Liam Scrivanich made his initial wrestling pilgrimage to Fargo for the U.S. National Under-16 Greco-Roman championship with a certain achievement in mind.
“I felt I had a pretty good chance of being an All-American,” said the Saucon Valley rising junior, who’d have achieved that goal with a top-eight finish.
Scrivanich did considerably better than that. He left North Dakota as the national champion at 160 pounds, having defeated Jed Wester of Minnesota 11-4 in the final.
Not bad for a Fargo rookie.
“Two years ago (2019) I was too young to go and then last year COVID-19 happened,” Scrivanich said.
The pandemic put Scrivanich’s longtime hopes on hold.
“I’d been dreaming of wrestling at Fargo for years,” said Scrivanich, who has been wrestling since first grade. “I have always liked freestyle and Greco-Roman (the two styles wrestled at Fargo). And I always dreamed of winning a championship. Now a dream has come true. But at the start (of this year’s tournament) I never thought I would be a national champion.”
Scrivanich probably wasn’t at the top of anybody else’s thoughts, either. After all, he had no experience at nationals, and was coming off a decent sophomore scholastic season -- but no more than decent, perhaps, going 15-8 overall, second at the District 11 2A championship and fourth at the PIAA 2A Southeast Regional.
And after the freestyle competition, Scrivanich wouldn’t have jetted into a favorite’s role, either. He lost in the round of 16 and then was ousted 8-2 in the consolation -- by Wester.
“That was OK, Jed went on to take fifth in the freestyle,” Scrivanich said. “I learned he had really good arm spins, I got arm-spinned right away, and losing to him taught me some things to do like watch his hip pass.”
But if a medal was coming in Fargo, Scrivanich had figured all along it was coming in Greco-Roman, the style where all moves must be above the waist. Of the two Fargo styles, it is, at least in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, by far the less common.
“I always liked Greco a lot more,” he said. “It is more my style of wrestling. I am not real agile, not like the really good freestyle guys are. I like the big moves and throws. My bread and butter is Greco.”
Scrivanich isn’t alone in that preference around Saucon Valley.
“I have been practicing Greco with (classmate) Jake Jones since middle school, and he is my Greco practice partner,” said Scrivanich of the Panthers’ 172-pound state medalist (fourth) who has also enjoyed national success in Greco-Roman wrestling. “We have been to a lot of tournaments together. He makes me a lot better.”
Scrivanich used his lateral drop and gut wrenches to great effect in the Greco-Roman tournament while his mental game was in good form as well.
“I felt pretty good,” he said. “I took it one match at a time, and I just wrestled.”
Scrivanich wrestled pretty well, outsourcing five foes by a combined 55-12 before the final. He identified one of those bouts as a turning-point win.
“In the quarterfinal, I had a really good kid (Illinois’ Tyler Martinez; worth noting Illinois is THE Fargo Greco power) who was supposed to take me out of the tournament,” Scrivanich said. “I ended up tech-falling him (10-0). That gave me a huge boost of confidence going into the semifinal (which he won 10-3 over Roman Garcia of Florida). I realized I’d improved so much, I knew I could win this.”
Even so, Wester offered formidable opposition. In addition to the freestyle result between them, and earlier losses to Wester as well, Wester had outscored five Greco foes 44-0 heading into the final.
“I wasn’t really nervous,” Scrivanich said. “I just wanted to get revenge on the kid, he had beaten me multiple times before (the Fargo final). I think I wrestled very well in the final. There were a couple of things I need to work on. During the tournament, I think I just kept pushing forward, and I was wrestled mentally strong. I was there for two weeks, and I knew I just had to stay mentally tough.”
The summer success could lead Scrivanich to more scholastic triumphs, but he knows areas he must improve on for Saucon Valley.
“I need to be faster on my feet, and I need to be better on defense,” he said of folkstyle wrestling.While he readies for the Super 32 tournament in the fall and his junior season as a Panther, Scivanich can enjoy the fruits of Fargo. Champions earn a coveted piece of hardware -- a large octagonal trophy, commonly referred to as a “stop sign.”
“I am still trying to figure out a place to put it,” Scrivanich said. “It’s a pretty big plaque. The second-place plaque is a lot smaller. That’s one of the things that motivated me in the final.”
Scrivanich hopes more and more area wrestlers will pursue Greco.
“I would tell younger guys Greco is a lot of fun -- you get to do a lot of big moves,” he said. “You make a lot of new friends, connect with a lot of different people and coaches, and you get to travel a lot. I’d never been as far west (as Fargo) before, the farthest I’d been was Wisconsin.”
And that travel can lead to some fascinating meetings.
“Coming back from Fargo in the Philadelphia airport, I walked by a guy and thought., ‘Oh my gosh, that’s [Olympic wrestling gold medalist] Jordan Burroughs.’,” Scrivanich said. “I went up and said hello and we had a nice conversation. I love the way he wrestles -- I kind of adapted my style to his. He DOES have fast feet, like I want to have. And he’s brought a lot of joy to a lot of people with his wrestling.”
Who knows? Perhaps in a few years a younger wrestler, on his or her way back from Fargo, will be excited to see, meet and greet Liam Scrivanich -- that’s national champion Liam Scrivanich, after all -- in an airport.
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Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.