FARGO-There have been stories in the USA Wrestling Junior and Cadet national championships over the years that made your head spin with drama. Then there's the curious case of Christian Tanefeu of Bismarck.
He made the championship match in the Junior Greco-Roman division Friday, July 20, at the Fargodome.
He's only been wrestling since March. Like, in four months ago March. You never would have known it, however, when he took the main stage against Eli Griffin of Tulsa, Okla. at 100 pounds.
Griffin was a high school state champion last year at Cascia Hall High School. Tanefeu was playing on a freshman basketball team at Bismarck High.
"The first time I saw wrestling I wasn't too interested," Tanefeu said. "It was like, it's just another sport. Now I feel like it's more than that."
It's not as if wrestling was a foreign object to him. His twin brother, Wilfried, was already in the Demons program.
Team North Dakota coach Jeff Schumacher, who is also the co-head coach at Bismarck High, gives Wilfried just as much credit, if not more, for encouraging his brother to give wrestling a shot.
"His twin is really the special one because he's the one who pulled him off the basketball floor," Schumacher said. "He's the twin who is selfless, who wants his brother to be the best he can be and he's not jealous."
There's more to the story, too, in a lifestyle sense. Schumacher said the boys have phones, but they are not activated for cellular use and are only used for games. There's not a lot of tangible items in their life with the exception of wrestling-and the sport has already brought them more athletic success than most kids.
Schumacher said their work ethic is exceptional. They go to all three MATPAC Wrestling Club practices per day, whereas most wrestlers go to one. There are days when Schumacher has to practically order them to go home.
"They have nothing, now they have wrestling and they absolutely love it," Schumacher said. "They don't have anything else."
The 15-year-old Christian Tanefeu will be a sophomore at Bismarck High. He won the North Dakota Cadet state title in Greco-Roman and was second in freestyle this summer, but that is also Cadet that is an age group younger than Junior.
Moving up a class, he didn't seem intimidated, taking the center stage in introductions with a swagger of somebody who's been there before.
Griffin took a 3-0 lead getting an exposure. Tanefeu cut it to 3-1 with 2:13 left in the match and appeared to have the momentum with Griffin taking an injury time out. Once action resumed, Tanefeu did his best to try and crack Griffin, but to no avail.
"The last 30 seconds, I needed to try and do something," Tanefeu said. "I was trying to get his wrists, get an underhook and trying to get a takedown. I know a couple moves but it was a problem getting to them."
At the horn, Griffin did the celebratory flex while Tanefeu had to be told where to go shake hands to the opposing coach. It was a new experience, after all.
But what an experience.
What a story.
"I was surprised," Tanefeu said of reaching the finals. "Some people think I'm talented but I have to say it was hard work. Wrestling has helped me get some new friends, meet new people and have fun with it."
1. Eli Griffin (Oklahoma) dec. Christian Tanefeu (North Dakota), 3-1. 3. Ricky Bell (Oregon) pin Ronan Schuelke (Illinois), 0:28. 5. Guillermo Juarez (Illinois) tech. fall Kael Brisker (Iowa), 12-0 1:19. 7. Sage Mortimer (Utah) dec. Rhett Koppes (Kansas), 14-10.
1. Brenden Chaowanapibool (Washington) dec. Anthony King (Illinois), 6-2. 3. Elijah Cyr (Connecticut) tech. fall Bryce Cockrell (Oklahoma), 11-0 2:26. 5. Devin Garcia (California) dec. Austin Kegley (Iowa), 17-10. 7. Jrake Burford (Pennsylvania) tech. fall Wyatt Maturin (Texas), 16-5 3:35.
1. Paxton Creese (Minnesota) dec. Ryan Rowland (Florida), 13-4. 3. Brendon Garcia (Colorado) dec. Billy Sullivan (South Dakota), 13-8. 5. Andrew Chambal (Michigan) dec. Nick Onea (Pennsylvania), 8-4. 7. Steele Dias (Nevada) tech. fall Jason Henschel (Kansas), 10-0 0:33.
1. Chayse La joie (Michigan) dec. Cevion Severado (Missouri), 7-6. 3. Eric Barnett (Wisconsin) tech. fall Anthony Molton (Illinois), 18-5 3:28. 5. Dylan Ragusin (Illinois) dec. Brandon Kaylor (Washington), 12-11. 7. Noah Surtin (Illinois) tech. fall Gregory Coapstick (Texas), 10-0 1:51.
1. Austin Almaguer (Washington) pin King Sandoval (Virginia), 5:12. 3. Jordan Hamdan (Michigan) dec. Hunter Sparks (Oregon), 9-3. 5. Austin Macias (Illinois) dec. Caden Mccrary (Georgia), 6-1. 7. Chase Tebbets (Washington) tech. fall Jack Huffman (Nebraska), 10-0 1:03.
1. Ridge Lovett (Idaho) dec. Delon Kanari (Illinois), 10-2. 3. Luis Hernandez (Florida) tech. fall Michael Gunther (Illinois), 15-2 4:59. 5. Riley Gurr (Montana) inj. dft Reece Witcraft (Oklahoma). 7. Jason Shaner (Oregon) dec. Jalen Spuhler (Wisconsin), 10-6.
1. Kyle Parco (California) dec. Dawson Sihavong (California), 11-6. 3. Ryan Wheeler (Washington) tech. fall Joey Bianchi (Wisconsin), 14-4 4:08. 5. Job Greenwood (Colorado) dec. Frankie Tal-shahar (Florida), 10-7. 7. Spencer Schickram (Oklahoma) pin Marcus Peterson (Washington),1:33.
1. Cael Carlson (Minnesota) pin We Rachal (Illinois), 3:33. 3. Caden Moore (South Dakota) dec. Chandler Mooney (Minnesota), 7-1. 5. Michael Weber (Montana) dec. Jake Drexler (Wisconsin), 10-3. 7. Cade Devos (Iowa) dec. Ezekial Williamson (Idaho), 6-0.
1. Peyton Omania (California) dec.Tyler Eischens (Minnesota), 8-7. 3. James Burks (Nebraska) pin Aaron Gandara (Arizona), 0:16. 5. Nathan Moore (Washington) inj dft. Alexander Lloyd (Minnesota). 7. Jace Luchau (California) pin Gabe Kjeldgaard (Iowa), 0:28.
1. Tyler Dow (Wisconsin) dec. Donnell Washington (Illinois), 16-11. 3. Ankhaa Enkhmandakh (California) dec. Terrance Parks (New York), 3-3. 5. Danny Braunagel (Illinois) tech. fall Adrian St.germain (Washington), 19-8 5:27. 7. Jack Ervien (Washington) inj. dft Zachary Tolver (Alaska).
1. Alex Cramer (Illinois) dec. Christopher Foca (New Jersey), 9-4. 3. Vincent Baker (Georgia) dec. John Knight (Washington), 6-4. 5. Tate Battani (Iowa) dec. Jacob Stefanowicz (Pennsylvania), 13-12. 7. Damen Pape (Nebraska) tech. fall Allen Swanson (Illinois), 12-1 2:48.
1. Zachary Braunagel (Illinois) dec. Jack Jessen (Illinois), 5-4. 3. Tommy Brackett (Tennessee) dec. Lennox Wolak (Ohio), 4-0. 5. Tate Samuelson (Colorado) dec. Evan Bockman (Alaska), 9-2. 7. Julien Broderson (Iowa) pin Dane Harter (Louisiana), 1:31.
1. Lucas Davison (Indiana) tech. fall Guillermo Escobedo (California), 12-0 2:25. 3. Tyrell Gordon (Iowa) dec. Matthew Kaylor (North Dakota), 7-3. 5. Wyatt Hendrickson (Kansas) pin Jackson Mckinney (Washington), 5:48. 7. Peter Christensen (Illinois) tech. fall Dillyn Miller (Nebraska), 11-0 2:00.
1. Jace Punke (Illinois) dec. Luke Luffman (Illinois), 5-3. 3. Boone Mcdermott (Iowa) tech. fall Jayson Gomez (New York), 18-7 2:32. 5. Leo Rabinovich (New York) pin Aidan Conner (Texas), 2:49. 7. Joshua Heindselman (Oklahoma) inj. dft. Garrett Kappes (Maryland).
1. Anthony Cassioppi (Illinois) tech. fall Austin Emerson (Michigan), 11-0 1:46. 3. Nash Hutmacher (South Dakota) tech. fall Spencer Trenary (Iowa), 13-3 3:48. 5. Kaleb Reeves (Iowa) tech. fall Daniel Ausloos (Wisconsin), 10-0 0:25. 7. Joey Slackman (New York) pin Montana Phillips (Oklahoma), 2:26.