INDIANA, Pa. — The road to becoming a national champion is never easy, but Wadsworth’s Michael North had to go into the belly of the beast.
It happened Saturday at the FloNationals on the campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania in a venue where many wanted to see him fail.
The 145-pound junior met up in the finals with three-time Pennsylvania state runner-up Kolby Ho of DuBois High School, which sits 49 minutes away from IUP.
Just in case anyone wondered if Ho was the favorite, there were those working the tournament there to remind North.
“I remember I was going into my quarterfinal match and he had wrestled right before me,” North said. “I went up to the table to check in and the guy at the table said, ‘Hold on. I gotta make sure Ho is good to go.’ He said, ‘Ho is a bad dude. He’s going to win this thing.’
“He said that right to me. I just kept thinking about that. It was cool that I got to wrestle him and got to beat him.”
That’s all North needed to beat Ho 7-6 and win the national title after quite an impressive weekend.
It started with major decision wins over Pennsylvania state placer Alex Caldwell of Ligonier and Newark Catholic’s Elijah Pack.
That brought a quarterfinal match with Wisconsin state champion Joshua Otto of Arrowhead, whicn North won 4-3.
The semifinal with Peter Enos of the United State Wrestling Academy was what really showed North where he belonged.
A two-time state champion from Nevada and one-time state champ from Missouri, Enos never had a chance in a 10-6 North win.
“I knew I had him,” North said. “I got the takedown right away and turned it into a tilt. I knew from right there I was controlling that match. I knew from there I had the chance to be the national champ.
“I had no idea about that kid when I wrestled him. As I was warming up for the finals, he came up to me and we started talking. It kind of gave me a bit of a big head, but it made me feel a little bit more confident in myself when he told me he was a three-time state champ.”
The national title proved just how bright a future North has after a fourth-place finish at state a month ago.
Now a two-time state placer, North is looking to use the FloNational title as a catapult toward what could be a storybook end to his career with the Grizzlies.
“It kind of was like a comeback for me,” North said. “It wasn’t the state I wanted, but me going there, it showed me with all the people that helped me train that I can keep getting better. I’m ecstatic about winning this. It leads off to what I hope is a great season my senior year.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.