photo courtesy of Richard Immel
Only one tournament at the US Open was contested to set the lineup for a world team this summer and that was the Junior Greco Open. Nine of the ten members are locked in and it looks like a promising group. Three wrestlers have made the Junior World team for at least a second time. One other member of the team has world-level experience as a Cadet. Team USA would like to preserve and improve on a three-year streak where at least two Juniors have come away from the worlds with a medal. One medalist returns, the anchor of the lineup, Cohlton Schultz. Here is a brief background on each of the ten Open winners, along with their paths to their title.
55 kg – Dylan Ragusin (Montini Catholic, IL)
A high school junior from powerhouse Montini Catholic, Dylan Ragusin may be the youngest member of this team, but he has plenty of Greco experience. The Stanford commit, Ragusin, was a Cadet Greco World Team member in 2017, at 46 kg and finished in seventh-place. Dylan is also a two-time Cadet National Champion in Greco and was fifth in Junior Greco last summer in Fargo. In 2017, he came home with a Cadet double championship. Dylan has been a part of some of the most brutal high school brackets in the country, as a lightweight in Illinois. This year he captured his first state title, after falling in the finals in his first two years.
Ragusin was the third seed in the Junior Greco-Roman bracket that included 2017 Junior World silver medalist Cevion Severado, though the pair did not meet. Dylan’s toughest match of the tournament came in the quarterfinals when he edged Northern Colorado’s Jace Koelzer, 4-3. In the finals, Ragusin
60 kg – Mason Hartshorn (Northern Michigan)
The California native Hartshorn was a state qualifier for Freedom High School as a senior. During his time in high school, Hartshorn placed fifth twice in Fargo’s Junior Greco tournament. Earlier this year, Hartshorn competed at the Dave Schultz Memorial, but lost to a pair of Senior level competitors. Last year at the Open, Hartshorn fell in the finals of the 63 kg weight class to the next wrestler on the team, Alston Nutter. He then went on the lose in the finals of the challenge tournament at the Junior World Team Trials.
At this year’s Open, Hartshorn had the top seed and showed why he was given such high billing. He only surrendered one point in four matches, before his best-of-three finals series with Haiden Drury. Mason only need the first two matches, winning 7-1 and then 4-1, to clinch his first spot on a world team at any age level.
63 kg – Alston Nutter (Northern Michigan)
Nutter will be making his second consecutive appearance on the Junior World Team. In 2019, he teched Utah Valley’s Dylan Gregerson in two straight matches to secure his berth on the world team. At worlds, in Trnava, Slovakia, Nutter dropped his first match to Erbol Bakirov (Kyrgyzstan), but was pulled back into repechage when Bakirov made the finals. Unfortunately, Alston did not advance further and had to settle for 27th place.
Alston stormed through the 63 kg bracket with techs in each of his first three matches. All three of those bouts were closed out in less than a minute and a half. It was more of the same in the finals as Nutter took both matches from 2018 Cadet World Team member Hunter Lewis by tech 12-3 and 16-8. Neither of the two matches made it to the second period.
67 kg – Peyton Omania (Michigan State)
Omania spent his first year at Michigan State taking a redshirt, while competing at 149 lbs. Overall, he was able to amass a 19-6 record which included open tournament wins at the Storm Open and the Alma College Open. Prior to college, Omania was a two-time California state placewinner, capped off by a state title in his senior season. Last summer, before enrolling at Michigan State, Peyton won a Junior Greco national title in Fargo. The year prior, he had lost in the Junior Greco finals. Not only did Omania made the Junior World team last year, but he had also made the Cadet World team back in 2016.
This year’s Open presented Omania with a couple of viable challengers. In the semi’s he had to overcome Dominic Damon, a Cadet World Team member in 2018. He did so by the score of 9-4. In the finals, Peyton had another tough opponent Benji Peak. Benji was a runner-up at the 2018 Open at 60 and went on to win the Junior WTT’s. Peak was not able to compete on the world team, as he did not make weight for a wrestle-off with Taylor Lamont. Omania won both of their finals bout in hard-fought fashion 6-4 and 7-4.
72 kg – Tyler Eischens (Stanford)
Like Omania, Tyler Eischens is just wrapping up his first year in college, a season that he spent redshirting for Stanford. Eischens had a redshirt record of 19-6, the exact same as his new Junior World teammate Omania. In high school, Tyler was a 2017 state champion and a four-time state finalist. During his time in Fargo, Eischens made the Cadet and Junior Greco finals, one time a piece. This is the first time that he has made a world team at any age level.
Eischens entered the US Open as the top seed in a bracket that featured the 2018 Junior World Team member James Burks; however, the two did not meet. Tyler was able to navigate the 72 kg tournament with little trouble. His closest match of the competition was a 7-1 win in the semis over Britton Holmes. That set up a best-of-three final with his friend and fellow Minnesota native Calvin Germinaro. In the 2018 Junior WTT’s Germinaro made the challenge tournament final before falling to Lenny Merkin. In both of his finals matches, Eischens was able to end the match via fall, but only after racking up at least 13 points in both matches.
77 kg – Jack Ervien (White River, WA)
*****This spot has not been set quite yet. 2018 world team member Tyler Dow will get an opportunity to wrestle-off for this spot since he competed at the Senior US Open****
Perhaps the most surprising winner at the Open was Jack Ervien. Jack gave subtle hints of a big 2018-19 when he won the Reno Tournament of Champions in December. He would go on to make the Washington state finals, the second time in his career that he placed in the top three in the state. The Campbell-commit Ervien, recently was fourth at NHSCA Senior Nationals. Before the Open, his best Greco credentials came in Fargo last July when he was seventh at the Junior level.
Jack came into the US Open unseeded and immediately pulled an upset, downing the fourth seed, Ankhaa Enkhmandakh 7-2. He earned a spot in the semis after teching fellow-unseeded wrestler Sammy Cokeley. It was another tech in the semis, this time over former Cadet World Team member Jake Hendricks, the top seed at 77 kg. Ervien earned the Open title after two pins in the finals, over fellow underdog, sixth-seeded Isaiah Alford.
82 kg – Zac Braunagel (Illinois)
Another redshirting freshman in this crew is Illinois’ Zac Bruanagel. Zac posted a solid 12-5 record during his initial season in Champaign. He won his first collegiate event, the Maryville Open, and then was a finalist at the Lindenwood Open, a week later. Braunagel was a three-time state placewinner and a two-time Illinois state champion. During his most recent trip to Fargo, Zac came away with the big stop sign after winning Junior Greco at 182 lbs. The previous summer, in 2017, he was third at the same tournament. In addition to earning a Junior National title in Greco last July, he also was third in freestyle. At the conclusion of the 2017-18 high school season, Zac took third at NHSCA Senior Nationals.
Braunagel’s tournament started off with little trouble earning first-period tech falls in the quarters and semi’s. In the final, he was tested by Clarion’s Max Wohlabaugh, but ultimately was still able to get the W in both matches 8-4 and 6-3.
87 kg – Cameron Caffey (Michigan State)
The most decorated collegiate wrestler on this list is Cameron Caffey. He is the only wrestler of this group to have officially competed for a DI school, which he did in 2018-19 when he made the NCAA Championships for the Spartans and went 2-2 at the big show. Caffey had an impressive 32-9 record which included a 19-match winning streak to start the season. Last year Cameron won the challenge tournament at the Junior WTT’s, but lost in the best-of-three finals. He then went on to wrestle at the Junior Pan-Am’s where he earned a gold medal in both Greco and freestyle.
Caffey put on one of the most impressive performances of any Junior wrestler in the Open. He earned pins in all four of his matches, none of which took longer than 2:03. Cameron’s finals opponent, Barrett Hughes, a victim of two pins himself, was a member of the 2019 Junior World team.
97 kg – Nicholas Boykin (Murfreesboro, TN–OTC)
Boykin has long been near the top of his respective age-group rankings for Greco, but finally got over the hump and made the world team. At one point, Nicholas had been competing at 130 kg, but he moved down to 97 kg for the Junior WTT’s last year. He entered that tournament as the one-seed, but was upset in the challenge tournament finals by the eventual world team member Chad Porter. Back in 2015, Boykin was a Cadet Greco National Champion in Fargo.
Nicholas made the finals of the Open by handling one of the top rising high school seniors in the country Braxton Amos of West Virginia. That set the stage for a series in the finals against the top seed Austin Harris of Oklahoma State. Boykin left nothing to doubt with a first-period fall in both matches to earn his Open championship.
130 kg – Cohlton Schultz (Ponderosa, CO)
For those that follow youth wrestling closely, no introduction is necessary for Cohlton Schultz. This is his third time on the Junior World team, he earned a bronze medal last year and did not medal in his first try. At the Cadet level, Schultz won gold at the 2016 World Championships. He was even a member of the 2018 U23 World team. The Arizona State-signee Schultz finished his high school career as a four-time Colorado state champion and also captured four Reno Tournament of Champions titles and two Walsh Ironman championships. Currently, Cohlton sits third on the Senior Greco ladder, as well.
Surprisingly enough, this was the only weight class that went to three matches at the Open. In one of the biggest upsets of the entire tournament, Schultz was pinned by Lee Herrington in the first match of the finals. Luckily, Schultz had two more opportunities against Herrington and he won both bouts by first-period techs 9-0 and 8-0.