Jake Allar cruised right back into form, Taylor Venz kept rolling, and Drew Marten picked up his team when they needed him most as the US Junior Greco Roman Duals got underway earlier today in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Many of the nation’s top Junior wrestlers were on hand to provide the backdrop to a fun-filled day of competition, but there were certainly more than a few one-sided beatings handed out. Minnesota Blue dominated through Pool A getting through Indiana (56-13), South Dakota (60-6), and Tennessee (55-14) before taking on Washington in the bracket’s final. There it was more of the same. Minnesota Blue racked up six consecutive wins starting with Allar at 160 and the early assault only stopped when heavyweight Sam Erckenbrack rebounded from his loss to Nick Boykin (Tennessee) to tech fall Washington’s Nick Workman. Brendan Chaowanapibool (100 lbs) put Washington on the scoreboard with an 8-2 victory over Matt Peterson and Brandon Kaler tech’ed Tyler Jones in the next bout to inflict bring a flicker of hope. But then Minnesota Blue rattled off another six wins in a row to punctuate the damage and move into tomorrow’s championship rounds with a 54-16 drubbing of a tough Washington squad.
Illinois didn’t come to play around
Illinois might not have put up the same number of points as Minnesota Blue in their Pool B meetings, but they weren’t too far behind. First was a shellacking of North Dakota Red 65-3; Florida provided a test but still fell short 42-25; and then Utah Green met a similar fate, dropping the Pool final 42-25. Against Florida, Gabe Townsell kicked things off with a 15-5 tech over Marcus Abreu at 132 lbs and uber-gifted Nolan Baker (138 lbs) immediately tried to keep the momentum going with a pin at just :47 of Demetrius Anderson. Anthony Artalona (145 lbs) wasn’t about to just let the shoe drop that early. Using a calculated approach and taking what Will Lewan gave him, Artalona was able to come away with a crisp 8-1 decision. It was basically “take one, give one” throughout the next group of matches until Joey Melendez stormed through Malyke Hines via fall 27 seconds in to essentially put this one away.
All hands were on deck in the pool final versus Utah Green. Lewan got back on the horse and started things off with a fire-breathing 10-0 tech and Austin O’Connor backed him up by sweeping through to a 9-0 decision at 152. The key for Illinois here was to pile up points to avoid Utah Green’s two top stars, Junior World Team member Taylor La Mont (132 lbs) and Wyatt Koelling (195 lbs) from igniting any kind of changing of the tide. Koelling did his job by tech’ing out up-and-comer Zack Crosby. But by the time La Mont took the mat eight matches later, this thing was in the books. Illinois put together a string of seven victories following Koelling’s tech over Crosby, giving the team the huge head start it needed and then they just carried it on from there. A big performance all around.
Michigan Blue went through the gauntlet
Michigan Blue put out a squad of fighters this year and it’s a good thing they did. In perhaps the deepest pool of the US Junior Greco Roman Duals resided three top-flight teams stocked with ability – the aforementioned Blue, California and Ohio. It came down to the proverbial wire in the Pool C semifinal between Michigan Blue and California. Rising stars Patrick Ramirez (132 lbs) and Peyton Omania (145 lbs) took two of the first three bouts with technical superiority wins. But then Bret Fedewa (152 lbs) put everyone on notice with an exclamation point by pinning Michael Zaragoza to tie the dual at eight a piece. California came right back as both Andrew Cervantez (160 lbs) and Anthony Mantanona (170 lbs) picked up tech’s. And then Jelani Embree (182 lbs) got a pin and Brandon Whitman soared over Bonaficio Escobar with a 10-0 tech. It went almost according to a script. They were trading punches in two’s.
Leading 30-29 heading into the final two bouts, California needed a clincher. It wouldn’t happen. Mason Hartshorn (120) allowed Cal the right to get excited when he gave his team three points by virtue of decisioning Jordan Hamden 12-4. However, everything became academic in the afternoon’s last bout, as Drew Marten delivered the finishing blow thanks to a huge 14-5 win that set the stage for the pool final. What an exciting match between two teams who were separated by the thinnest of margins.
As had been the case in so many of these dual meets, one team got off to a substantial lead while the other one had to play catch-up. The good thing for Michigan Blue? They caught up.
Ohio reeled off four straight to send a message that they were going to be in this one the entire way. And they were. Dom Demas (145 lbs), Davey Tunon (152 lbs), Jake Henderson (160 lbs) and Victor Marcelli (170 lbs) all earned victories to open the match. Jelani Embree pinned James Handwerk to settle things down a little, but then Bejamin Darmstadt (195 lbs) emerged with a fall over Whitman to give Ohio another boost. But there would be a sort of pattern developing. Michigan Blue got two more wins from Anthony Riopelle (220 lbs) and Trent Hillger (285 lbs) to nudge it back in their direction. Riopelle pinned Jared Campbell while Hillger got a tech over Matthew Adams. Everything changed soon after the lineup flipped over. Lucas Byrd (who had quite a day) tech’ed Devon Johnson at 100 lbs, but that would be Ohio’s last meaningful win. Michigan Blue won five of the next six bouts with four of them arriving via tech fall. Byrd’s match was the breaking point. Michigan Blue is exceptionally strong at the lighter weights and used that to its advantage to advance.
Oklahoma Red too much for Iowa
Iowa put up an inspired effort and showed it has a stream of young athletes who could make names for themselves in the world of Greco. The trouble is, Oklahoma Red also sports its fair share of killers and they went after it today in full effect. Brik Fillipo gave everyone a head’s up with a zooming tech over Nelson Brands at 145. Matt Malcom (152 lbs) got one back with a tech of his own over the capable Payton Scott. And from there, it was all Oklahoma Red. Iowa wasn’t shut out by any stretch – Brandon Haas (170 lbs) came away with a win, big man Carter Isley (285 lbs) displayed startling athletic tools to go along with his defeat of Gage Johnson, and Drew Bennett illustrated why he has been so successful up to this point in his wrestling career. The difficulty for Iowa in this one wasn’t just that Oklahoma Red simply won more matches. It was also the fact that like Michigan Blue against Ohio, most of Okie Red’s wins were of the dominant variety, which allowed them to sail on through the rest of the way. And now Oklahoma Red is going to have the chance to prove that what took place today wasn’t the endpoint but rather, the beginning of bigger things to come tomorrow.
US Junior Greco Roman Duals Pool Results
Minnesota Blue- 54 Washington- 16
Illinois- 46 Utah Green- 17
Michigan Blue- 32 Ohio- 25
Oklahoma Red- 41 Iowa- 29