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Introducing the 2019 Cadet Freestyle World Team

Sokol, Ryan

photo courtesy of Jeff Beshey; TheGuillotine.com

Without a doubt, the deepest and most star-studded of the four tournaments that went down in Akron, Ohio this weekend was the Cadet World Team Trials. The top level of talent that was on display has probably even surpassed that in Fargo, which seems difficult to fathom. The 2018 Cadet Freestyle World Team was an excellent group that returned from Zagreb, Croatia with world medal in six of the ten weights. At first glance, there’s the thought that the 2019 crop may be able to exceed that production. Two of the six medalists return, and one team member has made his third Cadet world team, which is a US record. The rest of the squad consists of first-time world teamers, but don’t let that fool you, they are legit! Get to know the 2019 Cadet Freestyle World Team and let us know what you think about their prospects for the World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria July 29th-August 4th.

45 kg – Marc-Anthony McGowan (Florida)

Incoming high school freshman Marc-Anthony McGowan is one of the top wrestlers in the Class of 2023 and showed why this weekend. McGowan already has a Florida state championship under his belt that he won in 2018-19, as an eighth grader. In 2018, he was a Schoolboy National champion in freestyle, as well as folkstyle and Greco. Marc-Anthony also won titles in both international styles at the Northeast Regional in early May. For high school, McGowan will attend Blair Academy in New Jersey.

After earning tech falls in his first two matches, Marc-Anthony had to show what he was made of and won an ugly 2-1 match over Dylan Gilcher (Michigan) in the quarters. That led to a bout with 2018 Cadet Freestyle All-American Ben Aranda (Illinois). While McGowan wasn’t able to score at will, he still got his hand raised and moved on with a 5-0 win. It was more of the same strong defense from Marc-Anthony in the first round of the best-of-three finals against Mac Church (Pennsylvania) when he pitched a 6-0 shoutout. He emphatically ended the second match with a fall, claiming his place on the world team.

48 kg – Stevo Poulin (New York)

The number one wrestler in the nation at 106 lbs, Stevo Poulin, lived up to his billing at the Cadet WTT’s, once again. Already a two-state state champion, as a freshman, Poulin earned his national ranking by winning the Super 32 and the Reno Tournament of Champions during the 2018-19 season. This was Stevo’s second time competing in Akron, as he took third place last year at 45 kg. After that performance, he went on to Fargo and placed third in Cadet freestyle, also.

Poulin’s performance at this tournament was one of the most dominating by any wrestler on the 2019 Cadet World Team. None of his six matches went the full six minutes and only two opponents were able to muster up any scoring against him. In the quarters, Stevo took out the top seed and fifth-ranked, 2018 Fargo Cadet freestyle champion Joey Fischer (Pennsylvania), 12-1. In the finals, he downed 12th ranked Cory Land (Alabama), the Cadet Greco world team member, by fall and with a 10-0 tech. In total, he outscored the competition 55-3, not including his pin.

51 kg – Richie Figueroa (California)

One of three returning members of the 2018 Cadet team, Richie Figueroa is the highest returning medalist. He was a silver medalist last year when he made the world finals at 48 kg. That was in the middle of a year-long streak where Richie did not lose to a domestic opponent. It included wins at both the Super 32 and the Walsh Ironman. He would then go on to capture his second California state title, in as many tries. Figueroa suffered a minor setback when he fell in the freestyle finals at FloNationals, but his performance at the Cadet WTT’s showed it was just a blip on the radar.

Figueroa dominated as you would expect him to during his run-up to the finals. After a fall and tech in his first two matches, Richie used a 10-2 win to down the Cadet Greco World team representative Jett Strickenberger (Colorado). That set the stage for a final series with 2018 Cadet Freestyle National champion Jordan Williams (Oklahoma). Last year at this tournament, Williams finished fifth a brutal 45 kg weight class, earning a win over 2019 team member Stevo Poulin, in the process. Williams started off the best-of-three series by shocking Figueroa 4-2, putting him on the brink of elimination. Richie came back like the veteran he is and won the next two matches 10-0 and 8-0.

55 kg – Robert Howard (New Jersey)

Robert Howard had the opportunity this weekend to make history and become the first US freestyle wrestler to made three Cadet world teams. He took advantage of this opportunity by running through one of the deepest brackets in this entire tournament, almost without breaking a sweat. Howard made it to the semis without surrendering a point and outscoring his competition 43-0. In the semis, Robert would have to face a returning Cadet National Champion in Nico Rivera (Wisconsin). That didn’t seem to matter as his scoreless streak stayed in-tact and he only needed a minute and 18 seconds to earn a 10-0 tech fall. Facing with his second Fargo Cadet champion in as many matches, Howard disposed of Jesse Ybarra (Iowa) 6-0 and 5-2 to secure his place on his third world team.

Despite making the world team in each of the last two years, Howard has yet to come back with a medal finishing ninth in 2018 and 13th in 2017. He did win the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games, later in the summer of 2018.

60 kg – Jesse Mendez (Indiana)

Adidas High School Wrestler of the Week, June 3rd, 2019

65 kg – Ryan Sokol (Minnesota)

The Iowa commit Ryan Sokol was a Cadet National champion in Fargo before he entered high school. After taking third in the state as an eighth-grader, Sokol suffered through an injury-plagued freshman year which led him to winning his first state championship in 2019, as a sophomore. He recently competed at the US Open, in the Junior division, and was able to break into the top eight. Since then he has won both the Minnesota state titles along with Northern Plains titles, in both freestyle and Greco, at both events.

Save for a tough second-round matchup with Ohio stud Bryce Hepner, in which Ryan won 11-6, he was a buzzsaw throughout the rest of the tournament. The other four matches, pre-finals, ended in either a fall or a tech, all of which came in the first period. Once in the finals against Derek Fields (Ohio), Ryan was tested, a bit, but was able to emerge victorious in match number one, 11-5. The second bout was more dominance, as Sokol jumped out to a 6-0 lead, before earning a fall.

71 kg – Alex Facundo (Michigan)

The third returning member of this team and second medalist from the 2018 squad is Alex Facundo. Alex is a two-time Michigan state champion and currently ranked the top wrestler in the high school Class of 2021. Like Sokol, Facundo won a Cadet freestyle title in Fargo in the summer between his eighth-grade and freshman year. Just before his freshman season started, Alex took fourth at the Super 32 which is a remarkable feat for someone so young that was competing at 145 lbs. In 2018, he would win the Super 32.

Unlike some of his contemporaries that seemed to lap the field, Facundo repeatedly was tested and got into coach matches, of course, emerging the victor each time. The first one came in the quarters when he was trailing Jaxon Smith late in the second period and needed a step out point to take the lead. He then held off a furious Smith rally to win, 2-1. In the semi’s Alex was paired with AJ Kovacs (New York), who has been hot, of late. Facundo needed to score late in this one, as well, and he attempted to throw Kovacs, who kept his balance and did not expose his back. Alex was able to limp arm out and get the takedown that ended up winning the match for him, 4-3. Just like last year, Facundo lost the first match in his best-of-three series. He would regroup and down Travis Mastrogiovanni (New Jersey) 6-1 and 5-0 to earn another spot on the world team.

80 kg – Clayton Ulrey (Pennsylvania)

This weight class was probably the most “up-for-grabs” out of any at the Cadet WTT’s this weekend and it showed with the fourth-seeded Clayton Ulrey coming away with the championship. Just over a month ago, at FloNationals, Ulrey won a title at this same weight class. Clayton is heading into his senior season at Lower Dauphin High School and will be focused on earning his first state crown. He was fifth as a sophomore and a finalist in 2019.

As expected, Ulrey cruised through his first two matches shutting out his opponents and prevailing by tech fall. In the quarters, Clayton broke open a tight match by getting a pair of scores to extend his lead to 11-6 against Jack Darrah (Missouri). Next up was another Missouri native, Colton Hawks, a double Cadet All-American last year in Fargo. It was a pair of four-pointers that helped Ulrey prevail 11-6. In the finals against Rylan Rogers (Washington), Ulrey jumped out to early four, and five-point leads in the first two matches and hung on to win 8-4 and 9-4 and claim his first world team.

92 kg – Kyle Haas (Kansas)

The only Cadet wrestler to double up and make the world team’s in both styles was Kyle Haas. As we mentioned in the Greco article, Haas has always had outstanding credentials but never was able to get over the hump and win a national tournament. This weekend he won two of them! Kyle has placed each of the last two years in Fargo at the Cadet freestyle event, taking second and eighth place.

92 kg was another really deep weight class. You could have made a case for anyone in the quarterfinals to come away with the stop sign and it would not have been a huge upset. Just to get to the finals, Haas had to defeat three wrestlers that are currently ranked in the top eight nationally (Rocky Elam #2 at 182, Sam Fisher #8 at 182, Noah Pettigrew – #5 at 195). Once in the finals, Kyle had to overtake one more in freshman phenom Seth Shumate – #6 at 195. Late in the second period of the first match, Haas came out on to of a scramble to pull within a point, then used a throw to earn two more, and he went on to win, 4-4. The score of the second match may read like a blowout, but Haas needed to come from behind again which he did by getting two takedowns and four turns for a 16-5 tech and a spot on his second world team in three days!

110 kg – Hunter Catka (Pennsylvania)

Last year Hunter Catka was a finalist at this tournament but ended up running into the defending world champion, Daniel Kerkvliet. Hunter was a Pennsylvania state champion as a sophomore in 2018, but could not repeat this year and he had to settle for third place. After the high school season wrapped up, Hunter went on to FloNationals where he took home the championship.

At the Cadet WTT’s, Catka ran through the field on his way to the finals, outscoring his foes by a combined score of 28-1, in three matches. In the championship series, Hunter needed to get by Braxton Mikesell (Washington), the Greco world team rep. These two met at this tournament a year ago and it was Catka who came out on top 10-0. Though the scores were not techs this time around, Hunter was never in trouble and got by 7-1 and 8-0 for a spot on the world team.

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