photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com
Over the weekend, FloWrestling hosted a five-match, fight-card style event that featured some of our nation’s top men’s freestyle wrestlers and even a world champion from Italy, doing battle. The opening match, between Vito Arujau and Sammy Alvarez, featured the most action and scoring. At the same time, the main event lived up to its billing between world champions Kyle Dake and Frank Chamizo. Dake held off a late rally to edge Chamizo in a tactical match that displayed both wrestler’s scrambling abilities. The action from the final bout led fans to spend Saturday night and Sunday throwing out hypothetical matchups they’d like to see on a future card. All signs out of Austin, from FloWrestling, point to them hosting another similar event in the near future. FITE.TV, who hosted a one in late-June, has not been as vocal about their intentions to put on another event, but has at least expressed interest, too.
With everyone putting together their list of dream matches, TOM decided to get into the act. We’ve listed one match per weight for all three styles. For the most part, we’ve decided to skip some possible matchups that we’ve seen frequently in favor of more new, fun bouts. Because a notable wrestler isn’t listed (Daton Fix, Jordan Burroughs, Kyle Snyder, Kayla Miracle), it isn’t an indictment on their abilities, more that there’s a different match out there to see. We also did not factor in the money needed to get these wrestlers to appear. Generally, we tried to stay with domestic opponents, though there are a few exceptions.
57 kg Men’s freestyle – Thomas Gilman vs. Spencer Lee
Does anything else need to be said? Former Hawkeye Wrestling Club teammates Thomas Gilman and Spencer Lee. Gilman has the Senior-level hardware (2017 silver), while Lee has yet to be unleashed on this age-group. He does have three Cadet/Junior World titles on his resume and was unleashed upon domestic competition with a win at Senior Nationals in December.
65 kg Men’s freestyle- Yianni Diakomihalis vs. Zain Retherford
This weight class has any number of fun matches that could be made. Any of those combinations who be satisfactory for me. But let’s go with the Final X 2019 rematch. There was so much controversy surrounding that series, that it needed its own special wrestle-off. The two also met internationally and Yianni came out on top. Who doesn’t want to see another chapter in this rivalry?
74 kg Men’s freestyle – Kyle Dake vs. Zaurbek Sidakov (Russia)
For the most part, I’ve tried to avoid matches we’ve seen on multiple occasions, so it would be great to see Jordan Burroughs take on either of them. We haven’t seen out a Dake/Sidakov matchup would play out, yet. Based on common opponents (Burroughs/Frank Chamizo), it’s safe to say that Dake would be right up there with the Russian.
86 kg Men’s freestyle – David Taylor vs. Zahid Valencia
Simply put, there aren’t too many interesting domestic matches for David Taylor right now, due to his dominance. He looked as good as ever Saturday night during his tech fall victory over Myles Martin. Martin was a late replacement for Pat Downey, which could be an option; however, that is more of a grudge match than anything. The opponent that defeated Martin at Senior Nationals in 2019 was Zahid Valencia, the two-time NCAA champion and 2017 Junior World silver medalist. While Taylor is still the odds-on favorite at 86kg, I’d like to see how far he is ahead of Valencia.
97 kg Men’s freestyle – J’Den Cox vs. Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia)
In the aftermath of Saturday night, Taylor against Russian Abdulrashid Sadulaev was thrown around as the next possible super-match. While I wouldn’t say no to that, I think J’Den Cox versus Sadulaev is the match to make. The two-time world champion Cox is arguably the best American wrestler right now and Sadualev is probably number one pound-for-pound. The two were in the same weight class in the 2016 Olympics, where Cox took bronze after losing in the semifinals; however, they did not meet. J’Den has proven to be one of the most difficult men in the world to takedown, while Sadulaev has been nearly unbeatable.
125 kg Men’s freestyle – Nick Gwiazdowski vs. Gable Steveson
I debated a handful of potential bouts at this weight before settling on the safe choice, a 2019 Final X rematch between two-time world bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski and three-time age-group world champion Gable Steveson. Both have good attacks, put up points and are fun to watch, so why not?
50 kg Women’s freestyle – Sarah Hildebrandt vs. Alyssa Lampe
This is the deepest weight on the women’s side and there are plenty of different ways we could have gone with 50 kg. With Whitney Conder, Victoria Anthony, Erin Golston, Amy Fearnside, Alleida Martinez, and Emily Shilson in the mix, you can’t really go wrong. We’ll stick with the two Senior World medalists at the weight with Sarah Hildebrandt and Alyssa Lampe. Sarah has spent the last to years at 53 kg, but moved down for the Olympic year and ran through the competition at the Pan-American Olympic qualifier. Lampe returned to the scene at Senior Nationals and crushed the competition before pinning Anthony in the finals.
53 kg Women’s freestyle – Dominique Parrish vs. Katherine Shai
With Hildebrandt moving down to 50 kg, the favorite at this weight is the 2019 world champion, Jacarra Winchester. Jacarra defeated Katherine Shai in February during a wrestle-off for the Pan-American team and downed Parrish last year in Final X for the world team slot at 55 kg. Why not figure who’s the number one contender for Winchester in pairing up Shai, also a Final X participant and 2019 Miranda Medal winner, Parrish. The two were in the same weight at Senior Nationals, a weight class won by Parrish. The two did not meet and Shai ended up third.
57 kg Women’s freestyle – Helen Maroulis vs. Alli Ragan
Even though Helen Maroulis and Alli Ragan met at the Pan-American wrestle-off, let’s see it again. Over the past two-plus years, we’ve seen very little of Maroulis on the mat, so any extra is a bonus. Helen ended up dominating at the Pan-American Olympic qualifier and showed she’s getting back to her 2015-17 form, which is a scary proposition. Ragan has missed time in the last year, as well. She squared off with Helen at the Pan-American wrestle-off and fell on criteria. With more mat time and a new training situation, could she close the gap?
62 kg Women’s freestyle – Emma Bruntil vs. Mallory Velte
I was tempted to pick Kayla Miracle and Mallory Velte since it’s probably the best current rivalry in American women’s wrestling. We have to give the nod to Emma Bruntil in another “top-contender” wrestle-off. The 62 kg weight class was loaded at Senior Nationals with past age-group world champions, Maya Nelson and Macey Kilty, along with veteran Julia Salata and former Fargo standout, Teshya Alo, among others. It was the McKendree freshman, Bruntil, that defeated Alo and Kilty before getting a forfeit from Nelson in the finals. Let’s see where she’s at compared to a past World bronze medalist like Velte.
68 kg Women’s freestyle – Tamyra Mensah-Stock vs. Forrest Molinari
This has to be one that anyone who follows women’s wrestling is eager to see. Could there be more of a clash of personalities than this one with the lovable, free-spirited Mensah-Stock and Molinari’s intensity? Since 65 kg is a non-Olympic weight, Forrest is forced to move up here, which could be a difficult matchup since Tamyra is well-versed in all positions.
76 kg Women’s freestyle – Adeline Gray vs. Erica Wiebe (Canada)
While our domestic competition is probably a few years behind Adeline Gray, we’re forced to look internationally for an exciting challenger for the five-time world champion. Look no further than north-of-the-border with Erica Wiebe. Erica has the only thing missing from Gray’s illustrious resume, an Olympic gold medal, won in 2016. Since Gray’s return in 2018, the pair have exchanged wins, though Adeline has gotten the last two world titles at this weight.
60 kg Greco-Roman – Ildar Hafizov vs. Ryan Mango
The 60 kg weight class in Greco-Roman has so many viable options, any of which could put on an entertaining bout. We settled on a match between two Army WCAP teammates Ildar Hafizov and Ryan Mango. Hafizov has competed at the World Championships on five occasions, twice for the United States and three times for Uzbekistan. Mango broke through in 2019 and made his first Senior team, competing at 63 kg. He’s certainly capable of putting on a show and creating some fireworks.
67 kg Greco-Roman – Ellis Coleman vs. Alex Sancho
Ellis Coleman has been a consistent force for the United States since 2012, mainly at the 66/67 kg weight classes. After making the 2012 Olympic Team, Coleman has appeared on the world team four more times. The two-time Junior World bronze medalist has always been on the cusp of contending for a medal on the Senior-level, as well. Perhaps his most significant challenge in 2020/21 could come from fellow WCAP teammate, Alex Sancho. Sancho, a three-time World Team Trials runner-up, is looking for a breakthrough of his own. He claimed a title in December at Senior Nationals.
77 kg Greco-Roman – Pat Smith vs. Kamal Bey
We all remember the Final X press conference between Pat Smith and Kamal Bey, when Bey referred to himself as a Ferrari and Smith, a Honda Civic. Well, the reliable Smith battled his way to a win in three matches against the more flashy Bey. It was the second Senior team for Smith and prevented Bey from making the team in back-to-back years. Who doesn’t want to see another clash of styles like this again?
87 kg Greco-Roman – Joe Rau vs. Patrick Martinez
87 kg is full of veterans that have been there and done that. Two of them include Joe Rau and Patrick Martinez. Neither are likely to put on a highlight reel show, rather it would be a low-scoring, positional battle that your Greco purists appreciate. Rau has already made a pair of world teams, while Martinez has three. Joe started the year in impressive fashion by winning the Pan-American Olympic qualifier and knocking off two-time continental champion Luis Avendano Rojas (Venezuela) along the way. Martinez was the top-seed at Senior Nationals and made the finals, but did not compete.
97 kg Greco-Roman – G’Angelo Hancock vs. Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia)
The domestic dominance by G’Angelo Hancock has made this a weight without a whole lot of intrigue, as far as the world and Olympic team berths go. That’s why we need to look for an international opponent and the “Polar Bear” Artur Aleksanyan fits the bill. Though he’s a four-time World/Olympic champion, Aleksanyan is still well within his prime at 28 years old. He and Hancock have a history as the American pinned Aleksanyan back in 2018 in the Pytlasinski Memorial’s semis. Hancock has to be considered one of the faces of American Greco and seems poised to capture a medal at the Senior level.
130 kg Greco-Roman – Robby Smith vs. Cohlton Schultz
It doesn’t matter what sport you’re following, it’s always fun to see the young phenom take on the battle-tested veteran. That’s what we’ve got at 130 kg between 2019 Junior World silver medalist Cohlton Schultz and 2016 Olympian Robby Smith. Twice in Smith’s four trips to the World Championships, he wrestled in the bronze medal match. These two ended up meeting at the 2019 WTT’s finals, in a series that ended up going the full three bouts. Schultz, an incoming freshman at Arizona State at the time, prevailed in the final match, 5-1. Why not run it back?