U23 Greco-Roman World Team Trials preview
by Mike Willis, USA Wrestling
This Thursday, the U23 World Team Trials kick off with Greco-Roman competition at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. The winners will represent the U.S. at the 2021 U23 World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia this November. All of the action can be streamed live on FloWrestling.
Taylor LaMont is perhaps the most intriguing entry at 55 kg. While he is a mainstay on the Greco scene, LaMont has competed at 60 kg for the vast majority of his Senior-level career, including a stint on the National Team. LaMont is a 2021 All-American for Utah Valley, a 2016 Junior World bronze medalist and a seven-time age-group World Team member. Another 2019 National Team member that should be in the mix is Brady Koontz, who was No. 2 at 55 kg. Koontz is a three-time age group World Team member. Jakason Burks, a 2018 Cadet World Team member, will also be looking for a breakthrough performance. Sam Braswell, who finished third at the 2020 U23 Nationals, is another wrestler to watch in the field.
2021 Senior Nationals runner-up Dylan Koontz, twin brother of Brady, is looking to claim a spot on his first World Team. He will face a talented field including Dylan Gregerson, the 2020 U23 Nationals champion at 63 kg. Gregerson also finished runner-up at this tournament in 2019. Another 2020 U23 Nationals champion in the field is Mason Carzino-Hartshorn, a 2019 Junior World Team member. Other wrestlers to keep your eyes on include 2019 Fargo Junior champion Camden Russell and Boo Dryden, a 2021 NCAA qualifier for Minnesota.
2016 Cadet World Team member Mosha Schwartz is registered at 63 kg. Schwartz was the 2020 Senior Nationals runner-up at 60 kg and is a two-time NCAA qualifier (2020,2021) for Northern Colorado. David Stepanian, the 2021 Senior Nationals runner-up is a strong contender in the field, as is Corbin Nirschl, a 2021 Senior Nationals fourth-place finisher. Rylee Molitor, a U23 third-place finisher in 2020, is another name to look for.
Alston Nutter will look to contend for a title at 67 kg. Nutter is a two-time Junior World Team member and a 2019 Junior World bronze medalist. He finished runner-up at the 2021 Senior Nationals. 2019 U23 Nationals third-place finisher, Jaden Enriquez, a 2017 Junior Fargo champion, could pose the biggest threat to Nutter.
Benji Peak, who is currently No. 3 on the National Team at 67 kg, bumped up to 72 kg for this tournament. Peak was the 2020 Senior Nationals champion and finished runner-up at both the U23 and UWW Junior Nationals in 2020. Another dangerous competitor in the bracket is 2019 U23 World Team member Lenny Merkin. In March, Merkin won the Last Chance Olympic Team Trials qualifier. He is also a 2020 Senior Nationals third-place finisher.
77 kg features a deep field with numerous competitors with the potential to make a title run. 2019 Junior World Team member Jack Ervien, Jr. will attempt to win his first U23 title. Last year, he finished runner-up in the Junior division and seventh at the U23 level. 2021 Senior Nationals runner-up Ryan Epps and fifth-place finisher Britton Holmes, who finished runner-up at the 2019 U23 Nationals, should also be in contention for a World Team spot. Duncan Nelson, a 2020 Senior Nationals eighth-place finisher is another to watch.
Returning U23 Nationals champion Tommy Brackett will be one of the front-runners at 82 kg. Brackett recently finished runner-up at the 2021 Senior Nationals. Former age-group World Team members George Sikes (2018 U23 World Team) James Burks (2018 Cadet World Team) and Jake Hendricks (2017 Cadet World Team) are also present in the bracket. Sikes finished third at the 2021 Senior Nationals and third at the 2020 U23 Nationals. Burks recently finished runner-up at the 2021 UWW Junior World Team Trials. Hendricks won a UWW Junior title and finished runner-up in the U23 division in 2020.
2021 Senior Nationals champion Spencer Woods will attempt to make his first World Team at 87 kg. Woods is a 2019 U.S. Open runner-up and finished third at the 2019 U23 Nationals. 2019 Cadet World Team member Tyler Hannah will strive to earn a World Team spot after finishing runner-up at the 2021 Junior World Team Trials. Hannah also finished runner-up at the 2020 UWW Junior Nationals. Job Ayala, who finished eighth at the 2021 Senior Nationals, is also competing at this weight class.
Two-time Senior Nationals champion (2020, 2021) Nick Boykin will attempt to make his second World Team after competing at the 2019 Junior World Championships two summers ago. Boykin’s biggest challenge will be Chad Porter, a 2019 U23 World Team member and 2018 Junior World Team member. Porter finished runner-up to Boykin at the 2020 Senior Nationals and finished fourth at the 2021 Senior Nationals. 2020 U23 Nationals runner-up Guy Patron is also present in the field.
Cohlton Schultz, the current No. 2 on the National Team is a heavy favorite at 130 kg. Coming off a freshman All-American season at Arizona State, Schultz finished runner-up at the Olympic Team Trials. He is a 2017 Cadet World champion, a 2018 Junior World bronze medalist and a 2019 Junior World silver medalist. Even with Schultz as the frontrunner, heavyweight remains a deep field. Others to look for include returning U23 Nationals champion Lee Herrington, 2021 Senior Nationals third-place finisher Brandon Metz, a two-time NCAA qualifier for North Dakota State, 2020 UWW Junior Nationals champion Spencer Trenary and 2020 Senior Nationals eighth-place finisher Austin Emmerson.