Team Illinois wins 2021 Junior Nationals men’s freestyle team title; Iowa’s Ayala named Outstanding Wrestler
by Joe Wedra, Special to TheMat.com
Photo of Outstanding Wrestler Drake Ayala. Photo by Tony Rotundo/WrestlersAreWarriors
FARGO, N.D. — Team Illinois took home the team title of the 2021 Junior Nationals as the men’s freestyle finals action wrapped up on Tuesday at the FargoDome. Iowa’s Drake Ayala won the Outstanding Wrestler award after winning his finals bout at 126 pounds, becoming a two-time Junior Nationals champion. Team Michigan led the way with three individual champions.
Ayala, who is committed to the University of Iowa, wasted no time to pick up his 126-pound Fargo title. Wrestling Indiana’s #12 Sergio Lemley, a 2021 USA Wrestling Junior Folkstyle Nationals champion, Ayala scored multiple times and used a strong gut wrench to finish up the win. Ayala, a three-time 3A Iowa state champion, continues to pick up impressive accolades before he begins his career with the Hawkeyes.
The session wrapped with the largest upset of the day, as Wisconsin’s Ben Kawczynski (285 pounds) knocked off Georgia’s top-ranked Chase Horne in the finals with a 12-4 upset victory. Kawczynski, who is set to wrestle at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, stacked scores throughout both periods to win in dominant fashion. He placed third at the 2021 USA Wrestling Junior Folkstyle Nationals and was a 2021 Wisconsin DI state champion at 285. Horne, an N.C. State commit, entered the tournament ranked as the No. 13 pound-for-pound wrestler in the nation by FloWrestling.
In perhaps the premier ranked-on-ranked match of the session, #3 Jordan Williams of Oklahoma pulled off an impressive late move to defeat Iowa’s #4 Caleb Rathjen, a University of Iowa commit. Williams was trailing the 3-1 match late, but pulled off late heroics to win the title. With Rathjen in on a leg with under 10 seconds left, Williams rolled him through on a crotch lift for two as time expired. The move was reviewed, but ultimately confirmed to give Williams the 3-3 win on criteria. Williams is now a three-time champion at this event, winning the 16U division twice (2018, 2019).
Starting the finals action at 100 pounds, Zane Donley of Oklahoma captured the first Fargo title of the day. In an action-packed match against Indiana’s Nate Smith, Donley, the 2021 Southern Plains Junior regional champion, found an upper-body takedown late in the first and used a handful of tilts to wrap up a 13-2 win. It is significant to note that Donley, a rising sophomore at Vinita High School, was the only 15-year-old finalist in Tuesday’s competition.
At 106, Missouri’s Hunter Taylor took home the title over Minnesota’s Brandon Morvari. Taylor, a 2021 Southern Plains Junior Regionals champion in freestyle and Greco-Roman, started quickly in the first period and never let up. He closed out the 10-0 tech fall early in the second period with a hard-fought score, providing Missouri with an individual champion.
Michigan’s #4 (at 106) Braeden Davis, a 2020 Michigan state champion (103 pounds) found his way to an 11-1 win over #11 Benjamin Aranda (Illinois) in the 113-pound finals to secure his Fargo title. He fired out of the gate with an 8-0 lead just 90 seconds into the match with a pair of scores and a trap-arm gut. Aranda fought into the break, but Davis used a single to a score in the first minute of the second period to win. Davis, a 2019 16U Nationals freestyle champion, is a rising junior at Dundee High School.
It was #12 Kannon Webster of Illinois who took home the title at 120 pounds with a 12-1 tech fall win over Washington’s Yusief Lillie, who is set to attend Utah Valley University. Webster scored multiple times in the first and used a gut wrench to extend the lead early, good to gain momentum to cruise to the victory. Webster, a 2020 Illinois 2A state champion, is committed to Illinois.
Nasir Bailey had one of the most dramatic wins of the finals session, knocking off Arizona’s #13 Emilio Ysaguirre Jr. in exciting fashion. Bailey was trailing late, 4-2, but worked his way to a leg with under 10 seconds left in the match. He finished the score at the edge of the mat with just one second to go, good to win the 4-4 bout on criteria. Bailey, a two-time state champion, will be a junior at Homewood-Flossmoor High School.
#15 Tagen Jamison of Texas won the title at 138 pounds, highlighted by a four-point score late in the match to win, 7-2, over Michigan’s #7 Casey Swiderski. Jamison, a 2021 National High School Showcase champion, held off a late push from Swiderski to secure his Fargo national title. The two-time Texas 6A state champion will attend Minnesota. Swiderski is committed to Iowa State.
Georgia’s #3 Caleb Henson picked up the title at 152 pounds, knocking off New Jersey’s Daniel Wask in a back-and-forth 9-9 bout in which Henson held criteria. Henson, a Virginia Tech commit and two-time Georgia state champion, was down 5-3 at the break but stormed back with a pair of takedowns and defense late to secure the title. Wask was one of eight unranked wrestlers in the finals field.
Another bout that featured plenty of late action was #9 Joshua Barr’s (Michigan) win over #10 Aiden Riggins (Iowa). Barr was trailing 4-2 late in the match, but managed to score two points on exposure with under 20 seconds left to post a 4-4 win on criteria. Barr, a 2021 Central Regional Junior freestyle champion, is a two-time Michigan DI state champion who will be a junior at Davison High School this year.
Michigan kept things rolling with #4 (at 182) Manuel Rojas’ 170-pound win over #14 Brayden Thompson of Illinois. A pair of takedowns, including one as time expired, completed the victory for Rojas, who took second at the 16U freestyle nationals in 2019. The two-time Michigan DI state champion is committed to Iowa State.
Maryland picked up an individual champion at the 182-pound weight class as #9 Thomas Stewart posted a significant 8-4 win over New Jersey’s #3 Brian Soldano, a Rutgers commit. Stewart began the match with a four-point throw and held momentum throughout, tacking on two more takedowns throughout the match to pair with his standout defense. Stewart won the 2019 16U Nationals in freestyle and is a three-time Prep School All-American.
Team Ohio’s #8 Dylan Fishback posted the only win via fall in the finals session, a standout victory over #5 Seth Shumate in the all-Ohio final. His win certainly came with style — not only did he secure the pin with 35 seconds left in the match, but he also hit a highlight-reel five-point throw in the first period. Fishback is an NC State commit. Shumate, who is committed to Ohio State, was a 2019 16U Freestyle Nationals champion.
Indiana’s #3 (at 195) Christian Carroll wrapped up a dominant 10-0 win at the 220-pound weight class, knocking off Iowa’s #11 Ben Kueter, a 2021 USA Wrestling Junior Folkstyle Nationals champion. Carroll, who was second at the 2021 UWW Junior Nationals in both freestyle and Greco-Roman, used a strong gut wrench in the first period to build his momentum and ultimately cruise to a title. He is committed to wrestle at Illinois.
Junior men will return to the mat on Thursday at 9 a.m. to begin their hunt for a Greco-Roman national title. In the meantime, follow along with FloWrestling as the Junior Women go under the spotlight and the 16U Greco tournament begins tomorrow.
JUNIOR FREESTYLE NATIONALS
At Fargo, N.D., July 20
1st Zane Donley (Oklahoma) tech-fall Nate Smith (Indiana), 13-2 2:29
3rd Treshaun Tecson (Oklahoma) tech-fall Tyson Roach (Louisiana), 10-0 1:17
5th Kolter Burton (Idaho) tech-fall Hank Kriegler (Nebraska), 12-1 2:00
7th Tucker Bowen (Idaho) fall Isaac Stewart (Montana), 6-4 3:44
1st Hunter Taylor (Missouri) tech-fall Brandon Morvari (Minnesota), 10-0 4:21
3rd Daniel Guanajuato (Arizona) dec. Christian Forbes (Oklahoma), 10-9
5th Connor Fiser (Iowa) dec. Wyatt Skebba (Wisconsin), 11-4
7th Isiac Paulino (Massachusetts) tech-fall Ty Edwards (Illinois), 10-0 1:06
1st Braeden Davis (Michigan) tech-fall Benjamin Aranda (Illinois), 11-1 3:37
3rd Alan Koehler (Minnesota) tech-fall Dominic Mendez (California), 11-1 3:42
5th Codie Cuerbo (Ohio) dec. Cole Hunt (Georgia), 11-10
7th Drew Heethuis (Michigan) forfeit Caden Horwath (Michigan)
1st Kannon Webster (Illinois) tech-fall Yusief Lillie (Washington), 12-1 4:22
3rd Cooper Flynn (Tennessee) dec. Jett Strickenberger (Colorado), 10-2
5th Grigor Cholakyan (California) dec. Dillon Campbell (Ohio), 8-1
7th Max Black (Colorado) forfeit Sean Seefeldt (Ohio)
1st Drake Ayala (Iowa) tech-fall Sergio Lemley (Indiana), 10-0 0:52
3rd Jore Volk (Minnesota) dec. Gabe Whisenhunt (Oregon), 11-7
5th Vincent Robinson (Illinois) tech-fall Braden Basile (Florida), 10-0 1:00
7th Nico Provo (Connecticut) tech-fall Sebastian Melguizo (Florida), 10-0 2:09
1st Nasir Bailey (Illinois) VPO1 Emilio Ysaguirre, jr. (Arizona), 4-4
3rd Nic Bouzakis (Pennsylvania) VSU Danny Nini (Florida), 11-0 1:29
5th Zeke Seltzer (Indiana) VFO Garrett Grice (Nebraska)
7th Hunter Mason (Tennessee) VFO Greyson Clark (Wisconsin)
1st Tagen Jamison (Texas) dec. Casey Swiderski (Michigan), 7-2
3rd Ty Whalen (New Jersey) inj. Kimo Leia (California)
5th Jude Swisher (Pennsylvania) dec. Blaine Brenner (Wisconsin), 7-6
7th Rocco Camillaci (New York) dec. Kole Brower (Illinois), 10-8
1st Jordan Williams (Oklahoma) dec. Caleb Rathjen (Iowa), 4-3
3rd Matthew Bianchi (Wisconsin) dec. Jackson Arrington (Pennsylvania), 14-6
5th Nicco Ruiz (California) tech-fall Richard Fedalen (Maryland), 15-5 6:00
7th Henry Porter (California) tech-fall Benjamin Alanis (Arizona), 12-1 4:17
1st Caleb Henson (Georgia) dec. Daniel Wask (New Jersey), 9-9
3rd Paniro Johnson (Pennsylvania) tech-fall Luka Wick (California), 12-12
5th Cael Swensen (Minnesota) dec. Erik Gibson (Pennsylvania), 14-3 2:57
7th Jacob Gonzales (Michigan) tech-fall Dylan d. Elmore (Kansas), 16-6 3:56
1st Joshua Barr (Michigan) dec. Aiden Riggins (Iowa), 4-4
3rd Rocco Welsh (Pennsylvania) dec. Braeden Scoles (Wisconsin), 6-3
5th Antrell Taylor (Nebraska) forfeit Luke Mechler (Wisconsin)
7th Holden Garcia (Pennsylvania) forfeit Adam Thebeau (Illinois)
1st Manuel Rojas (Michigan) dec. Brayden Thompson (Illinois), 5-2
3rd Luke Geog (Ohio) tech-fall Jared Stricker (Wisconsin), 11-0 1:07
5th Brody Baumann (Indiana) tech-fall Codei Khawaja (Indiana), 12-2 1:55
7th Sabino Portella (New Jersey) dec. Derek Matthews (Idaho), 11-10
1st Thomas Stewart (Maryland) dec. Brian Soldano (New Jersey), 8-4
3rd Hayden Walters (Oregon) inj. Bennett Berge (Minnesota)
5th Clayton Whiting (Wisconsin) tech-fall Jared Simma (Kansas), 15-2 2:35
7th Deanthony Parker (Illinois) tech-fall Griffin Gammell (Iowa), 10-0 2:44
1st Dylan Fishback (Ohio) fall Seth Shumate (Ohio), 8-3 5:25
3rd Rylan Rogers (Washington) dec. Kolby Franklin (Pennsylvania), 10-2
5th Caden Rogers (Pennsylvania) tech-fall John Gunderson (Wisconsin), 11-0 2:13
7th Evan Bates (Indiana) dec. Wyatt Voelker (Iowa), 2-2
1st Christian Carroll (Indiana) tech-fall Ben Kueter (Iowa), 12-0 3:24
3rd Noah Pettigrew (Georgia) dec. Martin Cosgrove (New Jersey), 8-3
5th Bennett Tabor (Minnesota) tech-fall Logan Shephard (Ohio), 10-0 3:32
7th Andrew Blackburn-forst (Illinois) forfeit Ben Vanadia (Ohio)
1st Ben Kawczynski (Wisconsin) dec. Chase Horne (Georgia), 12-4
3rd Ryan Boersma (Illinois) tech-fall Charles Crews iii (Pennsylvania), 13-1 4:35
5th Jamikael Lytle (California) fall Tristan Kemp (Massachusetts), 9-8 4:14
7th Ethan Vergara (Florida) forfeit Harley Andrews (Oklahoma), 0-0
Drake Ayala (IA)-126 lb champion
JUNIOR FREESTYLE WRESTLER WITH THE MOST FALLS
170 – Codei Khawaja (IN) – 4 pins in 4:41
1 – Illinois (130)
2 – Pennsylvania (111)
3 – Michigan (107)
4 – Wisconsin (103)
5 – Iowa (98)
6 – Indiana (95)
7 – Ohio (87)
8 – Minnesota (80)
9 – Oklahoma (79)
10 – New Jersey (72)
11 – California (68)
12 – Georgia (67)
13 – Arizona (37)
14 – Washington (35)
15– Maryland (32)
16 – Oregon (27)
17 – Florida
18 (tied) – Missouri & Texas (25)
20 – Nebraska (23)
21 – Tennessee (20)
22 – Colorado (17)
23 – Idaho (16)
24 (tied) – Louisiana & Massachusetts (12)
26 – Kansas (9)
27 (tied) – Connecticut & New York (5)
29 – Montana (2)