Bo Bassett had already proven that no United States wrestler in his age group can hang with him.
Turns out, the Bishop McCort Catholic student is head and shoulders above everyone in the Western Hemisphere as well. The only thing left to prove is if he’s the best in the world.
Bassett, who will be an eighth-grader at Bishop McCort next year, went 4-0 in winning freestyle and Greco-Roman titles at the Pan-American Cadet Championships in Oaxtepec, Mexico, last week.
He outscored his 45-kilogram competition by a combined score of 36-0, claiming first-period technical falls in all four of his bouts.
At 14 years old, Bassett was in his first year of eligibility for the event, but he wasn’t worried about facing older wrestlers.
“I think my strength is a big part (of my success),” he said. “I think I’m the strongest 45-kilo in the world, and that really helps my confidence.”
Bassett will get to test that theory next month, when he heads to Budapest, Hungary, for the Cadet World Championships.
Having the opportunity to compete internationally prior to the World Championships was huge, said Bassett, who has dreamed of representing the United States since he was 6 years old.
“When I first got here, it hit me pretty darn hard,” he said in a Sunday phone call from Mexico. “I got on the campus – it’s like the Olympic campus. You’re in a little village with the other athletes.”
Bassett won both of his freestyle matches by 10-0 technical fall on Wednesday, then scored back-to-back 8-0 victories in Greco-Roman on Saturday, beating Mexico’s Roger Kantun and Brazil’s Joao Amorim de Moura. After winning gold in freestyle, Bassett was able to wrap the United States flag around his shoulders and do the customary victory lap around the mat.
“The coolest thing – the thing that I dreamed about my whole life – was to run the flag around,” Bassett said. “I did it Wednesday and it was unbelievable. I said to myself, ‘I’ve got to do it again and run it around again on Sunday.’ That motivates me even more to run the flag around in Budapest.”
Bassett already ranks among the most decorated Pennsylvania junior wrestlers of all time.
A similar performance in Budapest could put him in a position to claim the same status among American wrestlers.
The practice partners that he’s had in and around Johnstown have helped him reach this level, Bassett said, crediting his workouts at Bishop McCort, Ranger Pride Wrestling, Young Guns and The Compound.
“I think our room prepared me the best I could be,” he said.
“I think I have the best coaches and practice partners around. I’ve been preparing for this moment for years – I wrestled my brother in the basement. He’d be the Russian and I’d be the American.”
After his dominant performance in Mexico, Bassett might get the chance to face a real Russian foe next month.
“This only motivates me more to win more titles,” he said.
“Budapest is the next step.”