New York City girls put on a powerful performance at the national tournament in Fargo, ND, with two new champions and a handful placing high enough to receive All-American honors.
“The overall tournament, we had a very young team, experience-wise,” said BTS head girls coach Jacque Davis. “The group was definitely the best I’ve worked with at Fargo. They were all on the same page, picked each other up and pushed each other forward.”
Michaela Beck from Fusion High School won the Junior national title at the 125 lb division, where fellow New Yorker Joye Levendusky took 8th.
Beck noted that Fargo is different from most tournaments because of the sheer volume of wrestling. “It bummed me out to take second two days before Juniors,” Beck said, referring to her All-American Cadet run, “but the beauty of Fargo is that there’s another tournament in a day.” That helped give her the motivation to try her hardest in the Juniors, which is the older division that includes all high school age competitors. “I was really focused and determined. I feel like I wrestled smart -- I went back to the basics and won that way.”
Beck was pleasantly surprised that her hard work paid off and brought her to the level of a champion. “I was shocked at how wide the gap between third place to the finals could be. You have to make big strides to contend with the best.” Keeping in the competitive mindset was essential for her success, Beck said. “I tried to stay excited but also relaxed and calm. I just trusted myself.”
Beck’s victory shows the power of persistence: this newly-crowned champion went 0-2 at her first national tournament. “I felt overwhelmed...but hard work can get you there. We can respect our opponents, but we’re just as good.”
Hailey Cancelleri from Curtis High School was the other BTS champion, though she also received 4th in Cadet at 172 lbs, where fellow BTS wrestler Nia Crosdale from Truman High School received 8th.
Cancelleri was thrilled to return to Fargo after having competed and learned the tournament last year. “Going out there to compete with all of these other girls was a great experience,” she said. “Everything went really well. There weren’t really any surprises, but my change of attitude helped.”
Putting in a lot of work this year helped Cancelleri achieve this level of success. “I didn’t know the criteria to do well last time, so I improved my technique.” She credits her coaches and teammates for pushing and believing in her so that she could “go out there and do what I do best, wrestle.”
At 148 lbs, Brooke Pagan took 8th. At 159 lbs, Alexis Bleau fought her way to 2nd.
Team New York, which secured a 3rd place team finish in the Cadet division, complemented that strong showing with a 5th in the Junior standings.
Coach Davis also commends the attitudes of the tournament participants, noting that they were giving it all their effort and all operating at their top levels. Davis herself was named National Women’s Developmental Coach of the Year at the tournament.
“When it came to the wrestling, the Cadet girls were impressive,” said Davis, referring to the segment of BTS wrestlers where seven of the seventeen girls in competition received All-American honors, an exceptional performance for such a new group.
Because it was such a new team – four of the leading wrestlers were only juniors – the girls often had to compete against the top-seeded wrestlers in the nation for their weight class early on in the tournament. This provided a lot of challenge, but, as Davis said, “every girl was on fire the whole second day of the tournament. Girls kept coming to cheer one another on, help with warm-ups, and generally support each other.”
On the last day, Davis admits that some errors were made during the duals tournament, “but the girls persisted through, even after two other tourneys in the days before.”
“I’m just super excited,” Davis said, “our young girls were champions and they’re going to be around for a while. They’ll be leaders and we’re going to have an unstoppable team going forward.”