Johnstown has a world champion.
Bo Bassett pinned Russia’s Alikhan Ashinov on Wednesday at the Cadet World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary, to capture the 45-kilogram freestyle title.
Bassett, 14, is believed to be the first world champion in any sport from Cambria County, as well as the youngest world champion wrestler in history.
He was still in awe nearly an hour after his victory, speaking with The Tribune-Democrat via telephone as he waited for the results of the mandatory drug test that winners face.
“It was an unbelievable moment,” Bassett said of the medal ceremony, where he stood atop the podium while “The Star-Spangled Banner” played over the PA system. “Just standing there with my hand over my heart, representing America, representing Pennsylvania, representing my hometown of Johnstown. The support has been amazing.”
Amazing is a description that fits Bassett quite well. The Bishop McCort Catholic student breezed through the world championships, pinning three of his foes and scoring a technical fall over the other one.
Bassett trailed early in each of his bouts, but that wasn’t a problem. Including his 4-0 performance at the Pan-American Cadet Championships, where he won gold in freestyle and Greco-Roman, Bassett is 8-0 and has won each bout via technical fall or pin.
“I know that nobody in the world can go with me for 4 minutes,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if I’m down 7-0, 8-0 or 9-0 at the break, or if I’m up. I know that no one can sustain my pace.”
Ashinov scored the opening takedown, but the 14-year-old Bishop McCort Catholic student rebounded quickly, scoring a takedown, then exposing Ashinov’s back before eventually getting another takedown and the pin.
“I had a transition off my takedown, and I knew his arm was there,” Bassett said of the finish. “I threw it up on my shoulder, crunched him down and knew it was over. It was probably one of the tightest moves I ever hit in my whole entire career. I knew it was a pin from the start.”
Bassett threw his arms in the air after getting the fall, but doesn’t remember doing so.
“It was unreal,” he said. “I don’t even remember what I did, celebration-wise, on the mat. I was overjoyed. I blacked out a little bit. I’m scared to see what I did. I know I flexed once or twice.”
He embraced his father, Bill, who has been his coach with Ranger Pride Wrestling and was mat-side at the world championships.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bill Bassett said. “To see someone put so much effort into it and watch Bo reach his goals, being his dad and his coach, it’s a tremendous feeling. It’s so hard to reach your goal that you set.”
It was a little hard for the wrestler to believe.
“He said, ‘Dad, is this real?’” Bill Bassett said. “It doesn’t seem real.”
It was real, but Bo Bassett will not have too much time to celebrate it before he turns his attention to the Greco-Roman portion of the tournament, which he will compete in beginning on Saturday.
“Tonight, I’m going to enjoy it, probably get whatever I want to eat at the restaurant,” he said. “(Thursday) I’ll be back on focus and getting ready for Greco.”
Once he returns from Europe, there will be plenty of time to celebrate.
“I’ll definitely be enjoying this,” Bo Bassett said. “No one can ever take it away from me.”
The victory helped the United States to a second-place finish in the tournament. India captured the team championship with 147 points – four more than the U.S. and seven more than Russia.