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Draven McCall and the Fargo Nationals

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Trailing 7-1 on the mat in the Fargodome, Draven McCall went to talk with Coach David Mason during the mid-period break. As he did so, his father Shane watched from across the country through a streaming app. This was not just any competition either. This was the 2022 United States Marine Corps Junior and 16U National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota. Simply dubbed “Fargo” by wrestlers and coaches, the elder McCall described the nearly week-long annual tournament as “the toughest freestyle/Greco high school tournament in the entire country” and referred to it as the “Super Bowl of wrestling.”

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With the best of the best from nearly every state representing at the competition, Draven McCall was bound to find himself in a situation like this one. To make matters worse for the 15-year-old sophomore out of Jesuit High School, he was facing off against Landon Hawkins from Illinois. This wrestler is an Illinois state champion and matched up well against Draven.

To raise the stakes even further, the score differential to earn a tech was set to 8 at the tournament instead of the max potential of 10 points often allowed in freestyle wrestling. Despite the daunting task ahead, Shane knew his son could make up the ground as Draven had trailed going into the break in every match of the tournament.

“But I never had a feeling like, ‘Hey, you know what? He’s out of it,’ because my son’s been in this situation enough times, and he turns around, comes back, and wins that match,” Shane McCall said. “You know, so you’re like two points away from losing to coming around within two minutes and winning a match. But again, that’s the Jesuit way.”

“The Jesuit way” requires a great deal of discipline and sacrifice from the children attending the school and their parents, as it demands the students practice and act accordingly on and off the mat. Many parents like Shane go out of their way to drive their children from places such as Brooksville or Sarasota to Tampa every school day. That sacrifice bears fruit, though, as the school’s football, baseball, and wrestling teams each won state championships last season. Those who choose to wrestle for Jesuit are also taught by two coaches, Coach Sal Basile and Coach David Mason, who are the national team coaches for the state of Florida.

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At Fargo, Coach Mason was on the sideline with Draven during the matches. When asked what it was that he told Draven that seemed to spur the younger McCall to multiple comeback victories, Coach Mason said, “We have a special bond… but I didn’t do anything, Draven did it all… Coaching from the corner I have a different vantage point, so often times I am telling him what I see and what they are trying to execute moves wise. If the coach-wrestler relationship is good and the wrestler believes in the coach, then the coach’s intuition and experience can help guide them through the tough spots.”

It is because of their bond, the Jesuit way, Draven’s hard work, and the commitment of the entire McCall family that the sophomore placed fourth in the nation at the Fargo Nationals and was named a Fargo All-American. In doing so, Draven became the first Hernando County resident to place at Fargo since Springstead’s Cody Ross in 2011. Along with his accomplishments in North Dakota, he recently accumulated other accolades such as helping Jesuit to its first team wrestling state championship and placing third at this year’s FHSAA High School State Championships.

When asked about Draven’s performance and development as a wrestler, Coach Mason stated, “His wrestling technique and belief in himself is growing every day. He holds himself to a higher standard than the people around him and lives it every day… Without great parents and the support of the family, growing life skills and teaching a kid to be grateful and humble in this day and age is impossible… I would take a whole team of Draven McCalls. I have zero doubt in my mind he was placed on this earth to do special things. How he chooses to use his gifts is up to him.”

McCall takes on an opponent at the Fargo Nationals. Photos courtesy of Shane McCall.
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch
Austyn Szempruch is a Graduate with Distinction, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He's written numerous articles reporting on Florida Gators football, basketball, and soccer teams; the sports of rugby, basketball, professional baseball, hockey, and the NFL Draft. Prior to Hernando Sun he was a contributor to ESPN, Gainesville, FL and Gator Country Multimedia, Inc. in Gainesville, FL, and Stadium Gale.
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