Monday, July 28, 2008


No wait – that isn’t what I’m writing about – jeez!

No – I’m writing about Iowans in Fargo.

No that’s not right either. C’mon, Jim, get it together.

Saturday morning, after three days of wrestling, Team Iowa won the team title at the National Junior Freestyle Wrestling Championships – commonly called, “Fargo” (anyone wanna guess why?). Iowa crowned two champions, had two other finalists and a total of thirteen All-Americans.

According to one published report it has been 21 years since a team from Iowa won this championship. Coincidentally, that’s the same number of NCAA wrestling championships won by the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.

By all accounts the match of the championships did not occur in the finals. It happened in round seven when 2007 125 pound freestyle champion, Nate Moore of Iowa, faced 2008 Junior Greco Roman champ, Eric Grajales of Brandon, FL at 130 pounds. In what most observers have called the best junior freestyle match in the past five or six years, Moore won 7-4, 6-7, 4-2. Nate went on to win his second national junior championship with a first period fall in the finals. He was also named Outstanding Wrestler of the event.

Many of these young Iowa wrestlers will be toiling in NCAA Division I wrestling rooms next season. Heavyweight champion Eric Thompson and 215 pound runner-up Byron Tate will be wrestling for Cael Sanderson at Iowa State. Fourth-place finisher, Josh Ihnen, is headed to the University of Nebraska and and fifth place finisher Alec Hoffman will be a UNI Panther. Third place finishers, Matt McDonough and Grant Gambrall will join Moore as Iowa Hawkeyes. Some of the younger members of the team will be among the most sought after recruits in the next class.

High school wrestling fans generally view Fargo as the ultimate championship for interscholastic grapplers. However, is a strong performance at Fargo always a harbinger of future intercollegiate success? Of the 150 NCAA Division I individual champs in the past 15 years, 79 have won at least one junior freestyle or Greco Roman championship. Look for these young Iowans to be scoring NCAA points for the schools of their choice in the next two or three years.

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