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U20 freestyle champs punch tickets to the best-of-three series at World Team Trials; Facundo wins OW at U20 Nationals

by Charlie Klepps, Special to

Photo of Alex Facundo in the U20 Nationals finals. Photo by Sandy Slater
SOUTH POINT ARENA, Las Vegas,  Nev.– Following the completion of this evening’s championship bouts, the road to a 2022 U20 Freestyle World Team spot became a little shorter for 10 competitors. The winners of each bracket at the U20 Freestyle Nationals have earned the right to avoid the challenge tournament and await the winner in the best-of-three finals. The World Team Trials will take place in Geneva, Ohio on June 3-5. 
With current and future collegiate wrestlers vying for the top spot at each of the ten weight classes, the tournament was loaded with star power and proved to be unpredictable from start to finish. Of the 14 returning champions from a year ago, only the 2021 U20 60 kg Greco-Roman winner, Nic Bouzakis, returned to the finals, and he did so in a different style. 
Penn State’s Alex Facundo was extremely dominant leading him into the finals at 74 kg. The Nittany Lion only gave up five points before his finals bout. He went up against Northern Colorado’s Vincent Zerban, an NHSCA National Champion in high school, as well as a four-time USAW Cadet/Junior All-American. 
Facundo kept his hot streak going in the finals, controlling the match from start to finish to earn a 9-0 decision. He was up 4-0 at the break and added five more, including a pushout with under 10 seconds remaining. His dominant performance earned him the Outstanding Wrestler of the U20 division. 
At 61 kg, Bouzakis stepped onto the mat against Bucknell freshman Dylan Chappell. Chappell was a three-time Pennsylvania runner-up and just completed a 20-6 freshmen campaign for the Bison. Bouzakis is joining the Ohio State Buckeyes in the fall. Bouzakis wasted little time in this one earning a 12-2 technical fall. Immediately following the win, he was tossed a red beanie that said Team Greco-Roman on it. Bouzakis lost a younger brother named Greco Roman Bouzakis to cancer and the hat is worn to represent him. 
Future Minnesota Golden Gopher Troy Spratley had an impressive tournament, highlighted by his first round 12-2 technical fall over three-time Cadet World Team member and current Penn State Nittany Lion Robert Howard. In this evening’s finals, he was met by another current Big Ten wrestler in Andre Gonzales of Ohio State. Gonzales was a double Fargo champion in 2019.
Tonight was all Spratley, as he kept his impressive tournament rolling with a convincing 9-0 decision. He was leading 4-0 at the break and kept the pace on until the very end using a last second 4 point throw to extend the score to nine. 
Arizona State’s legacy commit Kaleb Larkin has been in control all weekend, only allowing two points all weekend enroute to his finals appearance. Larkin’s father competed for the Sun Devils in college. He would line up against four-time Colorado State Champion and current Cornell University wrestler Vince Cornella in the finals this evening. 
In the finals, Cornella was the one controlling his opponent keeping Larkin scoreless enroute to a 10-0 technical fall. There was a lot of action in the first period, however the score was only 1-0 in Cornella’s favor at the break. He scored a lot of points quickly in the second to earn the eventual tech, capped off by a very nice head pinch for the final two. 
Iowa State Cyclone Paniro Johnson worked hard for his place in the 70 kg championship match. He impressively teched three-time Fargo champion and future Oklahoma State Cowboy Jordan Williams in yesterday’s quarterfinals and then followed it up with a 9-9 win on criteria over Stanford commit Hunter Garvin in the semifinals. Johnson tangled with another dangerous competitor in California Baptist commit Mitchell Mesenbrink, who teched his way to the finals, including one over 2021 U17 champion Jadon Skellenger.
Early on, it looked like Johnson was going to run away with the bout as he claimed an early 8-1 lead. Messenbrink got two back right before the break to make it 8-3. His pace was the difference in this one as he would outscore Johnson 15-0 in the second for an 18-8 technical fall. 
Up at 79 kg, Pittsburgh freshman Luca Augustine met with Daniel Wask of New Jersey in the championship bout. Augustine was a state champion in Pennsylvania, while Wask was a Fargo runner-up in 2021. Augustine took a 4-3 lead into the break before opening up the scoring in the second. He put up nine points to Wask’s one to claim the title at 79 kg and an automatic berth in the best-of-three series. 
The 86 kg championship bout pitted a couple of ACC rivals against one another, when Virginia Tech sophomore Samuel Fisher toed the line against NC State’s Brock Del Signore. Fisher was a two-time Fargo All-American and actually got to start for the Hokies in a couple duals at 174 pounds this year. Del Signore won the 2020 Journeymen Fall Classic. 
The Hokie earned this one, keeping the pace on to cement a 7-2 decision. Fisher led 4-0 at the break, and added an early takedown in the second along with a passivity call against his opponent to get to seven. Del Signore grabbed a takedown late, but there was not enough time left to mount a comeback. 
Maryland Terrapin freshman Jaxon Smith teched his way into the finals at 92 kg. Smith was a two-time Georgia state champion before going to Maryland. He squared up with the equally dominant Nebraska Cornhusker Silas Allred in the championship. Allred was undefeated in his redshirt campaign with a 7-0 record and an impressive win at the Daktronics Open over eventual All-American Yonger Bastida of Iowa State. It was all Smith in the final as he kept his technical fall streak alive with one in 2:04 over Allred. The championship match was his longest of the week. He only allowed two points all weekend as well. 
The finals at 97 kg featured freak athlete Ben Kueter, who is a future wrestler and football player for the Iowa Hawkeyes, and future North Carolina Tarheel Noah Pettigrew. Pettigrew was a 2018 Fargo champion. Kueter led 2-0 at the break and had an early pushout in the second to extend the lead to three. Pettigrew responded with a pushout and two points for exposure to briefly snatch the lead. However, Kueter reversed Pettigrew soon after to solidify the 4-3 decision. 
In the final championship match of the evening, future Mizzou Tiger Ryan Boersma met up with future Ohio State Buckeye Nicholas Feldman for the chance at the best-of-three finals. Boersma won Fargo in the Greco-Roman division last summer and earned All-American status in Freestyle. Feldman was the fifth ranked wrestler by Flowrestling in the class of 2022. 
Feldman was held to only two points in last night’s semifinal bout, and he made sure that a low scoring match wasn’t going to happen again. He scored two impressive big moves to end his match in a 10-0 technical fall in just under a minute. 
All medal matches were also completed this evening, with the top eight place winners at each weight division automatically qualifying for the Challenge tournament at World Team Trials. Full results for all placing matches can be found below. 
At Las Vegas, Nev. April 30, 2022
UWW U20 Freestyle Champions
57 - Troy Spratley (Texas Pride WC)
61 - Nic Bouzakis (Pennsylvania)
65 - Vince Cornella (Spartan Combat RTC)
70 - Mitchell Mesenbrink (Askren Wrestling Academy)
74 - Alex Facundo (Nittany Lion WC)
79 - Luca Augustine (Pittsburgh WC)
89 - Samuel Fisher (Southeast RTC, Inc) 
92 - Jaxon Smith (Dmv Rtc) 
97 - Ben Kueter IA (Sebolt Wrestling Academy)
125 - Nicholas Feldman PA (Ohio RTC)
Outstanding Wrestler 
74 - Alex Facundo of Nittany Lion WC
UWW U20 Final Results 
57 KG
1st - Troy Spratley (Texas Pride WC) dec Andre Gonzales (California), 9-0
3rd - Robert Howard (Nittany Lion WC) fall Maximilian Leete (Massachusetts), 6-0 1:07
5th - Cooper Flynn (Southeast RTC, Inc) inj Jore Volk (Pinnacle WC)
7th - Gary Steen (Nittany Lion WC) tech Yusief Lillie (Brunson UVRTC), 11-0 4:26
61 KG
1st - Nic Bouzakis (Pennsylvania) tech Dylan Chappell (Buffalo Valley RTC), 12-2 2:07
3rd - Garrett Grice (MWC Wrestling Academy) dec Emilio Ysaguirre, jr. (Arizona), 3-1
5th - Grigor Cholakyan (Sunkist Kids/Monster Garage) tech Richard Treanor (West Point WC), 15-4 3:44
7th - Kurtis Phipps (Buffalo Valley RTC) dec Carter Bailey (Lehigh Valley WC), 9-5
65 KG
1st - Vince Cornella (Spartan Combat RTC) tech Kaleb Larkin (Arizona), 12-0 4:22
3rd - Tagen Jamison (Texas Pride WC) dec Dylan Gilcher (Michigan), 8-2
5th - Ryan Jack (Wolfpack WC) tech Joseph Zargo (Rhino Wrestling LLC), 13-2 5:13
7th - Teague Travis (Cowboy RTC) inj Joel Vandervere (Northwestern/Wildcat WC)
70 KG
1st - Mitchell Mesenbrink (Askren Wrestling Academy) tech Paniro Johnson (Cyclone RTC C-RTC), 18-8 5:39
3rd - Jordan Williams (Cowboy RTC) VPO1 Hunter Garvin (Big Game WC), 15-14
5th - Cael Swensen (Jackrabbit WC) inj Chance Lamer (Cliff Keen WC)
7th - Ramon Ramos (Greco-Roman Development) tech Aj Kovacs (Wolfpack WC), 12-2 4:14
74 KG
1st - Alex Facundo (Nittany Lion WC) dec Vincent Zerban (Northern Colorado WC), 9-0
3rd - Michael Caliendo (Illinois) dec Levi Haines (M2 Training Center), 7-7
5th  Jack Thomsen (Jackrabbit WC) tech Zeb Gnida (Dubuque WC), 15-4 2:38
7th - Nicco Ruiz (California) tech Derek Fields (Wolfpack WC), 17-6 4:09
79 KG
1st - Luca Augustine (Pittsburgh WC) tech Daniel Wask (New Jersey), 13-4
3rd - Rocco Welsh (Young Guns WC) dec Elise Brown Ton (Nebraska Wrestling Training Center), 12-5
5th - Jared Stricker (Wisconsin) dec Aaron Ayzerov NJ (New York City RTC), 10-7
7th - Matthew Singleton (Compound Wrestling) tech Logan Messer (George Mason), 12-2 5:17
86 KG
1st - Samuel Fisher (Southeast RTC, Inc) dec Brock Del Signore (Wolfpack WC), 7-2
3rd - Tate Picklo (Oklahoma RTC) fall Brian Soldano NJ (Skwc-rtc), 8-5 4:56
5th - Deanthony Parker (Illinois) fall Nathan Haas (Nebraska Wrestling Training Center), 4-4 3:26
7th - Wyatt Voelker (Big Game WC) dec Giuseppe (joey) Milano (Wolfpack WC), 10-10
92 KG
1st - Jaxon Smith (Dmv Rtc) tech Silas Allred (Nebraska Wrestling Training Center), 12-1 2:04
3rd - Kolby Franklin (Pennsylvania) dec Caden Rogers PA (Diplomat WC), 4-0 
5th - Martin Cosgrove (New Jersey) tech Evan Bates (Northwestern/Wildcat WC), 16-4 4:11
7th - Gabe Nagel (Gopher WC - RTC) inj Jack Darrah (Xtreme Training)
97 KG
1st - Ben Kueter IA (Sebolt Wrestling Academy) dec Noah Pettigrew GA (The Storm Wrestling Center), 4-3
3rd -  Dzhabrail Khurshidov IL (Illinois) dec Nathan Glass NV (Silver State Wrestling Academy), 7-6
5th - Nathan Wemstrom IL (Izzy Style Wrestling) injury default Braden Baumgartner CO (Colorado Mesa WC)
7th - Colten Hink SD (Tiger WC) tech Zak Taylor OH (Nebraska Wrestling Training Center), 12-1
125 KG
1st - Nicholas Feldman PA (Ohio RTC) tech Ryan Boersma IL (Tiger Style WC), 10-0 0:53
3rd - Hunter Catka PA (Southeast RTC, Inc) dec Juan Mora CA (California), 3-1
5th Hayden Copass IL (Boilermaker RTC) dec Chase Horne GA (The Storm Wrestling Center), 9-2
7th Josiah Hill CA (Arkansas RTC) tech Aden Attao ID (Suples WC), 17-7 4:05