Pictured: Mason Gibson (PA) wrestling in a freestyle match at the 2021 U.S Marine Corps Junior and 16U Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota on July 17. Photo by Tony Rotundo/Wrestlers Are Warriors.
What we saw: Our first two tournaments began today in the 16U division as both men’s and women’s freestyle got underway. On the women’s side, a field of 350 has carried its championship bracket to the finals while the men’s 1,253-entrant field (the largest ever) will begin quarterfinal action tomorrow. Both tournaments will finish with the finals Sunday, July 18.
Unique to Fargo 2021: With the cancellation of this event is 2020, the 16U field is in a rare situation as the entire field is new to the event. Due to age-related restrictions, every one of the nearly 1,600 16U freestylers in action today hasn’t wrestled at Fargo before. While the individual athletes may be new to Fargo the top 16U teams are Team Pennsylvania on the men’s side and Team California on the women’s side, which is nothing new to the Fargo faithful.
Some Lightweight Takeaways from Day One:
Anthony Knox isn’t Messing Around: New Jersey stud Anthony Knox is one of the best rising freshmen in the country, and he proved why right out of the gate in Fargo. Knox started by knocking off 2021 PIAA state champ Louie Gill via a 10-0 tech 50 seconds. From there, Knox only got faster, securing another 10-0 in just 20 seconds in the Round of 64. In the Round of 32, his 10-0 tech took 57 seconds. In the Round of 16, spent Knox nearly three minutes on the mat, but the result was the same he teched his opponent. With that, Knox is a perfect 4-0, outscoring opponents 40-0 on the day to make the quarterfinals.
Javaan Yarbrough and Dru Ayala Represented for the Sub-106ers: One of the interesting things about Fargo is that there are three weight classes (88 pounds, 94 pounds, and 100 pounds) below the lightest 106-pound class we are used to in high school. Still, there are some immensely talented scrappers at these weights with smaller brackets.
Javaan Yarbrough (88 pounds/Ohio) and Dru Ayala (100 pounds/Iowa) were the standouts from the super-lightweights, in my opinion. Remarkably, Yarbrough took fifth last year as a freshman at the Ohio state tournament earlier this year despite only weighing 88 pounds. During Day One, he looked dominant, securing two falls in as many attempts and not surrendering a point along the way. Haakon Peterson of Wisconsin, who won a title at U15 Trials earlier this year, where Yarbrough was a placer, will be Yarbrough’s biggest threat. As for Dru, the younger brother of Iowa commit Drake Ayala, Dru lived up to the lofty expectations of the family name. After an opening-round bye, Ayala followed up with a 10-0 tech and a 16-5 tech and a dominant 10-4 decision to punch a ticket to the quarterfinals tomorrow.
The 113-Pound Weight Class is Stacked: The 113-pounders had five nationally-ranked guys in the field, including a pair of PA preps that stood out in Vinny Kilkeary and Jack Consiglio. After a first-round bye, Kilkeary started his Fargo journey with a fall and then a 10-0 tech and a 5-1 decision that left little doubt about why some say he’ll take home the 113-pound crown later this week.
Consiglio had himself a day as well, racking up a pair of techs in his first two appearances to advance to the Round of 16. A strong 10-5 decision allowed Consiglio to advance to Sunday’s quarterfinals.
Kael Lauridsen Aden Valencia are Holding it Down at 120: Nebraska’s Lauridsen, who shined at Cadet Trials, has kept the moment going. He’s punched his ticket to the quarterfinals without giving a point and scoring 31 of his own in three bouts. Valencia’s path to the quarters wasn’t as clean, but he has made it nonetheless.
Top-seeded Mason Gibson is Living up to his Tweet: Last week, Gibson expressed via Twitter that he was going to leave Fargo 2021 as a double champ in both freestyle and Greco. Thus far, he has looked like a man on a mission. Through his first three freestyle bouts, he has outscored opponents by a combined 32-2. The pair of points the 2021 PIAA runner-up surrendered came when Gibson exposed himself when going for a monster throw. Then, in his final showing of Day One, down by a point with under 20 seconds remaining, Gibson secured a huge four-point move to survive and advance. Depending on how each of their quarterfinal matches goes Sunday, there might be an all-PA semi between Gibson and fellow PA star Kamdyn Williams.
Vince Bouzakis Looks Strong in First Fargo: Vince Bouzakis, rising Wyoming Seminary freshman and younger brother of Nic Bouzakis, the top recruit in the Class of 2022, has been another standout at 126. In Fargo, Vince secured two techs without surrendering a point in his first two appearances. In his final match of the day, he picked up a big 7-2 win over a nationally-ranked Omar Ayoub of Ohio. These three wins at the Fargodome come after a Disney Duals performance in Orlando last month that saw Vince finish 12-0 with 11 pins and a major decision. Needless to say the younger of the Bouzakis Bros is having a stellar month on the mats.