Rob Kanniard is coming back to New Jersey with a stop sign.

The Wall rising junior picked up one of the most prestigious pieces of hardware a high school wrestler can attain when he defeated Georgia's David Key by 17-6 technical fall to win the United States Cadet Freestyle national championship on Monday afternoon inside the Fargo Dome in Fargo, North Dakota.

As is his style, Kanniard was on the attack from the opening whistle. He forced a step out to take a quick 1-0 lead, then hit a four-point move with a double-leg takedown that put Key to his back. Key forced a step out to get on the board, but Kanniard came right back with another takedown to go up 7-1.

Kanniard appeared to have scored another four-point move off a double to go up 11-2, but Key challenged the call and it was overturned, resulting in four points for Key and an eight point swing that suddenly had Kanniard leading just 7-6. The ruling couldn't shake Kanniard off his pace, however, as he hit another four-point move to go up 11-6 after the first period.

"I kept getting in on his legs so I was pretty confident I would get the points back," Kanniard said. "He was defensive and I was getting in easy on shots so I knew I could keep getting in on his legs."

Kanniard blasted through the finish line in the second period, rolling through a near-side cradle to come up with a takedown and go up 13-6 before pancaking Key for one final four-point move that completed the technical fall.

Kanniard was barely tested during his six bouts en route to the winning the stop-sign shaped plaque that is synonymous with placing first in Fargo. He opened the tournament with a 10-0 win over Ohio’s Chance King and followed with another 10-0 victory over Oregon’s Austin Watson to reach the round of 16. Kanniard once again won 10-0, this time over Iowa’s Levi Egli, to reach the final eight.

"I'm good on my feet and that's what freestyle is," Kanniard said. "I felt pretty good and I just wanted to keep my streak going and not let anyone break it."

Kanniard’s closest bout was in the quarterfinals where he knocked off Minnesota’s Zach Glazier, 9-4. He blasted Indiana’s Clayton Fielden 16-6 in the semifinals.

"It was pretty exciting and wrestling for team New Jersey was a great experience," Kanniard said.

During his sophomore season at Wall, Kanniard went 40-3 and placed fourth in the NSIAA state tournament while winning a Region 6 and District 23 championship. The high-scoring display he has put on in Fargo has been an extension of his scholastic season where he accrued bonus points in 30 of his 43 bouts with 18 pins, seven technical falls and five major decision. Kanniard is 74-9 in his high school career.

Following the season Kanniard placed fourth at NHSCA Sophomore Nationals and also won his match representing team New Jersey at the Pinning Down Autism Duals, besting New York’s Ross McFarland, 12-5. He also had a big win over Iowa recruit Nelson Brands during the NHSCA National Duals.

Kanniard spent most of his preparation for Fargo drilling with Ocean's Jake Benner, the reigning NJSIAA 138-pound state champion. The two train together at Triumph Wrestling Club.

"Iron sharpens iron," Kanniard said. "Keep scoring and never give in."

Kanniard needed someone to show him the freestyle ropes considering, amazingly, he had never competed in freestyle prior to this year. He didn't decide to pick up freestyle until March.

"When I first started wrestling I had no intention of doing freestyle but my friends kept telling me to do it," Kanniard said. "I saw all the gear people were getting and that's actually what made me want to start freestyle."

Kanniard got his "gear" alright, in the form of one of the sport's most coveted domestic trophies. Not bad for a first-timer.


Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


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