WADSWORTH — Much of wrestling is an individual sport.
But Wadsworth’s Darrin Gilkerson, Shane Mast and Cody Surratt are happy to be sharing the experience of competing at the ASICS/Vaughan Junior & Cadet National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota this weekend.
The three Grizzlies will join a host of wrestlers from across the state in the freestyle and Greco Roman tournament held at the FargoDome starting Friday.
“It’s great, because going down there alone would be a much difference experience,” said Gilkerson, who went 2-2 last summer at Fargo. “We can support each other and know that we have each other’s backs.”
While each wrestler has taken a different path to get there, all three have been pushing each other to improve.
Fargo is far from your run-of-the-mill summer tournament. With mats covering just about every square inch of the arena and the echo of whistles in the distance, the atmosphere can be a shock to just about anyone.
Gilkerson felt that way last July when, despite winning two of his four bouts by technical fall at 138 pounds, he never felt like he was able to showcase his true skill.
“I went out there nervous last year,” he said. “I lost two real close ones, but I wasn’t really wrestling. The stage is so big, but this time I won’t be as nervous.”
A state qualifier last season and incoming junior for the Grizzlies, Gilkerson has his sights on placing in the top eight of his 145-pound freestyle weight class, but mainly it’s about going out there and hitting the moves he knows he can execute.
“There’s no trick or secret for placing,” he said. “You just have to get a mindset. I’ve been mainly working on my shot defense, but my top and bottom got me to state and I’m going to try and capitalize on that.”
On a mission
Two points is all that stood between Mast and a spot on the podium at the state tournament in March.
But the senior wasn’t going to let a 3-1 setback in overtime to Brecksville’s Austin Strnad damper his expectations for his final prep season. It’s something that has driven the 182-pounder from the minute Wadsworth arrived back in town from its stay in Columbus.
“I think if I would’ve placed last year, I wouldn’t be working as hard right now,” Mast said. “Coming so close like that, it’s been motivation for the whole summer.”
Mast will compete in the junior freestyle competition at Fargo. Despite taking part in the Disney Duals and Flo Nationals this summer, this week will be the biggest tournament of his career.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s always a good thing to get mat time and more matches in the offseason. I’ve never done anything like this, but either way I will be going against some good kids.”
As an incoming sophomore, the script of Surratt’s career is far from written. So in qualifying with Team Ohio to compete at Fargo this weekend, the 132-pounder has been picking the brain of Gilkerson as the two have commuted to St. Edward for practice in preparation for the trip.
His teammate’s advice was simple: If you wait to start working until you get there, it’ll be too late.
“I’ve talked to Darrin a lot about what it’s like and he told me to get my work in this week at camp and that’s what I’m doing,” Surratt said. “I feel like I’m ready. I’m really excited to be wrestling on this type of stage.”
It’s a process that started in the spring and Surratt plans on not only representing the state in style for the cadet freestyle squad this week, he’s ready to help the Grizzlies maintain their dominance in the Suburban League and restart the streak of top-10 finishes at the state tournament.
“I’ve been working on my shot defense and wrestling on my feet a lot,” Surratt said. “I’m going to go out there and see what I can do.”
Contact Dan Brown at email@example.com.