Cover photo courtesy of Brian LaPlante

Eleven local high school wrestlers journeyed over 1,100 miles to Fargo, North Dakota over the weekend for the 2022 United States Marine Corps 16U & Junior Nationals championships. The annually held tournament is the largest single event in the country for scholastic athletes spanning six days of wrestling, six different categories of freestyle and Greco-Roman style wrestling, and over 6,600 athletes from all corners of the United States. The tournament is competed inside the monstrous Fargodome, an indoor stadium that is home to the legendary North Dakota State Bison football team.

Eleven Buffalo area athletes representing eight high schools competed in freestyle tournaments from Friday to Monday across three different divisions.

Williamsville North junior Cam Catrabone led all locals with a 5-2 record in the Junior Freestyle division at 138-pounds. Catrabone made it as far as the second consolation round of sixteen, only three rounds from guaranteed top-eight placement in a bracket that featured 128 wrestlers at the start of the tournament. Catrabone earned three technical falls out of his five wins over the tournament.

Starpoint junior Gage LaPlante and North Tonawanda junior Dylan Gagnon each posted 3-2 tournament records in their respective weights. LaPlante reached the round of sixteen in the 16U Freestyle 160-pound bracket and fell by only two points in that round, dropping to the consolation. LaPlante posted three wins overall with two technical falls and ended his tournament in the first consolation round of eight.

Gagnon reached the round of thirty-two in the 16U 145-pound bracket. Dylan won two of his three matches in the championship side of the bracket gaining valuable experience on one of high school wrestling’s biggest stages. Gagnon earned two technical falls (12-1 and 10-0) in his three wins in the tournament.

Chautauqua Lake’s Jordan Joslyn, Starpoint’s Griffin LaPlante, and St. Joe’s Austin Zimmerman competed in Fargo, each earning 2-2 records in their brackets.

A first round loss landed ‘Joe’s Zimmerman in the consolation side of the 16U Freestyle 113-pound bracket early, however two dominant wins (11-0 and 12-2 technical falls) earned the Marauder his two wins in Fargo while bringing home valuable experience.

Joslyn started the weekend with an exciting 13-11 victory in the first round of the 126-pound 16U Freestyle bracket. Joslyn trailed by one point late in the match against his Pennsylvania opponent but earned four points with a toss to take the late lead. Another win would advance Joslyn to the round of thirty-two, but two losses thereafter would end the tournament for the Thunderbird star.

Starpoint’s young star Griffin LaPlante fell by a narrow 12-11 margin in the round of sixty-four in the 16U Freestyle 145-pound bracket to start the tournament. However, Griffin battled in the consolation rounds, first with a 10-8 win followed by a 10-0 technical fall before falling in the consolation round of thirty-two.

Hamburg’s Kenny Schmitz and Newfane’s Aidan Gillings each posted 1-2 records in their respective weights at Fargo.

Schmitz earned a 10-0 opening round technical fall in the Junior Freestyle 113-pound bracket but fell in both the subsequent championship and consolation rounds. Gillings suffered an opening round loss in the 16U Freestyle 132-pound bracket, but bounced back with a pin in the consolation round before bowing out of the tournament.

Meanwhile, in the 16U Girls division, three local athletes competed including St. Mary’s Ashley Burns and North Tonawanda’s Hannah McCarley and Brenna McCarley.

Hannah posted a 1-2 record on the weekend in the 106-pound division. After suffering a first round loss, McCarley gutted out a 16-10 victory in the consolation round of thirty-two, but fell in the following round. Burns and Brenna McCarley each posted 0-2 records but earned valuable experience in Fargo.