It was a quite a weekend for a couple of local youth wrestlers, and one of them can thank a couple of high school standouts for helping him succeed.
Competing at the USA Wrestling Greco-Roman state championships in Fresno, 9-year-old Cannon Renner out of Ferndale and 11-year-old Taylor Bell out of Arcata were both crowned state champions in their divisions.
For Bell, the state title was the second this season, having also been crowned a California Folkstyle champion last month, and she will now compete for an historic triple crown of championships at the Freestyle state tournament in June.
“I was super impressed with how she wrestled,” her father and coach Cass Bell said. “Obviously, she’s my daughter so I’m always impressed with her, but she wrestled in back-to-back brackets and won both.”
Renner was equally impressive, especially considering he only began training in Greco-Roman two weeks before the tournament.
He got some much-needed help from Fortuna High wrestlers Mason Evanow and Mako Limon, who helped train him and prepare him for the big tournament.
The young Renner, who trains with his father Sterling out of their garage, has quickly taken to the sport and is unbeaten in the Redwood Empire Wrestling Association in his first two years competing in the sport.
He trains with his best friend Vitali Dominick, a 10-year-old who also made the trip for the state tournament and gained some valuable experience.
Renner’s confidence grew as the tournament progressed.
After winning a tough opening match that went the full two rounds by a score of 20-13, he followed that with a pin within 30 seconds in his second match, winning on a move that Evanow and Limon taught him in preparation.
He won the 10U 59-pound bracket and now has his eyes set on a second state title at the upcoming Freestyle championships.
Taylor Bell, meanwhile, has been on fire this season and is showing no signs of slowing down.
After winning the Folkstyle title last month with three straight pins in her bracket — and also placing fifth in the boys bracket at that tournament — the young grappler added two more state titles in Greco-Roman.
Few locals have ever won a triple crown of state titles in the same year— one in Folkstyle, Greco-Roman and Freestyle — and Taylor Bell is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Tyson Evanow, who achieved the feat in 2016.
The young Bell also displayed some resilience by rallying from a seven-point deficit on the way to victory in her opening match this past weekend.
Del Norte’s Curtis Bartley also made the trip for the weekend tournament as part of Bell’s Institute of Combat team and advanced to the quarterfinals in his freestyle division.
Bartley beat two standout wrestlers that had previously beaten him along the way.
“That was a big improvement,” Cass Bell said.
Matt Anderson and his younger brother Brayden Anderson each also made the trip with the IOC.
Matt finished 2-2, while Brayden won four matches in the eighth grade bracket on his way to placing seventh.
“He went in there and challenged himself, which was cool to see,” his coach said.