Jul. 14—WINDBER — Bo Bassett got a hero's send-off on Glory Drive.
The 14-year-old Bishop McCort Catholic student exited his house Wednesday morning to find about 80 supporters lining his driveway, with many waving American flags, wearing "We Bo-lieve" T-shirts and chanting "Let's go Bo!"
Bassett and his family began a 21-hour journey to Budapest, Hungary, where he will represent the United States in the Cadet World Wrestling Championships over the next two weeks.
"It's crazy!" Bassett said after making a lap around the driveway to thank his supporters.
"It's awesome. I'm really excited to get after it and to get to Budapest. I know all of these guys will be watching, so it's really cool to represent."
His mother, Karissa, helped organize the event, and she sent a video in which the entire family — including Bo's father Bill and brother Keegan — thanks the supporters for the send-off.
"That may have been the coolest thing I was ever a part of," Bill says in the video.
"I just want to thank you guys for coming out. That was amazing. We appreciate it."
A rising eighth-grader, Bassett will be one of the youngest competitors in Budapest, as wrestlers are eligible up to 17 years old.
He's quickly becoming a household name among U.S. wrestling fans, and Bassett is the lone American slated to compete in two styles in Budapest. He'll wrestle in freestyle — the world's most popular style and a variation of folkstyle, which is what the United States features in high school and college — beginning on Tuesday and in Greco-Roman — in which wrestlers can only use holds above the waist — beginning July 25. Each style is wrestled over two consecutive days, with the medal rounds on Day 2.
Bassett has won seven youth state titles in folkstyle and was one of five finalists for Sports Illustrated Kids' SportsKid of the Year contest in 2019.
He firmly established himself as a national power with his performance at April's Cadet World Team Trials in Wisconsin. Competing in freestyle and Greco-Roman at 45 kilograms, Bassett went a combined 9-0 and outscored some of the best wrestlers in the country 86-12. No opponent went the distance with him.
He gained international experience at the Pan-American Cadet Championships in Mexico last month, as he went 4-0 in winning both freestyle and Greco-Roman. He dominated his opponents, outscoring them 36-0 and not allowing a single match to make it out of the first period. Afterward, he was able to drape the American flag around his shoulders for a traditional victory lap around the mat.
"The coolest thing — the thing that I dreamed about my whole life — was to run the flag around," Bassett said at the time.
"That motivates me even more to run the flag around in Budapest."