The 2017 Junior Duals got underway today in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greco was the style and there was no shortage of big moves throughout the Cox Business Center. When the dust cleared, eight teams remained with the chance to take home the top prize tomorrow in the Gold/Silver Pool. Pre-tournament favorites Illinois and Minnesota Blue advanced as did host Oklahoma. Michigan Blue overcame a big early deficit to win their Pool and join the other three as champions. None of the runners-up faced a true second place match so they’ll all advance to the top pool for tomorrow’s action as well. That means surprising Tennessee and Nebraska Blue will be there as will Kansas Blue and Ohio. The tournament reconvenes at 9 am for another day of intense competition.
There were too many outstanding performances to list them all, but here are five that I noticed watching the action in Tulsa.
Lee Herrington (Nebraska Blue), 285
Nebraska Blue had to scratch and claw their way to the C Pool finals and Herrington was a big reason why they earned a spot in the Gold/Silver Pool. He picked up a 7-1 win over Paul Robinson (Georgia Blue) in a 33-27 opening round dual win. Herrington’s big moment came as Nebraska Blue upset Iowa Blue, 36-33. Though the dual started at 132 so heavyweight was not the final match, it was the 2017 Nebraska state and Southern Plains double champion that keyed the victory. Herrington fell behind 10-2 to Aaron Costello, a 2016 Junior Greco All-American, before finding a four-point move of his own that led to a dual changing fall! Though Nebraska Blue would fall short against Oklahoma, Herrington had another impressive victory, stuffing Trenton Lieurance, 10-0, to complete his day undefeated.
Brandon Metz (North Dakota Blue), 285
The 2016 Junior Greco champion who we also saw take fourth in freestyle at the recent Junior World Team Trials, Metz got the first round off, taking a forfeit as his team cruised to a 52-13 victory. That meant Metz’s first match of the day would be a titanic clash with Kevin Vough (Ohio). Metz is head to North Dakota State while Vough, who won both styles at the 2015 UWW Cadet Nationals and was ranked seventh, to Metz’s sixth, in the final high school rankings, is headed to South Dakota State. We could see this match again several times over the next several years and Metz will hope they keep going like this one did. In a thoroughly dominant performance, Metz built his lead and finished with a flourish, rolling to a 13-0 tech-fall! Because his team dropped the dual to Ohio, Metz’s day was just beginning. He pinned Khalic Everett (North Carolina) in 45 seconds in the consolation semi-finals and then posted another 13-0 tech fall over Kyle Cornwell (Indiana Gold) as North Dakota Blue came back to finish third in B Pool.
The Entire Illinois Team
The tournament’s top seed looked the part on Wednesday, outscoring their opponents 179-19 while losing just three matches across their three duals. Illinois’ par terre work and deep line-up proved too much for the competition, making it impossible to single out one or two individuals. 13 of the 15 weight classes for the 2015 champs and 2016 silver medalists went undefeated and the team was held to a decision in only four of their wins, all against a game Florida team. The road will get tougher tomorrow, but it is difficult to envision anyone aside from Minnesota pushing this squad too hard.
Jake Allar (Minnesota), 170
Speaking of the only team in the field that appears capable of challenging Illinois, though Oklahoma is certainly also harboring thoughts of an upset, Minnesota was also never in danger of losing on their way to the B Pool title. Allar needed just 4:17 to end his three matches, all by tech-fall, including a 16-5 win over Colt Yinger where he was nearly pinned and still needed just 1:51 to end it. That was in the B Pool final against Ohio and put Minnesota ahead 15-3. Ohio wouldn’t get within 10 the rest of the way.
Tyler Curd (Missouri), 220
Only two wrestlers in the tournament put up four tech falls or pins combined on day one. Curd did it in 5:23 while Jacob Moran (Indiana Gold) got it done in 10:57. Sure, this is a distinction no one wanted as it meant their team lost and had to go through the consolations, but Curd did all he could in every dual. The 2016 Fargo champion and 2017 UWW Cadet runner-up continued to prove that there are few who can compete with him, starting his day with a 12-0 win over Louie Sanchez-Rivera (Oregon) before a flawless 10-0 tech of Javier Salvador (Tennessee) wasn’t enough to prevent an upset loss. Another 10-0 tech followed as Missouri rolled over Nebraska Red and Curd’s fourth shutout tech of the day was crucial to a 33-32 team win over Florida for third place in the pool.