FARGO, N.D. -- California's Morgan McIntosh had nothing to prove heading into the 2011 Junior National freestyle competition in Fargo, N.D.
Morgan McIntosh (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)After all, McIntosh was the nation's No. 1 recruit from the Class of 2011 who won virtually every accolade a high school wrestler can win, and will soon embark on a college wrestling career at Penn State.
Still, McIntosh wanted to be in Fargo, and on Saturday capped off a spectacular high school wrestling career by winning his second straight Junior National freestyle title with a dominating 5-0, 5-0 victory in the finals at 215 pounds over Iowa's Blaize Cabel.
"I love being here," said McIntosh of Fargo. "It's fun to wrestle on this big old stage in front of everyone."
McIntosh's Junior National freestyle title last summer came at 189 pounds, as did his last two (of three) California state titles. He made the decision to move up a weight class to 215 pounds for his final high school wrestling event.
"I want to get used to wrestling, bigger, stronger guys," said McIntosh, who was named the 2011 InterMat High School Wrestler of the Year. "It's a big difference going from 189s to 215s. A lot of these guys were 10, 15 pounds bigger than me, so I think it's a good experience being able to wrestle all these strong guys."
There has been speculation that McIntosh, who went 79-0 over his final two seasons, could step into the defending NCAA champion Penn State lineup immediately at 197 pounds.
Morgan McIntosh (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)"Nothing's really set," McIntosh said of wrestling at 197 pounds. "I've talked to the coaches. All they told me was to focus on getting better for now. Don't worry about the weight classes."
McIntosh will enter a Penn State wrestling room loaded with talent. Ed Ruth was a freshman All-American at 174 pounds, while Quentin Wright is the returning NCAA champion at 184 pounds. Two Nittany Lion Wrestling Club upperweights, Cael Sanderson and Jake Varner, are on the U.S. World Team.
"I seriously can't wait," McIntosh said of starting his college wrestling career at Penn State. "I dream about being in that room wrestling with all those guys, all the great partners I'm going to have. It's just going to be an awesome experience. I can't wait."
McIntosh may have stood alone in terms of dominance throughout the Junior National freestyle competition, but it was Nikosi Mood (Illinois) who became the lone Triple Crown winner on the Junior level.
Moody topped fellow Illinois statesman Tommy Pawleski to claim the title at 98 pounds and cap off his Triple Crown.
Nikosi Mood (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)"It feels great to win this," Moody said of winning the Triple Crown. "I worked so hard this past year to make up for what I didn't do last year."
In May, Pawleski pinned Moody to win the Illinois freestyle state tournament.
"Since we wrestled each other, we kind of knew each other," said Moody, who is home-schooled. "I knew his strengths and weaknesses. I just went out there and capitalized on all of them."
Two other Illinois wrestlers, Matt Garelli (105) and Zane Richards (130), won titles and helped the Land of Lincoln run away with the team title. Illinois finished with 93 points, which was 38 points in front of runner-up Iowa. Wisconsin (32), Ohio (30), and California (29) rounded out the top five teams.
For Garelli, it was his second straight Junior National freestyle title. He needed three periods to defeat Junior National Greco-Roman champion Johnson Mai (California), 3-3, 7-0, 3-3, to take the title at 105 pounds.
So what does it mean to Garelli to win two straight Junior National freestyle titles?
"It means everything in the world," said Garelli. "To win it once, everyone called it a mistake. But you come out here and you win it again and people really will take you seriously."
Richards, who runner-up in the Junior National Greco-Roman competition, defeated 2010 Cadet National freestyle champion Brandon Jeske to win the title at 130 pounds. It was a rematch of the 2010 Cadet Greco-Roman finals match won by Richards.
Alex Dieringer (Photo/Dave Jedlicka, jedicheetah.com)Two Wisconsin wrestlers, Alex Dieringer (160) and Devin Peterson (189), capped off double titles in Fargo by winning the freestyle competition on Saturday.
Dieringer, who will soon begin a college wrestling career at Oklahoma State, won his Greco-Roman title on Tuesday at 152 pounds, but moved up to 160 pounds for the freestyle competition. His victory in the finals came over future college teammate Zac Skates (Oklahoma), 4-0, 4-0.
"All four years I've been moving up every time," said Dieringer, a six-time Junior or Cadet National champion. "This is a little different because once you get to the bigger guys, they get a lot stronger. I don't know, I guess my strength still kept up with them."
Peterson, who is ranked as the nation's No. 22 senior recruit by InterMat, won his title at 189 pounds by pinning Jahwon Akui of Illinois in the second period after a dominating 7-0 first period. Akui was attempting to become a Triple Crown winner after winning Junior National folkstyle and Greco-Roman titles at 171 pounds.
"He's a great wrestler, but I kind of knew I had a game plan coming in," said Peterson, who, like Dieringer, becomes a six-time Junior or Cadet National champion. "My high school coaches aren't here. I talked to them on the phone and they gave me a game plan to go out there and get to his legs. If I got to his legs, I would take him down easy. And I just had to get on top and gut him."
Peterson recently gave a verbal commitment to Wisconsin. He spent time in Madison training with the Badger Wrestling Club prior to wrestling in Fargo.
"That prepared me well for out here," said Peterson. "I went out there to Madison for a couple of days, got in good shape, and then I came out here and did what I did."
Ben Whitford (Photo/Dave Jedlicka, jedicheetah.com)Ben Whitford (Michigan) capped off double titles in Fargo with a convincing 7-0, 2-0 shutout victory over Central Michigan recruit Ty Davis (Ohio) in the finals at 135 pounds.
It was Whitford's fifth overall title in Fargo and sixth finals appearance in six attempts. It also marked the second straight year in which he won double titles. It is Whitford's first year competing at the Junior level.
"It's a lot different wrestling these older, stronger, wiser opponents," said Whitford, a two-time Illinois Class 2A state champion who will attending St. Johns High School (Mich.) for his junior season.
Whitford has high goals for himself in the coming years.
"I'm going to try to make that Junior World Team, hopefully next year, and then just keep going up from there," said Whitford.
The nation's No. 2 senior recruit, Jason Tsirtsis (Indiana), upended 2010 Cadet National freestyle champion Jake Short (Minnesota), 1-0, 1-0.
"I felt like he was really just staying in good position," said Tsirtsis, a three-time state champion at Crown Point High School. "He's a real strong kid. He's real short and stocky, so it's tough to break his tieups and his position. So I just really focused on getting past his head and his hands, and getting to my leg attacks."
Tsirstis is the younger brother of Alex Tsirtsis, a four-time undefeated Indiana state champion who went on to become an All-American at Iowa.
"My brother, he's my inspiration, he's my idol, not just in wrestling, but in life," said Tsirtsis. "He means a lot to me.
"I've watched him since as long as I can remember. I just always looked up to him. He's my coach, and just my idol. He really helps me out a lot. I really take to heart what he has to say to me. So I would just like to thank him."
Thomas Gilman (Photo/Dave Jedlicka, jedicheetah.com)Thomas Gilman (Nebraska), a FILA Cadet National freestyle champion this year and Cadet National freestyle champion last year, topped David Terao (Hawaii) in two periods, 4-1, 2-1, to claim the title at 119 pounds.
"My conditioning is always better than everyone's," said Gilman, who is ranked as the nation's No. 11 senior recruit by InterMat. "That's one thing my coach really focuses on. In folkstyle it's really important, but in freestyle, you might not think it, but you get really tired even in two minutes because it's real fast-paced, especially guys get tired with 30 seconds left, that's when I'm coming after them."
Gilman notched a win over another one of the nation's top senior recruits, Cory Clark (Iowa), in pool competition prior to reaching the finals. Clark is undefeated in his prep career and ranked as the No. 18 senior recruit in the country by InterMat.
"It was a big win," said Gilman, a three-time state champion for Skutt Catholic High School. "Me and him have been going back and forth for years. First period I got him 2-1. Second period he got me 6-1. Turned around a lot. So I had to come out, adjusted. I knew I could take him down. I just had to get solid leg attacks, snapdowns, so that's what I did."
Two other InterMat Top 100 recruits, Brian Realbuto (New York) and Zac Brunson (Oregon), won titles.
Realbuto rebounded from a loss in pool competition to take the title at 145 pounds, pinning Brian Murphy (Illinois) in the finals, after dropping the first period, 1-0. Realbuto was an undefeated New York state champion this past season and ranked as the No. 28 senior recruit in the country by InterMat. He is coached by Max Askren, a 2010 NCAA champion at Missouri.
"I've been working a lot on top this year, a lot of different holds, getting guys tight on their back," said Realbuto. "I've been working on that a lot, so I'm really happy that I got to get a pin in the finals."
Zac Brunson (Photo/Dave Jedlicka, jedicheetah.com)Brunson came from behind to defeat Edwin Cooper (Illinois) in three periods, 0-4, 1-0, 6-0. Brunson is a three-time state champion at Winston Churchill High School. He is ranked as the nation's No. 50 senior recruit by InterMat.
"I went in knowing he was going to be tough right off the bat," said Brunson. "He's real fast, real explosive. But I knew over time I would wear him down."
Nathan Tomasello (Ohio), who finished this past season as the nation's top-ranked 103-pounder by InterMat, captured the crown at 112 pounds with a three-period victory, 5-1, 0-4, 4-1, over Jarred Brooks (Indiana).
"I just love going to this tournament," said Tomasello. "It just gets you psyched up every year."
Joey Dance (Photo/Rob Preston)Joey Dance (Virginia), a 2009 Cadet National freestyle champion, won the title at 125 pounds with a hard-fought three-period victory, 3-0, 0-1, 2-1, over Joey Palmer (Washington). Dance is ranked as the nation's No. 17 wrestler in the Class of 2013 by InterMat.
Dance compared winning a Cadet title to winning a Junior title.
"Juniors is a lot different," said Dance. "They are a lot stronger, a lot tougher. Cadets ... They are more just kids."
Pat Downey (Florida) and Connor Medbery (Colorado) joined McIntosh as Class of 2011 graduates to win titles.
Downey, a 2011 NHSCA Senior National champion, defeated 2010 Cadet National double champion Jordan Rogers (Washington), 1-1, 3-1, 3-0, to win the title at 171 pounds.
Pat Downey (Photo/Dave Jedlicka, jedicheetah.com)Downey, who signed with Clackamas Community College, talked about his goals going forward.
"I definitely want to be a JUCO national champ," said Downey. "I plan on spending a year there because I'm through the NCAA Clearinghouse, and then transferring to a big DI school and winning some more national titles."
Medbery, who will be attending Wisconsin, bounced back from a loss in pool competition to win the championship at heavyweight, beating Cody Krumwiede (Iowa), 3-1, 2-0, in the finals.
98: Nkosi Moody (Illinois) dec. Tommy Pawelski (Illinois), 6-3, 5-1
105: Matt Garelli (Illinois) dec. Johnson Mai (California), 3-3, 7-0, 3-3
112: Nathan Tomasello (Ohio) dec. Jarred Brooks (Indiana), 5-1, 0-4, 4-1
119: Thomas Gilman (Nebraska) dec. David Terao (Hawaii), 4-1, 2-1
125: Joey Dance (Virginia) dec. Joey Palmer (Washington), 3-0, 0-1, 2-1
130: Zane Richards (Illinois) dec. Brandon Jeske (Virginia), 2-1, 2-0
135: Ben Whitford (Michigan) dec. Ty Davis (Ohio), 7-0, 2-0
140: Jason Tsirtsis (Indiana) dec. Jake Short (Minnesota), 1-0, 1-0
145: Brian Realbuto (New York) pinned Brian Murphy (Illinois), 0-1, 1:59
152: Zach Brunson (Oregon) dec. Edwin Cooper (Illinois), 0-4, 1-0, 6-0
160: Alex Dieringer (Wisconsin) dec. Zac Skates (Oklahoma), 4-0, 4-0
171: Pat Downey (Florida) dec. Jordan Rogers (Washington), 1-1, 3-1, 3-0
189: Devin Peterson (Wisconsin) pinned Jahwon Akui (Illinois), 7-0, 2:00
215: Morgan McIntosh (California) dec. Blaize Cabell (Iowa), 5-0, 5-0
285: Connor Medbery (Colorado) dec. Cody Krumwiede (Iowa), 3-1, 2-0