Last week, high school wrestlers competed for national titles at the U.S. Marine Corps/USA Wrestling Junior and Cadet freestyle and Greco-Roman championships in Fargo, North Dakota.
Centre County had a handful of its own wrestlers there — including a pair who were wrestling for the last time before moving on to new chapters.
A State College trio of Cole Urbas, Owen Woolcott and Harrison Schoen joined St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy’s Kolby Franklin and Bald Eagle Area’s Grace Stem.
Urbas and Franklin were the two preparing to move away from Centre County, but for different reasons. Coincidentally, the pair also were the highest finishers with Urbas finishing second in junior freestyle at 195 kilograms, and Franklin claiming a 220-kg cadet freestyle crown, while finishing runner up in Greco-Roman.
Urbas, who wrapped up his high school folkstyle career with the Little Lions in March, was competing for the last time before packing up the family vehicle and driving down to the University of Pennsylvania to start classes and training with the school’s wrestling team.
With former Nittany Lion Mark McKnight, his coach at Pleasant Gap-based M2 Training Center, and Penn assistant coach Bryan Pearsall both in his corner, Urbas made the most of his final high school-level opportunity.
After not placing in the national tournament a year ago, Urbas was determined to not go through what he did last year.
“I didn’t want to battle back in the consys in this huge bracket,” he said with a laugh in a recent interview with the Centre Daily Times.
He cruised to the quarterfinals with three technical superiority wins and outscoring his opponents 30-0. He took out the top seed in Ohio’s Matthew Cover in the quarterfinals with a late takedown for a 10-8 win.
Another 10-0 technical superiority win put Urbas in the finals. He dropped an 11-6 decision to California’s Jonovan Smith. It was that experience from a year ago that helped Urbas cap off his high school career.
“I knew what to expect as far as the dates and the bus ride and everything this year,” Urbas said. “The element of magical-ness behind Fargo was kind of taken away because I knew what it was. I went out and just had fun. I was with my teammates. I was wrestling confident and well. I won some big matches to make my way to the finals. I couldn’t thank my coaches enough.”
Franklin, who was a PIAA runner up as a freshman, has decided to pursue prep wrestling. He is going to transfer to national powerhouse Wyoming Seminary for the upcoming year.
He was making his second straight trip to Fargo, and again pulled double duty. A year ago, Franklin won a Greco-Roman title and finished runner up in freestyle — the reverse of this year’s results. He credited his success this season to his coaching.
“I go to a club called Lab Trained with coach (Greg) Hagel,” Franklin said in a recent interview with the Centre Daily Times. “I met him last year before Fargo. He really took me in and started working with me a lot, even though he didn’t know me that much.”
This year, Franklin had just a total of 12 points scored against him combined between the two specialties. In freestyle, he nearly tech’ed his way to the title with just two points scored against him in the quarterfinals. As the top seed, Franklin outscored his opponents 49-2. In the finals, Franklin picked up a 10-0 technical superiority win over Pennsylvania’s Dustin Swanson.
In Greco-Roman, Franklin cruised to the finals with two techs and two decisions — outscoring his opponents 35-4. He suffered his lone loss of the two national tournaments when he wasn’t able to get one last takedown against Washington’s Gage Cook in a 6-4 defeat. Franklin was still thrilled with his performances.
“I felt so fluent with my moves. Everything was just coming together,” he said. “I was making people look silly with my fakes and things. It was nice to see it all happen like that.”
Stem fell just short of placing in girls’ freestyle. After winning her first match by technical superiority, Stem was pinned by Missouri’s Nonnie Justice, who went on to win the 132-kg bracket.
After the loss, however, Stem went on a run in the consolation bracket, with a 10-0 tech and a decision before losing on criteria 4-4 to Delaware Valley’s Lily Sherer, who finished in third place.
Woolcott and Schoen competed at the Cadet level in both freestyle and Greco. Woolcott went 2-2 in freestyle and 2-2 in Greco at 132 kg. At 285, Schoen went 0-2 in freestyle and 2-2 in Greco.
“It’s definitely going to help,” Urbas said of the experience his former teammates picked up in Fargo. “It was fun to go with them. Next year, they are going to have more of an idea of, ‘All right, this is what I’m working toward.’ Knowing them, I know they are going to work hard for it.”
Centre Daily Times reporter Lauren Muthler also contributed to the story