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Hammer Time: Dozens of All-Americans set to face each other as Session 3 of USMC Junior Men’s Freestyle concludes

by Jason Bryant, Special to TheMat,com

Wisconsin’s Koy Hopke (red) counters a shot by Ohio’s Aidan Stringer in Tuesday’s first session of action at the 2023 USMC Junior Men’s Freestyle National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota. Hopke won 10-0.
Wisconsin’s Koy Hopke (blue) counters a shot by Ohio’s Aidan Stringer in Tuesday’s first session of action at the 2023 USMC Junior Men’s Freestyle National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota. Hopke won 10-0. Photo by Tony Rotundo.

Fargo, North Dakota – You can use any number of clichés to explain how tough the field in Fargo is. The desire to compete against the best could use sayings like “Iron Sharpens Iron” or the toughness of a weight could be where the “Rubber Meets The Road.” Regardless of what you call it, Tuesday morning’s Junior men’s freestyle session has set the stage for some brutal Round of 16 and quarterfinals draws as the second day of competition at the 2023 USMC Junior Men’s Freestyle National Championships at the Fargodome on the campus of North Dakota State University kicked off.

It's the usual suspects from a team perspective, too. Pennsylvania has the most wrestlers alive in the top side of the draw with 23. California has 17 championship wrestlers left, followed by Iowa and New Jersey’s 16. Illinois and Oklahoma have 13 in championship contention, while the rest of the teams with at least 10 wrestlers battling for championships are Wisconsin (12), Minnesota (11), Arizona (10) and Ohio (10).

Here's a look at the notable things that went down on Tuesday’s first session:

At 100 pounds, both wrestlers with past medals in Fargo continued on. Virginia’s Caden Smith earned a fall over New Jersey’s Hunter Mullarkey, while Pennsylvania’s Kole Davidheiser pinned Rhode Island’s Oumar Tounkara.

At 106 pounds, returning Junior freestyle champion Tyler Garvin moved on after a 11-0 win over Roderick Brown of Florida. Last year’s 16U double champion Haakon Peterson of Wisconsin teched Maddox Garbis 10-0 to advance. Peterson will face Kansas’ Trenton Richwine. Idaho’s Saxton Scott continued his quest for a Junior Triple Crown with a technical fall over Ohio’s Nicholas Lawrensen, but Scott will have his first big test in the Round of 16 against Indiana’s Nathan Rioux, a two-time 16U freestyle All-American. Another Triple Crown challenger, Ezekiel Witt of Kansas advanced with a technical fall and like Scott, he’ll face a Ohio’s Ayden Dodd, a 16U All-American last year. Another matchups to keep an eye on at the weight are Nebraksa’s Cole Welte taking on Oklahoma’s Aydan Thomas, both past freestyle All-Americans.

At 113 pounds, Mack Mauger of Idaho moved on with a technical fall in his first match of the day. He’ll face Kody Tanimoto of Texas in the Round of 16. Ohio’s Johnny Green picked off All-American Lawson Eller of Minnesota 10-0 to advance. He’ll face Pennsylvania’s Nikos Filipos in the Tuesday afternoon session. Oklahoma’s Christopher Kiser defeated All-American Revin Dickman of Indiana 12-2 to advance to face another All-American, Abram Cline of California in the next round. All-Americans Cadel Lee of Virginia and Gabriel Ramirez of Arizona will meet next session as well.

With 18 past freestyle All-Americans at 120 pounds, the hammers will start hitting earlier than most weights. Minnesota’s Luke Koenen knocked off yesterday’s upset kid, Elijah Lowe of Florida, in the Round of 32. Lowe defeated past champion Zane Donley on Monday. Koenen teched Lowe and will face North Carolina All-American Cameron Stinson Jr. in the next round. Stinson beat All-American Liam Neitzel of Wisconsin in the Round of 32. Iowa’s Carson Doolittle picked off All-American Nathan Desmond of Pennsylvania 7-6 and will face All-American Ethan Rivera of Florida in the Round of 16. Past freeestyle champion Leo DeLuca of New Jersey will face All-American Jackson Blum of Michigan. DeLuca teched Illinois’ Theodore Flores 10-0 to open Tuesday’s competition. All-American’s Gage Singleton of Oregon and Edwin Sierra of California will also meet next round.

At 126 pounds, Kolter Burton of Idaho had another scare, falling behind 7-0 before catching Oregon’s Scott Santos late in the first period to pick up the fall. Burton closed the gap to 7-4 before Santos hit a front headlock roll for two points and then as he was attempting another roll, Burton stopped Santos on his back and settled for the fall. Burton will face Missouri’s Brady Roark in the next round. Indiana’s Gavin Jeandras upset All-American Michael Olson of Minnesota to advance. He’ll face Blake Gioimo of Iowa in the next round. Oklahoma’s Eli Kirk scored eight second-period points to earn a 10-10 criteria win over All-American Benjamin Bast of Wisconsin. Kirk will face another All-American, Moses Mendoza of California in the next round with the winner facing either Burton or Roark.

At 132 pounds, All-Americans Dalton Perry of Pennsylvania and Dmitri Alarcon of Colorado will hit in the Round of 16. Perry teched Kansas’ Damon Ingram while Alarcon topped Tennessee’s Jarvis Little 4-2. Past 16U champion Kyler Larkin of Arizona teched Idaho’s Carson Exford 12-0 to advance. Larkin has outscored his opponents 34-1 in three bouts so far.

At 138 pounds, returning champion Ryder Block of Iowa gave up a four-pointer late in the first period but wasn’t in much trouble in a 17-5 technical fall win over North Dakota’s Koye Grebel. Block will face Virginia’s Chase Van Hoven, a Greco-Roman All-American, in the next round. Indiana’s Tony Wood beat All-American Smokey McClure of Washington 4-3. Wood will face All-American Elvis Solis of Florida. Solis advanced by defeating Iowa’s Anders Kittleson 12-8.

Kannon Webster of Illinois reached the Round of 16 with a 14-4 win over Indiana’s Wyatt Krejsa at 145 pounds. Webster, a champion in 2021 and runner-up last year, will face All-American August Hibler of New Jersey in the Round of 16. Hibler beat Ayson Rice of South Dakota 13-2. Illinois’ Noel Tapia upended All-American Alex Braun of Minnesota 10-6 and will face another All-American, Casper Stewart of New York in the next round. Stewart beat Pennsylvania’s Peter Pisarchick 10-0 to advance. Montana’s Avery Allen pinned 2022 16U Greco-Roman champion Gabriel Bouyossou of Rhode Island in the Round of 32. Allen will face All-American Christopher Coates of Indiana next. Coates beat Matthew Randolph of Minnesota 11-0.

At 152 pounds, 2021 16U freestyle champion Zach Hanson moved into the Round of 16 with an 11-1 win over Antonio Shelley of Ohio. Hanson will face North Dakota’s L.J. Araujo, who is one of a handful of wrestlers still chasing a potential Triple Crown. Araujo beat Devon Magro of Pennsylvania in the Round of 32. Looming for the winner of the Araujo-Hanson match is the winner of the Vince Bouzakis-Logan Rozynski bout. Bouzakis of Pennsylvania, is last year’s 16U freestyle runner-up. Rozynski, of New Jersey, beat Oklahoma’s J.D. Sigman to reach the Round of 16. Another 16U champion, Kody Routledge of Oklahoma, will face Wisconsin’s Caleb Cody in the Round of 16.

At 160 pounds, four of the 10 All-Americans in the weight were bounced from the championship bracket through the Round of 32. Triple Crown threat Thor Michaelson of Washington will have the toughest pairing in the next session as he faces off with All-American Brett Back of Wisconsin. It’s the only matchup in the Round of 32 with a pair of placewinners.

At 170 pounds, the afternoon session will see All-Americans Dominic Bambinelli of Georgia and Ryan Burton face off with the winner facing either All-American Jed Wester of Minnesota or Angelo Posada of California. Puerto Rico’s Kevin Olavarria picked off All-American Tyler Secoy of Georgia 9-9 on criteria and will face another All-American, Holden Garcia of Pennsylvania in the Round of 16. Five returning All-Americans were sent to the consolation bracket through the Round of 32.

At 182 pounds, six of the 10 All-Americans in the draw reached the Round of 16, with 16U freestyle champion Jarrel Miller Jr. of Ohio and Iowa’s Tate Naaktgeboren wrestling strong. Neither has given up a point through their first three rounds of competition.

At 195 pounds, returning champion Connor Mirasola of Wisconsin rolled into the Round of 16 with another technical fall. Mirasola has outscored his opponents 31-0. All-Americans Cittadino Tuttle of Minnesota and Tucker Hogan of Pennsylvania also reached the Round of 16 as did Triple Crown threat Karson Tompkins of Texas.

At 220 pounds, returning champion Cody Merrill of California was again stellar in his opening match, earning a 12-0 technical fall over Noah Wenzel of Illinois. Cody’s brother Coby Merrill also reached the Round of 16 at the weight. Coby Merrill defeated Kansas’ Pierce Cunningham 11-1 in Tuesday’s first session. Jay Henderson of Utah, last year’s 16U champion, also reached the Round of 16 with a technical fall over Pennsylvania’s Kyle Miller. The big upset of the Tuesday morning session was Jayden Tadeo-Gosal of California beating All-American Melvin Whitehead 20-17. Tadeo-Gosal scored five points in the last minute of the bout to pull out the victory.

At 285 pounds, three of the biggest, baddest dudes in the building are into the Round of 16 as Idaho’s Aden Attao, South Dakota’s Navarro Schunke and Wisconsin’s Koy Hopke powered into the next session. Attao, a double champion a year ago, pinned All-American Caleb Fernandez of Florida in a scant 17 seconds to advance. Schunke, the double 16U champ a year ago, beat Ohio’s Alexander Griffith 11-1, while Hopke, a 16U double champion in 2021 and current Triple Crown threat, moved past Ohio’s Aidan Stringer in 27 seconds. Hopke will face Alabama’s Willie Cox.

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