Just a couple of days before the most patriotic day of the year, Vander Mathiowetz made the most of a unique opportunity in claiming All-American honors two times at the USA National Kids Wrestling National championships held June 28-30 in Atlanta, Ga.
A little more than a month earlier Mathiowetz cleared the hurdle of two rounds of qualifying tournaments to gain berths in both the Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling divisions. The novice classified wrestler, along with parents Wade and Heather Mathiowetz and his sister Aubrey made the journey to Atlanta via the highways and freeways of the southeast.
All-American honors may have gone beyond what Mathiowetz was looking to accomplish heading into the two days of grappling. “My expectations were not to place, but to win a couple and do the best that I could. I thought being an All-American was pretty cool and exciting. I felt proud of how I finished,” he said.
On June 29, Mathiowetz took part in the Greco Roman style of wrestling as part of an eight man bracket featuring wrestlers from eight different states. The national tournament got off to a great start for the soon to be seventh grader as a 4-1 victory over Tre Wilfong of North Carolina powered Mathiowetz into the semifinals. A loss to the eventual national runner-up set up a match against Wisconsin’s Aeoden Sinclair. A battle down to the wire saw Mathiowetz drop a 5-3 decision to the Badger state entrant. A win by injury default in the fifth place match enabled Mathiowetz to garner All-American status.
Day two of competition June 30 placed Mathiowetz in a nine man bracket in the Freestyle portion of the national tournament. After a first round bye, Mathiowetz once again roared into the semifinals using a lopsided 10-0 win over Florida’s Brayden Pinney to earn a technical fall to set up a rematch with Oklahoma’s KJ Evans in the weight class’s final four. The Sooner state grappler denied Mathiowetz entry into the national championship by defeating him for the second time in two days in a semifinal rematch. A two-minute fall over the host state’s Emil Necula in the wrestlebacks set up a rematch with Wisconsin’s Sinclair in the third place match with a true second match on the line. Sinclair had Mathiowetz’s number once again as Mathiowetz would take fourth place, but once again earned All-American honors.
A level headed mental attitude toward national competition may have been an integral part of the success Mathiowetz met. “I was both nervous and excited. I was nervous that everyone would be really good, but I was excited that I was entered into the tournament. I also had to stay calm so I said to myself that it was just another tournament,” Mathiowetz said.
When prodded about the adjustments and changes in taking part in two unique and different styles of wrestling Mathiowetz summed up his approach, “They are pretty much the same. In Greco you can’t attack the legs. One adjustment is one style your low and the other style your standing.”
Despite monumental success in both techniques along with also wrestling a third style, Folkstyle during the regular season, Mathiowetz feels his favorite is Greco Roman, but feels he may be better at Freestyle. Folkstyle, the style used by high schools in Minnesota, has been a style of wrestling Mathiowetz has been taking part in for five years. He placed second at the Minnesota USA State Meet held at the RCTC in Rochester on March 10 and 11. He backed that up with a fifth place finish at the NYWA state meet in Rochester, held at the Mayo Civic Center March 31.
Despite missing three weeks of workouts and competition due to a concussion suffered in December, Mathiowetz bounced back in time to take part in State and Region competition setting up the berths in the national tournaments. Mathiowetz’s passion for the sport of wrestling has become a year round activity.
While wrapping up his final year of elementary school in May, Mathiowetz began the trek to the national meet by first taking part in state competition with regional qualifying efforts in both the Greco Roman and Freestyle divisions at the novice level in the 105 weight class. On May 13 in Monticello, by virtue of posting a 2-1 mark wrestling under the rules of the Greco Roman techniques Mathiowetz took third and moved on to regional action.
The following day, May 14, in Freestyle action Mathiowetz duplicated his 2-1 record winning the right matches against the right wrestlers and came away as the champion and moved on to the regional level. Rochester was the site of the 2017 Northern Plains Regional May 20 and 21.
On the first day of the regional meet Mathiowetz took fourth in Greco Roman competition with his runner-up placement in the Freestyle bracket punching his ticket to the national meet. A first round bye followed by a 10 point win in a 14-4 decision in the semifinals and a championship bout loss by decision in Freestyle wrestling gave Mathiowetz the right to compete nationally in a second event.
“I want to thank Joel Bauman for training me before I went there (Nationals). I also want to thank Brett Barthaloumas and my dad, Wade Mathiowetz for coaching me and convincing me to go down there to compete,” Mathiowetz said.
There is little doubt that with a passion for the sport, a great support system along with a hard working attitude, the recent success on the national stage may just be the beginning.