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8 Days of Fargo

By Brandon Paulson, 08/01/21, 9:00AM CDT


8 Days in Fargo

Fargo baby! Fargo! Great to be back to the largest collection of Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers in the United States. The Cadet and Junior Nationals in Fargo gives us a finality to the season, and a goal to reach for. This tournament is a grind that brings out the best in the toughest individuals.

Jared and I go to Fargo as MN Storm coaches. We feel grateful to be able to coach the MN Storm, and are happy to coach any athlete. For us, we are in a lot of corners with our club wrestlers, so we try not to “hog” the corners of other wrestlers, but I do enjoy helping the other wrestlers when needed.  This blog is mainly about the PINnacle Wrestlers, but we are proud to coach MN Storm.


I came up to Fargo a day early to coach the MN Storm Senior level Greco wrestlers at the Last Chance qualifier for the Senior World Team Trials. MN Storm had 5 wrestlers competing, and we had 1 champion qualify for the Senior World Team Trials in September. Congrats to Mac Kukowski!

Day 2

So it begins! Cadet Freestyle is up first! A wonderful 8AM-8PM, with 1.5 hr. break. Let’s go! We had 35 Cadet Freestyle Wrestlers compete, including 31 Men, and 4 Women. Jared and I concentrated on the Men, while PINnacle coach Jake Short is also the MN/USA Women’s coach, so he concentrated on the Women. We knew heading in that we had a lot of Cadet wrestlers that could do some damage. This is also a day to figure out how the referees are going to call situations. This year they decided to reward the defensive wrestler more than we have seen in the past.  Ella Pagel crushed everybody on her way to the finals 44-0 in 5 total minutes. Tyler Wells had a tight 3-2 match with a Young Guns PA wrestler Maddox Shaw. Young Guns is the best Folkstyle Club in the country, and we love to fight it out with them in competition, and train with them in the off-season. But the match of the day goes to Tyson Charmoli who threw a body lock to win against Dalton Perry of PA to qualify for the quarters. Let’s just say Tyson isn’t known for his throws.

Day 3

Huge day with the start of the largest, and deepest, Junior National Freestyle tournament ever, and the quarters, semis, and blood round for the Cadet Men, and Finals and AA for the Women. Love The Fight (to be repeated over, and over again). For me, every match for the wrestlers I coach on a daily basis, is an emotional match. Exhausting, and exhilarating for the wrestlers and coaches. One of the challenges (for wrestlers and coaches) is coming back from a loss to wrestle or coach your next match. This happens on a consistent basis at Fargo. PINnacle Junior Freestyle included 27 total wrestlers, 25 Men and 2 Women. Ridiculous matchups right away in the round of 128(yes, 2nd round for some) including nationally ranked Chase DeBlaere taking a tough loss to a tough kid. I love Chase, and his improvement in attitude over the past year. He has become more coachable, and it seems as if he has learned to love the sport.  And that was only the morning session.

Ella Pagel with a pin in the finals, Aspen Blasko with a 5th place finish. Aspen has the most ridiculous back arch you will ever see. It is must see TV. Ella is going into 9th grade; she will be a Cadet again. Have fun with that.

The night session of Junior Freestyle Fargo 1st day was as tough as I have ever seen it. Really good wrestlers taking losses, and great wrestlers having to battle tooth and nail to win. As stated earlier, this is also the money round for Cadets with quarters, semis, and blood round. These matches mean so much to each individual wrestler, and for us we want to be there for them. I literally ran from one side of the arena to the other dozens of times, and still missed matches. When they lose those matches, I blame myself. Landon Robideau wrestled a great match beating V.Bouzakis by controlling underhook throughout. Z Hanson had a comeback win with his outstanding gut wrench, and Will Sather showed incredible poise in the semis with his fireman’s carry. 4 Cadet Men’s Freestyle Finalist in Freestyle, which is a record for us: Koy Hopke(WI), Zach Hanson, Landon Robideau, and Will Sather. This doesn’t mean we didn’t take our lumps with 5 other wrestlers losing in the quarters. Brutal.

After the session was over at 9:30, I went home and started studying tape for our next opponents. All of the final matchups, and then a few of our Junior matchups for the morning. It is great to watch different technique of the different wrestlers and try to learn from them while also trying to beat them. One of the matchups was between Robideau and Larkin. Larkin’s dad (Eric) was a former rival of PINnacle Co-Owner Jared Lawrence (they met in the NCAA finals, Olympic Trials semi-finals, and Cadet National finals). Larkin wrestles a different style than we aren’t used to, so it will be interesting.

Day 4

When I say I didn’t have time to poop, this is literal.  So many guys, so many important matches. The round of 16, quarters, and blood round of Junior Freestyle is a battle of attrition. Every guy is a baaaaad dude. Caleb Thoennes was in position to win but fell to the eventual champion. Alan Koehler was down 4 to the Super 32 Champion and found a way to hit a 4 pointer near the buzzer to win. Brandon Morvari pulled out a tight one, and Tabor lost a close one. They also decided to do the blood round in the morning. Unfortunately, we lost 2 heart breakers, but still had 5 wrestlers achieve AA in Junior Freestyle. Koy Buesgens won 7 matches but didn’t place. Crazy…These matches were coming up quick and we had 3-4 guys on the mat at the same time. It is crushing to hear a guy lost and I wasn’t there to help. We literally run from mat to mat, and sometimes it is a 150-yard run through a crowd of people. MN Storm had a lot of staff that did a great job of getting to all the wrestlers.

The Cadet Men’s finals included 4 wrestlers who train with us. Zach Hanson was in our first “Tuff guy” group at 4 years old (along with Junior National Finalist Brandon Morvari, and Junior AA Elijah Paulson). His finals match was all about position. It was a low scoring affair, but Hanson came out on top. Koy Hopke had a couple tight matches early but dominated in the finals. Hopke looks strong but is stronger than he looks and has great hips. Landon Robideau lost a tight one to Larkin of Arizona, and almost had a takedown with under 15 seconds left to take the lead.  Will Sather had a great tournament to get to the finals, but his finals opponent was a little too physical for him.  

5 other Cadet Freestyle wrestlers came back for Bronze. Including 2, Lawson Eller and Liam Neitzel, who were in our youth group this year. These two were leaders for our youth group, and spent another year developing skills, which paid off this summer. The All-Americans are all listed at the bottom of the page.   

After a mentally exhausting Cadet Finals, the Junior semifinals were up right away, along with wrestle-backs for top 8 wrestlers in the Junior Freestyle. Some of these brackets were 150 wrestlers, so to get to the final 4, or top 8 was physically taking a toll on the wrestlers. Jore Volk came in with an injury but fought every match in this tournament. He ended up falling in the semis, as did Alan Koehler and Bennett Berge.  Brandon Morvari executed great shots throughout the tournament and advanced to the finals.  One of the hardest matches to wrestle is after a loss, especially after a long and brutal tournament. All 3 wrestlers came back 30 minutes after a loss and showed character in giving full effort and winning the consi-semis to advance to the 3rd place match.   Including Alan Koehler who won a 16-16 battle, I was a little pumped up after that one!

Day 5

With Coach Short taking the Women’s wrestlers in the Junior Division, Day 5 was my lightest day with just the Junior Freestyle Placing matches and watch some of the Junior Women. But I woke up at 5:30AM to watch Gavin Nelson wrestle in the Cadet World Championships. Gavin won his first 2 matches but fell in his 3rd match. Just one mistake in Parterre changed the match.  

Brandon Morvari fell in his Junior finals match which I didn’t really get to see as Alan Koehler was wrestling.  Bennett Berge suffered an injury during a loss in the semis, so wasn’t able to compete. Jore decided to wear his elbow brace for this match, which basically meant he couldn’t use his left arm. The upside was Jore had to figure out different ways to score. In practice he is always imaginative, and it was great to see this coming out in matches.  After winning two “Love The Fight” last second victories, it was nice to see Alan Koehler finish the Freestyle portion with a tech fall. Kudos to Bennett Tabor for competing as a graduated senior. After a tough loss, it would be easy to just forfeit out, but Bennett wrestled great and finished his High School career with pride and a 5th place finish.   5 Wrestlers placing in the top 5 was a pretty good showing! Again, final results at the bottom.   Next up, GRECO!

Day 6

I get rejuvenated with the start of Greco. Sometimes the easiest thing to do isn’t the best thing to do. It would be very easy for many of these wrestlers to just go home, wrestling another tournament after the meat grinder that freestyle was, is hard. That is one of the great things about Fargo and the opportunity to wrestle two tournaments.

Jed Wester started throwing bombs, and all was right with the world. Travis Smith started with a tough one (eventual champ), but his headlocks were coming in wrestle backs. Zach Hanson may have had his toughest match in the round of 16 as he was losing heading in to the second. But, in the 2nd period, Zach got on top and pinned his SD opponent with a gut wrench.  Many wrestlers haven’t wrestled a ton of Greco matches recently, so it is fun to watch them get better as the tournament progresses.  

Day 7

Junior Greco participants by state include; Illinois 63, Pennsylvania 57, …. Idaho 43, MN 28? What? We are the Greco state. We had a Greco Roman wrestler on the Olympic Team from 1968-2016. We are driving distance away from Fargo. We should have more guy’s wrestling Greco. Even if it is their 3rd style. You want to get better at hand fighting, wrestle Greco, you want to be able to throw like Kyle Dake, wrestle Greco, you want to mat return like Jayson Ness, wrestle Greco, you want to learn control ties, wrestle Greco,. For me, I fell in love with Greco at Fargo in 9th grade. It gave me my focus to my dream of being an Olympian. Another blog to come on what is happening in MN Greco.

The morning session is busy with 6 Cadet All-Americans wrestling, including 4 in the semifinals. Add in the Junior Greco wrestlers, and we are running mat to mat again. Is 4 for 4 good?

All 4-semi-finalist advanced to the finals. I couldn’t hold my excitement during Jed Wester, and Zach Hanson’s semifinal matches as they both threw BEAUTIFUL hip tosses. As you know, hip tosses are always advisable! Soren Herzog is new to us this past 6 weeks but showed his strength and MN Gut in advancing to the finals.  

Two Double Champions was the highlight of Fargo. Zach Hanson gutted his way to a Greco-Roman title, and Koy Hopke continued his dominance. Koy has enormous potential and is very coachable. Zach has always had great basics of wrestling, and outstanding position. I truly expected he would be a double Fargo Cadet National champion coming in.  Jed had a match-up problem with his opponent. Jed is a natural Greco-Roman wrestler and loves the sport. I hope to see him continue to train Greco as his future could be bright.   Combined Cadet numbers include 8 Finalists, 15 AA, and Wester, Eller, Herzog, Hopke, and Hanson as double AA’s.

I wish all of you could have watched Jore Volk wrestle Greco. He loves the sport and is one of the most natural “throwers” I have seen. I know he wanted to be out there, but with his injury, it wasn’t advisable. Not much break, and on to the Rd of 16 and Quarterfinals of the Junior Greco. For me personally, my emotions were high with my son trying to give me a heart attack. In the round of 16, he was done 2 with seconds left and tried a front headlock, the refs said no score, but the review changed the call and he advanced. To keep my heart rate up, in his next match he was down 1 with seconds left and he threw a double over salto in which the refs rewarded 2, but it was reversed after review. It was the right call. Literally no time to think about it, as I ran to the next match. A large portion of our guy’s still wrestling were around the same weight, so luckily, we have capable coaches. After this day, I was shot….Love The Fight

Day 8

Before the Juniors start up, Ryder Rogotzke was competing in the Cadet Greco World Championships. After winning his first match, Ryder fell in the Quarterfinals. He wrestled hard, and had a lead in the 2nd period, but got out of position.

They leave the best for last at Fargo, Junior Greco Blood Round right away in the morning, along with the semis. Alan Koehler was in his second semifinal of week. He wrestled very well in the semis, but his opponent shut him down. Kyle Boeke rolled into the finals. He is long and strong! The blood round always has it’s up and downs. Seeing my son AA was exhilarating, but watching Carter Ban, Max Ramberg, and Antony Tuttle fall, hurt. All 3 of these guys love Greco and put in the extra time in sport. Koy Buesgens had 9 matches in Freestyle and moved up a weight in Greco-Roman and became an All-American, Warrior performance.

In the finals, Kyle Boeke battled hard, but came up short. Morvari and Koehler become double AA’s, tough to do! Morvari remembered that he is actually pretty good in a tie. Alan Koehler seemed to be in a dog fight all week. He had to be sore!  It is hard to get enough Greco in to learn the sport. Freestyle is an easy transition from folkstyle, but Greco takes time. I am proud of the boys who competed and tried it, even though they aren’t always comfortable wrestling Greco.

Fargo isn’t just long days, it is 12-hour days of joy, sadness, excitement, nervousness, anger, and love. Nothing like it. Not sure how I get through it every year and I can’t wait for next year.  


Participants – 91 Total Cadet Freestyle 35(31 Men, 4 Women), Junior Freestyle 27 (25, 2), Cadet Greco 18, Junior Greco 11

Champions – 5 
Koy Hopke Cadet Freestyle and Greco
Zach Hanson Cadet Freestyle and Greco
Ella Pagel Cadet Women Freestyle

Finalists – 10

Champs Above
Brandon Morvari Junior Freestyle
Kyle Boeke Junior Greco
Jed Wester Cadet Greco
Soren Herzog Cadet Greco
Landon Robideau Cadet Freestyle
Will Sather Cadet Freestyle

All-Americans – 27

Ella Pagel Champion Cadet Women Freestyle
Koy Hopke  Champion Cadet Greco and Freestyle
Zach Hanson Champion Cadet Greco and Freestyle
Kyle Boeke Junior Greco 2nd
Brandon Morvari Junior Freestyle 2nd, Junior Greco 5th
Jed Wester Cadet Greco 2nd, Freestyle 6th
Soren Herzog Cadet Greco 2nd, Freestyle 8th
Landon Robideau Cadet Freestyle 2nd
Will Sather Cadet Freestyle 2nd
Alan Koehler Junior Greco 3rd, Junior Freestyle 3rd
Jore Volk Junior Freestyle 3rd
Tyler Wells Cadet Freestyle 3rd
Lawson Eller Cadet Greco 4th , Cadet Freestyle 8th
Travis Smith Cadet Greco 4th
Bennett Berge Junior Freestyle 4th
Bennett Tabor Junior Freestyle 5th
Aspen Blasko Women Freestyle Cadet 5th
Koy Buesgens Junior Greco 6th
Liam Neitzel Cadet Freestyle 8th
Eli Paulson Junior Greco 8th