ELKO – At just 15 years old, Kobe Ames has his sights set high and low on the wrestling mat.
Ames, who grew up in Elko, now attends school at Austin E. Lathrop High School, in Fairbanks, Alaska, just completing his freshman year and preparing to go back for his sophomore season.
In his first year of wrestling at the school, he knocked down a state championship at 132 pounds – which qualified him for the USAW Jr/Cadet National Championships – an event that took place from July 12-20, in Fargo, North Dakota.
“You have to be a state champ or place at state to qualify for nationals,” Ames said. “I wrestled at 132 pounds in the freestyle and 138 pounds in Greco.”
He did not simply compete in the event, he turned some heads.
Ames placed seventh in the nation in the Greco format.
He lost in the round of 16 in the freestyle and took an ‘L’ in the quarterfinal round of the Greco division.
“I think I wrestled seven matches in freestyle and 10 in Greco,” he said.
Despite placing higher in the Greco tournament, Ames said he actually prefers freestyle wrestling more.
“You can’t touch the legs in Greco; it’s all upper body. For me, freestyle is more fun,” he said. “I like being able to get people to the ground and tech (fall) them fast.”
His success on the mat comes as no surprise; stemming from countless hours, days, years, matches and tournaments of preparation.
“I started wrestling when I was 5. I love getting my hand raised and winning a lot,” he said. “Wrestling is not a social sport; it’s all on you. You can’t make excuses or blame things on anyone else.”
“We thought wrestling was just going to be a phase for him,” said Ames’ grandmother, Francine Ferry.
How did Ames wind up in Fairbanks, Alaska?
“I live with my sister, Shelby White. I went up for a visit on Aug. 9 (2017) and decided I was going to stay there,” he said. “I have lived in Elko my whole life, and I felt like I wasn’t seeing any changes on the mat. I didn’t have any competition here.”
In Alaska, Ames said there are a lot of “hidden studs.”
“A lot of kids don’t have the money to travel, but they’re really good,” he said. “I barely beat a senior named Sam Sisco, from Colony (High School), 2-1 in the state semifinal, but then I won the state championship against Brayden Linne, of Ketchikan (High School), 14-3. I had him on his back in the first 30 seconds and almost teched him.”
Sisco will now wrestle for the University of Jamestown, in South Dakota.
“I’ll probably wrestle at 145 (pounds) this year. I didn’t cut (weight) last year and weighed about 130 when I wrestled at 132,” Ames said. “After the season, I really focused on eating right, working out and drinking a lot of protein and got up to about 147 pounds.”
While Ames is only entering his sophomore year of high school, he already ‘aims’ for lofty goals.
“I’m looking to be a national champion next year. I will home school, which will work better for traveling. I’d like to attend the University of Iowa,” he said.
Following his performance at nationals, Ames said he spoke with several college coaches, including “Fresno State, Cal Poly and a couple others.”
He said he has thought about someday wrestling in the Olympics.
“I just hope I’m good enough to get there,” he said.
As a freshman, Ames also played football at Lathrop.
Now, he’s putting all his eggs in the wrestling basket – placing a major emphasis on a dedicated training regimen.
“We run every day and we lift on the weekends. We either practice or wrestle seven days a week,” he said. “Usually, I run three or four miles a day.”
He said his strengths are that he is light on his feet and can move quickly, adding that people say he’s “pretty strong” and can “get ahold of them and snap them down.”
An area Ames would like to improve the most is his “defense on the bottom.”
He plans to return to Alaska after the Elko County Fair, preparing for some large tournaments in the fall.
“I will compete in the Super 32 (Challenge) from Oct. 26-29, in Greensborough, North Carolina,” he said. “From Nov. 6-8, I will wrestle in the Journeymen Classic, in New York City.”
With his sights set high, Ames plans to shoot low and dismantle opponents with their backs planted firmly to the ground.
With a rapidly-growing list of remarkable accomplishments, he will now attempt to build on an already-impressive start to a promising career in a mentally and physically-demanding sport.