A large contingent of central Ohio wrestlers will face off against some of the best high school competitors in the nation during the U.S. Marine Corps Junior and Cadet National Championships from Thursday, July 12, to July 20 in Fargo, North Dakota.
Team Ohio prepared for the trip by participating in a training camp beginning July 5 at Ohio Northern University.
The top eight finishers in each weight class earn All-American honors in the annual event, which features freestyle and Greco-Roman divisions and is considered one of the top amateur tournaments in the country. The area wrestlers earned national berths from the state tournament May 19 at Otterbein, as the top three finishers in each weight class qualified.
"In terms of the national scene, Fargo is probably the most important measuring stick out there," Dublin Coffman coach Chance Van Gundy said.
One of Van Gundy's athletes with the Shamrocks, senior Lennox Wolak, will compete at 182 pounds despite suffering a torn right MCL during a recent training camp. He also is coming off a severely sprained left ankle.
Upon request from his doctors, Wolak will compete only in the Greco-Roman competition because freestyle would be more taxing on his legs.
"This is the last big national tournament of my high school career," Wolak said. "Fargo is the real deal. It's a tournament that everyone wants to go to. That's where you're an All-American. This is the tournament where you make your statement."
Wolak hopes his busy summer schedule will help prepare him for his quest to earn his third Division I state tournament berth this winter. He finished fourth at 182 as a junior and went 1-2 at 170 as a sophomore.
He finished eighth at 160 in the Greco-Roman competition in Fargo in 2016 but was unable to compete at nationals last year because he was training for judo in Japan.
"When I went the first time I had barely wrestled," Wolak said. "That was my first year of wrestling. I trained really hard all summer for that. This year I haven't been able to train hard all summer, but I was able to train hard for two years, so I'm hoping that experience will help me."
Wolak will be joined in the Junior Division by fellow Coffman senior Antonio Gonzalez, who will compete in Greco-Roman at 152.
Coffman's Ismael Ayoub (freestyle, 126), James Baumann (freestyle, Greco-Roman, 120), Niko Gonzalez (Greco-Roman, 132), Seth Shumate (freestyle, Greco-Roman, 170) and Riley Ucker (freestyle, Greco-Roman, 220) will compete in the Cadet Division.
"As far as freestyle and Greco, it's probably the toughest tournament in the nation," Van Gundy said. "The experience and the experience leading up to it, we're excited to have that kind of number competing."
Westerville South junior Aaron Morton will compete in both the freestyle and Greco-Roman competitions at 160 in the Cadet Division. It will be the second nationals for Morton, who also was part of a Columbus Wrestling Club contingent that traveled throughout Europe for the last month, participating in training sessions and duals.
"We did a lot of training, learning techniques and conditioning," Morton said. "The wrestling partners you get in Russia are super good, so solid. The offense is crazy. They know things that people over here don't."
Morton will be joined at nationals by South teammate Nick Ifju, who will compete in the Cadet Division at 132 in freestyle and Greco-Roman. Ifju also was part of the trip to Europe.
Olentangy Liberty senior Carson Kharchla is looking to build on winning a Division I state title in March at 170. Kharchla will compete in the Junior Division in freestyle at 170 while Patriots senior teammate Connor Brady will compete in the Junior Division in freestyle at 152.
"They both should probably be All-Americans," Liberty coach Mark Marinelli said. "Carson has a good chance of winning it. Connor has a good chance, too, but he just doesn't wrestle as much freestyle as Carson."
Other area wrestlers expected to compete include Hartley's Joey Petrella (freestyle, Cadet Division, 160) and Michael Petrella (freestyle, Cadet Division, 113), Westerville North's Mitch Potterf (freestyle, Greco-Roman, Junior Division, 182) and Dublin Scioto's Daniel Segura (freestyle, Greco-Roman, Cadet Division, 145).
Three area girls also qualified to compete at nationals in freestyle, including Coffman's Ayala Wolak, Lennox's sister. She will compete in the Cadet Division at 138.
Taryn Martin, who has transferred from Grove City to Olentangy Orange, will compete in the Cadet and Junior divisions at 106 and Watterson's Lilly Binion-Ferrell will compete in the Junior Division at 138.