By Bret Curren
Heartbreak. It is the only word to describe the feelings of West Holmes High School junior Cael Woods on Sunday morning, July 15 after being eliminated from the 2018 United States Marine Corps/USA Wrestling Cadet and Junior Freestyle and Greco-Roman Fargo Nationals Championship Tournament, which took place at the Fargo Dome on the campus of North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota.
Woods fought the fight but came up short in the second consolation round of 16 matchup with Joziah Fry of Team Rhode Island, dropping a tough 11-6 decision to Fry. That meant Woods came up short a second time in garnering a coveted All-American top-eight finish at the toughest amateur Freestyle and Greco-Roman tournament in the country.
Fry jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead halfway through the first three-minute period, but Woods came back with a late flurry, scoring his own four points in a scant .03 second time period to knot the match just before the bell. The second and final period belonged to Fry as he outscored Woods 7-2.
The Knights two-time returning state placer (third in 2018 and eighth in 2017) and this season’s state of Ohio champion in both Freestyle and Greco-Roman opened up his Fargo tournament Saturday, July 14 with a dominating 10-0 tech-fall win in 33 seconds over Daniel Bittner of Team Massachusetts. However, Woods’ next bout was much different as he trailed after the first period of his second-round matchup with James Joplin of Team North Carolina before coming back in the final period to lead 11-8. He would go on to cap it off with a fall win at 4:17 over Joplin.
In the championship round of 32, Woods again took care of business, posting a 10-0 tech-fall victory at 1:04 over Chase DeBlaere of Team Minnesota, advancing him to the championship round of 16, where he squared off with Cooper Flynn of Team Tennessee.
Things went from very good to very bad for Woods when he dropped a 12-3 decision to Flynn. Woods saw Flynn power out to a 5-1 lead after the first three-minute period on Saturday night, and then he couldn’t mount any threat in the second and final stanza.
That loss pushed Woods into the wrestle-back rounds, where he would have to shake off the loss to Flynn and work his way back into contention for All-American status, a designation that slipped through Woods’ grasp in the 2017 Fargo Nationals when he lost by criteria to Flynn after wrestling the Tennessee standout to a 6-6 draw in last year’s meeting between the two.
Since that loss, one of Woods’ main goals has been earning ‘AA’ distinction at Fargo.
Woods can take solace in the fact that even though he didn’t reach his goal, his performance still places him among the top-24 Freestyle wrestlers in the country at his age level and weight.