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Mason Manville is only 14 years old, but already envisions himself standing on top of the podium with a gold medal around his neck and the Star-Spangled Banner playing at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I want to become the greatest,” said Manville, an eighth-grader. “To be the greatest you have to prove it. I plan on winning the 2016 Olympics when I turn 18.”
Manville has been dominating national events. He was a USA Wrestling Triple Crown winner this year as a Schoolboy, winning national titles in all three styles. Manville was unchallenged at the Schoolboy Duals this year, going a combined 16-0 in freestyle and Greco-Roman. He was named Outstanding Wrestler at the 2011 Cliff Keen Reno World Championships. Manville also won the Super 32 Challenge twice in the middle school division.
Manville recently moved from Virginia to Minnesota to wrestle at Apple Valley, one of the nation’s top high school wrestling programs. Apple Valley finished last season ranked No. 1 in the InterMat Fab 50 high school team rankings. Minnesota is one of only a handful of states that allows junior high wrestlers to compete at the varsity level.
“For years we have been looking at getting Mason to the next level as he approached high school,” said David Manville, Mason’s father, who wrestled collegiately at the NAIA level. “We came to a point where we thought the best thing for Mason is to not stay in Virginia. We have been evaluating other opportunities, specifically Apple Valley, for over a year.”
This fall Manville, while still living in Virginia, entered the InterMat JJ Classic, a preseason high school wrestling tournament held in Rochester, Minn.
“When we came up here for the InterMat JJ Classic we didn’t want anything but to wrestle the best we could in the tournament and beat as many high school kids as we could,” said David Manville, an Army officer for over 26 years. “There was an opportunity to meet with the Apple Valley coaches, and they agreed to meet with me. We talked and this opportunity kind of opened up pretty quickly.”
Manville finished third at the InterMat JJ Classic competing at 152 pounds, losing only to Apple Valley’s Brandon Kingsley, one of the nation’s top seniors, 4-2, in the semifinals.
After the match Kingsley had some words for Manville.
“I went over to him and told him that he’s a great wrestler and it was good to wrestle him,” said Kingsley, who has signed to wrestle at the University of Minnesota.
Manville was not satisfied with just keeping the score close with Kingsley.
“I planned on beating him,” said Manville. “I knew the odds were against me. I have the same mindset every single match, no matter if it’s a middle school, JV, or varsity match.”
Now Manville and Kingsley are teammates on an Apple Valley team that is expected to challenge for another national championship. The Eagles wrestle a brutal schedule against top national competition. Apple Valley will see seven of the nation’s top 10 teams at The Clash, held in Rochester, Minn., in late December.
Still, it remains to be seen where Manville will fit into Apple Valley’s lineup this season. He has started the season at 152 pounds and has compiled a 5-0 record with four pins. His only non-pin was a 9-0 victory over state-ranked Sam Stewart of Andover High School (Minn.). Manville says that he will most likely compete at 145 pounds this season, but is certified to drop to as low as 138 pounds.
“Mason intends to beat everybody in the room,” said David Manville. “That’s Mark Hall. That’s Brandon Kingsley. That’s Ben Sullivan. That’s everybody. Whether he does or not is one thing. Where he ends up in the lineup is another thing. Iron sharpens iron. This is sort of the gladiator mindset. All the kids have it.”
Kingsley, who will be looking to win his fourth state title, likes what he has seen from Manville, but knows there is plenty of room for improvement.
“He’s a pretty tough competitor, but he still has a lot of the tendencies that come with being a middle-schooler,” said Kingsley. “But he’s working on them. He’s starting to open up. He’s really coming along.”
Manville is enjoying everything about being a member of the Apple Valley wrestling team.
“I feel really connected with every single one of the kids,” said Manville. “I personally love it up here. The training is amazing. It’s just great for me. The coaches are phenomenal. They all want us to be the greatest.”
The Manvilles are taking it one year at a time. No decision has been made about whether Mason Manville will attend high school at Apple Valley next year, or whether he will end up at another school in another state. David Manville says that he and his wife, Susan, will do what they feel is best for their children.
“Next year is a long way away,” said David Manville. “I can tell you that our house (in Virginia) is going on the market. We’re looking at several different places. We’ve got two other kids. So no decision can be made just based upon Mason.”
Manville’s two younger brothers, Carson, 9, and Pierson, 6, are also wrestlers.
“Carson is technically far superior to Mason,” said David Manville. “He’s just as motivated as Mason. He’s got great promise.”
Manville also sees a bright future for his younger brother.
“Carson is great, not only as a wrestler but as a person,” said Manville. “He’s a phenomenal kid. Honestly and truly, I see him surpassing me as a wrestler.”
When Manville is not wrestling, he enjoys water sports like wakeboarding, waterskiing, and tubing. He also enjoy skateboarding, long boarding, and hanging out with friends.
Before stepping on the mat, Manville paces intensely, often times with his hood up, always with his headgear on, and focuses on three things.
“First, I just thank God for giving me the strength and for all He has given me,” said Manville. “I also focus on myself and my opponent. Those are the only three on the mat.”