Dylan Elmore’s second trip to Fargo Nationals wasn’t nearly as daunting as his first.

The St. Thomas Aquinas product, who will be a junior in the fall, brought home All-American honors by taking eighth place at 152 pounds freestyle during the recent tournament at the FargoDome.

While he failed short of his goal of being higher on the podium, it was a marked improvement from the summer of 2019 when he lost his first consolation match at 132 pounds to Missouri’s Kage Lenger, who will wrestle a future D-I school Augustana, and was eliminated after five matches.

“I been there before; the first time I went it was overwhelming,” Elmore said. “I heard so much about it, the second time I went I wasn’t as nervous as the first time. The first time it was after my eighth grade year and everyone was talking it up and I was really nervous and I didn’t wrestle my best. That was my first high school tournament.

“This time I was really not focused on winning, but giving the best effort I can and that took a lot of pressure off. I was just worried about doing my best and I was able to wrestle and have a little more fun.”

The Paola resident opened with three straight dominating victories – 10-0, 11-0 and 11-0. In the round of 16, Georgia’s Caleb Henson prevailed 12-1 to knock Elmore to the consolation side. The No. 3-ranked Henson, who is committed to Virginia Tech, claimed the national championship.

The difference this time around for Elmore was not losing two straight. He won a close match against Indiana’s Jaden Reynolds by virtue of a tiebreaker in a match that ended 6-6. Reynolds, a third-place finisher at 145 in his home state’s high school finals, held a 5-0 lead at one point but Elmore got a nearfall with 15 seconds left to stay alive.

“I had to grind out a few matches on the backside,” Elmore said. “I think my best was the first match on the backside when I had to come back.”

His run continued with an 8-5 win over Jonthan Ley of Florida thanks to a 5-0 scoring outburst in the first period. Ley also took third in the Florida Class 1A state meet and was ranked 16th in the nation but was No. 8 in’s preseason rankings.

Another 11-0 win followed as Elmore beat No. 15 nationally ranked Kaleb Larkin of Arizona in the first period. Larkin is an Arizona State commit.

Pennsylvania’s Paniro Johnson beat Elmore, 11-0, in the consolation semifinals. Johnson, who was ranked 16th at 160 heading this tourney but dropped weight, is headed to Iowa State.

The final match at Fargo was a 16-6 loss to Jacob Gonzales of Michigan. Gonzales has won two straight high school titles and sports a 76-0 record in that span.

“My body is pretty worn out, but it felt good after I won the blood round. I knew I was pretty good,” he said. “My goal was to win it so I’m not satisfied with just being an All-American, but it feels good. I worked hard. I was practicing two times a day for the last two months. I wasn’t expecting to place in freestyle, but I was expecting to in Greco.”

Elmore went 3-0 to open Greco-Roman but then lost to West Virginia’s Derek Raike in the round of 16. The next match, California’s Nicco Ruiz beat Elmore, 10-8, to end his run in that bracket.

“I think being an All-American will give him a tremendous amount of confidence,” St. Thomas Aquinas coach Eric Akin said. “He already is very confident. He is one of those kids that hardly ever wrestles kids stronger than he is and now he will hardly wrestle anyone that has placed at Fargo. He probably is going to be a favorite in every match (this winter) and he knows that. Going into Fargo and running into all the good guys and you got back to your own state, I don’t care what state it is Pennsylvania or Kansas, but going back after Fargo and the National Duals, you realize it is a different level. The confidence that ‘this is a walk through the park compared to what I competed in.’ He beat kids that have already committed to D-I, that is impressive he placed at that weight class.”

Elmore’s drive to earn the All-American title stemmed from how the high school season ended.

He won his first two matches at state but then lost 7-2 to Goddard’s Jace Fisher in the 152 pound finals in Class 5A.

A 37-2 mark featured only losses to state champs: Fisher and Gavin Gross of Odessa, the Missouri Class 2 160 pound champion.

“After I lost that match (to Fisher), I worked hard and I made a huge jump … a really big jump,” said Elmore, who didn’t medal as a freshman at the state meet.

This summer he went to the UWW Cadet and Future Nationals in Wisconsin, taking fourth in Greco. At the Junior National Duals in Tulsa, he went 16-1 between freestyle and Greco and made the All-Tournament Team for the latter.

Elmore won a pair of Junior/Cadet titles in freestyle and Greco at the USA Wrestling Kansas meet in May. Injuries to his shoulder and knee slowed him down a bit this summer but he has pushed through. That, though, is nothing new. He got injured playing football his freshman year and turned out he had two avulsion fractures in his hips.

He is about to start football practice for the Saints, a state semifinalist in Class 5A last fall. Elmore plays defensive end for the team and hopes to get up to 170 pounds for the football season. Then, when wrestling comes around, probably drop some weight to be at 160. His goal is to reach the state finals again and win a title, then add a national title to his resume.

“We got some good two years left,” Akin said of Elmore. “He still learns things and gets prepared for the next level, college. As far as high school goes, I would be surprised if he loses anymore matches. We go to some tough tournaments, like in Council Bluff, that has guys from all over the country. I could coach every match and speak another language and it won’t matter. He knows what he is doing and he got it under control. I’m not really worried about it. He is one of those next level guys.”

What do you think?

Written by Cody Thorn


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