INDEPENDENCE, MO - Escanaba's Caleb Rahoi has claimed a distinction few from this area have achieved.
National champion has a nice ring to it.
Rahoi, along with a few Gladstone wrestlers, competed in the 2013 Brute National Wrestling Finals over the weekend. Rahoi overcame the odds against formidable competition. He completed the tournament, going 4-0 and defeating Austinn Goin of Belton, MO 15-2 to win the 148-pound, 10th grade bracket and claim the title.
Escanaba’s Caleb Rahoi, right, prepares to wrestle Austinn Goin of Missouri in the 10th grade championship match at 148 pounds Sunday at the Brute National Wrestling Finals at Independence, MO.
"It was pretty cool," Rahoi said. "I won a shirt, a bag, a sweet medal and a nice plaque."
In his first match, Rahoi won a pin. He then won by a 15-0 technical fall in the quarterfinals over Matt Garza of Missouri, before coming through in a tight semifinal against Travis Deegan of Minnesota.
"In the semifinal, I wrested a state qualifier. It was a tight match until I pinned him in the third period," Rahoi said.
Rahoi acknowledged that although the competition was strong at Independence, it didn't quite stack up to what he faced in March at the MHSAA State Finals at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where his competition was not limited to opponents his own age.
"It was a real cool experience but it wasn't as big as the state tourney. It was great competition and it was more of a preparation for what's coming up this wrestling season. I need to shape myself into a good wrestler so I can be successful," he said.
A state title remains Rahoi's goal and he hopes to achieve it within his junior or senior year.
"The real goal is a state championship next year. I'll work hard, get in some tournaments during the summer and work real hard," he said.
Rahoi went to Independence with Gladstone High School wrestlers' Jeremy Kadish and Jared Syverson, as well as Gladstone Middle School wrestlers Jared and Austin DeMeuse.
Jared DeMeuse, a seventh grader won won a national championship as well, in his division while his older brother Austin finished third overall in his 148-pound eighth grade division.
Syverson won his first match in the 144-pound 11th grade bracket over Zach Winston of Arkansas in a 43 second pin, but lost his last two matches. Kadish lost his first match and then fell to a Missouri wrestler that Rahoi had defeated earlier and was eliminated from the tournament.
Nearly 1,400 wrestlers from multiple state, broken down by age and weight divisions wrestled in the tournament.
Rahoi enjoyed the support of his family, even multiple states away.
"The cool thing was my parents, my girlfriend and my girlfriend's parents all came down and watched once they heard I was in the finals on Sunday," he said. "It was real nice."
Rahoi said he will try to wrestle in at least one or two more tournaments this summer, though they will likely be local competitions. He will also keep busy by playing on the Eskymos tennis team this spring.
"I'm focused on getting more work in," he said.