Two Fargo first timers made a memorable entrance on to the national stage in Fargo this week, earning All-American honors in the USMC Freestyle National Championships.
Heaven Fitch of Concord became just the second North Carolina female wrestler to All-American in Fargo, finishing 8th . Fitch was 30-4 for her high school team this past season, and was a 2017 NC Freestyle State Champion.
Fitch dropped a tough first round match to eventual runner-up Alejandra Corral of Hawaii, then reeled off three strong wins to advance to the top eight.
On the men's side, rising Jr. Donald Cates came into the tournament with high expectations, and he did not disappoint. Cates began the tournament with dominant tech fall wins over Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Maryland. Cates then opened eyes with a gritty win over Nicholas Steele of Arizona, who finished 7th.
Cates then dropped a controversial 11-10 semi-final bout to Manuel Rojas of Michagan, but bounced back in the consolation round with a gritty 12-8 win over Keegan Rothrock of Pennsylvania. Cates finished his run in style with a 15-4 tech fall win over Brock Ellis of Indiana to secure 3rd in his first Fargo competition.
Cates is North Carolina's highest placing cadet since 2011.
Several other North Carolina wrestlers had strong showings, including Caleb Smith who finished the tournament 3'-2, and Nathan Dugan, who reeled off six straight wins after a tough first round loss before falling in the consolation quarter-finals 9-8 to 7th place finisher Talon Borror of Oklahoma.
On the women's side, five North Carolina women competed, with every wrestler earning at lesat one win in their first trip to Fargo. This is the largest women's delegation in state history, and all five could potentially return to represent North Carolina again next year.
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