The tournament, which began with the girls’ competition Saturday and will continue through July 21, will feature wrestlers representing nearly every state. Matches are held in freestyle and Greco-Roman formats across 16 weight classes.
Greco-Roman cadet matches for male wrestlers will begin today, with the championship finals slated for Monday, while the junior matches will start Monday, with the finals Tuesday.
Male cadet freestyle contests begin Wednesday, followed by junior freestyle Thursday. The cadet freestyle national championship is Friday, followed by next Saturday’s junior freestyle finals.
Wrestlers born in 1996 and ’97 are eligible for the cadet division. The juniors division is comprised of wrestlers born Sept. 1, 1992 and later who were enrolled in grades 9-12 during the 2012 spring semester.
Team Georgia is taking 41 wrestlers to the event, which is equivalent to the traditional state championships held each year by the Georgia High School Association. Among the 37 male members of Team Georgia, eight were state champions this past season.
One of the team’s female members stood out Saturday. Emily Pinson earned USAW All-America honors after placing fourth at 108 pounds in the women’s cadet division.
“This is one of the biggest groups we’ve taken to Fargo,” said Team Georgia coach Sean Moistner, who is also the coach at Alexander High School in Douglasville. “And, as far as our top-end talent goes, this might be the best group we’ve had as well.
“We’re expecting to have multiple guys in the finals and more national champions. It all comes down to the draw. There is no seeding, so, if you get the right draw and get on a roll, you could end up in the all-American round. That’s the exciting thing about this.”
Local wrestlers involved in the tournament include Pope’s Brooks Climmons and Tyler Haskin, Walton’s Jacob Murphy, Kennesaw Mountain’s Justan Rivera and incoming Wheeler freshman Aslan Kilic. Cobb County resident Jason Grimes, who attends Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs, is also on the team.
Climmons and Grimes will compete in the junior division.
A 2010 Greco-Roman cadet national champion and freestyle all-American, Climmons fell one match shy of earning an all-America junior Greco-Roman nod a season ago, and he also came up short in the freestyle competition. Grimes was also a double all-American as a cadet in 2010, but he was unable to duplicate the feat last season.
Climmons and Grimes are competing for Team Georgia for the third consecutive season. Climmons will see action at 182 pounds, while Grimes will be active at 170.
“They’re the top two guys who have the best opportunity at being all-Americans,” Moistner said. “I think Brooks has done a tremendous job of getting himself prepared. He’s worked hard in practice, and we know what we should expect from him.”
First-time Team Georgia members Rivera, Haskin, Murphy and Kilic will see action at the cadet level at both disciplines. Rivera, a Class AAAAA state champion, will wrestle at 170 pounds, with Haskin at 126, Murphy at 132 and Kilic at 106.
“Rivera is a ‘man-beast,’” Moistner said. “He’s the definition of physicality. For a first-year cadet, there’s no reason he can’t be in the finals in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. He’s just starting to blossom into the elite wrestler he can be.”
Moistner also had positive things to say about Haskin and Murphy.
“Murphy is a better freestyle wrestler, and I’ll be looking for him to surprise some people,” the coach said. “He’s the type of kid that, with a good draw, he could definitely be an all-American.
“Haskin is a tremendous Greco-Roman guy. He spent some time at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs over a week ago, so that will help him.”
Kilic may be young, but Moistner sees a bright future.
“Kilic got some experience with us at the cadet duals championship,” Moistner said. “He’s a young guy, but he should be a force at the state meet in February.”
With so much talent, not just limited to his Cobb athletes, Moistner believes Team Georgia could collect a lot of points and place among the top 10 teams.
“I really feel like we can have top-10 finishes in freestyle and Greco-Roman in both age groups,” he said. “This could be a special year for us. We have some good wrestlers and some good coaches helping in every way possible.”