A Look Back on Michael Kemerer’s Fantastic Season

UPDATE 11:40 AM: I just got world that Kemerer has decided to withdraw from Fargo due to illness. None the less this article is more of reflection on the fantastic year Kemerer had for Franklin Regional and his Young Guns Club. His high school career may be over, but we look forward to covering him for years to come at the University of Iowa.

Not so long ago, Franklin Regional wrestler Michael Kemerer was known as a good wrestler. A good wrestler who showed flashes of being a great one, but who appeared to be just stuck in a rut of not being able to knock off the top-tier competitors at his weight. With the Fargo freestyle national championship s finally on the horizon, let’s take a moment to see how worked his way up the national rankings to where he currently sits.

It all began the past summer at the freestyle national tournament in Fargo, North Dakota. Kemerer was in a cluster of wrestlers with so much talent the current #3 ranked wrestler at 145 and then NHSCA Junior Folkstyle national champion even failed to place. It was a bracket that saw Kemerer take fifth place behind the likes of Fredy Stroker and Young Guns’ teammates Josh Maruca and Vincenzo Joseph. While his finish was not what he had hoped for, the results were very encouraging and showed great potential.

Mike Kemerer AGON

Fredy Stroker works a shot on Michael Kemerer. The future Hawkeye projects as a 149/157 for Iowa

The next time we saw Kemerer on the national stage was at the prestigious Super 32 tournament in North Carolina. Super 32 held significance to Kemerer because as a freshman he made his mark by defeating future top 10 2015 recruit Matt Kolodzik in the 106 pound finals.  After capturing a title as a freshman, Kemerer made a trip back to the finals every year, but was forced to settle for runner-up as a sophomore and junior.

His sophomore year it was current NCAA All-American Joey Dance who thwarted his second attempt. Sam Krivus, another top 2015 recruit, prevented Kemerer from winning the title as a junior. In his senior season however, Kemerer finally was able to break loose.

“My mentality when I compete has been the biggest change for me (this past year). My coaches have taught me to be confident in my attacks and to always be looking to build my lead. Improving the mental aspects of my wrestling has helped me to become a better competitor.“

At the 2014 Super 32 tournament, Kemerer hammered his way through his bracket where he met up with top five ranked Max Thomsen (of Iowa) in the finals. There Kemerer, a University of Iowa recruit, defeated the future UNI commit 9-4 in a match completely dominated by the future Hawkeye.

The hits kept on coming this winter as Kemerer brought home two more prestigious titles in December. The first was at the Walsh Ironman in Ohio where Kemerer won each match by at least six points while leading his team to a top five finish at the respected tournament. He followed that win with a Powerade national title just a few days after celebrating Christmas. Kemerer reached the finals by stringing together three bonus point wins before downing nationally ranked Hayden Hidlay in the finals by a score of 5-2.

By this point in the season Kemerer had ascended to the #1 ranking of the 145 weight class by both InterMat and Flowrestling. The top two highest place winners at Fargo (Vincenzo Joseph and Isaiah White) both bumped to 152 clearing some space for Kemerer, as his teammate Josh Maruca also went to 152. Fredy Stroker the previous #1 at 145, suffered a loss to Max Thomsen at the Keith Young Invite, which dropped him behind Kemerer for the first time in their careers.

After spending virtually an entire season as the #1 ranked wrestler, Kemerer continued to do what he had been doing all year, winning and dominating top-flight competition. He entered the 2015 PIAA state championships in search of his first ever title. It was something the Franklin Regional wrestler had his eyes on for some time now, but had repeatedly been denied. Even as the favorite to win the title, Kemerer would have the #4 and #5  ranked wrestlers in the country in his bracket; something practically unheard of in any other state.

Kemerer answered the call in dominant fashion. After narrowly defeating Hidlay by three points three months earlier, Kemerer improved upon his score by beating the #5 ranked wrestler 9-4 in the 145 pound quarterfinals. In the finals he faced off against #4 ranked Patrick Duggan, but after coming so close to achieving his dream on multiple occasions, he wasn’t going to let the West Virginia commit get in the way and defeated Duggan 3-2 to capture his first state title.

“It was great (winning the state title) because every year after the state tournament I would have to be all down and think how I had to wait 365 days for my next chance.” Kemerer said. “Now that I have done that there are bigger things, and I was at the NCAA tournament and there was a lot of great wrestlers there, and there is just always something to look forward to.”

Kemerer then entered his post-season in terrific fashion being selected to three all-star events, the first of which was the Dapper Dan Classic; a dual that pits the top seniors in Pennsylvania against the top seniors from around the rest of the nation. Kemerer was Team Pennsylvania’s 145 pound representative and took out Iowan Max Thomsen for the second time in the past year to the tune of a 6-3 victory. While the score may have been a bit closer, it was his third win over a top-5 national wrestler in just a few weeks.

Following his Dapper Dan selection, Kemerer was also invited to participate in AGON V: Iowa Against the World in a freestyle matchup. The theme of the event took Iowa wrestlers, both past and future, and set them against some of the best competitors at their weight in the country for a battle for the top spot. For Kemerer it meant a match up with a former Pennsylvania kid himself, #2 ranked Fredy Stroker.

“I think that’s what makes (AGON) so interesting. I am just entering the college scene and those guys have already finished and been successful there.” Kemerer said in a pre-AGON interview, “It’s going to be cool to open up for them and maybe someday AGON gets real big and it’s still going on and I’m the main event and there are other high school kids wrestling. I think it would be cool for it to go full circle like that.”

Photo by: Rob Preston

Photo by: Rob Preston

Kemerer showed up at AGON and cemented his #1 status with a fourth straight top-five win in less than a month’s span. Kemerer was taken down late in the match, but by scoring two exposure points moments before that takedown he wound up defeating Stroker 5-4.

The following weekend Kemerer traveled back to Iowa for his third all-star match at the Dream Team Classic. He was a part of the USA team taking on the best seniors the state of Iowa had to offer. There he met up with Max Thomsen where he lost his first match to the Iowa native.

Much like he mopped up his competition this past season, Kemerer has also mopped up a number of postseason awards. InterMat and The Open Mat both named him to their high school All-American team, and he also ended the year ranked #1 at 145 pounds by FloWrestling. Kemerer was also named the Dave Schultz Excellence Award winner for the state of Pennsylvania.

With the Junior National tournament right around the corner, Kemerer will be eyeing a spot in the freestyle finals on July 18th. This past season Kemerer has worked his way back on top of the Super 32 heap, claimed his first Ironman and Pennsylvania state title. With only a Fargo national title left on his checklist, you can bet Kemerer will be motivated.

“I am very excited for one last opportunity at winning a Fargo title.” Kemerer said, “It is a tournament that many great wrestlers have not won. I always say that it has been the tournament that has eluded me the most throughout my high school career. Winning this tournament would be a good way to end my high school career while also preparing me for the next level.”

FARGO OUTLOOK

The field: #42 (’15) Larry Early, #7 (’16) Mason Manville – returning champion, #20 (’16) Hayden Hidlay – 2015 Greco Champion, #22 (’16) Griffin Parriott.

Commentary: This field is loaded with talent, but Kemerer has been tabbed as the favorite by quite a few. As mentioned above he has already taken out Hidlay twice this past season – albeit in folkstyle. Returning champion Mason Manville is probably the other big pick, and he is also a former Cadet World Champion, so watch out for him. Parriott took third at the UWW Junior National tournament in Las Vegas, and Early is as solid as they come.

Prediction: I see no reason why Kemerer doesn’t have all the tools to go out and win the national title this week.

Moving Forward

A Fargo title is one of his last goals for Kemerer before entering the next stage of his career. Starting this fall, Kemerer will be officially enrolled at the University of Iowa to compete for Tom Brands and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

In order to transition to the next level Kemerer will have to make several adjustments, which is true for every recruit entering a college room. Right now the encouraging part of Kemerer’s skillset are his attacks from neutral. Even against top level competition, Kemerer is not a wrestler that tries to change his game plan or slow his offense down. Michael makes his living off a barrage of attacks, usually his low single to the right. While his low single is a great attack, he will need to diversify his arsenal and have a variety of attacks to keep his college opponents off guard. Also, just like most recruits, Kemerer will also need to work on his mat skills, getting out from bottom and riding is something freshman tend to struggle with as they transition to the next level.

The next question would be which weight will he compete at? When he was recruited it looked clear he was going to be Brody Grothus’ replacement at 149 pounds. All of that changed when freshman Brandon Sorensen decided to stay at 149 pounds, and now the future remains a little more muddled. There are two scenarios, the first being Kemerer will in fact be the 149 pound contender as a redshirt freshman (with Grothus and Sorensen at the 149/157 weights and the Brands’ track record, he’s as close to a lock to redshirt as it gets) at which point Sorensen would bump to 157 pounds to make room in the lineup. This makes sense, as Sorensen is a decently sized 149 pound wrestler and he was considering the weight class this year.

The second scenario would be Sorensen holds 149 pounds going forward, and Kemerer then bumps to 157 to begin his career. This is also a possibility, and he even said as much in his initial interview with us, that he feels 157 pounds could be in his future. The one thing we know is that it is going to be tough to keep this kid out of the lineup.