photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; MatFocus.com
Although Team Illinois only had one champion in the U16 Greco-Roman National Championships, they still were able to prevail and capture their seventh straight team title. The lone winner for Illinois came at 160 lbs where Bradley Gillum got by Iowa’s Adam Ahrendsen, 6-3. Earlier in the week, Gillum had earned All-American honors in the U16 freestyle tournament when he placed fourth. The title did not come easily to Bradley, who won by two points in the semis and picked up a fall in the quarters during an 8-7 match. Aside from Gillum, 13 other wrestlers made the podium for Illinois, including three others that were defeated on the raised mat. The margin of victory for Illinois was only five points, as Team California was hot on their heels on the strength of its three champions.
Ray Ray Harris at 94 lbs, Brock Bobzien at 113 lbs, and Robert Perez III at 145 all won titles for California. Harris dropped the U16 freestyle national champion Cael Hughes 14-3 for the win. He was boosted by a pair of four-point throws in both periods. Bobzien squared off with teammate Isaiah Kainoa and needed only 40 seconds to rack up a tech fall. In seven matches, Brock outscored his opponents by the count of 52-5. Perez III when unscored upon until the finals when he got by the U16 freestyle champion Matthew Singleton (Georgia), 7-2.
The Outstanding Wrestler award for the U16 Greco event went to the 152 lb champion, RJ Weston (Georgia). Weston held his opponents without a point in all six of his matches, two of which ended in falls. His championship came after an 11-0 tech of Jared Simma (Kansas) in only a minute and 42 seconds. RJ was the second champion of the day for Team Georgia since Michael Kilic had his hand raised three matches before at 132 lbs. Kilic took control of his bout with a four-point throw late in the first period and never looked back, winning by the score of 8-5. This was the first time that Georgia has ever had two U16 Greco champions in the same season. The last time they had one was when Carson Fields won the 125 lb weight class in 2006. The two winners and eight All-Americans propelled Georgia to finish third as a team.
The only other state with multiple national champions was Minnesota who had three. The traditional Greco power took two of the first three titles when Caleb Thoennes (88 lbs) and Jore Volk (100 lbs) were victorious. Thoennes was head and shoulders above the rest of the Greco field as he only surrendered a single point during his five matches. Volk picked up his second championship of the week on the strength of a four-pointer in the first period. That accounted for all of his scoring in a 4-1 win. The last champion for Minnesota was at 170 lbs where Gavin Nelson survived a pair of near-fall situations. He fought off of his back to preserve an 8-7 win against Tate Picklo (Oklahoma).
Two other wrestlers were able to finish the week as double U16 national champions. They are John Wiley (Oklahoma) at 138 lbs and Seth Shumate (Ohio) at 195 lbs. Wiley displayed a knack for winning tight bouts by winning his quarter and semifinal matches by identical 4-3 scores, before cruising to a 4-1 win in the finals. Shumate showed why he is considered one of the top wrestlers in the high school Class of 2022. 24 seconds into his finals match he used a terrific lateral drop to toss his opponent, Isaiah Anderson, to his back for four early points. Just over 30 seconds later his match was over and Shumate got his second stop sign.
Perhaps the most surprising moment of the tournament came in the final match when Jacob Barnes (Oregon) tossed U16 freestyle national champion Hayden Copass (Illinois). The 31-second pin for Barnes was his third of the tournament.
Before the Barnes fall, another wrestler from the Pacific Northwestern garnered a title, when Gage Cook (Washington) was victorious at 220 lbs. Cook used an early four-point throw to take a 6-1 lead after one period. He would hold on to win 6-4.
One of the feel-good stories of the U16 freestyle tournament was Wilfried Tanefeu getting a championship in front of the fans of his home state. This time it was his twin brother Christian who was a champion. Christian came from behind in the second period with a pair of two-point scores to emerge victorious 7-4. After Tanefeu it was Nico Rivera (Wisconsin) and Ramon Ramos (Arizona) who earned their stop signs. Rivera was a U16 freestyle national champion last year, while Ramos fell in the U16 national finals on Monday. Finally, Pennsylvania got a champ at 182 when Nicholas Feldman got by Max Darrah (Missouri) 4-1.
U16 Greco-Roman Championship Final Results
88 lbs – Caleb Thoennes (MN) over Hunter Taylor (KS) 6-0
94 lbs – Ray Ray Harris (CA) over Cael Hughes (OK) 14-3
100 lbs – Jore Volk (MN) over Benjamin Aranda (IL) 4-1
106 lbs – Christian Tanefeu (ND) over Kyle Rice (ID) 7-4
113 lbs – Brock Bobzien (CA) over Isaiah Kainoa Medina (CA) 10-0
120 lbs – Nicolar Rivera (WI) over Kayd Craig (ID) 12-2
126 lbs – Ramon Ramos (AZ) over Gavin Drexel (AZ) 13-2
132 lbs – Michael Kilic (GA) over Jack Milos (IL) 8-5
138 lbs – John Wiley (OK) over Cody Chittum (TN) 4-1
145 lbs – Robert Perez III (CA) over Matthew Singleton (GA) 7-2
152 lbs – RJ Weston (GA) over Jared Simma (KS) 11-0
160 lbs – Bradley Gillum (IL) over Adam Ahrendsen (IA) 6-3
170 lbs – Gavin Nelson (MN) over Tate Picklo (OK) 7-6
182 lbs – Nick Feldman (PA) over Jack Darrah (PA) 4-1
195 lbs – Seth Shumate (OH) over Isaiah Anderson (WA) 10-0
220 lbs – Gage Cook (WA) over Kolby Franklin (PA) 6-4
285 lbs – Jacob Barnes (OR) over Hayden Copass (IL) :31