photo courtesy of John Sachs; Tech-Fall.com
Friday-Sunday in Akron, Ohio one of the largest domestic events of the year will take place, the Men’s Cadet and U23 World Team Trials. Today we are focusing on one of the first tournaments contested, the U23 Men’s Greco-Roman Championships. Through the first two years of this world tournament’s existence, the United States has been shut out in their quest of obtaining world medals. This year’s time has the potential to be the best and most experienced that we have fielded, to date. Six of the ten team members from the 2018 squad are back and have registered to have another go at the U23 World Team Trials. Here are the top wrestlers to watch at eight of the ten weight classes, along with predictions for first through fourth-place in every bracket.
******Preview written using entries as of 2pm on May 29th******
55 kg – The favorite at the 55 kg will be 2018’s U23 team member Dalton Duffield. Dalton was the top seed at the Senior World Team Trials two weeks ago; however, he was upset in two straight matches in the finals by Brady Koontz. He was also a finalist at the US Open this year. There is an opponent in this field with a win over Duffield in 2019 and that is Sean Sesnan. Sean did so at the Dave Schultz Memorial, but he finished below Dalton after losing other matches in their round robin bracket. When the pair met at the Senior WTT’s, it was Duffield who prevailed by tech. Last year at U23’s, Sesnan took third place. Northern Colorado’s Jace Koelzer is the highest placewinner from the Junior World Team Trials bracket that has registered. He was fourth at that tournament and lost to the eventual champion by a single point. Cevion Severado, a 2017 Junior World silver medalist, was the top seed at the same Junior trials, but had an unusual performance and missed out on placing. Another current DI wrestler to watch out for is Stanford’s three-time NCAA qualifier Gabe Townsell. While in high school, Townsell was a two-time Junior National finalist in Fargo, taking home a stop sign in 2015. Though he may be younger than most of the other competitors at this weight, Old Dominion signee Anthony Molton was also a Junior National finalist and comes from a strong Greco state in Illinois.
TOM Prediction (1st) : Dalton Duffield over Gabe Townsell
TOM Prediction (4th) : Sean Sesnan over Cevion Severado
60 kg – This has been one of my favorite weight classes to watch at the Senior level and since most of those competitors are young, many of the top contenders for our Senior world team have entered here. The 2018 U23 World Team member, Randon Miranda, is back and ready to defend his title. Miranda was recently the runner-up at the Senior WTT’s and was fourth at the US Open. He’ll have to contend with a familiar face to repeat here, his 2018 U23 finals opponent Dalton Roberts. Dalton, the 2018 representative at the 2018 Senior World Championships, pushed Miranda to three matches in their final series. These two met in the semi’s of the WTT’s and the bout went in Miranda’s favor, however, at the US Open, Roberts downed him for third place. If that’s not enough, throw six-time age group world team member Taylor LaMont into the equation. LaMont took third place at the Senior WTT’s with a win over Roberts, but was beaten by Miranda at the US Open. Any of these three are capable of coming away with the world team spot Friday evening, who will be on top of their game at that time?
While there’s a drop-off from the Big Three at 60 kg, there are still some quality entrants throughout the remainder of this bracket. Northern Michigan’s Delon Kanari defeated Maryland’s King Sandoval for fifth-place at the Junior WTT’s, and both are expected to compete. Josh Wright competed in the Senior Open and was able to break into the top eight. Also, Hunter Starner (fifth) and Timothy Decatur-Luker (seventh) were both placers from this tournament in 2018. Dylan Koontz is the twin brother of Brady Koontz, a Final X participant at 55 kg. Maybe he can channel the magic that his twin used when he won the Senior WTT’s as the seventh seed.
TOM Prediction (1st) : Randon Miranda over Dalton Roberts
TOM Prediction (3rd) : Taylor LaMont over Delon Kanari
63 kg – The previous two weight classes had returning U23 World Team members and heavy favorites, but this one has none and could be considered completely wide open. Utah Valley’s Dylan Gregerson has to be one of the leaders in this bracket, as he was third at the Senior WTT’s and got his final win of that tournament over 2018 U23 World Team member Travis Rice. Gregerson bounced back after a 3-2 showing at the Open, where he would finish in seventh place. The highest placewinner from the Open in the field is Kyle Evans, who had taken fourth-place, though he did not face Gregerson at the event. The only returning placer from this tournament in 2018 is Raphael Rodriguez, who was sixth. Keep an eye out for a pair of Michigan State Spartans at this weight. Roger Chandler’s crew has had a good run of things on the Greco side, placing two of their wrestlers on the Junior World Team. Maybe Spartans Jaden Enriquez and Matt Santos can turn some heads here.
TOM Prediction (1st) : Dylan Gregerson over Kyle Evans
TOM Prediction (3rd) : Raphael Rodriguez over Jaden Enriquez
67 kg – If 63 kg was a little light on credential entries, then 67 kg makes up for it because it has a number capable contenders. Both of 2018’s finalists Nolan Baker (Northern Illinois) and Dom Demas (Oklahoma) are back. Baker got the best of Demas two-matches-to-one in their final series, one that was punctuated by a fall for Baker to earn a spot on the U23 World Team. Baker was also third at the Senior WTT’s in Raleigh. Though Demas is excellent at folk and freestyle, he has also made a Junior World team and two Cadet World teams in Greco. The wrestler that Baker defeated to get third at the WTT’s, Benji Peak, is also here. Peak won the Junior WTT’s in 2018, but did not have the opportunity to go to worlds after he did not make weight for a special wrestle-off with LaMont. This year Peak missed out on an opportunity to make the Junior team, as he fell in the finals to Peyton Omania, who is expected to enter here, as well. This will be Omania’s second trip to the Junior World Championships. Another entrant with past world-level experience is Dominic Damon, a Cadet World Team member from 2018. Damon was the third-place finisher at the Junior WTT’s this year. Moving up a weight from the 2018 U23 WTT’s is Erik Spence, who was fourth at 63 kg.
TOM Prediction (1st) : Nolan Baker over Dom Demas
TOM Prediction (3rd) : Peyton Omania over Benji Peak
72 kg – This will be another weight class that is wide open and could be won by any number of potential competitors. Princeton’s Lenny Merkin is the highest placewinner from the US Open that will be in attendance. He was third at the Open and ended up going 3-2 at the Senior WTT’s. We also have the 2019 Junior World team rep Tyler Eischens, who will be attempting to make his second team this year. One of his opponents from the Junior Trials, Britton Holmes, has entered here, as well. Holmes finished third at the Junior Trials and was also third at this tournament in 2018, while down at 67 kg. Duncan Nelson was also a top-six finisher at the Junior WTT’s, though he was down at 67 kg for that tournament. This weight class has cleared out within the last year, with only Will Kaldes (eighth) being the only returning placer from the 2018 U23 competition. A possible wild card at this weight is 2019 EIWA champion Anthony Artalona (Penn). Anthony is more renowned for his freestyle skills, but he does have a Cadet Greco national title and a Junior Greco runner-up appearance under his belt from his time in Fargo. The Army’s WCAP program will enter Connor Myers who was able to pick up a win over Eleazar Deluca at the Senior WTT’s.
TOM Prediction (1st) : Tyler Eischens over Lenny Merkins
TOM Prediction (3rd) : Britton Holmes over Anthony Artalona
77 kg – The first of two wrestlers on Friday that will be attempting to make their third consecutive U23 World Team is Jesse Porter. Jesse is battle-tested at one of the countries deepest weights domestically. Within the last year, he has placed fourth at the 2019 WTT’s Challenge Tournament, fifth at the US Open, third at the Schultz, and third at the 2018 WTT’s Challenge Tournament. Porter will be joined by his 2018 U23 WTT’s final opponent, Fritz Schierl of Ohio State. Jesse took that best-of-three series with a 6-6 win on criteria, and a 10-0 tech. Schriel entered the Open this spring but was only able to post a single victory there, along with the Trials. Also looking to spoil Porter’s three U23 berths is Jake Hendricks, who was the top seed at the Junior Trials and ended up finishing third. Hendricks has international experience of his own, as he was a member of the 2017 Cadet World team. There are also a couple of placers from the 2018 version of this event that are back and looking to pull an upset or two potentially and they are Eddie Smith (third) and Emanuel Diaz (sixth).
TOM Prediction (1st) : Jesse Porter over Fritz Schierl
TOM Prediction (3rd) : Jake Hendricks over Eddie Smith
82 kg – There’s no returning U23 World Team members at this weight class, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on talent. The biggest name is Andrew Berreyesa, the 2018 Junior World silver medalist. Berreyesa reached the finals of this event and just missed out on the championship in 2018. Thomas Brackett of Northern Michigan will join him. Brackett was fourth at the WTT’s and took a narrow 2-1 decision over Berreyesa in the consolations of that tournament, after the loss to Andrew in the Round of 16. Like Berreyesa, Brackett did not place at the US Open, though he was able to earn a pair of victories. Also in the top tier of contenders is Spencer Woods. At the Open, Woods was one of the surprises of the entire Open, as he was unseeded and upset former World Team member Cheney Haight to make an appearance in the finals. That provided Woods with the first seed at the WTT’s, where he was downed 3-0 in the quarters by Berreyesea. Always dangerous in this bracket is Oklahoma State’s two-time All-American Chandler Rogers. At the Trials, Chandler got out to a 7-2 first period lead on the eventual champ John Stefanowicz, only to lose 11-8, after giving up four points with six seconds left in the match. In his next match, Rogers was eliminated by Brackett. Jose Acosta (fourth) and Tommy Dantzler (sixth) are Junior WTT’s placers that could make an impact here. Caleb Spears (seventh) is the only other returning placewinner from this event in 2018. Lastly, Army West Point’s Ben Harvey, a two-time NCAA qualifier is slated to enter here. He was fourth in freestyle at the WTT’s Challenge Tournament at 79 kg’s this year.
TOM Prediction (1st): Andrew Berreyesa over Tommy Brackett
TOM Prediction (3rd): Chandler Rogers over Spencer Woods
87 kg – Yet another 2018 U23 World Team member will be looking to secure another berth on the team, this time it’s George Sikes. George is looking to bounce back from an 0-2 showing at the WTT’s just a few weeks ago. Earlier this year, Sikes was seventh at the US Open, winning three matches, overall. Sikes’ 2018 U23 finals opponent Jimmy Stillerman will be back, as well. Jimmy lost a pair of low-scoring matches to Sikes in the finals and hopes that a year later, he can turn the tables and reverse those results. Williams Baptist product Timothy Eubanks is the only other placewinner from this tournament in 2018. Dane Harter of the Finger Lakes Wrestling Club was a fifth-place finisher at the Junior Trials this year, but down at 82 kg. Blake Smith, who trains out of the OTC, was third at U23’s in 2018, but it was up at 97 kg. This weight class could be better suited for him. Finally, we have Duke’s Matt Finesilver, who was ranked for most of the DI season in the top-15, though we are not sure of his Greco background.
TOM Prediction (1st) : George Sikes over Blake Smith
TOM Prediction (3rd) : Jimmy Stillerman over Timothy Eubanks
97 kg – The other wrestler in this tournament that is seeking his third straight trip to the U23 World Championships is G’Angelo Hancock. It’s not hyperbole to say that Hancock is the most talented wrestler in this entire tournament, much less than 97 kg bracket. He has clinched a berth in Final X, where Hancock will attempt to make his third consecutive Senior World team, as well. G’Angelo’s most recent action came at the City of Sassari Tournament in Italy where he came away with a silver medal. Hancock’s opponent from the 2018 U23 finals, Roy Nash, is back and is one of the favorites to meet him in the finals again. The pair recently met in the quarterfinals of the Open and Hancock only needed 15 seconds to register a 9-0 tech. One of the challengers that may be able to knock off Nash includes 2018 Junior World Team member Chad Porter. Chad is trying to rebound after an 0-2 showing at the Open. Devon Amburgy (fourth) and Ross Sealby (fifth) are both U23 placers from a year ago that look like strong bets to make the top-eight again. Kaleb Gaede was third a year ago at U23’s, while down and 87 kg. We also have Michigan State’s Brad Wilton, who was fourth at the Junior WTT’s.
TOM Prediction (1st): G’Angelo Hancock over Roy Nash
TOM Prediction (3rd): Kaleb Gaede over Chad Porter
130 kg – As of Wednesday afternoon, the 2018 U23 World Team member Cohlton Schultz has not signed up for U23’s, which is understandable since he has a date with 2018 World silver medalist Adam Coon at Final X Lincoln. With Schultz out of the picture, Tate Orndorff could be the one to benefit. Orndorff was second at the US Open and lost to Schultz in the U23 best-of-three finals in 2018. Stanford’s Haydn Maley has been quietly putting together a solid year. He was fourth at both, the WTT’s Challenge Tournament, along with the US Open. Also placing fourth recently, though it was down at the Junior WTT’s, was Max Darrah. The only other Open placer at this weight is Thomas Helton, who was seventh. The only other placewinner from the 2018 UWW’s is Ethan Bunce, who took eighth at this weight. Though this is a massive weight class, in terms of the entry list, there are plenty of heavyweights, but most of them do not have national level credentials.
TOM Prediction (1st) : Tate Orndoff over Hayden Maley
TOM Prediction (3rd) : Thomas Helton over Max Darrah