"Summer wrestling makes winter champions."
Everyone who competed in Fargo is a winner--that will be proven next season during the state championships.
But for the select few who outperformed expectations (in some instances, there were no expectations at all), their names are now etched into our memories.
Let's examine the kids who jumped onto the national radar and raised their stock in the aftermath of #Fargo2016. I'm focusing on underclassmen, which rules out the performance of Canten Marriott, Ian Parker, Kevin Parker, and other graduates.
10. Sam Latona - 88 Cadet - AlabamaSeverely undersized as a high school freshman, Latona shined this summer when he was able to compete in a more natural weight class. He was a double finalist at Southeast Regional at 94lbs before making the final in both styles at 88lbs as a Fargo cadet.
9. Mason Phillips - 132 Cadet - WashingtonThe junior-to-be was one to watch coming up as a schoolboy, and appeared on the Junior High School Board. Last year, he DNP'd, but in 2016, he cashed in by making the final in both styles. He didn't give up a single point in freestyle until he lost 12-10 in the final to Jacori Teemer.
8. Brock Hardy - 138 Cadet - UtahHardy is the third-straight double finalist on the list. During his last two years at Fargo, he made the final in both styles. In both results (wins over Sasso, Lewan, Figueroa, and Hagan) and style points (check out his craftiness below), Hardy has cemented himself as one of the best juniors in the country.
7. Tyler Curd - 285 Cadet - MissouriIt's hard to get one by me, but I didn't see this big man from Missouri coming at all. Curd was third at the state tournament as a freshman in February. And at Fargo, he splashed onto the scene with a WWE-type move and a Greco win over Cadet World Team Member Colton Schultz. Schultz would go on to be Curd's only loss in first- and third-place performances that made everyone notice him.
6. Nico Aguilar - 113 Junior - CaliforniaAnyone looking for a career 125lb-er? Yeah, pretty much everyone. So keep an eye on Aguilar, who picked up his second Fargo freestyle title--this one at junior 113. In my opinion, he went from "good little wrestler" to serious Division I prospect this week.
5. Jake Allar - 160 Junior - MinnesotaLike Hardy, Allar came in as a staple in the rankings and a known commodity. But winning Fargo going into his senior season dramatically upped his stock. As mentioned in the lead-up to Fargo, Allar has had a fine track record in folk and Greco, but his freestyle resume (and elite wins) were lacking. That's no longer the case.
4. Miles Lee - 195 Junior - PennsylvaniaA success story of Beat the Streets in Philly, Lee has improved leaps and bounds in a short time. He's only been wrestling two years following some experience with jiu-jitsu. Lee qualified through a tough Northeast Region to get to the state tournament, but went 0-2 there. Fargo was a different story with a medal for each style: third in Greco, sixth in freestyle. He reached the semifinals in freestyle by beating one ranked foe, but then fell to three more ranked wrestlers. Still, there's upside here, and he's one to monitor.
3. Anthony Cassioppi - 285 Junior - IllinoisWhen you pull all the seniors out of the rankings (especially at the upper weights), they sometimes seem hollow. So when you saw Cassioppi at No. 6 when the new rankings were released last month, you might have thought, 'Who is this kid?" But he had all the goods. Third in a loaded Illinois bracket ahead of ranked guys; double Akron titles. And now his Fargo performances--third in Greco, second in freestyle--against two highly ranked guys. Cassioppi has surely proven himself.
2. Josh Ramirez - 170 Junior - LouisianaOut. Of. Nowhere. This is one the types of stories that happen often at Fargo that make it so special. Ramirez got a late jump on wrestling after being talked into it by his buddies a couple years ago. He was a state champion in both his freshman and sophomore campaigns, and posted a big win over Marcus Coleman (IA) in Akron. At Fargo, Ramirez blitzed to the semifinals by beating 2015 double finalist Jack Jessen (IL) with two other ranked wins. Although he defaulted to sixth, Ramirez is a guy recruiters have to follow up on.
1. Aaron Brooks - 160 Cadet - MarylandConsidered one of the best wrestlers entering high school, Brooks didn't get a lot of exposure over the last two years despite solid campaigns. His in-season high school schedule didn't offer him much in the way of elite competition. Sandwiched between titles at NHSCA Freestyle Nationals (at 126) and Sophomore Nationals (at 138), Brooks DNP'd in both styles at Fargo last summer. But boy, did he redeem himself. Now up at 160, Brooks looks like a man on fire. Not only was he technical, but physically, and mentally tough. Of all the competitors in Fargo this year, he had the biggest breakout performance.
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