photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; Mat Focus.com
Day three of the U16/Junior National Championship has concluded and another set of U16 champions have been crowned. This time it was the U16 men’s freestyle. As has been the case 21 times before, Pennsylvania came away with the team title. Two of their wrestlers claimed titles, Leonard Pinto at 170 lbs and Kolby Franklin at 220. Franklin wrestled teammate Dustin Swanson in the finals and prevailed 10-0. Pinto knocked off a returning U16 national champion Tate Picklo (Oklahoma) in the semis then cruised 7-1 over Rylan Rogers (Washington) in the finals. In total, 12 wrestlers from Pennsylvania made their way to the medal stand. Along with their two champions, two others made the finals and another pair finished third. Minnesota finished 10 points behind Pennsylvania with 51 points and two winners, Jore Volk (100) and Bennett Berge (182). Volk moved up on the podium one step from 2018 when he was the runner-up at 88 lbs. Berge needed just three minutes to put together a 10-0 tech fall.
Though they only finished sixth as a team, Oklahoma was able to produce three U16 national champions. Incoming freshman Cael Hughes started it off at 94 pounds when he ran through Dillon Campbell 12-2. As has been the case for most of the tournament, Jordan Williams was clutch. This time he was able to earn two points in the final five seconds of the bout to take a 6-5 win. His victory keeps him in the running for the USA Wrestling Triple Crown. This is also the second U16 national championship for Jordan in freestyle. The third champion for Oklahoma was John Wiley, who broke his match open in the 138 lb finals after getting a four-pointer in the first period.
One of the pleasant surprises of the tournament came from Team Georgia who finished in fourth place. Though they did not have a champion, nine Georgia natives earned All-American honors, with the highest being runner-up, Matthew Singleton at 145.
Illinois and Michigan were the only other states with multiple champions. Illinois’ Dean Hamitil Jr earned the award for most falls in the least time and sealed the deal with a first period pin in the 145 lbs finals. Hayden Copass was the second champion for Illinois when he turned in a tech fall to capture his second U16 freestyle title. Michigan had the first champion of the afternoon in Braeden Davis, a winner by tech fall, 10-0. At 152 lbs, a pair of Michigan teammates squared off when Stoney Buell edged Manuel Rojas, 5-4.
One of the most incredible performances of the tournament came from Wilfried Tanefeu. Tanefeu got to show off in front of his home state and teched a pair of Oregon teammates in the semis and finals. The rising junior Wilfried only started wrestling in middle school.
While Tanefeu had to get serious consideration, the Outstanding Wrestler award as presented to Nic Bouzakis (Florida), who sealed his championship with a fall as time expired on the clock. In seven match at the 126 lb weight class, Bouzakis turned in three falls and four techs. The remaining champions on the day were Daniel Cardenas (Colorado) at 132, Thomas Stewart (Maryland) at 160, and Seth Shumate (Ohio) at 195.
After the smoke cleared from the U16 finals, the Junior men took the mat and determined who would be competing in tomorrow’s championship matches. This year’s finals will feature an entirely new set of Junior champions. In fact, none of the finalists have ever won a Junior national freestyle championship, though there are some with Cadet stop signs. The lone Junior champion that competed in the finals was Keegan O’Toole (Wisconsin), who was knocked off by Jace Luchau (California), in a highly entertaining bout, 12-7. Another high scoring semifinal bout took place at 126 lbs when Angelo Rini (Columbia) used a late, tie-breaking takedown, followed by four gut wenches, to tech Wyatt Henson (Missouri), 23-13. In the semis, Rini downed All-American Kyle Burwick (North Dakota), 16-11. Some of the most notable finals matchups include 138 with Ridge Lovett (Idaho) and Joshua Saunders (Missouri), 160 between Cade DeVos (Iowa) and Padraic Gallagher (Ohio), 170 Gerrit Nijenhuis (Pennsylvania) and Patrick Kennedy (Minnesota), and 182 featuring Abe Assad (Illinois) and Dustin Plott (Oklahoma).
U16 Men’s Freestyle Finals
88 lbs – Braeden Davis (Michigan) over Alan Koehler (Minnesota) 10-0
94 lbs – Cael Hughes (Oklahoma) over Dillon Campbell (Ohio) 12-2
100 lbs – Jore Volk (Minnesota) over Caden Horwath (Michigan) 12-5
106 lbs – Evan Tallmadge (New Jersey) over Mitchell Neiner (Washington) 10-8
113 lbs – Wilfried Tanefeu (North Dakota) over Gabe Whisenhunt (Oregon) 10-0
120 lbs – Jordan Williams (Oklahoma) over Zeke Seltzer (Indiana) 6-5
126 lbs – Nic Bouzakis (Florida) over Ramon Ramos (Arizona) Fall 4:00
132 lbs – Daniel Cardenas (Colorado) over Antrell Taylor (Nebraska) 10-8
138 lbs – John Wiley (Oklahoma) over Nick Vafiadis (Virginia) 10-4
145 lbs – Dean Hamitil Jr (Illinois) over Matthew Singleton (Georgia) Fall 1:25
152 lbs – Stoney Buell (Michigan) over Manuel Rojas (Michigan) 5-4
160 lbs – Thomas Stewart (Maryland) over Mac Stout (Pennsylvania) 5-0
170 lbs – Leonard Pinto (Pennsylvania) over Rylan Rogers (Washington) 7-1
182 lbs – Bennett Berge (Minnesota) over Michael Tal-Shahar (Florida) 10-0
195 lbs – Seth Shumate (Ohio) over Evan Bates (Indiana) 11-0
220 lbs – Kolby Franklin (Pennsylvania) over Dustin Swanson (Pennsylvania) 10-0
285 lbs – Hayden Copass (Illinois) over Griffin Liddle (Iowa) 11-1
Men’s Junior Freestyle Finals Matchups
100 lbs – Daniel Sheen (Illinois) vs. Brendan O’Brien (Iowa)
106 lbs – Andre Gonzales (California) vs. Blake West (Minnesota)
113 lbs – Nico Provo (Connecticut) vs. Drake Ayala (Iowa)
120 lbs – Jakason Burks (Nebraska) vs. Anthony Molton (Illinois)
126 lbs – Angelo Rini (Ohio) vs. Ethan MIller (Missouri)
132 lbs – Mick Burnett (Ohio) vs. Dominick Serrano (Colorado)
138 lbs – Joshua Saunders (Missouri) vs. Ridge Lovett (Idaho)
145 lbs – Anthony Echemenida (Arizona) vs. Victor Voinovich (Ohio)
152 lbs – Jace Luchau (California) vs. John Martin Best (West Virginia)
160 lbs – Cade DeVos (Iowa) vs. Padriac Gallagher (Ohio)
170 lbs – Gerrit Nijenhuis (Pennsylvania) vs. Patrick Kennedy (Minnesota)
182 lbs – Abe Assad (Illinois) vs. Dustin Plott (Oklahoma)
195 lbs – Cole Urbas (Pennsylvania) vs. Jonovan Smith (California)
220 lbs – Braxton Amos (West Virginia) vs. Dorian Crosby (Pennsylvania)
285 lbs – Aydin Guttridge (Illinois) vs. Luke Luffman (Illinois)