McKenzie Cook, a wrestler at Homer High School, took first place in her weight class last week at the 2019 U.S. Marine Corps Junior and 16U Nationals held at North Dakota State in Fargo, North Dakota.
She traveled to the tournament along with fellow Mariners wrestler Wayne Newman, who graduated from Homer this spring. The following is a recap of the event from Chris Perk, athletic director at Homer:
Division II state champion Wayne Newman attended his second juniors national tourney hosted at the Fargodome in North Dakota. Each year, Fargo is the host of the national tournament for freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling. Over 100 boys, including Newman, populated the 138-pound weight class.
Newman dropped his first contest to Cade Balestini from Pennsylvania 13-3. He then went on to win three straight matches, beating opponents from Washington and Missouri 10-0. Newman used a powerful gut wrench in both of those matches. In his third victory, he trailed Sam Kellem from Iowa 11-10 before executing many roll throughs to earn a 22-11 victory.
Newman’s last match was against Joe Foxen from New York, and was close in the early periods as both wrestlers exchanged leg attacks for takedowns. In the end, Foxen earned a 15-5 victory. Newman was eliminated in the top 32 of his bracket.
He’s now headed to Oregon State University in Corvallis to compete for the Beavers as a college athlete. Newman also wrestled in the Greco Roman style tournament, winning four matches and avenging his loss to Foxen. Newman placed in the top 24.
Cook, a four-time Alaska statewide high school champion and multiple-time winner of All-American honors, added another one to her trophy case over the weekend by taking first place in her weight class at the national competition. She competed in the junior girls 144-pound weight class against 37 other girls.
She was ranked No. 4 in the bracket and earned technical falls (1o-point spread) or touch falls in her first three matches. Using a solid two-on-one series for most of the tourney, Cook was able to shut down many of her opponents’ scoring opportunities. She pinned Krista Warren, a state champion from Washington, in 2 minutes, 40 seconds.
Cook’s semifinal match was against Ivy Kraught, also from Washington, who placed third during the high school season. Cook scored a takedown and three push-outs to earn a solid 5-1 victory, putting her in the championship match against Jerzie Estrada from Colorado. Estrada had previously defeated Cook in April at the Western Regional competition in Las Vegas, 14-2.
Cook wrestled very aggressively, hitting a fireman’s carry 20 seconds into the match. She put Estrada on her back and after Estrada fought her off, Cook hit a solid pancake head lock and had Estrada in danger for another 30 seconds to build a 6-0 lead. In the second period, Estrada defended a shot of Cook’s to pick up a few points, but the lead was too much as Cook earned the national title with an 8-7 victory over the No. 2 ranked female competitor at 152 pounds.