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Greco-Roman World Team Trials Challenge Tournament preview

by Ellen Paddock, USA Wrestling

Photo of Max Nowry from 2019 World Championships.

Most of the nation’s top Greco-Roman wrestlers will face off this weekend at the 2022 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in Coralville, Iowa.

In nine weight classes, the semifinal winners will advance to either Final X Stillwater or Final X New York to battle for a spot on the USA Senior World Team. Only at 97 kg, where 2021 World bronze medalist G’Angelo Hancock has already qualified for Final X, the champion in Coralville will advance to Final X New York. The Greco-Roman brackets are loaded with talent. Here is a weight-by-weight look into the action.

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55 kg

Both semifinal winners advance to Final X Stillwater

2021 World Team member, three-time Pan American gold medalist and 2019 Greco-Roman Wrestler of the Year Max Nowry holds down the top spot. Nowry defeated No. 2 seed Brady Koontz in the championship round at the World Team Trials last year in two straight matches. Koontz, a decorated grappler from Ohio State, took the gold at Pan American Championships this year and will look to repeat his 2019 Final X berth (where he lost to Nowry). Sitting at No. 3 seed is Dalton Duffield, a 2018 World Team member who is a wrestler to watch this tournament. Duffield is a two-time Greco-Roman Fargo Champion. At the 2022 Bill Farrell Memorial, Duffield came up short against Nowry but had a dominant victory over No 8. Cole Smith. Former U17 World Team member Drew West, who wrestles at Northern Illinois, took third at the Open to land his spot in Coralville and sits at No. 4. seed

The rest of the competition includes Jacob Cochran, who took fourth at the 2021 Trials, the fifth place finisher at the U.S. Open Camden Russell and U20 champion Jakason Burks, who is wrestling up an age division this weekend, Cole Smith qualified at the Bill Farrell Memorial with a third-place finish. Last Chance Qualifier Jonathan Gurule from NMU OTS and U.S. Open sixth place finisher Dominic Robertson round out the field.

60 kg

Both semifinal winners advance to Final X New York

This weight class is top-heavy, dominated by the top seed Dalton Roberts, a 2021 World Team Trials champion, and 2020 U.S. Olympian Ildar Hafizov. The two very decorated wrestlers both train at WCAP and could make for one of the most exciting matches in New York if they both emerge as semifinal winners. Roberts narrowly defeated Hafizov at the 2022 Bill Farrell Memorial and at the 2021 World Team Trials. Both have been on multiple U.S. Senior World Teams. It will be interesting to see how the two athletes’ strengths play out this weekend against the competition. Hafizov has a great lift and is good in par terre, while Roberts pushes the pace of his matches and has an incredible gas tank on his side.

The rest of the weight class is full of athletes who have the potential to make a good run in this tournament and won’t be handing wins over to Roberts of Hafizov without a fight. No. 3 Dylan Koontz, the Ohio State Buckeye, took fourth at the World Team Trials, qualifying him for Coralville. Randon Miranda placed third at the 2022 Bill Farrell Memorial and was the 2020 Ibrahim Mustapha Tournament champion. Miranda has made three U.S. age-group World Teams. No. 5 seed Max Black has also made a strong run in the Greco-Roman circuit as the U20 U.S. Open champion and runner-up at the Senior Open. Utah Valley’s Mitchell Brown is also registered and is seeded No.6 above Cornell junior Phillip Moomey. Moomey, who hails from Nebraska, had a close bout with Roberts at the Open, losing 12-13. Roberts withdrew with injury from the Open, so it will be interesting to see how he responds a few weeks later.

63 kg

Both semifinal winners advance to Final X Stillwater

Hot off a Pan American Championships gold medal is the top seed and seasoned Greco-Roman competitor Sammy Jones, who will look to repeat last year's success and make a second straight Senior World Team. No. 2 seed Jesse Thielke is a 2016 Olympian and a force on the mat. Thielke, a 2015 NCAA qualifier for Wisconsin now with Army WCAP, won the U.S. Open at this weight class and has made two previous Senior World Teams. No. 3 Mason Carzino-Hartshorn placed third at the Bill Farrell Memorial qualifying him for Coralville.

No. 7 seed Aidan Nutter punched his ticket with a second-place finish at the Open. It is likely that No.4 David Stepanian, 2021 U23 champion, gets a rematch with Jones, who he lost to in the finals of the 2021 World Team Trials. Also in the running is No. 5 Corbin Nirschl, formerly of Williams Baptist University, who finished third at the Open and Illinois student-athlete We Rachel, who finished fourth at the 2021 Trials, Others to watch are Logan Savvy, fifth-place Open finisher, Ty Lydic, fourth place Open finisher and the Last Chance Qualifier champion Diego Romero.

67 kg

Both semifinal winners advance to Final X New York

This weight class could be considered one of the deepest and most exciting of the tournament. It is bound to have fireworks as many of these wrestlers aren’t afraid to go big. The top two will come down to who is wrestling at their peak this weekend. 2020 Olympian Alejandro Sancho is the favorite headed into the weekend and comes off a U.S. Open title. Sancho was defeated in the 2021 World Team Trials by Michigan State’s NCAA qualifier Peyton Omania, who wrestled in the 2021 Senior Worlds. Omania, a 2019 U20 World bronze medalist who won U23 National championships, was upset in the 2022 U.S. Open by No. 3 seed Lenny Merkin. Heightening the stakes even more is No. 2 Alston Nutter, a 2021 U23 World Team member who finished third at the U.S. Open after defeating Omania. Nutter won a 2019 U20 World bronze medal.

Rounding out the bracket is Northern Colorado’s Nathan Moore, who was last year’s U23 World Team representative, also a three-time Washington State champion and two-time Greco-Roman Junior Nationals champion. Morgan Flaharty, who was sixth at the 2022 U.S. Open, and the Last Chance Qualifier champion Jessy Williams of the Spartan RTC are also registered.

72 kg

Both semifinal wrestlers advance to Final X Stillwater

Returning World Team member Patrick Smith has been the dominant wrestler on the Senior level for many years now and just secured his second Pan American Championships gold medal. Smith sits just above No. 2 seed Benjamin Peak, a two-time Senior Open champion, who is young and exciting to watch.

2021 Pan-American Champion Jamel Johnson is among the most experienced on the Senior level circuit and received the No. 4 seed. He sits below No. 3 seed Michael Hooker whose third-place finish at the Open earned him a spot in Coralville. Hooker is a Chattanooga wrestling alum and 2015 Dave Schultz Memorial champion. At the 2021 World Team Trials, Johnson topped Hooker 7-4 in the third-place bout. Northern Michigan’s Brady Olsen, Eddie Smith of Pickaxe Wrestling Club and Colorado Mesa’s Ryan Wheeler qualified with fourth, fifth and sixth place finishes, respectively at the U.S. Open. Noah Wachsmuth is the Last Chance qualifier.

77 kg

Both wrestlers advance to Final X New York

RaVaughn Perkins earned the top seed after his third-place finish at the 2022 U.S. Olympic Team Trials where he defeated Pat Smith, who has now moved down to 72 kg. The 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion and two-time Dave Schultz Memorial champion is also fresh off a win at the Pan American Championships. Perkins is projected to take on this year’s U.S. Open champion and No. 4 seed Britton Holmes. Holmes took third at the 2021 World Team Trials to qualify for the action in Coralville. Although Kamal Bey is one of the most decorated wrestlers in the bracket, he comes in at No. 3. Bey was a 2017 Junior World champion and competed on the 2018 Senior World Team. Bey may be looking to avenge his fourth-place finish at the Bill Farrell Memorial to No. 2 seed Jesse Porter, returning Senior World Team member and 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion. Alec Ortiz of Minnesota Storm took second at the 2022 U.S. Open and won the 2021 U.S. Open.

Ohio Stats’s Fritz Schierl, the No. 8 aeed, placed second at the 2021 World Team Trials and is a wrestler to watch.

Northern Michigan’s Payton Jacobson is up-and-coming to the Senior level and someone to watch. As the No. 6 seed, Jacobson punched his ticket to Coralville with a third place at the Open. He placed second at the 2021 Junior World Team Trials and won the 2020 Austrian Junior Open. Stanford’s NCAA qualifier Tyler Eichens was a 2019 U20 Greco-Roman World Team member, and Jack Ervien, who wrestles for Grand View University and took fourth at the Open, are other contenders

82 kg

Both wrestlers advance to Final X Stillwater

Two-time Olympian Ben Provisor will look to repeat his World Team member spot if he holds down the top seed. Provisor and No.2 Spencer Woods have met previously several times, and if things go their way this weekend, they could face off again in Stillwater. Provisor topped Woods in the finals of the 2022 U.S. Open, in two straight matches at the 2021 World Team Trials and again at the 2022 Bill Farrell on a tight margin of 2-1.

Sporting a new bronze medal from the Pan American Championships, Tyler Cunningham is a strong contender for a spot in the top two after qualifying for Coralville at the Bill Farrell Memorial where he won the third-place bout over No. 4 Ryan Epps of Minnesota Storm. Epps qualified at the U.S. Open after winning a close one with Tommy Brackett for third place. NAIA National Champion Ben Lee is also registered to compete this weekend, perhaps impacted by Provisor, his teammate at Grand View University.

87 kg

Both wrestlers advance to Final X New York

It is no question that 2021 World Team member Alan Vera leads the charge in this weight class. Vera dominated at the U.S. Open defeating No. 3 seed George Sikes in the finals and not allowing a single point to be scored on him throughout the tournament. Vera, an immigrant from Cuba, is known for his big throws. No. 2 seed Timothy Young of Illinois is a former U20 World Team member and is getting back into action after taking third at the Open to qualify. Young and Christian Dulaney, No. 5. of Minnesota Storm, met in an eventful third-place match of the U.S. Open. Dulaney had a 12-7 lead, but Young stepped over on a gut and caught Dulaney on his back for a pin to take the match.

U20 Team member Tyler Hannah, seeded No. 4, is someone to watch. Hannah was a 2016 and 2021 U20 Pan American champion in both styles and took third over Sikes at the World Team Trials last year. Austin Craig is the final man in the bracket who qualified after taking fifth at the Open.

97 kg

Champion advances to Final X New York against G’Angelo Hancock

This is the only weight class that will be wrestled all the way through to determine who will meet World bronze medalist G’Angelo Hancock, at Final X New York. It will be a tight race with many accomplished wrestlers vying for the spot. The favorite is Ohio State’s Nicholas Boykin, who took bronze at the 2022 Pan American Championships and came away with the bracket at the Bill Farrell Memorial. Boykin fell to No. 2 Braxton Amos at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials where Amos later wrestled Hancock in the finals. Prior to Wisconsin, Amos was named the No.1 P-4-P wrestler in high school by Flo Wrestling.

No.3 Lucas Sheridan proved he can make anything happen after winning a crazy match over No.4 Khymba Johnson in the finals of the U.S. Open with a buzzer-beater throw straight to Johnson’s back. Sheridan has many achievements, but seeks his first Senior World Team berth. All around, this weight should have exciting matches that could swing either way. In the early rounds, 2019 NCAA qualifier for Stanford Haydn Maley, who finished third at the Open, and Johnson will be a match to watch. The bottom half of the seeds has sixth place Open placer Guy Patron along with Brady Vogel, as both athletes wrestled for Loras College. Arizona State’s Chad Porter qualified after taking fifth at the Open and sits at No. 8 above Timothy Eubanks of Nevada, the Last Chance Qualifier champion who took third at U23 Nationals in 2021.

130 kg

Both semifinal winners advance to Final X Stillwater

Seasoned Greco-Roman competitor and an NCAA runner-up for Arizona State, Cohlton Schultz, is the obvious frontrunner of the bracket. Schultz was on the 2021 Senior World Team, and has won World medals at the U20 and the U17 age levels. His top challenger could be Tanner Farmer, a well-rounded athlete who played football at the University of Nebraska and went on to use his final year of eligibility to wrestle NAIA at Concordia University. Although he may have less mat time than others, Farmer is constantly improving. He took first place at Bill Farrell Memorial and was initially qualified for Coralville from his third-place finish at the Trials.

Farmer and No. 3 seed West Cathcart both train at the Illinois RTC which should make for an interesting potential semifinal matchup. Ohio State’s Tate Orndorff is seeded fourth heading into this weekend. Orndorff defeated No.5 Courtney Freeman to take third place at the Open. Kaleb Reeves took fifth at the Open to qualify while No.8 Ronald Dombkowski is the only athlete to qualify from the 2022 Veterans World Championships, where he took Bronze. Tom Foote qualified at the Last Chance Qualifier.