Nation’s top young wrestlers expected for Marines Junior & Cadet Nationals in Fargo, N.D., July 14-20

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | July 09, 2018, 1:54 p.m. (ET)
Anthony Cassioppi of Illinois battles Brandon Metz of North Dakota in the 2017 USMC Junior National freestyle finals. Cassioppi won a Junior Triple Crown last year. Photo by Jim Thrall, MatFocus.com

FARGO, N.D. - Every year, the nation's best young wrestlers come together for the world's largest wrestling competition, the U.S Marine Corps Junior and Cadet Nationals at the Fargodome on the campus of North Dakota State in Fargo, N.D.

This competition produces great stories of champions, many who go on to glory in college wrestling, and ultimately at the World and Olympic levels. This marks the 48th anniversary of the Junior Nationals event, which was first held in 1971 in Iowa City, Iowa.

The tournament is scheduled for July 14-20 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.

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.

For the second straight year, the event opens with men’s and women’s freestyle early in the week, with Greco-Roman in the second half of the week. What is exciting and new with this year’s schedule is that for six straight days, starting on Sunday, July 15 and running through Friday, July 20, there will be one championship finals held each day.

Only eight 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.

Anthony Cassioppi of Illinois claimed the Junior Triple Crown last year, competing at heavyweight. Cassioppi is eligible to return this year as a senior, and won the first leg of the Triple Crown at the 2018 USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals in Iowa. Should he come to Fargo, he is eligible to become only the second two-time Junior Triple Crown winner, matching Michigan’s Adam Coon, who claimed Triple Crowns in 2012 and 2013.

Along with Cassioppi, 2017 Junior National freestyle champions who are eligible to return are Wil Guida of New Jersey (100), Samuel Latona of Alabama (106), Ty Smith of Nevada (113), Patrick McKee of Minnesota (120), Atilano Escobar of Arizona (132), Anthony Artalona of Florida (145), Will Lewan of Illinois (152), David Carr of Ohio (160) and Zach Elam of Missouri (220).

2017 Junior freestyle runners-up who can return include Jackson Cockrell of Oklahoma (100), Christopher Trelli of Connecticut (106), Brandon Kaylor of Washington (113), Joey Melendez of Illinois (120), Alexander Cruz of Washington (132), Jeremy Schoenherr of Wisconsin (138), Jared Franek of North Dakota (152), Tyler Dow of Wisconsin (160), Trent Hidlay of Pennsylvania (170) and Jack Jessen of Illinois (182)

Joining Cassioppi as 2017 Junior National Greco-Roman champions who are eligible to compete in Fargo are Anthony King of Illinois (100), Brenden Garcia of Colorado (106), Brandon Kaylor of Washington (113), Alex Thomsen of Iowa (126), Mason Phillips of Washington (138), Peyton Robb of Minnesota (152) and Jack Jessen of Illinois (182)

Runners-up in the 2017 Junior Greco-Roman Nationals who can return are Parker Decker of Texas (100), Samuel Latona of Alabama (106), Anthony Molton of Illinois (113), Austin Macias of Illinois (126), Jason Shaner of Oregon (132), Alston Nutter of Wisconsin (138), Peyton Omania of California (145), Anthony Artalona of Florida (152), Tyler Dow of Wisconsin (160) and Trent Hidlay of Pennsylvania (170).

Many of last year's Cadet National champions are expected to move up into the Junior ranks this year and challenge for titles and All-American honors.

Last year, Illinois was the Junior Nationals team champion in both Greco-Roman and freestyle. Placing behind Illinois in freestyle were Ohio, Iowa, Minnesota and Pennsylvania. In Greco-Roman, the teams behind Illinois were Wisconsin, Washington, Colorado and Minnesota.

Another indication of the strength of the state teams are the results from the 2018 Junior National Duals, held this June in Tulsa, Okla. In Greco-Roman, Illinois won the team title, beating the Oklahoma Outlaws in the finals, followed by Washington, Ohio and Minnesota in the standings. In freestyle, Ohio 1 edged Minnesota by one point to win the finals dual, followed by Illinois, Oklahoma and New Jersey.

The women's Junior freestyle division, now in its 16th year, has grown in size and quality every season, and promises to be very competitive again this year.

2017 Junior National women’s champions eligible to return are Emily Shilson of Minnesota (100), Vayle Baker of Pennsylvania (106), Alisha Howk of Wisconsin (112), Alleida Martinez of California (117), Gracie Figueroa of California (122), Macey Kilty of Wisconsin (127), Alexandria Liles of Texas (132), Emma Bruntil of Washington (138), Jayden Laurent of Wisconsin (144), Alexis Gomez of Illinois (152), Sidney Kimber of Alaska (164), Alexandra Castillo of California (200) and Ariana Cobian of California (225).

2017 Junior National women’s runners-up eligible to return are Cameron Guerin of Washington (117), Breanna Douglas of Kansas (132), Jerzie Estrada of Colorado (138), Alara Boyd of Indiana (144), Jesse Kirby of Virginia (180), Corey Burton of California (200) and Jasmin Clark of California (225).

Last year, the Junior National team champion in women’s freestyle was California, followed by Wisconsin, Washington, Illinois and New York. The Women’s Junior Duals are no longer in Fargo, having moved with the boys event in Tulsa in June. The 2018 Women’s National Duals champion in Tulsa was Texas, which beat Illinois in the finals, followed by Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida.

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 wrestlers to win a Cadet Triple Crown since the program began in 2003. In 2017, there was only one Cadet Triple Crown winner, Ashton Sharp of Missouri (195). Sharp moves up to the Junior level this year.

2017 Cadet National freestyle champions who are eligible to return are Drake Ayala of Iowa (88), Jett Strickenberger of Colorado (94), Zeke Escalera of Kentucky (106), Ryan Sokol of Minnesota (120), Carson Manville of Minnesota (132) and Alex Facundo of Michigan (145).

2017 Cadet National freestyle runners-up who are eligible to return are Chance Lamer of Oregon (88), Carter Young of Oklahoma (94), Dominick Serrano of Colorado (120) and Ryan Franco of California (126).

2017 Cadet National Greco-Roman champions who are eligible to return are Chance Lamer of Oregon (88), Carter Young of Oklahoma (94), Yusief Lillie of Washington (100) and Carson Manville of Minnesota (132).

2017 Cadet National Greco-Roman runners-up who are eligible to return are Nathan Rubio of Nebraska (88), Danny Curran of Illinois (94), Conor Knopick of Nebraska (113), Fabian Lopez of Illinois (120) and Tyler Hanna of Wisconsin (170).

Last year, Illinois was the Cadet team champion in both Greco-Roman and freestyle. Following Illinois in the Greco-Roman standings were Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Washington and California. In freestyle, the team right after Illinois were Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Iowa.

The 2017 Cadet National Duals were held in Spokane, Wash. this June and showcased many of the stars expected in Fargo. In Greco-Roman, Illinois defeated Washington by just three points in the finals, followed by Minnesota, Kansas and Pennsylvania. Taking the Cadet National Duals freestyle title was Pennsylvania, which beat Minnesota in the finals, followed by Illinois, Iowa and Kansas.

Last year was the seventh year that there was a Cadet National tournament for girls in Fargo, and the tournament continues to grow in size and intensity.

2017 Cadet National women’s freestyle champions who are eligible to return are Olivia Shore of Ohio (100), Brelane Huber of Idaho (106), Leilah Castro of Ohio (117) and Nia Miranda of Texas (144).

2017 Cadet National women’s freestyle runners-up who are eligible to return are Taryn Martin of Ohio (94), Kenzie Cormier of Washington (100), Sophia Smith of North Dakota (117) and Ryan Schlereth of Missouri (200).

California won the 2017 Cadet National women’s freestyle team title followed by Texas, Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin.

For the second straight year, TheMat.com will be 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. Check each day this week for more rosters.

The U.S. Marine Corps Junior Nationals and the Cadet 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 4,000 athletes to pursue their dreams.

All of the matches on all of the mats from the 2018 U.S. Marine Corps Junior & Cadet Nationals will be broadcast live on Flo Wrestling.

For updated articles, features and results from Fargo, visit TheMat.com (www.themat.com).

SCHEDULE FOR 2018 CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS IN FARGO
Sunday, July 15 – Cadet Women’s Finals at 1:30 p.m. CT
Monday, July 16 – Cadet Men’s Finals at 1:00 p.m. CT
Tuesday, July 17 – Junior Men’s Freestyle Finals at 1:00 p.m. CT
Wednesday, July 18 – Women’s Junior Freestyle Finals at 1:30 p.m. CT
Thursday, July 19 – Cadet Greco-Roman Finals at 1:30 p.m. CT
Friday, July 20 – Junior Greco-Roman Finals at 3:00 p.m. CT