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Five Takeaways from UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals

The best 18-20-year-old wrestlers in the country began their first step this weekend towards achieving greatness and representing the U.S. at the Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland, later this year. The next phase for the top seven place winners per weight class is to compete June 9th-10th in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the World Team Trials.

Hall’s Reign Continues

Is there anything Mark Hall of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club can’t win? The true freshman for Penn State displayed his aggressiveness and polished style of wrestling as he dominated the UWW Junior field at 74 kg. Hall went 6-0 in the tournament as he outscored the competition 60-0, as only one foe went pass the second period against him. During his finals match with Iowa redshirt Alex Marinelli, Hall got in on a single leg to get a takedown about a minute in near the edge, transitioning into a leg lace, to go out of bounds up 4-0. At one point, Marinelli got deep on Hall, but Hall’s flexibility allowed him to counter the attack to get another takedown and go up 6-0 with 1:16 left in the first period. Two consecutive leg laces sealed the match for Hall. For his efforts in Las Vegas, Hall was named outstanding wrestler of the UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals.

Still UWW Cadet Eligible

The future face of USA wrestling Gable Steveson, who recently announced his commitment to the University of Minnesota, wrecked the 120-kg division as he defeated 2014 Cadet World silver medalist Jordan Wood of Lehigh, 9-2, in the finals. Only a junior in high school, Steveson was still eligible to compete in the Cadet division but decided to forgo that option and compete in the Junior division. Steveson is a two-time World Cadet champion as he will be one of the favorites to make his first Junior World Team in June.

Let’s Give Freestyle a Shot

A proficient Greco-Roman wrestler that achieved All-American honors in Fargo during high school and decided to give freestyle a shot this weekend was Northwestern redshirt Ryan Deakin. Deakin had the best tournament of his life as he won a loaded bracket at 66 kg. Unseeded in the tournament, Deakin advanced to the semifinals where he took out two-time Cadet World champion Yianni Diakomihalis of Finger Lakes, 6-4. Down 4-0 at one point in the match, Deakin scored six unanswered points in less than a minute to win. In the finals, Deakin defeated Kanen Storr of Cyclone-RTC, 8-6, a finalist at the Dave Schultz Memorial, a Senior-level international tournament.

The West Shows Up

Two grapplers from the west coast won a third UWW title – Malik Heinselman of Olympian Wrestling Club (50 kg) and Zahid Valencia of Arizona State (84 kg). Heinselman made the transition to the Junior division after dominating the Cadet division the past two years. He went 3-0 and defeated 2016 UWW Greco Junior champion Dack Punke in the finals, 4-0, who was competing unattached in the tournament. Div. I All-American Valencia won his third title by dominating 2016 Junior World Team member Nick Reenan of Wolfpack Wrestling Club, 10-0. Valencia was unscored upon during the tournament.

Future Cowboy Fix Puts on a Show

Oklahoma State-bound senior Daton Fix of the Titan Mercury Wrestling Club won his third overall UWW title by outwrestling Paul Bianchi of the Bison Wrestling Club, 10-0, at 55 kg. Fix is a two-time World bronze medalist; he won his first in 2014 in the Cadet division and the second one in 2016 in the Junior division. Fix outscored the competition 41-0, in a bracket that included multiple time Fargo champion Danny Vega of Cyclone-RTC and 2016 Cadet World Team member Dylan D’Emilio of Burnett Training.