Tyler Curd (MO, 220 lbs) announced his arrival on the national scene while a couple of others carried over past successes to take home “stop signs.” The Cadet National finals took place earlier today in Fargo, North Dakota and as usual, set off plenty of fireworks under the spotlight. This year’s crop of Cadets didn’t come to play around. Plenty of shrewd inside fighting, big moves at big moments, and the occasional “grit your teeth and get through it” kind of bout decorated the proceedings.
Alabama, stand up
At 88 lbs, Sam Latona became Alabama’s first ever Cadet Greco Roman champion when he took out Andrew Chambal (MI) 6-1. Chambal entered the day having already amassed quite a summer on the heels of his performances at the Cadet Junior Duals and Pan Ams. But Latona was a cool customer throughout their battle. Chambal demonstrated a looser, more flexible approach; Latona stayed steady and kept a more traditional Greco posture. Both got knocked for passivity (somewhat inexplicably), clouding the early action. Latona nursed a 2-1 score and was looking for blood. He got in on a slide-by and turned it into more points. Chambal was cautioned for two, and Latona was sitting pretty.
Chambal had no choice but to start gunning it as time wound down. It was easy to tell that the Michigan native still had something left to break out. Unfortunately for him, it was a desparation headlock attempt that Latona easily shrugged off for two more and a 6-1 lead as time expired. It was a well-earned victory for Latona, but this match was over-officiated from jump street.
Dylan Ragusin (IL, 94 lbs) didn’t even wait for Brenden Chaowanapibool (WA) to get a decent sweat going. Ragusin opened up with a deep bodylock that he immediately parlayed into a gut for a lightening-fast 4-0 lead. He then kept pressing the fight by locking onto a two-on-one while using his considerable height advantage for leverage. A sound strategy, as it forced Chaowanapibool to play back. That’s when Ragusin set up a pretty arm-drag which led to another takedown. From there, it was academic. Two more turns meant it was all over and Ragusin had earned himself a coveted national championship.
Kansas has a new champ
How about Jace Koelzer (KS, 106 lbs)? Taking on Colorado’s durable upstart Patrick Allis, Koelzer played the defined role of short fiery guy to Allis’s taller, composed foil. The kid just kept coming forward. For whatever technical skill Koelzer likes to express, one thing that grabs your attention is how he is always looking for a fight. He held onto a tie, a daunting proposition given Allis’s reach. The two clashed at the edge with Kolezer checking his hips on the landing, coming away with two points. Allis isn’t one to shy away from a dust-up himself, so he worked inside and slowed down his opponent’s assault just enough. Certainly to the official, it worked, because Allis showed enough intent to earn a passivity point at the expense of Koelzer. Of course, that did little to dim the flame.
The second period meant Allis would have to start stalking to create a chance. Not easy, specifically due to Koelzer’s unwillingness to put himself in a risky position, and he dutifully kept his feet moving in all the right places. Opportunities were beginning to wane, Allis had to try to make something happen. A headlock attempt missed, but he regrouped just in time to grab onto Koelzer for a last-second throw. That, too, didn’t catch, and he landed right on his back as the match ended, awarding Koelzer two more points and a 4-1 win.
113 lbs saw Jordan Hamdan (MI) keep his head above water long enough to pull out what had to be the most unforgettable match of his career thus far. Reece Wittcraft (OK) positively took it to Hamdan early on thanks to an over-under toss for four. Just when Hamdan had started to sort of find his groove, he went for an ill-advised throw from his knees, which Wittcraft countered and converted into four more points. It was 8-2 and both athletes had barely gotten settled in yet. But it’s Fargo.
Although points can come pretty fast, Hamdan remained committed to letting the match unfold in areas he could exploit. A bodylock closed Wittcraft’s advantage to 8-6. Hamdan began appearing more energized. He then cut Wittcraft off the edge to tie the score. Of the two wrestlers, Hamdan was fresher and wrestling like it. He forced Wittcraft to step out yet again and then followed up with two more to go up 11-8. Wittcraft tried bursting it into gear at the end, diving in to snag something, anything to stop the comeback. But Hamdan punctuated his effort by tossing him off at the whistle, though no points were awarded. Even still, an incredible comeback in a huge match for the Michigan youth.
And then there’s this
If you hadn’t heard the name Theorius Robison (CO) before, don’t worry — you will plenty enough in the future. In the 120 lbs final, Robison delivered a statement-making performance that Atilano Escobar (AZ) could do little else but be there for participation’s sake. It’s not his fault: Robsion vividly presented dynamic ability throughout the two days and Monday afternoon’s match was simply another excuse for him to steal some eyeballs. Robison launched a big five to kick this one off via an absolutely beautiful duck-under to a bodylock. Right away, he was back at it again, this time netting two. 7-0, Robison. Another two points made it 9-0 and all Escobar had going for him coming in was washed away. Escobar, just trying to stay alive and get his bearings at this juncture, re-set in the center, creating enough space between he and Robison to fit an SUV. It didn’t matter. Robison darted in from several feet away into another nasty duck-under, collected his two points, and walked away the winner in a jaw-dropping final people are likely to talk about for a while.
Curd is the word
In a weight class stocked with a generous number of talented names, Tyler Curd, like Robison, made one for himself. Just in case the dust hadn’t fully settled on Curd’s win over Cohlton Schultz, his finals triumph over Jace Punke (Ill) is sure to bring it all to pass. A tight snap by Curd led to an even tighter front-headlock roll that he would somehow manage to turn twice on the exceptionally strong Punke. Punke did escape and reverse position for a point to make it 4-1. Curd tried again for a front-head but Punke didn’t wilt, escaping once again and winding up on top for two takedown points. 4-3 Curd at the break.
When the match resumed, Curd instantly got another snap and spun around for two. The snap to front-head was working too well for Curd to ignore, so he went for it again and repeated the previous sequence. The difference was that this time, he was able to gut Punke over twice to make it 12-3. It was so close, he could smell it. Yet another snap to spin was all it took and there you go — everyone say hello to Tyler Curd, your 2016 220 lbs Cadet National Champion.
Twice is nice
Both Nick Raimo (NJ, 126 lbs) and Travis Wittlake (OR, 170 lbs) repeated as champions, but in very different ways. Raimo had his hands full constantly with Carter Tuttle (PA), who used a reverse lock (which Raimo deftly cartwheeled out of) to draw first blood. Raimo came back with a headlock, one of the chief tools in his arsenal, to jump ahead. He then gutted Tuttle over for a 9-4 cushion. However, Tuttle wasn’t done. A bodylock plus a caution and two on Raimo put the Oregonian up 9-8. The tense exchanges were about to get ratcheted up a notch.
Raimo was having trouble getting a handle on Tuttle. He was active, for sure, but Tuttle expertly maintained position and warded off anything serious. The only thing left to do for Raimo was to try and bully Tuttle around a bit. He worked inside and drove him out for one step-out point. At the re-set, Tuttle cut angles in effort to sneak something in to put this the match away. Raimo didn’t relent and once again bore inside, forcing Tuttle out for another step-out (and takedown), which also gave him an 13-10 lead at the buzzer and his second consecutive title.
Tyler Barnes (NY) just might have been one of the most complete wrestlers in the tournament. The problem for him? Wittlake knows the game too well. Wittlake picked up the bout’s first points on a snap to spin. Barnes fought back soon after for a step-out point and looked poised to be in this thing. Wittlake wasn’t having it. A slide-by to a gut off the edge put him on top 6-1 to close out the first period and the match would never get any closer. A step-out for Barnes early in the second increased the gap to 7-1. Another a minute later made it 8-1. And then the two traded step-outs again with Wittlake cruising the rest of the way 9-2.
2016 Cadet Nationals Final Results
Sam Latona def. Andrew Chambal (MI) 6-1
Dylan Ragusin (Ill) def. Brenden Chaowanapibool (WA) 10-0, TF
Ridge Lovett (ID) def. Lucas Byrd (OH) 13-3
Jace Koelzer (KS) def. Patrick Allis (CO) 4-1
Jordan Hamdan (MI) def. Reece Wittcraft 11-8
Theorius Robison (CO) def. Atilano Escobar (AZ) 11-0, TF
Nicholas Raimo (NJ) def. Carter Tuttle (PA) 13-10
Mason Phillips (WA) def. Tyler Eischens (MN) 16-9
Will Lewan (Ill) def. Brock Hardy (UT) 6-3
Dawon Andrews (AZ) def. Abe Assad (Ill) 3-0
James Rogers (WA) def. Tyler Dow (WI) 12-0, TF
Aaron Brooks (MD) def. Jake Hendricks (PA) 2-1
Travis Wittlake (OR) def. Tyler Barnes (NY) 9-2
Ryan Karoly (NJ) def. Caden Steffen (MN) 6-3
Braxton Amos (OH) def. Kaleb Reeves (IA) 10-0, TF
Tyler Curd (MO) def. Jace Punke (Ill) 14-3, TF
Curd was also named Outstanding Wrestler for the tournament
Spencer Trenary (IA) def. Montana Phillips (OK) 17-4, TF