This year, the United States is sending one of its strongest Junior teams in recent memory to the World Championships in Macon, France. This year. It’s all about this year. Forget last summer’s performance, the one before that, and whatever other preconceptions you may have built up in your mind. The US is coming loaded up with talented prospects in 2016, and France could be a sort of coming-out party for the group.
But before that happens, here are concise scouting reports on each Junior World Team member so that when everything heats up next week, you’re already in on the ground floor.
2016 US Junior World Greco Roman Team
50 kg – Randon Miranda – California
One of three Northern Michigan athletes on this squad, Miranda brings a spark plug-like presence. As a sprite Cadet, you could see that he had the fight. And when he first moved up in age-group competition, that fight hadn’t left him, but he didn’t quite have the size. Things have changed a bit. Miranda has grown into his body and subsequently, the weight class. This serves him well for his inside attacks, as he doesn’t have to be concerned about getting muscled over. Although he had been a consistent national threat as a teen, Miranda has really blossomed in both maturity and physicality more recently. In other words, growing older has agreed with him.
Another thing also working in Miranda’s favor for these Junior Worlds is that he is a deft counter-wrestler. He knows where his body needs to be and can react with both speed and timing. It’ll be interesting to see how he approaches some of the more-seasoned international studs he might come across next week, but one thing you don’t have to worry about is his drive. Miranda has competed overseas some, not a ton. But he has credible matches against international opponents, most recently at the Superior Dual and the Junior Greco World Duals, where he finished first.
55 kg – Dalton Roberts – Michigan
Roberts, similar to Miranda, cut his teeth as a Cadet, taking home some hardware. Great. But he followed that up with a UWW Junior National title and that is when things really got rolling. What you like about Roberts is that stays within himself. He won’t make the big mistake. A “wise beyond his years” kind of wrestler. And as such, that means he knows where his strengths are. Roberts loves to come forward and press the issue. Though he might not be an overly-rangy wrestler, he typically doesn’t have a lot of trouble getting to the ties he wants and uses his feet from there to find position. Roberts has also gained a substantial amount of strength over the past year, so best of luck trying to knock him off his spot when he’s committing inside.
Roberts went 1-1 at last year’s Worlds, losing via tech to Kazakhstan’s Amangali Bekbolatov in the quarters. Dismiss it. Roberts has by now gotten a good taste of what this kind of event is all about. He’s currently in bloom, so make sure you pay attention to his performance in the tournament. It could be yet another launching pad for the surging 20-year old.
60 kg – Taylor LaMont – Utah
It’s odd to say that someone with the kind of resume LaMont has already acquired had to pay their dues, but that’s kind of the case here. LaMont made the Junior World Team by pinning Minnesota standout Mitchell McKee twice in their best-of-three final. McKee is a monster. That final was supposed to be a continuation of a longstanding rivalry, but…yikes. Not that the World Team Trials alone is what makes LaMont’s place here so compelling. The dude is a capable assassin. Dynamic. LaMont stalks and stalks and then pounces. It’s fast. Really fast. He also doesn’t get tired. Ever. And just in case you were wondering whether or not LaMont’s skill-set translates internationally, it bears remembering that he had a solid showing at the Cadet Worlds last year, losing to the eventual champ by a point early on before barely missing out on a bronze.
So despite the leap up in age and competition, this really isn’t LaMont’s first rodeo. Everyone stateside knows what this kid is capable of when it comes to beating up national opposition, but he can collect some overseas scalps, as well. LaMont has that type of ability: He is strong, patient, and opportunistic, which are the attributes that win matches at this level.
66 kg – Jamal DeArmond – California
It is easy to see DeArmond boasts some impressive physical tools. Few Junior wrestlers can dictate the pace of a match the same way. All one needs to do is watch DeArmond’s legs. When his feet are moving, they are moving with purpose. That is because he isn’t just a clasher; rushing inside to bang heads and shoulders isn’t DeArmond’s thing. The California native is more interested in exposing the tiniest cracks in an opponent’s defense in effort to hit throw-by’s, headlocks, and whatever else that presents itself. It’s an interesting, mature approach, especially considering the fact that DeArmond is equally adept from par terre, nailing straddle lifts and guts with a confidence that is contradictory to his overall rawness.
The 2016 Junior Greco Roman World Championships represent DeArmond’s first legitimate foray into a tournament of this magnitude. Right off the bat, that makes him an x-factor. It’s a good position to be in. Because while DeArmond, 19, has defeated some of the US’s most talented age-group competitors at his weight, there aren’t a lot of comparisons for his potential international opponents to make. Flying under the radar a little bit could mean big surprises are in store for whomever he locks up with in France.
74 kg – Kamal Bey – Colorado Springs (via Illinois)
Bey is an electrifying wrestler who likes to maintain top speed as long as possible. You could chalk part of that up to the fact he doesn’t show any fear when trying to engage and also, the makeup of his personality, which is aggressively outgoing. After all, he’s into putting on a show. But don’t twist that up into thinking Bey is anything other than an extremely serious competitor. Holding strong as one of the country’s top Greco Roman prospects. Bey earned his right to compete at these Worlds by getting past the equally-tough Jesse Porter at the Junior Trials. So sure, while it’s nice to be reminded of all of those significant Fargo performances, it is encouraging that he recognizes the need to step up his game according to the competition.
There have been some matches against overseas opponents. Not a ton. Bey blasted through the Black Diamond Cup in Hungary over the winter, taking out previous Hungarian Cadet World Team member Tamas Levai. And along with most of the other Juniors, got a taste of international competition at the Superior Camp. If you combine Bey’s glistening potential, his training in Colorado Springs, and his overall body of work, there is no reason not to expect an appearance on the podium next week.
84 kg – Nicholas Reenan – Texas
A wrestler with a lot of options, Reenan has been successful at every style he has taken on. But boy, is it enjoyable to watch this guy go at it up top. Reenan showcases exceptional balance for a bigger guy and has a knack for exposing even the slightest weaknesses in the ties. What you’re watching is a keen awareness of one’s own athleticism. His body just knows where to go. This is a good thing — the Europeans Reenan will be called upon to contend with go on positional auto-pilot; they’ve been doing this for so long, it is second nature. What makes Reenan special is that since he is such a gifted competitor, the perceived “deficit” the US usually has internationally shouldn’t play too much of a role in his performance. Some wrestlers just know how to turn it on when it counts and he’s one of them.
And that is why within the context of Reenan in this tournament, it’s a good idea to throw out what you already know. Throw out the folk/free titles, even toss away his terrific Greco appearances. Get into all of this from a fresh perspective and try to concentrate on the actual applicability of Reenan’s skill-set. Just on optics alone, if you knew nothing else about Reenan, you’d have him tabbed as a contender. We might see him challenged more next week than he has ever been before, but it’s a safe bet he’s up for it.
96 kg – G’Angelo Hancock – Colorado Springs
The future is now for young Mr. Hancock. It has been a good while since the last time the US has had an upper-weight prospect with the same kind of dynamic ability Hancock offers. In case you are otherwise unfamiliar, here it goes: Take a young, strong kid with a natural inclination towards throws; show him that there aren’t any real boundaries to what he can do; and then put him on a mat and let him get to work. Hancock might still be a way’s away from being a completely finished product, but when you make the Senior National Team at 18 years of age, there isn’t a whole lot to complain about. The upwards tick in the wunderkind’s career path has been impressive to the point where it is almost alarming, but in the best possible sense of the word.
Hancock has tangled with foreign opponents on a few occasions, including last year’s Worlds (where he was blitzed out of the running in the opening round). But that performance notwithstanding, it has been smooth sailing. If anything, his only recent challenges have been, predictably, domestically on the Senior level. He dominated at both the Junior and University Nationals this year and tore through his matches in Concord and at the Superior meet. It’s also a guarantee he will have a target on his back in Macon. It won’t matter – Hancock should do just fine.
120 kg – Michael Rogers – Pennsylvania
You always want to have an aggressive heavyweight on your side, because then at least you know he will set the tempo. That is what Rogers does. You won’t get a lot of waiting around with this guy. He wants contact and he wants to score. What is also notable about Rogers is that he’s not afraid to go for lifts, even against opponents with rangier proportions. Confidence. He moves around pretty quick, but it isn’t because he is trying to speed things up so much as he’s simply just willing to brawl it up. Why wait to make something happen when it might be right there in front of you? Plus, Rogers, like his Wyoming Seminary teammate Reenan, displays some keen mat savvy, which allows him to make correct decisions under duress, a critical attribute to have at a big overseas event.
Greco-wise, there is a certain rawness here, like with DeArmond, that might actually be advantageous. Rogers is not all that interested in posturing. He’s on you from the whistle and is usually already sequencing his attacks. A complete lack of pretense. That love for immediate action will serve him well at the Junior Worlds, because those other 120’s aren’t coming to play around, either.