FARGO, N.D. — Numbers don’t lie, especially in wrestling. Of the 42 champions last season at the state tournament in Ohio, 35 wrestled in the Cadet and Junior Freestyle Nationals in Fargo, N.D.
What’s more, 60 of the 84 finalists had USA Wrestling cards and honed their folkstyle skills for the high school season by wrestling either freestyle or Greco-Roman in the summer.
Elyria’s Colin Noel (100 pounds) and Jordan Crace (138) knew that coming into their junior freestyle competition in the FargoDome on Tuesday.
Midview’s Ariah Snyder (127) knew it as well as she entered the women’s junior freestyle circuit.
Noel and Crace will come home as All-Americans after finishing sixth. Snyder knows she got better and can’t wait to do it all over again.
“Coming here and learning from the best wrestlers in the country and going home and putting it to the test will help me going into next season,” Noel said. “It was way worth it, especially to come out here and be All-American. I took sixth in the country. It was just a great experience all around.”
The step the sophomore took can’t be denied. Noel was a Greater Cleveland Conference champion in the spring, but didn’t make the roster when the postseason rolled around.
He’ll come back home knowing he’s ready to compete not only at the state level, but nationally.
Crace is no stranger to the spotlight, having won a state title with St. Paris Graham. Now at Elyria, the two-time state-placer was introduced to the freestyle world and took to it with aplomb.
The senior beat five state champions along the way before falling 14-11 to eventual runner-up Gabe Tagg of Brecksville in the semifinals.
Unfortunately, a sprained left ankle in the round of 16 stopped him from competing in the All-American round and he had to injury default to finish sixth.
Wounds heal, but the mental part of Crace’s game became stronger because of his three days in Fargo.
“I never looked at freestyle as a way to get better, but wrestling the good competition I had, I’ve definitely improved,” Crace said. “I definitely will transition the stuff I learned from wrestling out here to folkstyle. I’m looking forward to it.
“This is my first time out here. I wasn’t nervous. I was excited to get out here and compete. It was awesome. It’s a great environment to come out here. I was glad I got to come out and wrestle. It was everything I thought it would be.”
A separated shoulder the last day of camp kept Snyder from her dream of wrestling in the FargoDome last season as she watched Elyria graduate Jessie Lee and Team Ohio compete over the week-plus stretch.
While Snyder didn’t win a match Tuesday, she said losses to Kansas state runner-up Mya Kretzer and Texas’ Lydiana Hill made her better.
What’s more, getting a taste of the action has the senior thinking about 2019 and another trip west.
“It meant everything to compete this year,” Snyder said. “I came out here with the mentality that this is my year. I will continue to train all year just to come back. I will place next year.”
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