Graphic and official release courtesy of Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling.
While the U.S. wrestling community is gearing up for the annual NCAA Div. I Championships in Detroit this weekend, fans of Senior international freestyle wrestling have another huge competition that has captured their attention and focus this week.
The best-of-three series between 2016 Olympic champion and two-time World champion Kyle Snyder and 2016 Olympic medalist and two-time World champion J’den Cox is the headliner of this loaded 16-match card (or maybe 17 if Cox-Snyder goes to a third match). It will be hosted at Motor City Casino Hotel in Detroit, starting at 6:30 p.m., broadcast live on Rudis+ Fans can get tickets on Ticketmaster and attend live.
The card will include two boys high school showdowns, four big-time women’s freestyle matches and eight men’s freestyle battles, in addition to the Snyder vs. Cox headliner.
What more can be said about Snyder and Cox? Much of their international career has been at different weight classes, as Snyder wrestles at 97 kg, while Cox started at 86 kg and moved up to 92 kg. Some people forget that Cox was at 97 kg early in his career when he entered Senior-level events while still in college. These two were on a collision course to wrestle at 97 kg for the 2020 Olympic year, but then the pandemic hit, and then the match didn’t happen prior to the Olympic Games (and you know that story).
Both of these athletes win a medal every time they represent the USA at the Senior level. Snyder’s record goes 2015 World gold, 2016 Olympic gold, 2017 World gold, 2018 World silver, 2019 World bronze, 2020 Olympic silver, 2021 World silver. That is an amazing seven-for-seven. Cox’s medals in order are 2016 Olympic bronze, 2017 World bronze, 2018 World gold, 2019 World gold, 2021 World bronze. That’s five-for-five in medal winning.
Wrestling fans understand that these athletes have different styles, while both have amazing skills and technique. Cox uses his motion and speed to his advantage, while Snyder wears down opponents with his pressure and power. Both have well-developed defense, making it difficult to score on them. What will make this series even better is that both athletes are highly motivated to display their best. With the 2024 Paris Games coming soon (those Trials are just about two years away), they are expected to be at the same Olympic weight class. This is for a lot more than just bragging rights and prize money.
Snyder vs. Cox bout one is match No. 9 on the card, with bout two at the end as match No. 16. If the series is split, they turn around and come back for one more match…
Let’s take a quick look at the other showdowns, first with the high schoolers, then the women, then the men.
The first two matches of the night are the prep stars. It opens with Jesse Mendez of Indiana vs. Casey Swiderski of Michigan. In the FloWrestling Pound for Pound rankings, Mendez (an Ohio State commit) is No. 2, while Swiderski (an Iowa State recruit) is at No. 17. Mendez is ranked at 138 pounds, while Swiderski is at 145. This one is expected to be amazing.
Next up is Caleb Henson of Georgia against Hunter Garvin of Iowa, both who are nationally ranked at 152. Henson (a Virginia Tech commit) is No. 6 in the Pound for Pound, while Garvin (heading for Stanford), is not in the Pound for Pound. In the 152 rankings, however, Henson is No. 1 and Garvin is No. 3. This is a big-time showdown.
The women’s and men’s matches are mixed in during the card, but we will look at the women’s bouts in the order they appear.
Match 4 is young star Emily Shilson against veteran Erin Golston. Shilson has won World titles at the Cadet, Junior and U23 levels, and is unbeaten in college (with three NCWWC and one WCWA title). Golston has been on the national team numerous times and also won three Junior World medals. For Shilson to climb the Senior level ladder in the future, she needs to get past Golston.
Match 7 is Kennedy Blades vs. Victoria Francis at 72 kg. Blades, a Junior World champion who is finishing up high school this year, will battle a two-time World Team member in Francis. Blades reached the finals of the U.S. Olympic Trials down at 68 kg, and was second in the 2021 World Team Trials at 72 kg. Francis has competed at both 72 kg and 76 kg, so this is a weight where she is comfortable.
Match 11 is Kayla Miracle vs. Emma Bruntil at 62 kg. Miracle has reached the top of the ladder in the USA, making the 2020 Olympic Team then winning a World silver medal in 2021. Bruntil was an NCWWC national champion at McKendree but went in the portal and is now focused on Senior wrestling. At 65 kg, she has recent wins over World medalists Mallory Velte and Forrest Molinari. Miracle has a win over Bruntil way back in the 2017 U23 World Team Trials.
Match 15, the final bout before Snyder-Cox round two, is Olympic bronze medalist and two-time World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt against Ronna Gross at 53 kg. Hildebrandt won her first World medal at 53 kg, but the last two down at 50 kg. Gross (maiden name Heaton) is a past Cadet World champion and was second in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials and World Team Trials at 53 kg. They haven’t met at the Senior level, so this will be an interesting test for them both.
Here are the men’s matches, in their order.
Match 3 is David McFadden vs. Mitch Finesilver at 79 kg. This is an international match, because Finesilver, a Colorado native who wrestled for Duke, competes for Israel. McFadden, a star at Virginia Tech now with the PRTC, was on the 2018 U.S. U23 World Team. Finesilver won a 2021 European Senior bronze medal, a big achievement in his progression in freestyle.
Match 5 features Evan Henderson vs. Seth Gross at 65 kg, which could be a wide-open battle. Gross was an NCAA champion for South Dakota State and finished up at Wisconsin. Henderson wrestled for North Carolina. Gross is moving up in size, having wrestled at 57 kg at Olympic Trials and 61 kg at the 2021 World Team Trials.
Match 6 is another international bout, with Derek White vs. Amar Dhesi at 125 kg. Both were college All-Americans, with White at Oklahoma State and Dhesi at Oregon State. Dhesi wrestles for Canada, won a Junior World title and has competed at the Olympics and World Championships. White is an up-and-coming talent at heavyweight.
Match 8 highlights Kollin Moore and Nate Jackson at 97 kg. Moore, a past Ohio State star, comes off a great 2021, where he was second at the Olympic Trials at 97 kg and second at the World Team Trials at 92 kg. Jackson, who wrestled at Indiana and is now with the NJRTC, has been one of the busiest wrestlers in recent seasons but has not squared up with Moore in this kind of setting.
Match 10 has two big-time stars in Isaiah Martinez vs. Alex Dieringer at 79 kg. Dieringer, a three-time NCAA champion for Oklahoma State and Martinez, a two-timer for Illinois, have a history. They competed against each other both at 74 kg and 79 kg, with Dieringer holding the edge. Most recently, Dieringer beat him at the 2021 World Team Trials at 79 kg. These guys are both back in the same weight class as Jordan Burroughs (by the way), since they both battled Burroughs at 74 kg a few years ago.
Match 12 features other well-known rivals in Myles Martin vs. Mark Hall at 86 kg. Both were NCAA champions, Martin at Ohio State and Hall at Penn State. Hall has the deeper age-group resume, with two Junior World titles and a Cadet World title. Hall has moved up to Martin’s weight, and pinned Martin in the 2021 Pellicone in Italy. Both will be in the hunt at this weight heading into Paris 2024.
Match 13 pits Jordan Oliver vs. Alec Pantaleo at 70 kg. Oliver, who won the Olympic Team Trials at 65 kg, has competed often at 70 kg over the years. Oliver won two NCAA titles for Oklahoma State, while Pantaleo starred at Michigan. Pantaleo had a 4-4 win over Oliver in the Flo 8-Man Challenge during the pandemic. Both of these guys are capable of making World Teams, so this battle could happen in the future as well.
Match 14 pits past World Team teammates, as Zain Retherford and James Green go at it at 70 kg. Retherford, three-time NCAA champion for Penn State, and Green, a Nebraska star, were usually at different weights, with Retherford at 65 kg and Green at 70 kg. Green came down to 65 kg for the 2016 Olympic Trials and lost to Retherford. Recently, Retherford moved up for the 2021 World Team Trials, but they didn’t meet at that event, won by Green. With Retherford at this weight for a while, we might see this pairing more often moving forward.
If you are able to get to Detroit and attend this card, please know that the “All We See Is Gold” After Party, run by Lauren and Jordan Burroughs, will follow at the Amnesia Room at the MotorCity Casino. Tickets can be ordered on the same website as tickets for the Super Match.
At Detroit, Michigan, March 16
Match 1: 145 lbs. – Jesse Mendez vs. Casey Swiderski
Match 2: 153 lbs. – Caleb Henson vs. Hunter Garvin
Match 3: 79 kg – David McFadden vs. Mitch Finesilver
Match 4: 50 kg – Emily Shilson vs. Erin Golston
Match 5: 65 kg – Evan Henderson vs. Seth Gross
Match 6: 125 kg – Derek White vs. Amar Dhesi
Match 7: 72 kg – Kennedy Blades vs. Victoria Francis
Match 8: 97 kg – Kollin Moore vs. Nate Jackson
Match 9: 97 kg – Kyle Snyder vs. J’den Cox, Match One
Match 10: 79 kg – Isaiah Martinez vs. Alex Dieringer
Match 11: 62 kg – Kayla Miracle vs. Emma Bruntil
Match 12: 86 kg – Myles Martin vs. Mark Hall
Match 13: 70 kg – Jordan Oliver vs. Alec Pantaleo
Match 14: 70 kg – Zain Retherford vs. James Green
Match 15: 53 kg – Sarah Hildebrandt vs. Ronna Gross
Match 16: 97 kg – Kyle Snyder vs. J’den Cox, Match Two**
** Best of Three Series. If tied at 1 match each, a third match will be held.
OFFICIAL BOUT-BY-BOUT RESULTS
@RUDISPLUS SUPER MATCH
At Detroit, Michigan, March 16
Main Event (best of three-series)
97 kg – Kyle Snyder dec. J’den Cox, two matches to none
Match 1– Kyle Snyder dec. J’den Cox, 5-5
Match 2 – Kyle Snyder dec. J’den Cox, 7-1
Other matches on the card (in order of appearance)
Match 1: 145 lbs. HS Folkstyle –Casey Swiderski dec. Jesse Mendez, 10-4
Match 2: 153 lbs. HS Freestyle – Caleb Henson dec. Hunter Garvin, 8-6
Match 3: 79 kg – David McFadden dec. Mitch Finesilver, 6-2
Match 4: 50 kg – Erin Golston dec. Emily Shilson, 2-2
Match 5: 65 kg – Evan Henderson dec. Seth Gross, 13-11
Match 6: 125 kg –Amar Dhesi dec. Derek White, 12-7
Match 7: 72 kg – Kennedy Blades tech. fall Victoria Francis, 11-1
Match 8: 97 kg – Kollin Moore dec. Nate Jackson, 4-4
Match 10: 79 kg – Alex Dieringer dec. Isaiah Martinez, 4-1
Match 11: 62 kg – Kayla Miracle dec. Emma Bruntil, 8-2
Match 12: 86 kg – Mark Hall dec. Myles Martin, 2-1
Match 13: 70 kg – Alec Pantaleo dec. Jordan Oliver, 4-1
Match 14: 70 kg – James Green dec. Zain Retherford, 4-0
Match 15: 53 kg – Sarah Hildebrandt tech. fall Ronna Gross, 10-0