In order to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and Dixon wrestlers Hunter Pate and Hakeem Banks gave themselves that opportunity last month.
Pate, a DHS junior, and Banks, a senior, represented Illinois at the United States Marine Corps Junior National Championships held July 12-19 in Fargo, North Dakota.
Dixon wrestling coach Chris Bishop was happy to see two of his top athletes challenge themselves at a premier national event.
“I think the big thing is when you’re trying to get to the next level, you’re going to have to do things that people aren’t,” Bishop said. “We haven’t had a whole lot of guys go out to Fargo to wrestle. The last guy was probably Kylian Lally. There were maybe a couple of guys between him and Joe Roth, who went out there and did really well.
“If you’re looking to be in the top tier, you’re going to have to do things other people aren’t doing, and Hakeem and Hunter both did that this summer. Hopefully it pays off when the season comes.”
Pate competed in 182-pound Freestyle Division and posted a 3-2 record. He opened with a 6-4 victory against a wrestler from Montana, then lost 12-2 to a wrestler from New York.
In the consolation bracket, Pate won two bouts, 8-0 against a wrestler from Minnesota and 8-7 over a wrestler from Pennsylvania, then lost 15-4 to a competitor from Michigan.
“There’s always someone better,” Pate said, “and everyone wrestles different. I just have to keep working hard, and stay strong mentally and physically.”
Banks was in the 120-pound Greco-Roman Division. He opened with an 8-1 win against a wrestler from Connecticut, then fell 12-0 to a wrestler from Washington.
In the consolation bracket, Banks lost 12-2 to a wrestler from Kansas. It was his second time competing in Fargo, and he feels it will help him when it’s time to don his singlet for the Dukes again this winter.
“Last year it was like a vacation almost, just having fun with a few new teammates,” Banks said. “This year, I went up a few weights, and I loved the competition. It was so tough. They call it the biggest tournament of the year for a reason. I loved it. There were guys from California, Pennsylvania – all over the place. It broadens your horizons, going against all that competition.”