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LAST CHANCE UPDATE: Clark Impresses in Return; Rice, Merkin, & Morrow Advance

travis rice, irtc
Travis Rice -- Photo: Sam Janicki

Jake Clark did what Jake Clark tends to do: take a nice, long hiatus and then come back as if he were just hanging around here the whole entire time.

The 2020 Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier began at 10:00am CT (11:00am EST) and is streaming live on FLOWrestling.

Now 41, Clark — the two-time World Team member and National champ — hadn’t stepped on a competitive (Greco-Roman) mat since the ’16 Olympic Trials finals. Other than the climb in weight and a few superficial signs of wear, everything was the same. When Clark laced them up this morning, he was drawn against top-seed JD Souza (Army/WCAP, 5PM #13 at 87 kg) — and the match didn’t go beyond a minute. That notorious front headlock was the reason. Clark took hold of the position early and raked Souza the requisite number of times to end the bout at only :53 into the opening frame.

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The efficiency did not deviate in the quarterfinal. Against Kyle Kunz (AZ), Clark finished with a front head for his second tech in two matches. He now prepares to face off with recent Junior/U23 World Team member (and ’20 Open runner-up) Chad Porter (Sunkist, 5PM #8).

Lightweights

Rice, Miranda, & Thomsen

’18 U23 World Team member Travis Rice (NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #9) used a high-gut lift and then regular gut to down ’20 Junior National runner-up David Stepanian (NYAC/NTS) — a match that meant just a little something if only because Stepanian, still a coveted prospect, had defeated Rice at the ’19 Farrell. Rice then went on to survive an unexpected and very serious challenge from Wyoming Seminary HS star Nic Bouzakis via 5-4 decision.  On the other side of the bracket, multi-time age-group World Teamer Randon Miranda (NYAC/CYC, 5PM #10) decisioned Dylan Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC) 5-1 and torched ’20 Junior National champ, among other things, Chayse La Joie (Spartan RTC). It will be a rematch of the ’17 Junior Trials finals next for Miranda, as Gabriel Townsell (Little Huskies) has advanced following a tech over Paul Tellgren (NMU/NTS) and a decision at the expense of Carter Stephenson.

’20 National champ Alex Thomsen (Nebraska Wrestling TC, 5PM #13) emerged victorious following an arduous round-of-32 battle with fellow former Fargo stud Phillip Moomey (Spartan RTC) before defeating Jesse Gomez (TX) and Junior National runner-up/’19 Fargo winner Billy Sullivan (Oklahoma RTC) to earn his spot in the semis.

Bouzakis had earlier picked up the stunner of the tournament by pinning ’19 Final-X runner-up Brady Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC, 5PM #12) in the first period of their round-of-16 bout. Bouzakis was cautioned quickly for hands to the face; shortly thereafter, Koontz had roped the body at length and Bouzakis swam under and over with a folkstyle “cement mixer” to come away with the shocker.

Merkin, Williams, Peak, and Perez

Multi-time and current National Teamer Hayden Tuma (5PM #5) won by tech and pin, respectively, in his first two bouts. The next showdown came against ’19 U23 rep Lenny Merkin (NYAC, 5PM #12), and Merkin’s double-overs, his superpower, delivered a pair of four-pointers that forced a halt to the proceedings in the first period. Now Merkin faces frequent workout partner and ’18 Open runner-up Jessy Williams (NYAC/Spartan RTC, 5PM #13). ’20 National champ Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS, 5PM #10) is 3-0 on the day, and his semifinal opponent is none other than Robert Perez III (EAP/USOPTC). Perez, originally from California, is a highly-touted young athlete who chose full-time Greco over a host of other wrestling options last year but was unable to compete due to the pandemic shutdown.

77 Notes

Three-time U23 World Team member Jesse Porter (NYAC, 5PM #11) was stiffly tested by NMU’s Riley Briggs in the round-of-16 but was back to his dominant ways over Duncan Nelson (NMU/NTS) to secure his spot in the semis opposite Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm). This is a match that has “can’t-miss” written all over it. Austin Morrow — a longtime competitor at 67 — is up at 77 for the first time in his career and has two 8-0 superiors to his credit. His opponent in the semis will be Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm, 5PM #9). Ortiz was on the verge of defeat in the quarters and trailed Britton Holmes 7-0 until a furious turn of events that led to Ortiz notching a pin. Holmes got on the board first with a five near the boundary, which was responsible for the brunt of his haul of points. After a long conference among officials, action resumed with Ortiz soon finding a front headlock off of an exchange. He yanked it once, and over again to put Holmes on his back.

Elsewhere

’18 Junior World silver Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC/Spartan RTC) has made the weight jump look good so far with wins over Vaughn Monreal-Berner (Marines) and recent age-group World Teamer/Michigan State student-athlete Cameron Caffey. Berreyesa next has Christian DuLaney of the Minnesota Storm, who has also performed with a sharp edge through the first two rounds. On the top half of the 87 chart, Alan Vera (NYAC, 5PM #1) has gone virtually untouched and greets Tommy Brackett (UA) next.

Braxton Amos (Wisconsin RTC, 5PM #9) has only had one match today, a tech win over Bryan Ingram (AZ). He is ready for more. Waiting for Amos in the 97 kg semis is Guy Patron (Dubuque WC), a former four-time DIII All-American and well-balanced wrestler with promising Greco skills in his own right. Patron last competed in Greco at the U23 Nationals in November where he was runner-up to Caffey.

The literal biggest prospect in the tournament is Tanner Farmer (130 kg, NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #10) and he has made good on the relative hype by drumming up two tech falls en-route to the semis. His dance partner there will be Marine Courtney Freeman. Farmer has become one of the most talked-about heavyweights in recent memory despite having only one Senior tournament under his belt (4th at the October Nationals).

Tommy Helton (130 kg, Southern Illinois RTC, 5PM #12) is yet one more wrestler who overcame a steep deficit only to storm back and triumph. Helton was behind Malcolm Allen (LOG) 6-0 in the second period but turned it all around by chipping away with two points — and then with :47 left, Helton nailed a clutch four to pull out the win via criteria. A tough customer will stand in the far corner in the semis for Helton, as Lee Herrington (Nebraska Wrestling TC) has pitched two vicious shutouts on his way to the semifinal round.

The semifinals of the Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier are scheduled to start at around 3:00pm CT and can be viewed live on FLOWrestling. 

2020 Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier

March 26 — Fort Worth, TX

SEMIFINAL MATCH-UPS

60 kg

Travis Rice (NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #9) vs. Alex Thomsen (Nebraska Wrestling TC, 5PM #13)
Randon Miranda (NYAC/CYC, 5PM #10) vs. Gabriel Townsell (Little Huskies)

67 kg

Lenny Merkin (NYAC, 5PM #12) vs. Jessy Williams (NYAC/Spartan RTC, 5PM #13)
Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS, 5PM #10) vs. Robert Perez III (EAP/USOPTC)

77 kg

Jesse Porter (NYAC, 5PM #11) vs. Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm)
Austin Morrow (NYAC/NTS, 5PM #13) vs. Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm, 5PM #9)

87 kg

Alan Vera (NYAC, 5PM #1) vs. Tommy Brackett (USOPTC)
Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC/Spartan RTC) vs. Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm)

97 kg

Jake Clark (UA) vs. Chad Porter (Sunkist, 5PM #8)
Braxton Amos (Wisconsin RTC, 5PM #9) vs. Guy Patron (Dubuque WC)

130 kg

Tanner Farmer (NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #10) vs. Courtney Freeman (Marines)
Tommy Helton (Southern Illinois RTC) vs. Lee Herrington (Nebraska Wrestling TC)

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