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Fargo Day 4 preview (7/16): Junior freestyle finals and start of Junior Women’s event

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Photo of Jordan Williams of Oklahoma by Austin Bernard.

If you love watching freestyle, you get to see the best high school freestyle wrestlers on both the boys and girls side in action on Tuesday. This day will showcase many of the best athletes who are expected to advance to the college and international levels and impact the sport for many years to come. If you enjoy watching great action and lots of points on the board, we will have that coming all day long.

WHAT FINISHES: Junior Nationals freestyle finals features talented stars going for the gold

The Junior Freestyle National finals are set for 1:00 p.m., with 22 athletes in the FloWrestling National Rankings on display in the gold-medal card. The only No. 1 competing in 285 pound star Chase Horne of Georgia, but there are 15 who are ranked in the top 10, a huge amount for a Junior Nationals finals.

Two remain alive for the Junior Triple Crown, Sergio Lemley of Indiana (126), ranked No. 13 nationally, and Ben Kueter of Iowa (220), who is ranked No. 11. Both face opponents with higher national rankings. Lemley has a steep hill to climb, facing No. 2 ranked senior Drake Ayala of Iowa, who is the only 2019 Junior Nationals champion who has reached the finals, looking to score a delayed repeat (with the 2020 Junior Nationals cancelled due to the pandemic).

Illinois, which won the Junior Nationals men’s freestyle event the last time that Junior Nationals was held in 2019, takes a secure lead into the final session. Illinois leads the team race with 112 points, with four in the finals and five in the consolations. Pennsylvania is 14 points behind with 98 points, but no finalists and nine in the consolations medal matches. Don’t be surprised to see Illinois back on the big stage with the team trophy once again.

Junior Freestyle Nationals Finals Pairings (with national rankings)

100: Nate Smith (Indiana) vs. Zane Donley (Oklahoma)

106: Brandon Morvari (Minnesota) vs. Hunter Taylor (Missouri)

113: #4 (at 106) Braeden Davis (Michigan) vs. #11 Benjamin Aranda (Illinois)

120: #12 Kannon Webster (Illinois) vs. Yusief Lillie (Washington)

126: #2 Drake Ayala (Iowa) vs. #12 Sergio Lemley (Indiana)

132: #13 Emilio Ysaguirre Jr. (Arizona) vs. Nasir Bailey (Illinois)

138: #15 Tagen Jamison (Texas) vs. #7 Casey Swiderski (Michigan)

145: #4 Caleb Rathjen (Iowa) vs. #3 Jordan Williams (Oklahoma)

152: #3 Caleb Henson (Georgia) vs. Daniel Wask (New Jersey)

160: #9 Joshua Barr (Michigan) vs. #10 Aiden Riggins (Iowa)

170: #14 Brayden Thompson (Illinois) vs. #4 (at 182) Manny Rojas (Michigan)

182: #9 Thomas Stewart (Maryland) vs. #3 Brian Soldano (New Jersey)

195: #8 Dylan Fishback (Ohio) vs. #5 Seth Shumate (Ohio)

220: #11 Ben Kueter (Iowa) vs. #3 (at 195) Christian Carroll (Indiana)

285: #1 Chase Horne (Georgia) vs. Ben Kawczynski (Wisconsin)

WHAT’S NEW: The Junior National women’s freestyle gets started with large and talented field

The size and depth of the Junior women’s freestyle national event in Fargo continues to grow and improve at an accelerated rate. Since the last Junior Nationals in 2019, high school girls wrestling has continued to add official state tournaments and set new records for participation. Even the year off in some states because of the pandemic has not seemed to slow this excitement and expansion much at all. The 16U women’s event was loaded with talent; the Junior event will be an even higher showcase of technique and ability, with considerable depth in most weight classes. There were 679 entries prior to weigh-ins, which is another strong increase.

The 2019 Junior National women’s champions who are back even after missing the 2020 season, include the popular Sage Mortimer of Utah (100 in 2019, 112 in 2021) and Montana Delawder (112 in 2019, 122 in 2021). A pair of 2019 Junior National runners-up are back this year. They include Faith Cole of Missouri (106 both years) and Jennifer Soto of California (117 in 2019, 122 this year).

Of the girls ranked No. 1 in the final National High School rankings in July, eight are entered in Fargo: Mortimer, plus Samara Chavez of Texas (112 this year), Amani Jones of Georgia (122), London Houston of Washington (132), Katerina Lange of Minnesota (144), Kylie Welker of Wisconsin (164), Jaycee Foeller of Missouri (180) and Eliana Bommarito of Michigan (225), Welker was second in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials this year, an amazing feat for a 17-year-old. There were a few No. 1 wrestlers who made the UWW Cadet World Team who might have also been here.

Traditionally, California wins the Jumior women’s division in Fargo, but that streak was ended in 2019 by Washington. However, based upon how California dominated the National Junior Duals in June in Tulsa, as well as the performance of the Cali girls in winning the 16U title, they still remain the favorite. However, there are a number of large and talented teams in the field this year, so the team race should be very exciting.


9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon - Junior Women: Session I - Preliminaries and Consolations

1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. - Junior Freestyle: Session VI - Finals, Medal Matches & Awards

4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. - Junior Women Freestyle: Session II - 1/8 Championship, Quarterfinals and Consolations