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Abbott Blog: Six Final X New York bouts I believe you just-can’t-miss, and why

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Zahid Valencia in a front headlock on Mark Hall at World Team Trials Challenge Tournament. Photo by Sam Janicki.

Actually, the headline is a bit misleading. All 14 of the matches on the Final X New York card are can’t-miss pairings, but these are some in which I personally am looking forward to seeing how it will play out.

We just completed three hours of press conferences prior to Final X at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. The athletes were outstanding as they always are, and we heard some new great story lines and information that will make news in the days to come.

There are two matches from each of the three styles on display at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden which I would like to highlight heading into the match.

Bout 7 – 53 kg W - Felicity Taylor (Bearcat RTC/TMWC) vs. Dominique Parrish (Sunkist Kids)

One of these two young stars will make their first Senior World Team, and both bring some new energy to this weight class. Based upon experience and past results, Dominique Parrish brings the most past achievements to this bout. Parrish has been on three U23 World Teams and has made the Senior National Team a few times. In college at Simon Fraser, she won the Miranda Medal as the nation’s top college wrestler. During the press conference, she talked about her women teammates with the Sunkist Kids, and how they all have better accomplishments and beat her up in practice. She is hoping to be the one beating people up on Wednesday in New York. Felicity Taylor, a current star at McKendree, has had one of the best spring wrestling performances on the women’s side. Although she did not win the NCWWC Nationals (for NCAA schools) this year, Taylor won her first U.S. Open title, and followed up by qualifying for Final X by winning the semifinals at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament. Parrish is wrestling better at this time than ever before at the Senior level. Since neither have been in this position before, a big factor will be who comes out of the box in match one and takes control of the series with a first victory. Expect to see some excellent offense, as both of these athletes are not afraid to pull the trigger.

Bout 1 – 77 kg GR - Britton Holmes (Army WCAP) vs. Kamal Bey (Army WCAP)

Bey is a known quantity on the Senior Greco-Roman scene, having won a Junior World title and placing in the top 10 at the Senior Worlds. However, he has been off the scene for more than a season and is once again establishing himself at the highest level. Holmes is very new to the Senior scene but has worked his way through some great Greco-Roman programs. As a high school wrestler from a small town outside of Colorado Springs, he trained Greco-Roman often at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. He went to the Northern Michigan University Olympic Training Site, a full-time college Greco-Roman program. He is now with Army WCAP, regularly the strongest club program in the style. With Bey also with the Army now, they are teammates training in the same room. At the press conference they were both entertaining, and you could tell that they have great respect for each other. Holmes won the U.S. Open and qualified for Final X, and is confident he can win at Final X. When Bey reached Final X, he said that he “is back!” At his best, Bey has thrown many of the world’s best wrestlers. Is that the Bey we will see in New York? Holmes, who is tough and in great condition, will give him a battle in each match.

Bout 12 - 74 kg MFS – Kyle Dake (Spartan Combat RTC/TMWC) vs. Jason Nolf (NLWC/TMWC)

Jason Nolf is an extremely talented freestyle wrestler after one of the best college careers of his generation. He brings a skill set that is world class and is showing performance improvements in his international and domestic competitions. Everything indicates that he has what it takes to be successful and win World and Olympic medals for the United States. At the press conference he admitted to doing very little freestyle growing up, and said that he has been learning the sport in recent seasons. He does feel good that he knows the style well enough to win. The problem could be that he is now in perhaps the best weight class in the history of USA Wrestling. Doug Blubaugh, Stan Dziedzic, Lee Kemp, Dave Schultz, Kenny Monday, Jordan Burroughs and many others have carried the banner here. Kyle Dake is the current flag bearer, a three-time World champion and Olympian who gives every indication that he may be in his best form right now. Dake talks about the kind of fine-tuning he must do to continue to improve and keep an edge against his opponents. Is Nolf the kind of new superstar that can crack in this tough division? How he handles the challenge of getting through Kyle Dake’s defense and scoring enough to beat him will be an indication of where he stands.

Bout 11 - 50 kg WFS – Sarah Hildebrandt (USOPTC/NYAC) vs. Alyssa Lampe (Sunkist Kids)

What can you say about this matchup, except that it will be a battle between two great champions who came from slightly different eras. Hildebrandt is the current star on the U.S. scene, winner of an Olympic and World medal only months apart in 2021. At the press conference, she talked about her new approach to training and competition, which she believes could result in even better results. Lampe was in her prime in 2012 and 2013. She did not reach her goal of competing at the Olympics, and retired shortly after the 2016 Olympic Trials. She made a comeback in 2019, and although she did not make the 2020 Olympic Team or the 2021 World Team, she has continued to compete. Lampe talks about how much she enjoys wrestling again, and how her new training situation at Oregon State has helped jump-start her performance. She is starting to look like that powerful and confident athlete who won World medals and pinned a ton of folks during her previous prime. Hildebrandt, who can quickly end a match by getting an ankle lace and turning an opponent like a top, is a big favorite. But with Lampe’s strength, experience, technique and new passion, she can not be overlooked.

Bout 8 – 60 kg GR - Dalton Roberts (Army WCAP) vs. Ildar Hafizov (Army WCAP)

This is a battle between two very good wrestlers who are teammates and have gone back and forth in recent battles. As Dalton Roberts said in today’s presser, they have stepped forward as the two best 60 kg Greco-Roman wrestlers in the nation, and there is great respect between them. When Roberts was asked if he felt he had an edge because he won their last two matches, he said that he did not. This is one series where both wrestlers understand it may need to go to a full three matches to decide. Hafizov, a two-time Olympian and multiple time World Team member, said he continues to wrestle because of his family, as well as his quest to win a World medal for the United States. He believes that his hard work and experience can still pay off with a podium finish at the Worlds or Olympics. There will be no trash talk in this battle, just two prime-time international Greco-Roman stars both seeking to be their best when it counts.

Bout 15 – 86 kg MFS – David Taylor (NLWC/TMWC) vs. Zahid Valencia (Sunkist Kids)

First of all, both David Taylor and Zahid Valencia are fun to watch. Both know how to light up a scoreboard, and have a unique style in doing so. Taylor explained in the press conference about the kind of things that changed in his life after winning the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, and also about his motivation to continue to raise the bar as he seeks another title at the 2024 Paris Games. Taylor also spoke about how being a youth wrestling coach has been a positive influence in his wrestling and life. Valencia has all of the tools to be a World medalist, but still needs to break into a very strong USA lineup. In the press conference, he talked about how he has matured in recent season, and also how he has changed a number of things in his training and his wrestling style. There is no doubt that Valencia believes he can beat Taylor, right here and right now, and is excited about having that opportunity. This series could be a fan favorite if Valencia gets off to a great start. It is the final bout of each session, and should be entertaining for sure.

You just can’t miss this stuff. If you can get to New York City somehow by tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. (by plane, train or car), tickets are still available. Purchase your wrestling-only event tickets on Ticketmaster

Another reason to show up is that your ticket purchase is helping fund the Beat the Streets program for youth in New York City. See some amazing wrestling and support young people through our sport.

If not, don’t miss a bit of this event by tuning in to FloWrestling’s Broadcast.

Final X New York Lineup (Listed in Bout Order)

Bout 1 – 77 kg GR - Britton Holmes (Army WCAP) vs. Kamal Bey (Army WCAP)

Bout 2 – 72 kg WFS - Skylar Grote (Beaver Dam RTC/NYAC) vs. Amit Elor (NYC RTC/TMWC)

Bout 3 – 65 kg MFS - Evan Henderson (Ohio RTC/TMWC) vs. Yianni Diakomihalis (Spartan Combat/TMWC)

Bout 4 – 87 kg GR - Alan Vera (NYAC) vs. Timothy Young (Illinois)

Bout 5 – 125 kg MFS - Hayden Zillmer (Gopher WC - RTC) vs. Nick Gwiazdowski (Spartan Combat RTC/TMWC)

Bout 6 - 67 kg GR - Alejandro Sancho (Army WCAP) vs. Alston Nutter (Sunkist Kids)

Bout 7 – 53 kg W - Felicity Taylor (Bearcat RTC/TMWC) vs. Dominique Parrish (Sunkist Kids)

Bout 8 – 60 kg GR - Dalton Roberts (Army WCAP) vs. Ildar Hafizov (Army WCAP)

Bout 9 - 97 kg GR – G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist Kids) vs. Braxton Amos (Wisconain RTC)

Bout 10 - 50 kg WFS – Sarah Hildebrandt (USOPTC/NYAC) vs. Alyssa Lampe (Sunkist Kids)

Bout 11 - 74 kg MFS – Kyle Dake (Spartan Combat RTC/TMWC) vs. Jason Nolf (NLWC/TMWC)

Bout 12 - 57 kg WFS – Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids) vs. Alexandra Hedrick (USOPTC/TMWC)

Bout 13 – 79 kg MFS – Jordan Burroughs (Pennsylvania RTC/Sunkist Kids) vs. Chance Marsteller (TMWC)

Bout 14 – 86 kg MFS – David Taylor (NLWC/TMWC) vs. Zahid Valencia (Sunkist Kids)