Bo Bassett continues to break new ground.
The Bishop McCort Catholic student, who is believed to be the youngest Cadet world champion wrestler in history, is about to become the first eighth-grader to compete in FloWrestling’s Who’s No. 1 event.
The dual meet, which will be held in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, generally pits the No. 1-ranked high school wrestler in the country against his second-ranked counterpart, but the event made an exception for Bassett because, well, he’s exceptional. That’s how David Bray, senior content editor for FloWrestling, put it.
Bassett will wrestle Illinois freshman Seth Mendoza at 106 pounds in a “Futures Match.”
“We have never had a match featuring an eighth-grader before,” Bray said. “Basically, looking at Bo Bassett and his trajectory kind of forced our hand. He’s done everything at the youth level, and for him to make the Cadet world team in such a dominant manner and win the world title in such a dominant manner made it an easy decision.”
Bassett is thrilled for the opportunity to compete in the event, which also includes Forest Hills’ Jackson Arrington.
“Man, I’m so excited,” Bassett said. “I’ve been watching this event for a while. To be a trail-blazer is awesome. Age isn’t going to matter. I’m just going to go out there and do what I do. It’s an honor, but it’s not going to faze me at all. I’m just going to go out and wrestle my match.”
Mendoza and Bassett have a long history. They’ve wrestled several times throughout the years. Bray said he thought Mendoza had won six of their seven bouts, but Bassett disputes that.
“He definitely has beaten me more than I’ve beaten him, but I know I’ve beaten him more than once, and I won the last match,” Bassett said. “We wrestled a lot in the past. I won the last meeting with him – about three years ago at Grand River Rumble. We battled a lot at the highest stages. I’m excited to see how good each of us has gotten since we last wrestled.”
They’re both very good, which is evident to the wrestling world. Bassett dominated the competition nationally in winning spots on the United States freestyle and Greco-Roman world teams, then did the same to international foes at the Pan-American Games in Mexico and the freestyle world championships in Budapest, Hungary, this summer.
“The world title definitely increased my confidence level a tremendous amount,” Bassett said.
“I go into practice with a different mindset.
“The world title – I think it gives me that extra motivation.”
His success also will put a target on his back, which is just fine with Bassett.
“Everybody wants to knock me off,” he said. “I really like pressure. I think pressure makes diamonds. I’m going to put it on the line. You’ll have your shot multiple times because I wrestle at all of the big tournaments.”
Mendoza didn’t compete in the Cadet world team trials, but he did win a national freestyle title in Fargo, North Dakota, this summer.
While Mendoza and Bassett have battled on the mat in the past, they’re not exactly heated rivals. The Illinois wrestler came to Johnstown last year to work out with Bassett for a long weekend.
“I think wrestling’s a little different,” Bassett said. “You don’t see rival football teams training together. In wrestling, you can train with those guys and help each other get better. He was a good partner, and it was good to drill with him and train with him.”
Not only did they work out together, but Mendoza also left a little souvenir behind at The Compound, the youth fitness center that Bill Bassett, Bo’s father, runs in Richland Township.
Mendoza enjoys woodworking and sells his products – mostly American flags – online, and one of his flags now hangs at The Compound.
Portions of the proceeds from his business go to the Semper Fi Fund, a charity dedicated to providing support for combat wounded, critically ill and catastrophically injured members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. The fund is near and dear to Mendoza’s heart, as his father, Mike, is a Marine Corps veteran who completed 24 Ironman 70.3 triathlon races in one year – a Guinness World Record for – while raising $42,000 for the Semper Fi fund.
Bray sees Bassett and Mendoza as perfect representatives for the first Futures Match.
“They’re exceptional young men,” he said.
“They’re kind of All-American kids all around.”