Official release courtesy of Gary Abbott/USA Wrestling.
FARGO, N.D. – The nation’s best young boys and girls wrestlers will once again come together for the world’s largest wrestling competition, the U.S Marine Corps Junior and 16U Nationals at the Fargodome on the campus of North Dakota State in Fargo, N.D.
The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Based upon preliminary registration, this year’s event should shatter participation records, with more than 6,200 athletes already signed up to compete..
This is a year of celebration, as the 50th Junior Nationals will be held in Fargo in 2021. This would have occurred last year if the pandemic had not stopped the event. The first Junior Nationals was held in 1971 in Iowa City, Iowa, with only a men’s freestyle division, and was held 49 straight years prior to last year.
The Junior Nationals were held in Iowa City, Iowa for 12 years (1971-1983), Cedar Falls, Iowa for eight years (1984-1990), Warrensburg, Mo. for one year (1991), St. Paul, Minn. for one year (1992) and Fargo, N.D. for 27 years (1993-2019). This will be the 28th year that Fargo has hosted this event.
As part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Junior Nationals, a number of the champions from the first Junior Nationals in 1971 will be honored guests at the competition.
The tournament is scheduled for July 17-23 and will feature outstanding wrestlers in every weight class. USA Wrestling has official state association team standings in all the divisions held in Fargo, adding to the tradition of state wrestling pride exhibited at this event.
This competition produces great stories of champions, many who go on to glory in college wrestling, and ultimately at the World and Olympic levels.
For six straight days, starting on Sunday, July 18 and running through Friday, July 23, there will be one championship finals held each day.
The U.S. Marine Corps Junior Nationals features high school wrestlers in grades 9-12. Every year, the Junior division features talented athletes who are proven winners, as well as many top young stars who are making names for themselves.
The event opens with men’s and women’s freestyle early in the week, with Greco-Roman in the second half of the week.
Only seven different wrestlers have won the coveted USA Wrestling Triple Crown on the Junior level since the program was created in 2007, earned by claiming folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman Junior National titles in the same year. There have only been a pair of two-time Junior Triple Crown winners, Adam Coon of Michigan (2012, 2013) and Anthony Cassioppi of Illinois (2017, 2018). There were no Junior Triple Crown winners in 2019.
Only a handful of 2019 Junior Nationals men’s finalists are eligible to compete in 2021, with most having graduated from high school. Those listed are eligible to return, but are not necessarily entered this year.
In freestyle, 2019 Junior Nationals champions Daniel Sheen of Illinois (100), Andre Gonzales of California (106), and Drake Ayala of Iowa (113) can return, along with runners-up Brandon O’Brien of Iowa (100), Blake West of Minnesota (106), Nico Provo of Connectictut (113), Ethan Miller of Missouri (126) and Victor Voinovich of Ohio (145).
In Greco-Roman, 2019 Junior Nationals champion Brandon O’Brien of Iowa (100) is eligible to return, along with runners-up Daniel Sheen of Illinois (100), Cael Swensen of Minnesota (126), Cade Lucio of California (138) and Ryan Cody of Florida (160).
Many of 2019 16U National champions and All-Americans are expected to move up into the Junior ranks this year and challenge for titles and All-American honors.
In 2019, Illinois was the Junior Nationals champion in men’s freestyle and Greco-Roman. In freestyle, Ohio was the runner-up, with Iowa, Missouri and Pennsylvania rounding out the top five. In Greco-Roman, Ohio was second as well, followed by Missouri, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
Another indication of the strength of the state teams are the results from the 2021 Junior National Duals, held this June in Tulsa, Okla. Team Iowa was the Junior Duals freestyle champion, defeating Oklahoma in the finals, 40-23. Minnesota was third, followed by Illinois and Wisconsin in the top five. In Greco-Roman, Illinois won the team title for the fourth time in a row, with a 4-1 record in the Gold/Silver Pool, including a win over runner-up Oklahoma, 38-28. Minnesota was third, with Georgia and California rounding out the top five.
The women’s Junior freestyle division, now in its 19th year, has grown in size and quality every season, and promises to be very competitive again this year.
2019 Junior National women’s champions eligible to return include Sage Mortimer of Utah (100), Montana Delawder of Pennsylvania (112), Tiffany Baublitz of Pennsylvania (152) and Kennedy Blades of Illinois (164). 2019 runners-up eligible to return include Faith Cole of Missouri (106) and Jennifer Soto of California (117). Just because they are eligible does not mean they are entered this year.
In 2019, Washington was the women’s Junior champion, ahead of runner-up California. Texas was third, Hawaii was fourth and Illinois was fifth.
The 2021 Women’s Junior Duals were also held in Tulsa, Okla., alongside the boys event. The 2021 Women’s National Duals champion was California, which dominated the Gold/Silver Pool with a 5-0 record. Illinois placed second, Missouri third, Pennsylvania fourth and Texas fifth.
The 16U Nationals (previously called the Cadet Nationals) are for wrestlers who are 15 and 16 years old, some of the best young talents in the country.
There have been only 23 different wrestlers to win a 16U Triple Crown since the program began in 2003. There has only been one two-time 16U Triple Crown winner, Taylor Massa of Michigan (2008, 2009). There were no 16U Triple Crown winners in 2019.
None of the athletes who competed in the 2019 16U Nationals are eligible to compete in 2021, since all have moved up in age to the Junior level. We will have an entirely new set of national champions and All-Americans this year at the U16 level.
In 2019, Pennsylvania was the 16U men’s freestyle champion, with Minnesota in second, followed by Ohio, Georgia and Illinois in the top five. In Greco-Roman, Illinois captured the 16U title in 2019, with California in second, followed by Georgia, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
The 2021 16U National Duals were held Westfield, Ind. this June and showcased many of the stars expected in Fargo. Ohio was the 2021 16U National Duals freestyle champion, beating New Jersey in the finals, 41-32. Minnesota was third, Illinois fourth and Pennsylvania fifth in freestyle. The 2021 16U National Duals champion was Minnesota, which beat Oklahoma in the finals, 48-26. Rounding out the top five in Greco-Roman were California, Illinois and Pennyslvania.
Minnesota was the champion in both styles, and defeated Illinois in the championship bout both times. Rounding out the Greco-Roman team placers were Georgia in third, Iowa in fourth and Washington in fifth. In freestyle, following Minnesota and Illinois in the standings were Pennsylvania, Georgia and Iowa.
This will be the 10th year that there was a 16U National tournament for girls in Fargo, and the tournament continues to grow in size and intensity. Like the boys, none of the competitors from the 2019 16U Nationals will be able to compete at the 16U level in 2021.
California won the 2019 16U Cadet National women’s freestyle team title, followed by Illinois, Missouri, Washington and Oregon.
For the fourth season, TheMat.com has been announcing state team rosters prior to Fargo as they are received, to give fans a chance to see what star wrestlers plan to be in Fargo and what teams should be strong this time around. A Special Section will be posted on TheMat.com, with all of the preview stories, as well as in-depth coverage of the event the entire week.
The U.S. Marine Corps Junior Nationals and the 16U Nationals brings together hundreds of wrestling volunteers, including referees, pairing officials, coaches, state leaders and tournament operation workers, all who provide the opportunity for more than 6,000 athletes to pursue their dreams.
All of the matches on all of the mats from the 2021 U.S. Marine Corps Junior & 16U Nationals will be broadcast live on Flo Wrestling.
For updated articles, features and results from Fargo, visit TheMat.com
SCHEDULE FOR 2021 CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS IN FARGO
Sunday, July 18 – 16U Women’s Freestyle Finals at 1:30 p.m. CT
Monday, July 19 – 16U Men’s Freestyle Finals at 1:00 p.m. CT
Tuesday, July 20 – Junior Men’s Freestyle Finals at 1:00 p.m. CT
Wednesday, July 21 – Junior Women’s Freestyle Finals at 1:30 p.m. CT
Thursday, July 22 – 16U Greco-Roman Finals at 2:00 p.m. CT
Friday, July 23 – Junior Greco-Roman Finals at 2:00 p.m. CT