Jeremiah Imonode and Blake Monty have a shared burden.
In a sport where bloodlines can flow from one weight class to the next and being a namesake brings similar expectations, trying to be the next one attempting to reach the top of the podium can be overbearing.
The younger brothers of former state wrestling champions attract attention by name alone.
It is clear neither is willing to give in to any oppressive pressure that comes with being the younger sibling to Samson Imonode and Seth Monty.
“It’s kind of a double-edge sword,” Desert Vista junior Jeremiah Imonode. “Some people look at me as Samson’s little brother and there’s pressure to win one, too, but at the same time people expect that because they know I can do it.”
Monty, who will be a junior at Mesa Mountain View, has felt that outside pressure as well.
“That’s always there,” he said. “I am working hard to make my own path and creating my own name.”
Both had disappointing sophomore years, as neither placed at state.
Monty placed fifth as a freshman, but went 1-2 last year to end any chance of equaling his brother’s accomplishment as the only Toro to be a four-time state placer, while Imonode went 2-2 a year after going 0-2 at state as the No. 2 seed.
“It kind of tore me up inside,” Monty said. “I don’t want to ever feel like that again, so I’ve been working as hard as I can to make sure I don’t.”
The tandem gets its chance, along with nearly 60 other Arizona competitors including Desert Vista’s Brian Mitchell and Tristan Ezell, to start making their own path at the Junior and Cadet National Championships in Fargo, N.D., which begin today and go through July 20.
Most of the competitors are in both the Greco-Roman, which is first and goes through Wednesday, and freestyle, which starts Thursday and concludes on Saturday.
Some of the entrants are there more for the mat time and experience of competing at the national level. If they happen to get a few wins along the way all the better, but there are others like the Monty brothers, Imonode, Mitchell and Ezell, who are in Fargo with hopes of bringing home some coveted hardware.
“The stop sign is the prized possession of summer wrestling,” said Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez, who is also the USA wrestling state chairman. “It’s what this tournament is known for and everyone wants the big stop sign at the end.”
The tournament gives out large, octagon-shaped plaques to every wrestler who earns All-American status (top eight) and long ago it was dubbed the stop sign.
“I’m on a mission for that stop sign in Fargo this year,” said Ezell, who has a new found confidence after bumping to 220 pounds from 195 where he is using his athleticism against bigger, slower competitors.
He is hoping the decision to go big will help him similarly as it did former Horizon state champion Garrett Ryan, who reached a new level nationally once he decided to wrestle at his natural size rather than cut to a smaller weight class.
“He’s wrestling differently now that he decided to let his body fill in,” Gonzalez said. “He is big and athletic and it helps when he is going against slower, methodical (opponents). He has a great knowledge of wrestling and his athleticism can make a difference.”
Gonzalez feels Imonode, who wrestled at 182 last season after 195 as a freshman, has already made strides after wrestling through injuries last year.
“He knows this is a way to put himself back on the map,” Gonzalez said. “He has big goals and he is a second-year cadet. He was one match away from placing in Akron (at the 2013 University Freestyle and Greco Nationals) and that put him in the right state of mind.”
“We’ve been going at it pretty hard (in practice),” he said. “I beat a lot of good kids in Ohio. It opened my eyes about competing at the national level and let me know I belong.”
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