FARGO, N.D. – Winning a team title at the Cadet Freestyle National Tournament is very difficult – as evidenced by the fact that only five states have done it in the event’s 33-year history.
Doing it without two of your top team members? That’s nearly unheard of.
That’s exactly what Team Pennsylvania did on Monday.
Carson Manville and Luke Stout captured championships and a dozen other Team PA wrestlers won mini stop signs to give the Keystone State 71 points – 21 more than second-place Ohio.
“It’s really special,” said Team PA coach Bryan Pearsall, an assistant at Penn. “This is something that hasn’t been done in a really long time for Team Pennsylvania. We had that mindset coming into it that it was the goal from the start.”
It ended Illinois’ five-year stranglehold on the team title and a string of eight in nine years for those from the Land of Lincoln. It was the 21st overall for Pennsylvania, which is more than double Illinois’ nine. Ohio has two while Iowa and New Jersey have one apiece.
A World medalist, Manville was a double champion last year for Minnesota, but he and his family have now moved to Pennsylvania, where he attends Wyoming Seminary.
After beating West Virginia’s John Martin Best 16-4 in the 145-pound final, Manville was asked about the team title.
“I’d have no words,” he said. “I’d be extremely happy. I’ve looked at Illinois, how many titles are they going to win in a row?”
PA Power Wrestling then informed him that the team title had already been sealed – before the start of the medal round.
“Oh, let’s go!” Manville said. “Team PA wins!”
Stout, who beat Wisconsin’s Sam Skillings 12-2 in the 170-pound final, already knew about the team title, but that didn’t lesson his enthusiasm for it.
“It’s awesome, especially knowing that I’ve contributed to it,” said Stout, who will be a junior at Mount Lebanon. “It’s really cool to have PA win this whole thing.
Team PA’s performance is even more impressive considering that the squad was without Hunter Catka, who broke his ankle before the medal rounds, and Rocco Welsh, who didn’t make weight for Day 2.
“Total team effort,” Pearsall said. “These guys rallied around each other. We did have some guys not able to compete in the tournament as late as we hoped. We felt like if we had those guys and maybe some other momentum had picked up, that we might have been able to break the record for All-Americans, but even though we fell short of that goal, winning the team title … is really special for the state of Pennsylvania.”
The state record is 16 All-Americans, set in 1993 and matched in 2003, while Illinois had 17 a year ago.
While the team’s success was predicated on individuals doing well, Pearsall saw intangibles that contributed to the team title.
“I think part of it was the guys really believed in each other and rallied around each other,” he said. “Even when momentum wasn’t the strongest, we found a way to pick each other up and get going again.”
In addition to the two champions, Pennsylvania had two runners-up – Kolby Franklin at 195 pounds and Colby Whitehill at 285.
Franklin, who will attend St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, fell behind Georgia’s Noah Pettigrew 6-0 before rallying to make it 6-5 in the second period. He couldn’t quite erase the deficit, however, and gave up some late points in a 12-7 loss.
“Kolby’s only going to be a freshman this year, so it’s really impressive for an eighth-grader to be able to come out and wrestle like that,” Persall said. “He got himself into a little bit of a hole there in the finals, but I think he’ll be just fine moving forward, and we expect big things from him over the next four years.”
Brookville’s Colby Whitehill also got into some early trouble. He gave up a pair takedowns to Illinois’ Hayden Copass and could never get going in a 10-0 loss.
“Colby was an All-American out here last year, so you definitely saw a little bit of a difference in his mentality,” Pearsall said. “He knew he’d been here and was an All-American. I think his goal was to win it. I’m sure he’s hurting right now, falling short of his goal, but I do believe he’s going to be wrestling Greco as well.”
Pennsylvania will look to end an even longer drought there – dating to 2011 – and snap Illinois’ five-year winning streak.
Team PA’s other freestyle All-Americans were: Sheldon Seymour (3rd at 106), Wyatt Henson (3rd at 126), Dorian Crosby (3rd at 195), Jagger Condomitti (6th at 138), Antonio Petrucelli (4th at 145), Keegan Rothrock (5th at 152), Clayton Ulrey (5th at 160), Jalen Stephens (5th at 285), Jacob Van Dee (7th at 88) and Ryan Crookham (7th at 120).