We’re only a few days out from the annual Beat the Streets New York “Grapple at the Garden.” The 2019 incarnation of the benefit will take place at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on May 6th. This is a slight change from years past when the event took place outside, sometimes in the middle of Times Square. Another change to the format was that instead of a foreign team opposing our national team stars, the national team would take on NCAA Champions. While that didn’t quite work out across the board, the crew at Beat the Streets did an excellent job arranging a set of matches that have captured the imagination and interest of wrestling fans. Here is TOM’s breakdown of the event and a link to the Beat the Streets website. Remember this event is a fundraiser for the group that helps bring wrestling and many other life skills to inner-city children that otherwise may not have had access to the sport, so please support this great effort.
122 lbs (girls) – Elleny Seda vs. Valentina Bailon
This is a meeting of two New York high school girls, both of whom finished highly at the 2019 PSAL Girls Wrestling Invitational and State Championships. Valentina Bailon of Grover Cleveland took second place at 117 lbs. Elleny Seda wrestles for Martin Luther King and finished in third place at 122 lbs. At the recent Gotham City Girls Open, also put on by Beat the Streets New York, Seda placed sixth in the Junior division at 122 pounds. This event featured a number of top girls from around the country.
TOM Prediction: Elleny Seda
138 lbs – JoJo Aragona vs. Adam Busiello
With this match taking place in New York it’s only fitting to have a matchup featuring one of New York’s best high schoolers to face one from New Jersey (technically he’s from Pennsylvania, but he goes to school in NJ). Adam Busiello became only the third high school wrestler from New York to capture five state titles (joining Troy Nickerson and Jacori Teemer) and also has three Super 32 titles to his credit, six if you count middle school. After initially committing to Penn State, Busiello signed with Arizona State where he will join Teemer, who redshirted in Tempe during the 2018-19 season. Aragona entered his senior season without a state title to his credit, but ended up finishing ranked number one in the country at 138 lb. JoJo went undefeated and won the Beast of the East, as well as a four-man round robin at Who’s #1, and a New Jersey state title. He will continue his career at Rutgers.
TOM Prediction: Adam Busiello
57 kg – Nick Piccininni vs. Jack Mueller
This was initially supposed to be Muller against Nathan Tomasello, but NATO suffered an injury at the US Open and had to pull out. That leaves us with a matchup between two current collegiate wrestlers that are two-time All-Americans at 125 lbs. Coincidentally, both entered the 2019 NCAA Championships undefeated, and it was Mueller that made the NCAA final, while Piccininni had to settle for fifth place. Though the pair have been in the same NCAA weight class for two of their three years of college, they have not met before. As freshmen, they were slated to clash on the backside of the NCAA bracket, but Mueller forfeited out. Jack has had the most recent success wrestling freestyle, as he made the 2018 U23 World Team and ended up a match shy of earning a medal.
TOM Prediction: Jack Mueller
62 kg – Mallory Velte vs. Linda Morais (Canada)
Though Morais is Canadian, these two have rarely found themselves in the same weight class and do not have a history (that we can tell). This year they were both in the German Grand Prix and Velte took third, while Morais was ninth. They did not face each other at the event. Mallory is sitting in Final X after earning her first world medal last year in Budapest. In her most recent competition, the Pan-American Championships, Velte took the silver, falling in the finals to the woman she defeated to earn her world bronze last year. Morais did not enter for Canada at that tournament.
TOM Prediction: Mallory Velte
70 kg – James Green vs. Anthony Ashnault
After what has transpired over the last two weeks, it’s safe to say that this match has a lot more luster than we may have thought initially. This was the first bout announced and follows the original idea from the Beat the Streets organizers of “NCAA Champs vs. World Team Members.” At that time there had to be questions about where Ashnault’s freestyle game would be. After a Pan-American Championship where he registered three techs and a pin, its safe to say that he will be a contender for the world team spot, at minimum. On the other hand, Green edged Jason Nolf in the US Open semis, then fell on a last-second takedown to Ryan Deakin in the finals. Deakin will now advance to Final X, while Green will need to fight through a talented, young field at the World Team Trials. Earlier this week, we posed the question, “Is there a changing of the guard at 70 kg.” Maybe that is premature and Green comes out and asserts himself as the man and 70 kg and takes a step towards making his fifth world team. Perhaps it the recency effect, but we’ll go with an upset here.
TOM Prediction: Anthony Ashnault
97 kg – Kyle Snyder vs. Nishan Randhawa (Canada)
This is probably a bit of a mismatch, but most opponents are against Kyle Snyder. The last time we say Snyder at Beat the Streets, it was a year ago in an impressive comeback against Reineris Salas Perez (Cuba). Last year the crowd was cheering due to Kyle climbing out of an early hole, this time it would be very surprising if he got down early. His opponent, Randhawa, has been Canada’s representative at the U23 World Championships in each of the last two years and is a former Junior World bronze medalist. At the 2018 U23 tournament Randhawa ran into one of Snyder’s training partners, Kollin Moore, and he was teched 10-0. Expect a similar result against Kyle.
TOM Prediction: Kyle Snyder
125 kg – Nick Gwiazdowski vs. Derek White
This has the makings of an entertaining heavyweight scrap between two athletic big men with good leg attacks. The two-time World bronze medalist Gwiazdowski will have the upper hand based on his freestyle experience and the fact that he possesses a little bit more firepower than White, on his feet. White is fresh off of a nice showing at the US Open, where he took fourth at this weight class. He outplaced a group of competitors (Youssif Hemida, Tate Orndorff, Garrett Ryan) that have had more credentials than he in freestyle, so this could be the first of many meetings between the two. While he can be explosive when needed, White has the ability to slow his competition down. That would be essential against someone with Gwiz’s offensive capabilities, as he would not fare well in a high-scoring match.
TOM Prediction: Nick Gwiazdowski
53 kg – Becka Leathers vs. Diana Weicker (Canada)
Originally, this was supposed to be a match between Weicker and 2019 World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt. Unfortunately, Hildebrandt had to withdraw due to an injury suffered at the Pan-American Championships. Luckily, the 2017 World bronze medalist Leathers has stepped in to replace Sarah and makes for an interesting match. From a spectator’s standpoint, while most would have liked to watch Hildebrandt, the match is going to be much more competitive. When Sarah and Weicker met in the 2019 World semis, Sarah rolled to a 10-0 tech. Diana would go on to bring home the bronze medal, her first Senior level medal. It doesn’t appear that Leather and Weicker have ever met. In 2018, at the World Cup, Weicker did defeat Leathers’ current teammate at the Tar Heel Wrestling Club Haley Augello, by the score of 6-1. Becka is coming off of a US Open winning performance a 55 kg. She was able to prevail in a tight bout with 2019 World Team member Jenna Burkert.
TOM Prediction: Becka Leathers
61 kg – Joe Colon vs. Nick Suriano
Joe Colon will be the first of two UNI Panthers on the slate for the evening’s festivities. He’ll meet another Scarlet Knight in 2019 NCAA Champion, Nick Suriano. This is one of the most anticipated matches of the card, minus Burroughs/Askren, with Suriano the one who was able to emerge from a 133 lb weight class that was thought to be the deepest weight class in years. In fact, his finals opponent Daton Fix has already clinched a spot in Final X at 57 kg. Suriano is known for his toughness, conditioning, and strong hand-fighting. All of these will be needed to deal with Colon. Joe has been one of the biggest risers for the American team over the past year. After winning the 2018 US Open, Colon fell to Nahshon Garrett in Final X Bethlehem, but was added to the world team after Garrett withdrew due to injury. Colon went on to earn a world bronze medal and at the Pan-American Championships in April, he avenged a loss in the world semis to the eventual champion Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez (Cuba). Joe’s gut wrench is one of, if not the most dangerous weapon on the mat, out of any current American wrestlers. If/when Suriano gives up a takedown, the match could end quickly with four guts.
TOM Prediction: Joe Colon
86 kg – David Taylor vs. Drew Foster
One of the best storylines of the NCAA Championships was Drew Foster’s NCAA title at 184 lbs. He entered the tournament as the sixth seed and became the first Panther to win a national title since the year 2000. Right now, I’m not sure of the extent of his freestyle experience and background, so that will definitely play a role in his meeting with 2018 World Champion David Taylor. Truthfully, it probably doesn’t matter. With all due respect to Foster, there aren’t any guys worldwide at 86 kilos that will be able to withstand Taylor’s barrage of offense. At his first world championships, Taylor was able to rack up 47 points during five matches, including three techs, one of which came in the world final.
TOM Prediction: David Taylor
92 kg – J’Den Cox vs. Patrick Brucki
If nothing else, we’re going to have two of the biggest, strongest wrestlers at 92 kg take the mat Monday night. Brucki had a tremendous sophomore season at Princeton, winning his first EIWA title and finishing fourth in the nation at 197 lbs. He’ll have a tall task on his hands with Cox, who is coming off of his first world title in 2018. Recently, J’Den cruised to a Pan-American Championship with little trouble and no points scored against him. Cox is notoriously stingy defensively, so I have a hard time trying to figure out how Brucki will be able to put up points against J’Den.
TOM Prediction: J’Den Cox
65 kg – Yianni Diakomihalis vs. Bajrang Punia (India)
This match just got a whole lot more interesting after the US Open. Before the Open it seems like a fun match and a massive test for the two-time NCAA Champion for Cornell. With Yianni’s win at the Open, it will be a true test of where Diakomihalis fits on the world-level, right now. Of course, Yianni will still need to earn his way onto the world team at Final X, but he does not have to go through the gauntlet of competitors he faced at the Open, at the World Team Trials. After watching Yianni dismantle former Olympian Frank Molinaro and Jordan Oliver, who has been at the top of the national team standings for years now, then defeat former world team member Zain Retherford, the talk shifts to him earning a world medal right away. If he were to do so, Bajrang Punia would stand in his way at some point. Punia is a returning world silver medalist and has one of the best motors in the world. His ability to come back from deficits and wear down his competition is unmatched. Of course, we’ll have to see what sort of condition the Indian superstar is in, because earlier today he captured the title in Russia at the Ali Aliev. By the time he takes the mat Monday, he will have competed in three different continents in 14 days. If his Russian opponents can’t stop him, maybe jet lag could? However this match turns out, it will be an excellent experience for Yianni as he finds out where he stacks up against the top-ranked 65 kg competitor in the world.
TOM Prediction: Yianni Diakomihalis
74 kg – Jordan Burroughs vs. Ben Askren
I still can’t believe this is going to actually happen. Even though Askren is focused on his MMA career and a decade past his last time consistently training solely for wrestling, it still has a ton of cache and is a dream match. Ben was such a dominant wrestler in his day that it leads you to believe he may have an outside chance at getting a win, even against one of the all-time greats like Burroughs. Now saying he has anything more than an outside chance is a bit of a slap in the face to Jordan, who has been competing as one of the top wrestlers in the world since 2011. Over the years, Jordan’s game has evolved from being so reliant on a double leg, scoring more often with a single. Things could get interesting when Jordan gets in on a single, as I’m sure Askren has some tricks up his sleeve and will probably wow the crowd with exposure points somewhere along the way. Even though Askren is wily and dangerous, eventually you have to figure that Burroughs wears him down and can prevail without a whole lot of trouble.
TOM Prediction: Jordan Burroughs