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World Team Trials Challenge Greco-Roman Preview: World medalists Coon, Kikiniou headline field, which includes six Olympians

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Ildar Hafizov (USA) at the 2022 World Championships.
Two-time Olympian Ildar Hafizov is among the six Olympians in the Greco-Roman field. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

The final 10 Greco-Roman athletes for Final X will be determined on Saturday, May 20 at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament at Discovery Canyon High School in Colorado Springs.

The winner of the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in these weight classes will compete in Final X against the 2023 U.S. Open champion at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., June 10. The USA did not win a Senior World medal in Greco-Roman in 2022, which means no World medalist was able to sit out until Final X this year.

Leading the field of competitors is 2018 World silver medalist Adam Coon at 130 kg and 2009 World bronze medalist Aliaksandr Kikiniou at 77 kg. Coon won his World medal for Team USA, while Kikiniou won his for Belarus before emigrating to the USA. Kikiniou is one of six Olympians in the field, joined by two-time Olympians Idlar Hafizov (60 kg) and Ben Provisor (82 kg), plus Olympians Jesse Thielke (67 kg), Alejandro Sancho (67 kg) and John Stefanowicz (87 kg).

Here is a look at the competitors in each of the weight classes:

55 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Brady Koontz (TMWC/Dubuque RTC) in Final X

The only returning Senior National Team member in the draw is top seed Dalton Duffield, who was third on the latter in 2022-23, and was the 2023 U.S. Open runner-up. Duffield has made the Senior National Team in recent seasons, but is seeking his first Final X berth. He is one of three U.S. Army wrestlers in the draw, with No. 3 seed Billy Sullivan (sixth in the U.S. Open) and No. 4 seed Jacob Cochran (fourth in the U.S. Open). Sullivan has a strong age-group history, with a Junior Nationals title and a runner-up finish at the U20 Trials. Looking to make the finals isCamden Russell, third in the 2023 U.S. Open and a 2022 U23 World Team member. Russell won some bouts at the U23 Worlds and also has a strong age-group resume. Rounding out the field is Tirso Lara, seventh at the 2023 U.S. Open.

55 kg seeds
1. Dalton Duffield, Army WCAP
2. Camden Russell, MWC Wrestling Academy/New York AC
3. Billy Sullivan, Army WCAP
4. Jacob Cochran, Army WCAP
5. Tirso Lara, Top Gun WC)

60 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Dalton Roberts (Army WCAP) in Final X

The Army has the top two seeds on this weight class, with two-time Olympian and multiple-time World Team member Ildar Hafizov at No. 1 and past U.S. Open champion and National Team member Leslie Fuenffinger at No. 2. Fuenffinger was fourth at the 2023 U.S. Open at 63 kg, but has made the drop to 60 kg to push for a Final X berth. Young star Max Black, who was third at the 2023 U.S. Open and was a U.S. Open runner-up last season, also won the U20 Nationals this year. Dylan Koontz, fourth at the U.S. Open, and Jonathan Gurule, fifth at the U.S. Open, look to have a big quarterfinal battle, a rematch of a U.S. Open match won by Koontz. Looking to disrupt the bracket is No. 6 seed Randon Miranda, a 2022-23 National Team member who dropped bouts to Black and Koontz at the U.S. Open and finished seventh. Also competing is 2022 U23 World Team member Philip Moomey, who was knocked out of the U.S. Open by Black on the back side in April.

60 kg seeds
1. Ildar Hafizov, Army WCAP
2. Leslie Fuenffinger, Army WCAP
3. Max Black, NMU-National Training Center
4. Dylan Koontz, Dubuque RTC/Titan Mercury WC
5. Jonathan Gurule, NMU-National Training Center
6. Randon Miranda, Rise RTC
7. Phillip Moomey, Spartan Combat RTC

63 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Hayden Tuma (Suples WC) in Final X

Two-time Senior World Team member Sammy Jones, who was second at the U.S. Open this year, claims the No. 1 seed in this bracket. Jones will need to win two matches to secure a return trip to Final X. Dylan Gregerson, third in the 2023 U.S. Open and a 2022 Bill Farrell International runner-up, claimed the No. 2 seed. Gregorson is a past Senior National Team member, as is No. 3 seed Xavier Johnson, a 2021 U.S. Open champion and Pan American champion. Johnson, who started his career as a U.S. Marine, and is now with Army WCAP, was sixth at the U.S. Open. The weight class is rounded out with U.S. Open placewinners Savion Haywood (fifth at the Open) and Corbin Nirschl (seventh at the Open), both who are Jones’ side of the bracket. While Jones is favored to advance to the finals, he should face a tough battle for the Final X berth.

63 kg seeds
1. Sammy Jones, Sunkist Kids WC
2. Dylan Gregerson, Brunson UVRTC
3. Xavier Johnson, Army WCAP
4. Savion Haywood, Iguana WC
5. Corbin Nirschl, MWC Wrestling Academy/New York AC

67 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Robert Perez III (Sunkist Kids) in Final X

This weight class is loaded up top, with a pair of Olympians from Army WCAP securing the top seeds, No. 1 Jesse Thielke, a 2016 Olympian, and No. 2 Alejandro Sancho, a 2020 Olympian. Thielke was runner-up in the 2022 U.S. Open to surprising Robert Perez III, who awaits the winner of this bracket in Final X. Sancho, a 2022 World Team member, was upset by 2022 U20 World champion Joel Adams in the U.S. Open quarterfinals, his last bout at the Open. Adams went on to place fifth at the U.S. Open and received the No. 5 seed. Chayse LaJoie made a nice run to place third at the U.S. Open, winning seven straight matches on the back side. David Stepanian, a past Senior National Team member and U23 World Team member, was fourth in the U.S. Open. A new name at the Senior level, Nicholas Leonetti, was seventh at the U.S. Open.

67 kg seeds
1. Jesse Thielke, Army WCAP
2. Alejandro Sancho, Army WCAP
3. Chayse La Joie, California RTC
4. David Stepanian, New York AC
5. Joel Adams, The Best Wrestler
6. Nicholas Leonetti, Suples WC

72 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Justus Scott (Army WCAP) in Final X

One of the top stars in the Greco-Roman portion of the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament is two-time World Team member Patrick Smith, the top seed, who seeks a victory on Saturday to set up a rematch with surprise young U.S. Open champion Justus Scott in Final X. Smith was second on the Senior National Team, after a highly competitive Final X loss to Benji Peak last year. Peak is not competing this year due to injury. With only four athletes registered, somebody needs just two wins to get to Newark in June. Coming out of the U.S. Open were third-place Noah Wachsmuth, fourth-place Michael Hooker and fifth-place Jack Ervien, Jr. Ervien, a 2020 U20 Nationals champion, dropped a wild 9-7 bout to Smith in the U.S. Open semifinals, where Smith made a huge comeback. Wachsmuth scored technical falls over both Ervien and Hooker in the U.S. Open consolations.

72 kg seeds
1. Patrick Smith, Minnesota Storm
2. Noah Wachsmuth, New York AC
3. Jack Ervien, Viking WC
4. Michael Hooker, Army WCAP

77 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Kamal Bey (Army WCAP) in Final X

This weight class features three past Senior World Team members, along with some rising young talents. Making a big run to place second at the U.S. Open was 43-year-old Aliaksandr Kikiniou, who was competing in his first U.S. Open as a U.S. citizen. He is a past World medalist and Olympian for Belarus who lives and trains in California. Kikinou will face one of the past World Team members in the semifinals, as the No. 4 seed is 2021 World Team member Jesse Porter and 2018 World Team member RaVaughn Perkins is the No. 5 seed. Porter was fifth and Perkins was sixth at the 2023 U.S. Open. The No. 2 seed went to Payton Jacobson, a member of the 2022-23 Senior National Team, who was third in the U.S. Open, and emerging young talent Burke Paddock earns the No. 3 seed after taking fourth at the U.S. Open. It will be interesting how the field prepares for Kikiniou, who mixed a combination of throws and good position to power through the U.S. Open bracket. Now that they have seen him, we could see some tactical adjustments.

77 kg seeds
1. Aliaksandr Kikiniou, California
2. Payton Jacobson, Sunkist Kids WC
3. Burke Paddock, New York AC
4. Jesse Porter, New York AC
5. RaVaughn Perkins, New York AC

82 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Spencer Woods (Army WCAP) in Final X

Two-time Olympian Ben Provisor continues to power forward, after a long career of success in Greco-Roman. At 82 kg, Provisor combines tremendous strength with good defense and experience, and is very difficult to beat, especially in a close match. Claiming No. 2 seed is Andrew Berreyesa, a 2018 U20 World silver medalist, who was third in the U.S. Open. Berreyesa has completed his college career at Cornell and Northern Colorado, and is now focused on Greco-Roman. Johanner Correa, fourth in the U.S. Open, is a new challenger on the national level. Tommy Brackett, No. 3 on the 2022-23 Senior National Team, placed fifth at the U.S. Open and gets the No. 4 seed. Kendrick Sanders, who has won the U.S. Open earlier in his career, was sixth in the U.S. Open, after reaching the semifinals. Sanders is known for his big throws. 2022 U23 World Team member Tyler Cunningham placed seventh at the U.S. Open. Dropping down from 87 kg, where he was sixth at the U.S. Open, is veteran talent Barrett Stanghill. Another seasoned competitor and past National Team member, Ryan Epps, is also in the draw.

82 kg seeds
1. Ben Provisor, New York AC
2. Andrew Berreyesa, New York AC
3. Johanner Correa, North Carolina
4. Tommy Brackett, New York AC
5. Kendrick Sanders, New York AC
6. Tyler Cunningham, New York AC
7. Barrett Stanghill, Minnesota Storm
8. Ryan Epps, Minnesota

87 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Alan Vera (New York AC) in Final X

The U.S. Open was the return of 2020 Olympian and 2019 World Team member John Stefanowicz, who did not compete last season. Stefanowicz reached the 2023 U.S. Open finals, where he was defeated by two-time World Team member Alan Vera. He will be favored in a five-athlete bracket. College student-athlete and No. 2 seed Zachary Braunagel, who made a nice run to place third at the U.S. Open is a rising talent. Timothy Young, who competed in Final X last year and was No. 2 on the National Team ladder, placed fourth in the U.S. Open and is the No. 3 seed. Jordan Lara, who was seventh at the U.S. Open, has become a factor in the last few seasons. Richard Carlson, who made a U20 World Team back in 2014 and is a past National Team member, gets the No. 5 seed. At the U.S. Open, Carlson fell to Braunagel in the quarterfinals, then withdrew.

87 kg seeds
1. John Stefanowicz, Navy WC
2. Zachary Braunagel, Illinois RTC/Illini WC
3. Timothy Young, Army WCAP
4. Jordan Lara, Texas RTC
5. Richard Carlson, Minnesota Storm

97 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Josef Rau (Titan Mercury WC) in Final X

This four-athlete bracket is led by No. 1 seed and past U.S. Open champion Nicholas Boykin, who has competed on three U.S. age-group World Teams. Boykin was second at the 2023 U.S. Open. The No. 2 seed in Christian Dulaney, who was a member of the Senior National Team last year at 87 kg. Dulaney placed sixth in the U.S. Open, losing a tight 7-5 match to Boykin in the semifinals, then dropping out of the bracket. Two other U.S. Open placewinners have registered, Brandon Marshall, who placed fourth in Las Vegas, and Cade Lautt, who finished seventh. Marshall was second in the 2014 U20 World Team Trials and re-emerged on the national scene this year. Lautt is a student-athlete at the University of North Carolina.

97 kg seeds
1. Nicholas Boykin, Sunkist Kids WC
2. Christian DuLaney, Minnesota Storm
3. Brandon Marshall, Big Game WC
4. Cade Lautt, Tar Heel WC

130 kg
Champion to face U.S. Open champion Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kids) in Final X

The only athlete to win a Senior Greco-Roman World medal for the United States in the Greco-Roman draw is No. 1 seed Adam Coon, who was a 2018 World silver medalist. Coon, who also won three age-group World medals, took some time after the 2020 Olympic Trials to test himself in professional football, but came back to wrestling this season. Coon combines size, strength and skill in Greco-Roman, and may be even sharper after competing in his first Greco-Roman competition in a few years. Tanner Farmer, second in the 2022-23 Senior National Team, was third in the U.S. Open and dropped a 5-1 decision to Coon in the U.S. Open semifinals. Farmer played Div. I football at Nebraska, then returned to wrestling to pursue Greco-Roman success. Donny Longendyke reached the U.S. Open semifinals, then withdrew with an injury. The next week, he went to the Pan American Championships and placed fifth, qualifying the USA for the Pan American Games at this weight class. Brandon Metz, who wrestled at North Dakota State and was a strong age-group Greco-Roman wrestler, was fifth at the U.S. Open. Also qualifying for the field is Darryl Aiello, who finished seventh at the U.S. Open.

130 kg seeds
1. Adam Coon, Cliff Keen WC/New York AC
2. Tanner Farmer, New York AC
3. Donny Longendyke, Minnesota Storm
4. Brandon Metz, North Dakota
5. Darryl Aiello, Dubuque RTC
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