There are ten weight classes available for international Senior-level Greco-Roman, which is to say that there are ten members of the 2019 US Senior Greco-Roman World Team. And of those ten athletes, seven competed at the vaunted Cadet and Junior National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota back when they were wide-eyed age-group wrestlers whose futures in the sport would eventually ascend towards the highest level.
The three outliers — Ildar Hafizov (60 kg, Army/WCAP), Ray Bunker (72 kg, Marines), and John Stefanowicz (82 kg, Marines) — obviously did not need the grandest tournament in the country to develop into top competitors, particularly Hafizov, who wasn’t even an American citizen during his youth. The standout lightweight technician came into his own as a member of Uzbekistan’s National Team, appearing in three World Championships as well as the 2008 Beijing Olympics before he ever arrived on these shores.
As for Bunker and Stefanowicz it is a different story. Bunker got a later start in wrestling than most of his fellow Seniors and found his way onto the Senior circuit only after having already joined the Marine Corps. Stefanowicz was cognizant of the event as a young man but simply chose not to enter while in high school. “I don’t know, I just wasn’t that good,” he said with a laugh when asked why he never made the journey west. “My brother went, I just never did. I never went to Fargo and I never made states.” It should be noted that Stefanowicz was in between sessions at Pan American Games training camp in Colorado Springs alongside the rest of the US World Team when reached for comment. So, Fargo isn’t an automatic indicator of future success.
But it is a solid one, no doubt about it.
Mat Talk Online’s Fargo All-American Almanac, the preeminent resource for all stats and placewinner listings dating back to the tournament’s inception, puts a special emphasis on how Senior World (and Olympic) Team members performed back in their younger days. And as you can see below, this year’s group of athletes who will be banging it out in September at the Worlds, boast some pretty impressive Fargo credentials up and down the lineup.
2018 World silver Adam Coon (130 kg, NYAC/Cliff Keen, world no. 2) has some bragging rights when it comes to Fargo Greco titles. The big man won first as a Cadet and then rattled off three in a row at Junior. Three of Army/WCAP’s four lightweights on the 2019 World Team, the “Ninja Squad, as it were, can stake claim to a combined eight Fargo “stop signs”.
Picked dead last by the Illinois coaching staff, Joe Rau (87 kg, TMWC/Chicago RTC) was not seen as a strong contender prior to the 2009 Fargo Junior Nationals. A sizable underdog if there ever was one, Rau ran the table, defeating Trevor Rupp in the final. Since that Fargo run ten years ago, Rau has managed to do pretty well for himself. After graduating from Elmhurst College as a 2013 Division III National champ, the Chicago native began a Senior career that now includes two World Team appearances, a victory at the Olympic Trials, and ten international medals.
*Club or sponsor affiliation listed first; Fargo state listed second.
*Greco results only.
55 kg — Max Nowry (Army/WCAP – Illinois)
2006 Cadet Greco-Roman — champion, 91 lbs
2007 Junior Greco-Roman — champion, 98 lbs
2008 Junior Greco-Roman — champion, 105 lbs
63 kg — Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP – Missouri)
2006 Cadet Greco-Roman — champion, 84 lbs
2008 Junior Greco-Roman — champion, 112 lbs
2009 Junior Greco-Roman — champion, 119 lbs
67 kg — Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP – Illinois)
2006 Cadet Greco-Roman — 4th place, 112 lbs
2007 Cadet Greco-Roman — champion, 119 lbs
2008 Junior Greco-Roman — runner-up, 130 lbs
2009 Junior Greco-Roman — champion, 135 lbs
77 kg — Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm – Minnesota)
2008 Junior Greco-Roman — 4th place, 140 lbs
2009 Junior Greco-Roman — 6th place, 145 lbs
87 kg — Joe Rau (TMWC/Chicago RTC – Illinois)
2009 Junior Greco-Roman — champion, 215 lbs
97 kg — G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist – Colorado)
2014 Junior Greco-Roman — 4th place, 220 lbs
2015 Junior Greco-Roman — 3rd place, 220 lbs
130 kg — Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen – Michigan
2010 Cadet Greco-Roman — champion, 215 lbs
2011 Junior Greco-Roman — champion, 215 lbs
2012 Junior Greco-Roman — champion, 285 lbs
2013 Junior Greco-Roman — champion, 285 lbs
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