FARGO, ND – The semifinal round of the Cadet freestyle competition didn’t go as planned for Team Pennsylvania, as Keystone State wrestlers went 2-7, but the two who did advance – Carter Starocci and Gerrit Nijenhuis – did so in dominant fashion.
Cathedral Prep’s Starocci scored a 10-0 tech fall over Ohio’s Jax Leonard in the 152-pound quarters. The No. 2 seed, Starocci got put on the shot clock in the first period and responded emphatically. He turned a snapdown into a single-leg, then cut off to a double for a takedown 10 seconds after the restart. From there, Starocci locked up a leg lace and turned Leonard four times to end the match.
A PIAA runner-up as a sophomore, Starocci will face third-seeded Joshua Otto of Wisconsin in the semifinal round, which will begin at 4 p.m. Eastern.
Nijenhuis, who finished a spot behind Starocci in the PIAA tournament for Canon-McMillan, needed even less time to lock up an All-American honor at 170 pounds. Wrestling up two weight classes from where he was in high school, the sophomore-to-be beat Georgia’s Gabriel Lee 10-0 in 54 seconds.
“I was pretty anxious. This is my first time at Fargo,” Nijenhuis said. “I haven’t done anything freestyle-wise a lot. But when I came in, I had three quick matches. I wanted to get this one done. I know I’ll have a tough match in the semis, but I just wanted to get there one match at a time.”
Nijenhuis scored on a double-leg at the opening whistle, in part because he had scouted Lee ahead of time.
“I usually watch matches on everyone I wrestle, but I saw he was a little more upper body,” Nijenhuis said. That kind of played right into my offense, which is shoot, shoot, shoot. The styles just worked out well.”
Nijenhuis turned Lee three times with a leg lace. He couldn’t get a fourth to end the match, but when they went back on their feet, Nijenhuis came up with another takedown for the tech fall.
“He probably was a little bit demoralized, being down 8-0 right away,” Nijenhuis said. “I just kept wrestling like it was 0-0.”
Next up for Nijenhuis is top-seeded A.J. Ferrari of Texas, someone he knows well.
“Just stick to my game plan. It’s been working out for me,” Nijenhuis said. “I’ve wrestled him a couple of times in folkstyle. He’s definitely tough, but I think I can get it done.”