Tulsa, Oklahoma—Wisconsin threw everything they had into their matches in the Gold/Silver Pools at National Duals today, and both the junior men’s freestyle and 14U girls freestyle teams placed 4th overall.
After their match with California last night, the men’s freestyle team downed Ohio Scarlet 35-33 to start the day. But their forward motion was halted in the next round when Ohio proved to be too much. They regrouped and headed into the third-place match with a clear message from the coaching staff: It’s time to go all-out, have fun, wrestle hard, and then we can live with whatever happens. They fell to Oklahoma, 43-27, placing 4th out of 37 teams. Team Wisconsin is coming home an outstanding 6-2 dual-team record.
There’s no way around acknowledging the team’s talent. That’s the first of three things Scott Kluever shared about what makes this team special. You can’t place 4th at National Duals without talent. Second, the team is tough. “When you go through that many matches you have to have a certain level of toughness and grit.” And, third, every kid from top to bottom, no matter what their skill level was, really cared about getting a point to help the team.
That team orientation extends beyond their matside connection and is something Coach Randy Ferrell points out as a compliment to club coaches in Wisconsin, the WWF, and guys coming together to help the national team and sport grow within our state. “Our club coaches are welcoming each other into each other's spaces. We are growing with technique and training partners, and we are bonding more and more because we see more of each other,” said Ferrell. Wisconsin is buying into a method of training and getting kids opportunities together. Even with parents making the trip to Tulsa, the team chose to travel home together. They battled together, they’re comrades, and they care about each other. That’s a really powerful thing.
To top it all off, Kluever hammered home how level-headed and business-like these young men were for the entirety of the event, which is quite emotionally draining with the volume of matches alone. The juniors kept their emotions in check with match after match against nationally-ranked wrestlers and Fargo All-Americans—not getting too high from significant wins, or hanging their heads on losses. Their maturity served them well.
Volume and experience are two things Laura Bartoszek touched on for the 14U girls team that placed 4th out of 17 teams. Because Wisconsin didn’t bring a team in 2021, each athlete experienced this week-long event for the first time. They were able to sideline the junior duals and observed the kind of tenacity it takes to endure that number of grueling matches before they laced up to put in that work themselves.
After a breakout 5-0 performance on day one, the girls ran into two opponents, Pennsylvania (L32-28) and Michigan (L32-31), that simply had more in the tank at the end of the back-and-forth duals where the points came down to the final matches. Bartoszek said the girls fought with everything they had, and that going through the highs and lows of the week brought the team together—she glanced over and described them as sitting hip-to-hip, shoulder-to-shoulder, bonding in an environment that none of them would all be in together had they not been here.
In addition to excellent wrestling, Wisconsin’s very own Paula Rider was named the 2022 Cherie Elvin outstanding pairing official.
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