Neil Erisman said hearing his name as a national champion sounded weird.
But as it sunk in that he had won the 152-pound title last week at the Cadet/Junior National Wrestling Tournament in Fargo, N.D., Erisman relished it.
"At first, it didn't really kick in," Erisman said. "But when I started thinking about it, it was awesome."
Erisman, entering his sophomore year at De Soto High, has won national titles before, the last coming in Topeka at the 2000 folkstyle championships. This was his first freestyle title.
Erisman burst onto the Kansas high school wrestling scene last winter when he went 33-1 and won Kaw Valley and Class 4A regional wrestling crowns at 145 pounds. His only loss came to Colby senior Eric Ludke in the state finals.
So when Erisman completed his summer of wrestling with a national title, it certainly eased that loss in March -- and six runner-up finishes at previous freestyle tournaments.
"I put a lot of time and work into this," he said. "I kind of wanted to make up for losing that match."
The Fargo event is the largest wrestling tournament in the world, according to Baldwin High coach and Kansas Cadet co-director Kit Harris. It features 3,500 wrestlers from 49 states and has Greco-Roman and freestyle divisions. It takes 23 mats to accommodate all the action.
In comparison, the classes 6A, 5A, 4A Kansas state meet held at the Kansas Coliseum in Wichita has nine mats of matches during a two-day period.
"It was kind of the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel thing," said Erisman's coach, Tom Peterson. "For him to win that title, it was all that hard work paying off."
Erisman, seventh last year at the same event, said he preferred freestyle's speed and pacing to folkstyle, which is featured during the high school season.
"There's more action and it's more exciting," he said. "You can score a lot more points than in folkstyle matches. The matches go a lot faster."
Peterson said the two styles were the same except for how certain moves were scored and there was less stalling -- or, as it's called in freestyle, passivity -- than folkstyle.
Erisman became just the fourth Kansas cadet national freestyle champ after beating Iowa's Jake Kerr with a 10-0 technical fall. Erisman logged nine matches at Fargo, losing just once to a Washington wrestler. But when he beat Idaho's Luke Smith -- who had beaten the same Washington wrestler -- Erisman kept his title hopes alive.