Trey Meyer went to Fargo, North Dakota, ready for a battle. When he finally got one, he faced it and emerged with a Cadet National Freestyle wrestling championship.
The 152-pounder scored a 9-7 win over Johnny Blankenship, of Missouri, to capture the first national title by an East Valley wrestler and just the ninth by a wrestler from Washington state.
“I went back there looking for a war and ready to do battle,” Meyer said. “I finally got one in the finals and I loved it.”
An incoming junior, Meyer traveled to Fargo a year ago and wrestled both Greco-Roman and freestyle. In the latter, he won his first six matches and was on the verge of placing when he lost his final two matches and returned home empty handed.
“I was disappointed, yes,” Meyer said. “But by the time we got home I was ready to re-dedicate myself to going back and winning.”
This time, Meyer focused solely on the freestyle tournament, which follows a week of Greco competition.
“I think it was a good strategy,” he said. “I was fresh and ready to go and most of the rest of the competition had already wrestled a lot of matches in Greco. I think it gave me an edge.”
Meyer stormed through his opening round matches, posting pinfalls and technical falls. When he reached the quarterfinals, however, he prepared himself for the kind of battle he was looking for.
“I saw the guy I wrestled and I just knew it was going to be a war,” he said. “But I saw an opening right at the start, shot my double-leg and got him on his back. I don’t think he even knew he’d heard the referee signal the pin.”
It was all over in just 10 seconds.
“I think that gave me a big advantage going into the semis and finals,” Meyer said. “I was even fresher for those final two matches.”
In the final, Meyer was down early, 2-0, but roared back to build a lead – picking up four points on a chain of moves late in the second of two three-minute rounds for a 10-5 lead.
But Blankenship’s corner appealed the referee’s four-point award, and after checking the match video, the second two-point award was taken back and Meyer’s lead stood at 8-5.
Blankenship picked up two points to cut that lead to just a point, 8-7, but Meyer got control and pushed his opponent out of bounds for a point and held off a rush in the closing seconds to earn the national championship.
There are scores of ways for high school wrestlers to get themselves onto the radar of college wrestling programs. Winning a national championship while scores of college wrestling coaches are watching is, perhaps, the most effective.
“Oh man, there were so many college coaches there watching!” Meyer said. “It was incredible. I haven’t heard from any of them yet, but I’m just now going into my junior year. A lot will be determined by what I do next year.”
For now, he said, he’s enjoying a few days off – heading to the lake with friends to relax before the start of football practice.
“I’m excited about the start of football,” he said. “In a lot of ways, football is easy for me after the workouts I go through for wrestling. Wrestlers are used to moving our feet, keeping our balance and using leverage.
“And (coach) Craig (Hanson) and the wrestlers on the football team still like to get in a wrestling workout once or twice a week, just to make sure we’re maintaining our edge.”
Last year Meyer suffered an ankle strain in football that kept him off the field and on the mat. This year he intends to concentrate on playing defense only.
“I think the injuries come when I try to play offense,” he said. “Defense doesn’t get the kinds of impacts that can get you hurt the way offense can.”
Meyer said he has no plans to rest on his laurels going forward. A year ago he placed third at 145 pounds at the state tournament, roaring back from a second-round loss.
Being a national champion will mean having to be ready for each and every match.
“This is going to be a target on my back from now on,” he said. “Every guy I wrestle is going to know who I am and is going to do everything he can do to be the guy who knocked off a national champion. I know I can’t take a match off against anyone – and a tournament like Tri-State is going to be a big challenge for me.
“But I’m looking forward to it all.”