There are no beaches, no time for girls and chances of eating a big meal is probably out of the question.

Yet, Fargo, N.D., is the greatest town in the world for eight days in July.

Crazy talk?

Not to high school wrestlers across the nation as Fargo is home to one of the most prestigious and sought after destinations during the offseason.

“I’ve never been there, and everyone says there is nothing there to do, but I can’t wait to get there,” Desert Vista soon-to-be sophomore Cooper Gardner said. “This is where everyone wants to be at this time of the year. I like that there is nothing to do there but wrestle.”

So off he goes, along with three other Thunder wrestlers and the rest of Team Arizona, as the Junior and Cadet National Championships in Greco-Roman and freestyle disciplines get under way this weekend.

The other Desert Vista wrestlers are Robbie Mathers (Cadet age division, 119 pounds), Alex Bambic (Cadet, 215) and Ace Martinez (Junior, 152). Gardner is competing at 130 in Cadet.

The Greco portion of the event kicks off Sunday for the Cadets (born between 1994 and 1995) and Monday for the Juniors (born on or after Sept. 1, 1990, and enrolled in grades ninth through 12 last year).

By mid-week the discipline changes over to freestyle. By the end of the week they usually have a whole new perspective.

“This is an incredible experience that raises their level of competition and expectations,” Desert Vista coach David Gonzalez said, who is also one of the coaches for Team Arizona. “They might lose every match, but they come back from Fargo better wrestlers.

“When you go there for the first time it can be intimidating. It’s in the Fargodome, which is like Northern Arizona’s Skydome, and there are 25 to 30 mats. There are 3,000 competitors with some of them being the best in the nation who might end up wrestling for their country in the Olympics someday.”

The four Desert Vista wrestlers have varying degrees of experience and expectations heading into the event.

Mathers is the most accomplished at the high school level after winning the 112-pound Class 5A Division I state title last season, but the junior has no Fargo experience after tearing the meniscus ligament in one of his knees last season.

“I have been waiting for this for a long time,” Mathers said. “I am working hard, drilling with some great partners, and ready to go. I missed out on it last year, and I hope I make up for it this year.”

Bambic, who finished fifth at 215 pounds as a freshman, is riding high heading into Fargo after earning the Triple Crown in Pocatello, Idaho, June 15-21. He won the Greco, freestyle and folkstyle (high school rules) titles to be named tournament’s outstanding wrestler.

He fared well in Fargo last year as well, earning All-American status (top eight) in both Greco and freestyle. But that came in an age group (schoolboy) below his current one.

“I am feeling good about it (after his performance in Idaho),” Bambic said from Arizona State’s practice facility. “The field is going to be a lot tougher, but I know if I wrestle like I can I should have a good chance.”

Martinez, who finished third at state as a junior, is up for his first taste of Fargo and knows it is something he has to tackle before getting back at it next high school season.

“I don’t know what to expect, but everyone says this is where you have to go to get better,” Martinez said. “I lost in the state semifinals (last high school season) so maybe this makes the difference.”

Gardner was thrown into the thick of the varsity season as a freshman and received an awakening before qualifying for state.

“Everyone was quicker, faster and stronger,” he said. “I gained experience that is only going to make me better. It’s the same way I am approaching Fargo.”

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