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Five past Junior champions push into finals, Pennsylvania stands atop team race heading into medal rounds

by Jason Bryant, Special to

Idaho’s Aden Attao (red) attacks New Jersey’s Rocco Dellagatta in the semifinals at 285 pounds at the 2023 USMC Junior Men’s Freestyle National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota.
Idaho’s Aden Attao (red) attacks New Jersey’s Rocco Dellagatta in the semifinals at 285 pounds at the 2023 USMC Junior Men’s Freestyle National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota. Attao won 10-0 to reach the finals for the second straight year. 
Photo by Ty Lundquist/

Fargo, North Dakota – One of the more bothersome things in Fargo can be the mosquitoes. On Tuesday, it wasn’t the mosquito that was causing problems, it was the upset bug.

The five past Junior freestyle champions in Wednesday morning’s semifinal round came ready to repel any challengers as all of them pushed through to tonight’s finals.

Iowa’s Ryder Block, Illinois’ Kannon Webster, Wisconsin’s Connor Mirasola, California’s Cody Merrill and Idaho’s Aden Attao are all in position to take home another “stop sign” on the third day of their competition at the 2023 USMC Junior Men’s Freestyle National Championships at the Fargodome on the campus of North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota.

With three finalists and a state-record 19 All-Americans, Pennsylvania is leading the team race as the tournament heads into the medal rounds with 177 points. Buoyed by six finalists, Wisconsin sits in second with eight All-Americans and 134 points. Oklahoma is third with 107 points and 10 All-Americans, followed by California’s 99 points and 10 All-Americans and New Jersey’s 98 points and seven medalists.

Pennsylvania’s 19 Junior men’s freestyle medal haul is the second-most in history. Illinois had 20 medalists in 2011 and 2018. Wisconsin’s six finalists in Junior freestyle is the most in state history. The previous high was five in 2022.

The first champion to reach the finals in a quest to repeat was Iowa’s Ryder Block at 138 pounds. Block was steady in a 6-3 win over Minnesota’s Landon Robideau. Block was last year’s champion at the same weight. He’ll face California’s Daniel Zepeda, who was a 6-5 winner over Ohio’s Omar Ayoub. Zepeda fell behind 5-0 early, with most of those points coming from a four-point double leg from Ayoub that took Zepeda to his back. Zepeda chipped away in the second period, finally getting the go-ahead takedown with a minute to go.

Stinginess was the name of the game for 2021 Junior champion and 2022 runner-up Kannon Webster of Illinois. Webster returned to the finals for a third straight year after a 2-1 semifinal win over Ohio’s Jaxon Joy. With the score tied 1-1 after the two traded passivity points, Webster scored the decisive stepout with 1:31 remaining. Webster will face New Jersey’s Cross Wasilewski, who was a 10-4 winner over Georgia’s Logan Paradice in a battle of past 16U men’s freestyle All-Americans.

Wisconsin’s Connor Mirasola picked up a 10-0 technical fall in two minutes to defeat Minnesota’s Joey Novak in the top-bracket semifinal at 195 pounds. Mirasola, a Penn State commit and 2022 Junior men’s freestyle champion at 182 pounds, will face Jersey Robb of Oklahoma. Robb earned a monster 10-0 technical fall in 98 seconds over Texas’ Karson Tompkins, ending Tomkins’ bid for a Junior Triple Crown.

Mirasola’s brother Cole Mirasola will face returning champion Cody Merrill of California in the finals at 220 pounds. Cole Mirasola prevailed in a wild 12-11 win over 2022 16U champion Jay Henderson of Utah. On Tuesday, Mirasola beat the other Merrill – Coby – in the quarterfinals.

Aden Attao rolled into the finals with a 10-0 technical fall in 1:23 against New Jersey’s Rocco Dellagatta. Attao will face 2021 16U double champion and 2022 U17 World Champion Koy Hopke of Wisconsin. Hopke teched South Dakota’s Navarro Schunke, another highly credentialed competitor. Schunke was a 2021 16U double champion at 285.

Pennsylvania’s Vince Bouzakis knocked off a second Fargo champion in as many rounds in a 6-2 semifinal win over 2022 16U champion Kody Routledge of Oklahoma at 152 pounds. Bouzakis beat Minnesota’s Zach Hanson earlier in the tournament. He joins younger sister Jaclyn Bouzakis as the second finalist from the family this week. Jaclyn Bouzakis was a runner-up in 16U women’s freestyle. Bouzakis will face California’s Grigor Cholakyan, who topped Pennsylvania’s Collin Gaj 8-2.

At 100 pounds, Alabama’s Kiyon Simon became the state’s fourth ever Junior men’s freestyle finalist, topping Virginia’s returning All-American Caden Smith 13-8 in the top bracket semifinals. Smith led 7-5 early in the second before Simon took over on his feet. Simon will face Rocco Hayes of Illinois, who had little trouble moving into the finals with a 10-0 technical fall over Indiana’s Brady Byrd.

At 106 pounds, Wisconsin’s Haakon Peterson, last year’s 16U champion in both styles, was deliberate and stingy in a 5-1 semifinal win over Oklahoma’s Aydan Thomas. He’ll face returning Junior All-American Tyler Harper of Iowa. Harper had a scare early, getting cradled up and nearly pinned in his semifinal against Indiana’s Nathan Rioux, but Harper rallied and earned a fall at 4:21.

At 113 pounds, Pennsylvania’s Aaron Seidel reached the finals after a quality 7-4 win over returning Junior All-American Dru Ayala of Iowa. While leading 3-2 with just over a minute to go, Seidel countered an Ayala attack to go ahead 5-2 and then put plenty of space between the two with a two-point exposure to build out a 7-2 lead. Ayala added two late for the final outcome. Seidel will face Oklahoma’s Chris Kiser, who came out of the top bracket after a 10-4 win over Iowa’s Jake Knight. It’s Kiser’s first medal in either style or age-group in Fargo.

At 120 pounds, Oklahoma’s Beric Jordan topped California’s Isaiah Cortez 6-6 on criteria. Jordan will take on 2022 16U champion Leo DeLuca of New Jersey in the finals. DeLuca built an 8-0 lead over Florida’s Ethan Rivera and finished off the technical fall just under a minute into the second period.

Pennsylvania’s Jax Forrest, last year’s UWW U17 world silver medalist, reached his first Fargo final after quickly dispensing with Missouri’s Brady Roark 10-0 in 1:07. His 126-pound finals opponent will be J.J. McComas-Rogers of Oklahoma, who reached the finals after a 2-1 victory over Arizona’s Adrian Meza. There was little in terms of offense in the bout as all three points scored were from expiring activity periods, with the last coming with 51 seconds remaining in the bout in favor of McComas-Rogers.

In an all-Arizona semifinal, 2021 16U champion Kyler Larkin teched teammate Sergio Vega 11-0 in the bottom bracket semifinal at 132 pounds. Larkin built a 6-0 lead after a period and finished things off quickly into the second after a pair of two-point scores and a final point for a lost challenge. Larkin will face Iowa’s Kale Petersen, who was a 9-6 winner over Pennsylvania’s Dalton Perry in the other semifinal. Perry led 6-5 with 30 seconds to go before Petersen initiated a leg attack that he finished 10 seconds later for the go-ahead points. He’d add two more late to ice the match.

Wisconsin also pushed wrestlers into the finals at 160 and 170 as Braeden Scoles defeated Ohio’s Ethan Birden 11-3 at 170 pounds and Noah Mulvaney teched New Jersey’s Ryan Burton 11-0 at 182 pounds. Scoles will face New Jersey’s William Henckel, a returning Junior All-American and 2021 16U champion. Henckel beat Wisconsin’s Charlie Millard 10-3. Mulvaney will face Illinois’ Chris Moore, who was a 12-7 winner over Pennsylvania’s Holden Garcia.

Team Scores heading into medal rounds
(Finalists noted)

1. Pennsylvania 177 (3)
2. Wisconsin 134 (6)
3. Oklahoma 107 (4)
4. California 99 (3)
5. New Jersey 98 (3)
6. Iowa 96 (4)
7. Illinois 79 (3)
8. Indiana 63 (1)
9. Ohio 59
10. Minnesota 52

Finals Pairings
100: Kiyan Simon (Alabama) vs. Rocco Hayes (Illinois)
106: Haakon Peterson (Wisconsin) vs. Tyler Harper (Iowa)
113: Christopher Kiser (Oklahoma) vs. Aaron Seidel (Pennsylvania)
120: Beric Jordan (Oklahoma) vs. Leo DeLuca (New Jersey)
126: Jax Forrest (Pennsylvania) vs. J.J. McComas-Rogers (Oklahoma)
132: Kale Petersen (Iowa) vs. Kyler Larkin (Arizona)
138: Ryder Block (Iowa) vs. Daniel Zepeda (California)
145: Kannon Webster (Illinois) vs. Cross Wasilewski (New Jersey)
152: Vince Bouzakis (Pennsylvania) vs. Grigor Cholakyan (California)
160: Braeden Scoles (Wisconsin) vs. William Henckel (New Jersey)
170: Noah Mulvaney (Wisconsin) vs. Chris Moore (Illinois)
182: Tate Naaktgeboren (Iowa) vs. Orlando Cruz (Indiana)
195: Connor Mirasola (Wisconsin) vs. Jersey Robb (Oklahoma)
220: Cody Merrill (California) vs. Cole Mirasola (Wisconsin)
285: Aden Attao (Idaho) vs. Koy Hopke (Wisconsin)

100 pounds
Kiyan Simon (Alabama) dec. Caden Smith (Virginia) 13-8
Rocco Hayes (Illinois) tech fall Brady Byrd (Indiana) 10-0, 2:19

106 pounds
Haakon Peterson (Wisconsin) dec. Aydan Thomas (Oklahoma) 5-1.
Tyler Harper (Iowa) pin Nathan Rioux (Indiana) 4:21.

113 pounds
Christopher Kiser (Oklahoma) dec. Jake Knight (Iowa) 10-4.
Aaron Seidel (Pennsylvania) dec. Dru Ayala (Iowa) 7-4.

120 pounds
Beric Jordan (Oklahoma) dec. Isaiah Cortez (California) 6-6, criteria
Leo DeLuca (New Jersey) tech fall Ethan Rivera (Florida) 10-0, 3:56

126 pounds
Jax Forrest (Pennsylvania) tech fall Brady Roark (Missouri) 10-0, 1:07
J.J. McComas-Rogers (Oklahoma) dec. Adrian Meza (Arizona) 2-1

132 pounds
Kale Petersen (Iowa) dec. Dalton Perry (Pennsylvania) 9-6.
Kyler Larkin (Arizona) tech fall Sergio Vega (Arizona) 11-0, 3:36

138 pounds
Ryder Block (Iowa) dec. Landon Robideau (Minnesota) 6-3.
Daniel Zepeda (California) dec. Omar Ayoub (Ohio) 6-5.

145 pounds
Kannon Webster (Illinois) dec. Jaxon Joy (Ohio) 2-1
Cross Wasilewski (New Jersey) dec. Logan Paradice (Georgia) 10-4

152 pounds
Vince Bouzakis (Pennsylvania) dec. Kody Routledge (Oklahoma) 6-2.
Grigor Cholakyan (California) dec. Collin Gaj (Pennsylvania) 8-2.

160 pounds
Braeden Scoles (Wisconsin) dec. Ethan Birden (Ohio) 11-3
William Henckel (New Jersey) dec. Charlie Millard (Wisconsin) 10-3.

170 pounds
Noah Mulvaney (Wisconsin) tech fall Ryan Burton (New Jersey) 11-0, 2:12
Chris Moore (Illinois) dec. Holden Garcia (Pennsylvania) 12-7

182 pounds
Tate Naaktgeboren (Iowa) tech fall Hoke Poe (Georgia) 12-2, 4:31.
Orlando Cruz (Indiana) dec. Justin Rademacher (Oregon) 4-4.

195 pounds
Connor Mirasola (Wisconsin) tech fall Joey Novak (Minnesota) 10-0.
Jersey Robb (Oklahoma) tech fall Karson Tompkins (Texas) 10-0, 1:38.

220 pounds
Cody Merrill (California) tech fall Aidan Schlett (New Jersey) 10-0, 0:36.
Cole Mirasola (Wisconsin) dec. Jay Henderson (Utah) 12-11.

285 pounds
Aden Attao (Idaho) tech fall Rocco Dellagatta (New Jersey) 10-0, 1:23
Koy Hopke (Wisconsin) tech fall Navarro Schunke (South Dakota) 12-2, 2:02.

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