MOUNT VERNON — Max VanFossen (a graduated senior), Jacob DeHart (a graduated senior), Colton Spurgeon (a current sophomore), and Gabe Harmon (a current junior) of the Mount Vernon wrestling team all qualified for the AAU Junior Olympics that took place from July 29 to Aug. 2 in Greensboro, North Carolina. Gabe Harmon was ultimately unable to compete at the AAU Junior Olympics because of a knee injury. The wrestlers represented their school and their state well at the elite wrestling competition.

The wrestlers were able to participate in the tournament after going through a rigorous process that included placing high in the qualifying tournament for the Junior Olympics, participating in a grueling preliminary training camp that included winning wrestle offs, which then led to yet another training camp prior to the actual matches that the wrestlers would have to win in order to place in the actual tournament itself. The training camps were led by world class wrestlers and included extensive and rigorous drilling, conditioning and teaching of wrestling technique.

There are a lot of great things MVHS coach Nate Cornell had to say about all of the wrestlers, but Max VanFossen was by far the leader of the group of MVHS students that went to the AAU Junior Olympics.

“VanFossen is the ultimate leader on and off the mat and is always leading by example,” said Cornell. “He worked relentlessly to reach his goals on the mat, never missing a chance to get better and it showed in his results at the Junior Olympics. Colton Spurgeon and Gabe Harmon are doing their best to follow in his footsteps. The kids all recognize that if they want to be like Max, they have to work like Max.”

VanFossen by far had the most impressive AAU Junior Olympic performance even though the two other participants had impressive runs at the tournament as well. VanFossen placed second overall after losing to an opponent that he had defeated in matches three times during the regular MVHS wrestling season.

DeHart placed fifth at the tournament, which was an improvement upon his previous season at the AAU Junior Olympics in which he did not place at all. Spurgeon won a handful of matches at the AAU tournament, but ultimately failed to place.

DeHart was also considered a leader of the team of wrestlers that went to the AAU Junior Olympics.

“DeHart was like a player/coach for us,” said Cornell. “He did everything that was asked of him, showed up to everything, and put forth his best effort and attitude. Due to his hard work on the weights and on the mats, he was able to have a successful high school wrestling career capped off by his placement at the Junior Olympics.”

What’s next for the wrestlers who participated at the Junior Olympics? VanFossen took what he learned throughout his wrestling career and is currently applying it to the work force.
“I am proud that I participated in my last Junior Olympic trip because I’m not wrestling in college,” said VanFossen. “It means everything to me to be able to make it so far in a sport that I love. I have put so much blood and sweat into it and it feels so good to have my hard work pay off. I’m not wrestling in college, so I went through all the hard work of the team camp and four days of wrestling all day, which takes a toll on your body, simply because I love the sport.”

As for DeHart, he will be wrestling for Ohio Wesleyan University as a student-athlete.

“DeHart is currently a freshman at OWU where he is competing on the wrestling team. Being a college student is hard enough without adding in competing in a sport, especially one as taxing as wrestling.” said Cornell.

As for Harmon and Spurgeon, they are the future of the MVHS wrestling team and will hopefully follow in VanFossen’s footsteps.

“I’m very pleased with all of these guys for dedicating their time to the sport. I’m very proud of them,” Cornell said. “No matter what the result, I am happy with their efforts and excited to see them earn the fruits of their labor in wrestling and in life with Max in the work force, Jacob at OWU, and Colton and Gabe this season on the mat in a Mount Vernon singlet.”

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Cody Strawser: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews