Kaneland junior qualifies for Nationals
SUGAR GROVE—After becoming the youngest Knight ever to medal at the State Tournament back in March, Riley Vanik kept the momentum going into the offseason.
But after winning the 2015 Greco-Roman State Meet in the 185-pound category in late April in Lockport, Ill., and winning the Second-Chance Qualifier in Freestyle in the same weight class May 30 in Sycamore, Vanik punched his ticket to the Asics Vaughan Cadet and Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D., July 18-25. The top two place winners will advance to the national tournament in each weight class and division.
Vanik will wrestle in the Cadet division, which features athletes born between 1998-2000. This is the first year Vanik has competed in the Freestyle and Greco-Roman styles.
“I decided to come out to do this because I saw that the best wrestlers in college for folkstyle had also had a Freestyle and Greco Roman wrestling background,” Vanik said. “This made me realize that to be the best wrestler that I can be I need to diversify my wrestling and try something new out.”
The Cadet and Junior National Championships is considered the top youth event in the United States. Wrestlers from every state travel to the tournament, held in the Fargodome, to test their skills against the nation’s best Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers. College coaches and scouts are a common sight at the tournament.
“When I first thought about competing (in Greco-Roman and Freestyle), I wasn’t expecting much. I wasn’t too familiar with the rules, and the technique was pretty awkward for me. But with the help of my coaches I started to pick it up pretty quickly,” Vanik said. “I knew that I was going to do fairly well with my many years of Folkstyle wrestling background, but I had no idea that I would be going to Fargo this year. That came as a huge surprise.”
Before he embarks to Fargo, there’s no rest for Vanik. A three-day camp at the Martinez Wrestling Facility with coaches Nate Martinez and KHS coach Joe Orosco is coming up, followed by the Relentless Pursuit camp at Oak Park-River Forest High School in Oak Park, Ill., July 6-10. He then travels to Champaign, Ill., for training camp with the rest of Team Illinois from July 13-18 before heading to Fargo to compete in the National Championships.
“It can be pretty difficult balancing everything at times, but I have gotten the hang of it. I’ve had to prioritize all of my commitments and put them into a schedule of what has to get done and how important is it,” he said.
Vanik looks forward to the challenges that await him in Fargo.
“I’m feeling pretty excited about Nationals. I think it will be a fun experience, and I can’t wait for all the great competition. This is the biggest tournament in the nation, and I get to show off my skills against the best wrestlers in my weight class,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty confident right now, and I have high hopes. I’m going to give it my all to win it, and I believe I can, but no matter what happens I’m just happy that I have the chance to compete there.”