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Fugleberg answers the youth movement call at USA Wrestling tournament

FARGO-The USA Wrestling Junior Greco-Roman and freestyle national tournament first came to Fargo in 1993 in what was expected to be a short-term run at the Fargodome.

Gerad Fugleberg, director of volunteers for USA Wrestling Junior and Cadet national tournaments, photographed in Fargo, N.D., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, will oversee the week-long wrestling tournament at the Fargodome. Nick Wagner / The Forum
Gerad Fugleberg, director of volunteers for USA Wrestling Junior and Cadet national tournaments, photographed in Fargo, N.D., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, will oversee the week-long wrestling tournament at the Fargodome. Nick Wagner / The Forum

FARGO-The USA Wrestling Junior Greco-Roman and freestyle national tournament first came to Fargo in 1993 in what was expected to be a short-term run at the Fargodome.

Well, it's still here.

And in many cases, so are many of the volunteers that have set aside a week in July every summer to help the cause.

"You can count on them to be around," said Gerad Fugleberg.

But it never hurts to get the next generation involved and Fugleberg is doing his part. The 24-year-old former Fargo South and Minnesota State Moorhead wrestler has one of the biggest jobs in the event: the director of volunteers. USA Wrestling, based in Colorado Springs, Colo, provides some help but the tournament cannot keep coming back to Fargo without the help of the local folks.

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Pressure? Yes. Fugleberg said he joked to his mother a couple weeks ago that he thought he was going to get fired.

"It's stressful but I enjoy it and you meet a lot of new cool people," he said.

Now called the ASICS/Vaughan Junior (ages 17-18) and Cadet (ages 15-16) Nationals, the event kicks off Saturday for another seven-day run that brings in the best Olympic-style wrestlers from across the country in both boys and girls. The women's Junior freestyle division, for instance, is now in its 13th year.

Fugleberg said the volunteer base will meet the need again this year, although he's quick to point out the No.1 rule in the job: there are never enough volunteers.

Perhaps the biggest need, said Pete Isais, the director of national events for USA Wrestling, is with the referees.

"Overall, we're really struggling with mat officials with the younger generation," Isais said.

USA Wrestling and North Dakota State, the host institution, signed a three-year contract after last year's tournament, meaning Fargo will have the tournament through 2017.

Technology, Isais said, has helped ease the need for volunteers although camera operators are now needed to videotape every match, something that USA Wrestling just started recently.

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"No way this goes on without the volunteers," Fugleberg said.

He's using social media avenues like Facebook to reach out to people. Born in 1991, Fugleberg has been a volunteer for about as long as he can remember and is now occupying a job that guys like Keith Kerbaugh and Dom Vasquez held for several years.

"Oftentimes you need those fresh connections to get more bodies for the volunteer effort," said Joel Vettel, who has handled security for the tournament for many years.

Nine Junior freestyle and six Greco-Roman champions are eligible for a repeat title. Two of them, Randon Miranda of California and Danny Vega of Arizona, are going for a second straight triple crown of titles in folkstyle, freestyle and Greco-Roman.

Nine women's Junior champions are eligible for a second straight title. And it doesn't matter what mat the returning champs are on, you can bet a volunteer will be nearby. On the days when all 23 mats on the dome floor are in us, Fugleberg will be a busy guy.

"It's vital to have a good volunteer coordinator to make sure they're not wasting people's time," Vettel said. "Nobody wants to sit around and do nothing."

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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