BENNINGTON -- A handful of Mount Anthony Union High School wrestlers will mix it up with the best in the country starting today and over the next few days, traveling to North Dakota for the 2014 Fargo Nationals in freestyle.
Newly-graduated Jesse Webb, the school's all-time win leader who will attend Ohio University, will compete in freestyle after finishing sixth in Greco-Roman, his third All-American placement.
In 2013, Webb was fifth at freestyle Nationals, beating Iowa's Jake Scanlan. He hopes to better that result and add a Fargo title to his already burgeoning trophy case.
"Realistically, he's more comfortable with freestyle, but so are the others," said Mount Anthony coach Scott Legacy.
Webb has been one of the top heavyweights in the country in the past few years, backing it up with a win at the prestigious Super 32 in 2012 and a runner-up finish in 2013, among others.
Others who will compete in the championships are Ashdin Schaefer at 100 pounds in the Cadet tournament, while Calvin Call at 113, Troy Gassaway at 126 and Dylan LaFountain at 132 are in the Junior tournament.
Tyler Raetz was scheduled to compete in freestyle, but suffered an injury in the greco event, leaving him unable to continue.
Call won a match in greco, so he has some momentum heading into the tournament. He has been stout on the biggest stages, placing sixth at his first New England tournament in March.
"Calvin really has a love for the sport and he's getting better and better," said Legacy about the rising junior. "[His hard work] is starting to pay off. He also has the ability to put a loss behind him and wrestle back."
LaFountain, a rising senior for the Patriots, struggled in greco, going 0-2, but his style of wrestling will be suited more toward freestyle. After coming up just short of placing at New Englands, he's hungry for a good placement in Fargo.
"This trip will make him a better wrestler, the pace of wrestling will force him to make good decisions on the mat," Legacy said. "More mat time is better."
Schaefer has been aggressive in his workouts while training for the trip, the first time he's traveled to Fargo.
"He's starting to gain some weight and getting more comfortable with freestyle," Legacy said. On Wednesday, Schaefer fell 12-1 to Arizona's Javier Ortiz to head into the consolation bracket.
Schaefer won his first consi match with a pin, but was knocked out in the second ound of consolations.
Rising senior Gassaway has a lot of confidence heading into Nationals, winning his third state title and a New England crown this past season. He's competed at major national tournaments before, so there's nothing stopping him from placing and becoming an All-American.
"Troy is very good on his feet and with the new rules [about stalling], that plays into his style," Legacy said. "He has to be aggressive, go in with the mindset to force the action."
Regardless of wins and losses, just making the trip makes the Patriot wrestlers better for next winter. MAU will be looking for its 26th straight state title and back-to-back-to-back New England crowns.
"They can get a couple of matches under their belt and they all train at a camp out there," Legacy said. "They practice in both [freestyle and greco], so they are gaining a ton of experience, which only makes them better for next year."