Whitford after beating Mark Grey
It is safe to say the state of Michigan made a statement this afternoon in Fargo, North Dakota. Whether it was the chaos and excitement of Ben Whitford's win at 112lbs or the way Jordan Wohlfert battled his way to a national title at 140lbs or Taylor Massa making history at 152lbs, there is no doubt that everyone who attended today's finals or followed it on the internet knows about that the Michigan is home to some fine grapplers. There is so much to talk about regarding today's happenings that I don't know where to start, so lets start from the top.
The 112lb final was arguably the match of the finals as Ben Whitford met returning double champ Mark Grey of New Jersey in a rematch of the Greco finals earlier this week where Grey defeated Whitford for the title.
Whitford scored the opening takedown with a counter off a deep shot by Grey that wowed the crowd and immediately it was evident that this was going to be a good match, but nobody could have anticipated what happened from their on. Grey came back to score a takedown in the final seconds of the period to steal the 1st period and put Whitford's back to the wall.
In the second period Grey scored early to go up 1-0 and things looked bad as the time ticked away and Whitford relentlessly pursued his opponent.
"I knew he was tough to get in on, so I just knew I had to keep attacking and trying to score," said Whitford.
With less than 30 seconds remaining the two wrestlers scrambled off the mat and no points were awarded, however, the New Jersey coaches disagreed and chose to challenge the ruling. After a video review the officials stuck with their original ruling and the match was to continue with 20 seconds left in the period and Whitford down 1-0.
The match restarted and after 5 seconds the Jersey coaches came back on the stage to plead their case further. The bout was stopped, now with only 16 seconds on the clock. Team Michigan coach Chris Williams then came to the stage to argue that time should be put back on the clock, however, he was turned away by the officials and the match continued.
Then, after the next restart the official stopped the bout again as they tried to make sense of the confusion. Now Whitford had only 12 seconds left to try and score. He went after Grey for the final 12 seconds but failed to score and it seemed that Grey had won his 4th Fargo title.
However, the madness was only begginning. Michigan threw in the challenge towel to ask for a video review, arguing that time should have been added to the clock from the false restarts. Michigan coach Pat Whitford stormed to the head table to make his case, meanwhile, Grey, who had already had his hand raised in victory, exited the stage and made his way to the interview area.
After a long discussion and review, the officials decided that they still had 6 seconds to wrestle in the match. Therefore, Grey was called back to the mat from his interview and the two were forced to finish the match again.
In 6 seconds Whitford exploded onto Grey, snapped him to the mat, and spun behind for a takedown to win the 2nd period and force a third and deciding stanza.
"When it happended my Dad said to stay on the mat and he was going to fight it," said Whitford following the match, "When he came back I knew I had to take him down and there was only six seconds to make something happen."
Entering the third period, the momentum appeared to be in Whitford's favor and he came out right away with a front headlock to an ankle pick sending Grey to his back, nearly scoring a fall. Grey fought off the shot and after they came back to their feet they had yet another exciting flurry to end the match that was scored in Whitford's favor and he was finally the winner in a thrilling match.
"I knew I could take him down and I just went at him in the third period," said Whitford, who won Michigan's first title of the day in dramatic fashion.
Jordan Wohlfert followed suit, losing the first period in his 140lb final match against Brian Brill of Pennsyvania. Wohlfert scored first with a 3 point feet to back takedown and a quick gut wrench to take a 5-0 lead. Brill answered though, with a takedown and trapped arm gut wrench that he would use to rattle off 10 points and end the period with a 11-5 score.
Wohflert did what he has done the whole tournament, however, as he battle back to win the 2nd and 3rd periods with strong position and solid leg attacks.
"After that first period I knew i could get in his legs all day which I proved with that takedown, so I just tried to stay with my stuff and keep attackingg," said Wohlfert, "I took him down like 4 times and I knew once I got up to just stay in good position and capatilizae off his mistakes."
Taylor Massa was one of the biggest stories of the week here in Fargo as he pursued his 2nd straight Triple Crown National Championship, a feat that has never been done before.
Massa completed his quest for the repeat Double Title and Triple Crown with another two-period win here today in the finals.
After scoring a quick takedown in the first against Jordan Rogers of Washington, Massa found himself in a dangerous position as he slipped on a gut wrench and was on his back for a few scary seconds.
He found himself in a unique position losing 2-1 after the flurry, but battled back to tack on a couple takedowns to win the period. He then stayed persistent in the 2nd period and rattled off a couple more takedowns to win his 4th Fargo National Title.
"I did what I came here to do but I didnt have quite as dominant of a national finals as I would of liked to," said Massa following the match.
One could argue that Massa's performance was still pretty dominant - in all he went 18-0 over the past week in greco-roman and freestyle and did not have a single period go to the third period.
"Now I just want to try and distance myself from everyone else." said Massa.
What also makes this day prominent is that all three of Michigan's National Champions are from the same hometown. Massa and Wohlfert were freshman this year at St. Johns High School and Whitford was an 8th grader at St Johns Junior High School. All three of them, including Jacob Schmitt and many other Team Michigan members, train year-round together.
"When Whitford beat Grey that was probably the most excited ive been this whole tournament," said Massa, "I remember what it was like for me to win my first time last year and I'm glad that they got to enjoy this with me and we all got to have this feeling."
Three other Michiganders finished up as All-Americans today as well. Jordan Thomas scored a 2-2, 2-1 win over Kyler Crutchmer of Oklahoma to finish up 3rd at 160lbs. He is now a 2x Cadet Freestyle All-American after finishing 4th a year ago.
Jacob Schmitt lost his 3rd place match at 91lbs to Nathan Tomasello of Ohio to finish up 4th. He is now a Double All-American after finishing 4th in Greco-Roman earlier this week.
Alec Mooradian of Detroit Catholic Central won his last match over Louis Mascola of New Jersey 1-0, 1-0 to finish 5th at 119lbs. Mooradian was also a FILA Cadet All-American earlier this spring.
91lbs - Jacob Schmitt - 4th
112lbs - Ben Whitford - 1st
119lbs - Alec Mooradian - 5th
140lbs - Jordan Wohlfert - 1st
152lbs - Taylor Massa - 1st
160lbs - Jordan Thomas - 3rd