CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Jerrett Villinger just can’t stay off the mat.
Even though the prep wrestling season is over, he’s far from done competing.
Last weekend, the Warrenton senior visited the UNI-Dome on the campus of Northern Iowa University for the USA Folkstyle Nationals, a 23-mat tournament, where he went up against some of the best in the country.
Villinger set a goal to finish in the top eight of the 160-pound weight class in order to earn All-American honors.
And after falling short last year, this time he got it done. He reached the semifinals and went 4-3 to place sixth in his 45-man bracket.
Villinger, also a two-time state medalist, is just the third grappler in Warrenton program history to attain the All-American distinction.
“It’s one of the most difficult tournaments out there,” Warrenton Head Coach Ryan Cross said. “This is a place where you’ll find a lot of your Division I wrestlers. And as far as the competition goes, it’s top notch. There’s not a kid out there who’s not wrestling at an extremely high level, so becoming an All-American is a pretty honorable feat for any high school kid.”
Villinger was at his best in the tournament’s opening day on Friday. He won all four of his matches, topping Brendan Dunagan of Shoreview, Minn. (5-3), Savian Wheat of Fort Dodge, Iowa (6-4), Noah Hollendonner of Crown Point, Ind. (6-1) and Benjamin Smith of Morenoso, Iowa, by sudden victory (3-1).
The sudden victory helped ensure him All-American status and a second day of wrestling Saturday. A year ago his trip ended early with a 2-2 mark.
“Jerrett was on fire Friday,” Cross said “And you could see how much he had improved from a year ago.”
On Saturday, Villinger faced the elite of the elite. Right off the bat, he went against sophomore Alex Facundo of Davison, Mich.
Facundo is wrestling’s equivalent to basketball’s Zion Williamson. Even as a sophomore, he’s the one of the most sought after recruits in any weight class in the sport. Every major program wants him on their campus.
Facundo’s already a two-time state champion and he capped off his weekend in Cedar Falls as a two-time Folkstyle National champion. Also on his resume is a bronze at the 2018 Cadet Freestyle Championships in Zagreb, Croatia.
Villinger lost to Facundo 21-7, but, hey, just getting a chance to compete against a phenom is a pretty big deal, a story he can tell for the rest of his life.
“I’ve seen Jerrett wrestle since middle school and that’s the toughest opponent he’s seen in his career, so it was pretty cool to watch,” Cross said. “You don’t run into those kind of kids very often. He’s on a world-caliber level. But with the exception of that match, Jerrett wrestled competitively in all of his matches.”
Villinger closed out Saturday with losses to a pair of California state medalists in Jace Lauchau (7-1) of Selma and Troy Mantatnona (5-3) of Bermuda Dunes.
Cross said he thinks Villinger’s performance in Iowa may have opened some eyes of college coaches and helped gain him some positive exposure as he explores his options at the next level.
One thing is for certain, wherever Villinger chooses for college, he’ll be on the mat as soon as he can.