photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; MatFocus.com
On day two at US Senior Nationals in Fort Worth, Texas, all six Greco-Roman champions were crowned, as well as half of the winners in women’s freestyle. Crowned may not be the correct word, stetson-ed could be. In addition to the standard plaque that a champion receives from a USA Wrestling event, the Fort Worth Sports Commission donated stetson hats, as well. The winners seemed to enjoy these gifts, as you will hear once our champion interviews are posted.
The most significant story from the women’s freestyle side was the return of two-time world medalist Alyssa Lampe. Lampe had not competed at a major event since the 2016 Olympic Trials and just decided to start training for this event in late April. Cornered by her new trainer, a former world team member herself, Erin Clodgo, Lampe laid waste to her opponents on the way to finals with two techs and a pin. In the championship bout, Alyssa faced two-time world team member Victoria Anthony, the top seed in the 50 kg weight class. Anthony jumped out to a 6-2 lead at the break, but Lampe was undeterred. Lampe tossed Anthony to the mat for a takedown, then repositioned herself with a half nelson and was able to end the match with another fall. Alyssa has immediately jumped into the conversation of contenders in an already-stacked, weight class at the Olympic Trials.
At the other two women’s weight classes, Dom Parrish (53 kg) and Abby Nette (57 kg) got their hands raised. Parrish overcame new rival Areana Villaescusa for the umpteenth time this year, 6-2. The two met at the US Open, the Senior World Team Trials, and the U23 WTT’s. Nette needed to get a late reversal and a takedown at the buzzer to hold off the ninth-seed Tiana Jackson.
Half of the champions in the Greco-Roman tournament came from the Army WCAP program. Leslie Fuenffinger (60 kg), Alejandro Sancho (67 kg), and Jon Anderson (87 kg) all train with the Army and have the potential to get high seeds at the Olympic Trials with their wins on Saturday evening. Fuenffinger had already defeated a former world team member (Dalton Roberts) in the semis, before getting by Sam Jones in the finals, 5-1. All of his scoring came in the second stanza. His teammate Sancho held off a strong challenge from young Calvin Germinaro, who was looking to add Sancho to his list of upsets. A four-point throw in the second blew the match open and gave Sancho a 7-2 lead. He would withstand a late charge from Germinaro to win 7-5. There was no such suspense for Anderson, who did not get to compete in the finals, after his opponent, Patrick Martinez, forfeited. However the win came for Anderson, it was his first national championship in a long, distinguished career.
The other three champions include Kamal Bey (77 kg), Dan Miller (97 kg), and Cohlton Schultz (130 kg). Bey used a four-point throw in the second period to overcome a threat from veteran Jake Fisher. The Marine Corps Miller was on the right side of another scrap with long-time rival Lucas Sheridan of the Army WCAP program. Sheridan defeated Miller at the WTT’s with a berth at Final X on the line. The Arizona State freshman Schultz continues to grow and did not allow Jacob Mitchell to get in any favorable positions during a 2-0 win.
In addition to the nine finals, the men’s freestyle portion of the tournament kicked off with plenty of fireworks. 57 kg was one of the most anticipated weights of the competition and it didn’t disappoint. Fans and media-alike had visions of a possible Spencer Lee/Nick Suriano matchup in the semifinals; however, that was spoiled by Vito Arujau, who upset Suriano in the quarters. Arujau ended up giving Lee his biggest challenge of the day, but even so, Lee ended up winning by a tech fall 14-4. He’ll face former Ohio State national champion, Nathan Tomasello, in the tournament final.
Upsets were the word of the day for the rest of the freestyle tournament. Tomasello was one of only two top seeds to make it to the finals. The other four all went down in the semifinals.
At 65 kg Joey McKenna got a measure of revenge on #1 Yianni Diakomihialis for their 2019 NCAA finals match. McKenna got a takedown that would put him up 5-5 on criteria, which was awarded as time expired. Diakomihalis’ corner challenged the ruling, which was upheld by the officials. McKenna will have to face Jordan Oliver in the finals. Oliver is coming off four straight 10-0 tech falls.
Another one seed lost on a buzzer-beater at 86 kg when Myles Martin downed Alex Dieringer. Martin secured a winning takedown two seconds before time expired and there was no such controversy surrounding Martin’s win. All-in-all, he stunned Dieringer with a pair of second-period takedowns in a 6-4 win. Myles will have Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia in the title bout.
A pair of active collegiate wrestlers will clash at 74 kg when Logan Massa takes on Mekhi Lewis. Massa has piled on the points in his last two matches, an 18-8 win over Anthony Valencia and a 15-6 victory against top-seeded Nazar Kulchytskyy. Lewis’ trademark defense has continued to confound his opponents. He was shutting out Chance Marsteller 8-0 before an injury stopped their quarterfinal matches and only surrendered a step-out to Tommy Gantt during a 3-1 semifinal win.
The final wrestler with Ohio State ties to take the mat Saturday was Kollin Moore at 97 kg. While Moore fell behind early 2-0, he was never rattled and upset the top seed, Kyven Gadson, 6-3. Win a win over a 2019 Final X participant already in the bag, Moore will have one from 2018 in the finals with Hayden Zillmer. The second-seeded Zillmer got by #3 Ty Walz 4-3 in the semis.
The veterans shined at the largest weight class,125 kg. Top seed Tony Nelson was too much for Penn State freshman Daniel Kerkvliet, winning 3-2. Dom Bradley was all over another Nittany Lion, Anthony Cassar, 7-2 before the match was stopped due to a shoulder injury from Cassar.