photo courtesy of John Sachs; Tech-Fall.com
One of the first dominos to fall on a busy weekend in Akron, Ohio was when the U23 Greco-Roman team was officially set. In the three years that we have sent teams to the U23 World Championships, this is by far the most talented and experienced Greco squad. Of course, the two previous American teams have gone a combined 0-18, with regards to bringing home medals. The 2019 team, which will head to Budapest, Hungary September 28-October 3, is looking to erase that zero and bring back multiple medals. They will be led by two wrestlers that will be making their third U23 World Team, along with two others that have made a U23 World Team in the past. This team has a pair of Junior world medalists and six of its ten team members have made a world team at one age group or another. So without any further introductions, the 2019 U23 Greco-Roman World Team….
55 kg – Liam Cronin
Liam Cronin just finished his redshirt sophomore season at Indiana, going 18-13 while primarily competing in open tournaments. He did go 2-5 in dual meet action with one of those wins coming during a Big Ten meet. In high school, Liam was a two-time California state finalist and placed top three in both Junior freestyle and Greco-Roman in his last trip to Fargo, which was in the summer of 2015.
Friday, Cronin went through the U23 WTT’s without surrendering a single point. He caught a break when the top-seed at the weight, Sean Sesnan lost in the opening round to Sam Braswell, 15-14. Liam capitalized with a tech fall over Braswell, in the first minute of the semifinals, to set up a best-of-three final with 2017 Junior World silver medalist Cevion Severado. The Missouri Tiger Severado was not much of a test for Cronin who swept the series 5-0, 3-0. This is the first world team at any level for Cronin and he becomes the first Indiana Hoosier to make a world team under second-year head coach Angel Escobedo.
60 kg – Randon Miranda
Going into this tournament, we expected for 60 kg to be one of the most competitive weights and it did not disappoint, even if Dalton Roberts was up at 63 kgs. Randon Miranda was one of the favorites here and lived up to his billing. Miranda didn’t get pushed in the early rounds of the tournament as he made the finals after three consecutive techs, with only one coming out of the first round. His finals opponent was a familiar face in Taylor LaMont, a six-time Cadet and Junior world team member. Randon took the first match in their series on the strength of a four-point sequence that was review and initially score in favor of LaMont. Taylor was able to even the score by winning the second match 2-1. That set the stage for a winner-take-all third match that Miranda won by getting on the scoreboard early with a four-pointer and never looking back.
This marks the second year in a row where Miranda has made our U23 World Team. The previous two years he was our representative on the Junior World Team, as well. So far, in 2019, Miranda has won the Dave Schultz Memorial, finished as the runner-up at the World Team Trials, and took fourth at the US Open. He will be seeking his first international medal later this year.
63 kg – Dalton Roberts
Also a veteran of the U23 World Team, Dalton Roberts made his first back in 2017. In 2018, he made his first Senior World Team, after making two Junior World Teams. Last year Roberts made the U23 finals, but fell to Miranda in three matches. The two have been going back and forth all year, but for this tournament, they get to be teammates. One of the wins for Roberts came in the consolation finals of the US Open, where he took third. One of the better showings for Dalton came at the Dave Schultz where he would finish third.
As one may expect, Roberts cruised in his first two matches with tech falls, both under a minute and a half. He was pushed to the brink in the semi’s though by Western Wyoming’s Kyle Evans, but hung on with a 5-4 win. Once in the finals, it was back to Roberts usual self and he dominated Dylan Gregerson in two straight matches 4-0, 8-0.
67 kg – Peyton Omania
It looks like it will be a busy “offseason” for Michigan State’s Peyton Omania. Peyton has already earned a spot on the Junior Greco-Roman World Team with his showing in Vegas, now he’ll have the opportunity to compete for a second world medal at the U23’s in Budapest. Omania will be a redshirt freshman during the 2019-20 campaign and figures to be in the hunt for a starting spot at 149 lbs, after going 19-6 while competing unattached. He earned titles at both the Storm Open and the Alma College Open. Peyton is no stranger to the international circuit, as he was a member of the Junior World Team last summer and the Cadet World Team in 2016.
The road to his first U23 world team was anything but smooth as Peyton ran into Dom Demas a three-time age group world team member (in Greco) during the semis. Down 3-3 on criteria late in the second period, Omania was able to pull ahead and win 6-3. The finals presented a new challenge in the returning U23 World Team member Nolan Baker. Peyton took the first match, a high-scoring affair, 14-9, yet was pinned during the second bout. He would take the rubber match 6-3, which gave him his spot on the team.
72 kg – Lenny Merkin
The NJ RTC gets another World Team member in Lenny Merkin, after Pat Downey has locked up a spot on the team and Tyler Graff will be competing in Final X Lincoln. Merkin just wrapped up his junior year at Princeton where he went 9-6 while splitting time between 157 and 165 lbs. Lenny has the talent to make the NCAA Tournament, as evidenced by his three 2019 wins over NCAA qualifiers in only 15 matches; he just needed more mat time. Lenny has also made himself a fixture at most domestic Greco events, usually placing near the top, but this weekend was his big breakthrough.
There was not anyone before the finals that was able to give Merkin much of a test, as he outscored his competition 24-1 in his first three matches. The last of those three came over 2019 EIWA champion Anthony Artalona of Penn. It was more of the same in the finals where he won the first round against Britton Holmes, 5-2, before putting an exclamation point on clinching the world team spot with a pin of Holmes in the second match.
77 kg – Jesse Porter
In the three years that the U23 World Championships have been existence, Jesse Porter has earned a spot on the team each time. He will surely be looking to improve upon his 16th and 25th place showing in his first two trips. Porter has been remarkably consistent in 2019 taking fourth at the WTT’s Challenge Tournament, fifth at the US Open, and third at the Dave Schultz.
After two dominating performances in the first two rounds of the U23 WTT’s, Porter ran into a tough competitor in the semi’s, 2017 Cadet World Team member Jake Hendricks. Jesse jumped out to a 3-0 lead at the break, but held off a rally from Hendricks to win 3-2. He then would face a familiar foe in the finals, Fritz Schierl. The pair had met in the 2018 U23 WTT finals, as well. Porter would take the series by winning the first two bouts in workman-like fashion 5-1, 4-1, to confirm his third appearance on the team.
82 kg – Andrew Berreyesa
This was another weight class that we pegged pre-tournament as one that could be fun and it did not disappoint. The top four seeds made the semifinals which led Andrew Berreyesa to meet number-one, Tommy Brackett. These two are quite familiar with each other and split a pair of matches at the Open. This time it was Berreyesa who prevailed 3-2. He would then face the two-time All-American from Oklahoma State, Chandler Rogers. Chandler had run roughshod over the bottom half of the bracket, including Open runner-up Spencer Woods in the semis. Rogers provided little resistance for Berreyesa in the finals losing by tech 10-1 in the opening bout, before falling 7-2 in the second.
Andrew just completed his freshman year competing for Cornell. He went 16-11 overall, starting the year at 174 lbs, before dropping to 165 in late January. Last year Berreyesa earned the silver medal at the Junior World Championships, his first world team at any level. Also in 2018, Andrew was the runner-up to Carter Nielsen at this tournament. While he had success in all three styles in high school, Berreyesa’s best results came in Greco, which included a Junior National title at Fargo in 2017.
87 kg – Matt Finesilver
One of the biggest surprises of this team is that Duke’s Matt Finesilver was able to come through the bracket at 87 kg and make the U23 team. Not that Finesilver isn’t talented; he was the 12th seed, at 174 lbs, at the 2019 NCAA Championships during his sophomore campaign, he just doesn’t have a track record in Greco. Matt has had a strong spring wrestling freestyle, where he earned a berth at the Senior WTT’s after his fourth-place showing at the US Open. In two years of competition at Duke, Matt has racked up a 51-20 record and was a 2019 ACC runner-up.
No one at the U23 Greco WTT’s can say that they took out more higher seeded opponents than Finesilver. In his opening match, he downed #5 Timothy Eubanks by tech 9-1. It was more of the same in the quarters as he teched the returning runner-up at this event #4 Jimmy Stillerman 9-0. The semis gave him #1 Barrett Hughes, a returning Junior World Team member, and he was handed a convincing 12-5 loss. In the finals, OTC resident Blake Smith was not able to score upon Matt in two straight matches, losing 8-0, 7-0.
97 kg – G’Angelo Hancock
At this point, it may be easier to list which world teams Tracy “G’Angelo” Hancock is not a part of compared to ones he has made. Hancock was probably the biggest favor of any wrestler in this tournament, and he lived up to the hype, making his third consecutive U23 World Team. He’ll have the opportunity to make his third Senior team later this month, as well. In 2016, G’Angelo won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships, but that is his only world medal at any age group….yet!
Hancock did what was expected of him earned two tech falls and a pin on his route to the finals. There he would meet the 2018 Junior World Team member Chad Porter. G’Angelo did not need the second period in either of his matches against Porter winning 9-1 in the first and 8-0 in the second.
130 kg – Tate Orndorff
With a spot on the Junior World Team under his belt and a date against Adam Coon in Final X on the horizon, 2018 U23 World Team member Cohlton Schultz did not compete. That opened the door for Cohlton’s 2018 U23 finals opponent Tate Orndorff. Tate just finished his freshman year at Utah Valley and was an NCAA qualifier and Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational finalist. Orndorff was also a finalist at the US Open and competed in the WTT’s.
At the U23 WTT’s, Orndorff appeared to be on a level of his own, as the only opponent that was able to muster a point against his was his first round foe, Thomas Killoran. After a pin and a 6-0 shutout, Tate was into the best-of-three finals against fellow 2019 NCAA qualifier Haydn Maley of Stanford. It was more of the same for Orndorff in the championship matches as he breezed through 9-0 and 8-0.