When it comes to wrestling tournaments, it doesn't get any bigger than the USA Cadet and Junior National Championships.
More than 4,000 high school-age wrestlers competing in over 7,000 matches. The largest wrestling tournament in the world -- regardless of age level. Hundreds of college coaches looking for a future scholarship wrestler. Think of it as the Super Bowl of wrestling events.
Forty-nine wrestlers from Maryland competed at the championships July 24 through 31 at the Fargo Dome in Fargo, N.D. Vince Cina, 18, a recent graduate of River Hill, was one of the members of the Maryland team who competed against wrestlers from more than 40 states and Puerto Rico.
Cina finished in sixth place (out of 63 wrestlers) at 119 pounds in the Greco-Roman division, meaning he earned the designation of national all-American for the fourth year in a row. Two years ago, Cina was the national champion in Greco-Roman at the 98-pound weight class.
"It feels pretty good to place all four years," said Cina, who also competed in the Junior (11th- and 12th-grade) freestyle division at the championships. He was one round from earning all-American status in freestyle as well. "In years past I felt a little bit of that pressure [with college coaches watching] and felt the need to perform at my best. I felt a couple eyes [watching me].
"This year I just went out there for me . . . to try to perform my best and show I really belonged out there with some of the top guys in the country."
Later this month, Cina will begin classes at the University of Pennsylvania, where he plans to major in bio-engineering. He will also wrestle for the Quakers.
But school preparation took a back seat to wrestling in the Midwest. Cina even broke his nose -- twice -- during the tournament, though that was a self-diagnosis. "I kept wrestling with it," he said. "I've done it before. It's not really straight as it is. You learn to live with it."
In Greco-Roman wrestling, a wrestler may not attack below the waist and may not use any part of his body below the waist to gain an advantage; in freestyle wrestling, the wrestler can attack above or below the waist and use all of his body.
The tournament, according to River Hill wrestling coach Earl Lauer, who was an assistant coach for the Maryland contingent, is an extravaganza unlike any other.
"This is where the college coaches go to recruit," said Lauer, who has coached high school and junior league teams since 1971. "I would liken it to having all of the five-star [high school] basketball camps at the same time. Coaches from any wrestling school in the country are scouting to ascertain who they can have to fill spots in their lineup, from Division I to junior college."
Five of the seven current U.S. Olympians at the Games in Athens are "former Fargo champions," according to Lauer.
Another of Lauer's River Hill wrestlers, rising junior Taylor Green, also competed at the tournament. Green competed in the Cadet (ninth- and 10th-grade) bracket, where he won one match and lost four. He was a Maryland state runner-up last winter.
"There are state champions [from all over the country] that don't win a match," said Lauer. "The level of competition there is the best that you'll find."