Team USA primed for U20 Pan American Wrestling Championships, July 8-10
by Taylor Gregorio, USA Wrestling
Photo of Alex Facundo, the men’s freestyle representative at 74 kg. Photo by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.
The United States is sending 30 of some of the best young talents in the country to the U20 Pan American Championships in Oaxtepec, Mexico, July 8-10. The team includes two past World medal winners and six other past World Team members.
Action begins with Greco-Roman on Friday, followed by women’s freestyle on Saturday and wrapping up with men’s freestyle on Sunday. Each discipline will feature one-day tournaments. Fans can watch all the action live on FloWrestling.
Below is a breakdown of who is representing Team USA.
The Greco-Roman squad features three past World Team members, highlighted by 2021 U20 World Team member Kodiak Stephens at 87 kg and U17 World Team members Jakason Burks (’18) at 55 kg and Robert Perez III (’19) at 67 kg. Stephens attends Oregon State and Burks wrestles for Iowa Western CC, while Perez trains at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center.
Perez and Stephens, who will also compete at U20 Worlds in August, already have Pan Am medals on their resume. Perez won gold in both freestyle and Greco at the 2019 U17 tournament. Stephens scored his first at the inaugural U20 Pan American Games in 2021, a silver in Greco.
Other past Pan Am medalists on this week’s roster include silver medalists Haiden Drury (’19) of Utah Valley at 63 kg and Richard Fedalen (’21) at 72 kg. Both will compete in Bulgaria in August as part of the U20 World Team roster.
Max Black of Northern Michigan (60 kg) and Aden Attao (130 kg) are other U20 World teamers who are expected to compete at Pan Ams.
Completing the team are U.S. Open U20 champions Manuel Gaitan of Iowa State (77 kg), Michael Altomer (82 kg) and Robert Plympton (97 kg).
More than half of the women’s freestyle team have international experience at the age-group level. Leading the team is 2019 U17 World silver medalist Skylar Hattendorf, who will compete at 62 kg. Others that have made a World Team include 2019 U17 World Teamer Sage Mortimer of King University (50 kg) and 2021 U20 Teamer Claire DiCugno of Colorado Mesa (57 kg).
Mortimer is the only athlete on the women’s roster that has competed at both a World Championships and Pan American tournament. She won gold at the 2016 U15 Pan Am Championships.
There are three other Pan Am medalists in the mix such as 2021 U20 champion Amani Jones of North Central College (55 kg), 2021 U17 champion Rose Cassioppi (76 kg) and 2019 U15 champ Haley Ward (72 kg).
Closing out the women’s roster are U20 World Team Trials runners-up Estrella Dorado Marin (53 kg), Nanea Estrella of Univ. of Iowa (59 kg), Elleni Johnson (65 kg) and Tiera Jimerson of North Central College (68 kg).
The men’s freestyle team has several international newcomers as well as two veterans.
Representing the USA at 74 kg is two-time U17 World bronze medalist and Penn State wrestler Alex Facundo, who won his World medals in 2018 and 2019. Joining him is 2021 U20 World Team member in Greco-Roman and Ohio State wrestler, Nic Bouzakis, the 61 kg representative. Both Facundo and Bouzakis will compete at the 2022 U20 World Championships in Bulgaria in August.
There are five other 2022 U20 World teamers expected to wrestle in Mexico, including Vince Cornella of Cornell (65 kg), Mitchell Mesenbrink of California Baptist (70 kg), Jaxon Smith of Univ. of Maryland (92 kg), Ben Kueter, an Iowa commit (97 kg), and Nicholas Feldman of Ohio State (125 kg).
2022 U.S. Open U20 champions Luca Augustine of Pittsburgh and Sam Fisher of Virginia Tech will rep the Red, White and Blue at 79 kg and 86 kg, respectively.
Rounding out the lineup is U.S. Open runner-up is Andre Gonzales an Ohio State wrestler, who will compete at 57 kg.
2022 U20 PAN AMERICAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
July 8-10 | Oaxtepec, Mexico
U.S. men’s freestyle roster
57 kg: Andre Gonzales
61 kg: Nic Bouzakis
65 kg: Vince Cornella
70 kg: Mitchell Mesenbrink
74 kg: Alex Facundo
79 kg: Luca Augustine
86 kg: Sam Fisher
92 kg: Jaxon Smith
97 kg: Ben Kueter
125 kg: Nicholas Feldman
U.S. women’s freestyle roster
50 kg: Sage Mortimer
53 kg: Estrella Dorado Marin
55 kg: Amani Jones
57 kg: Claire DiCugno
59 kg: Nanea Estrella
62 kg: Skylar Hattendorf
65 kg: Elleni Johnson
68 kg: Tiera Jimerson
72 kg: Haley Ward
76 kg: Rose Cassioppi
U.S. Greco-Roman roster
55 kg: Jakason Burks
60 kg: Max Black
63 kg: Haiden Drury
67 kg: Robert Perez
72 kg: Richard Fedalen
77 kg: Manuel Gaitan
82 kg: Michael Altomer
87 kg: Kodiak Stephens
97 kg: Robert Plympton
130 kg: Aden Attao