VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. On a national stage, Roger "Bronc" McCovey proved emphatically that he is one of the top high school wrestlers in the nation with his performance at one of the elite wrestling tournaments.
Friday night, McCovey, a Del Norte High junior, downed Nate Lavallee of Maine 1-0 to earn third place in the heavyweight division and garnered All-American honors at the National High School Coaches Association Junior National Wrestling Championship and Convention in Virginia Beach.
"It feels good," McCovey said in a phone interview after his match. "It was fun. It was a good experience."
It was already past 11 p.m. Eastern time and McCovey had just left the tournament location.
He, his father Roger Boulby, and Del Norte High Assistant wrestling coach Clinton Schaad were about to grab a bite to eat before heading back to the hotel.
They were scheduled to leave early Saturday morning and are expected to return to Crescent City from the airport in Arcata early Saturday evening around 5:30 p.m.
McCovey had already faced Lavallee, the two-time state champ for Maine on Thursday, handily beating him 10-3.
Friday night, Boulby said Lavallee wrestled much more defensively, learning on Thursday it was tough to get any points going right at "Bronc."
"He knew I was a big time shooter," McCovey said.
"A win's a win," Boulby said. "Winning by a point or a pin, it doesn't matter, what matters is he's earned third place and is an All-American."
For McCovey, the tournament was a chance to see for himself where he stood with the best wrestlers from other states.
"Before, I knew I was up there, but I didn't know for sure," "Bronc" said. "Now I know."
The third place finish in Virginia caps off an exceptional season for McCovey.
He went 41-0 for Del Norte High and finished the season in California undefeated in the heavyweight division, culminating with the state title win in Bakersfield on March 1.
He became the first wrestler in Humboldt-Del Norte Conference history to win a state title in wrestling.
McCovey went 6-1 at the three-day event in Virginia, dominating the majority of his competition.
He opened the first day 2-0, defeating two wrestlers who placed second overall in their state tournaments.
The NHSCA tournament is considered one of the top events for high school wrestlers in the nation. The All-American honors are given to the top eight finishers. Also, many college coaches attend the event.
While "Bronc" was already known in wrestling circles, Boulby said this tourney solidified his standing as a top college prospect.
"This is where you want to be," he said. "Colleges are here looking."
After winning his first two matches on Thursday 14-0 and 10-3, McCovey lost in his next match. He faced the D1 heavyweight champion from New York, Ken Altarac, losing in a tight 3-2 match. Altarac went on to win the tournament title on Friday.
After McCovey defeated Lavallee on Friday night, he and his fellow All-Americans took part in the All-American Parade around the Virginia Beach Convention Center as the crowd cheered them on.
By being named an All-American, McCovey earned the right to compete next year at the NHSCA senior tournament.
McCovey said his goal is simpleto win it all next year.
This was not the first All-American honor for "Bronc."
Before the start of his sophomore year, he finished fourth at the Cadet Greco-Roman freestyle national in Fargo, N.D.
To watch a video of McCovey wrestling Lavallee on Thursday, go to www.flocasts.org.
If you go
Local community members plan to greet Roger "Bronc" McCovey as he returns to town today. Those interested are asked to meet at South Beach at 5:15 p.m. He is estimated to be arriving in town around 5:30 p.m. if there are no delays on his return flight to Arcata. The plan is to have people hold signs of congratulations as "Bronc" enters town. For more information, call Cheyenne Schaad at 954-4154.