan Kimber of Hewitt.