Sometimes, what happens in a calendar year doesn’t make a big difference. Good athletes stay good and any discernible improvements are minor. You might notice them, but overall, you’re getting what you expected. On the same token, a year can bring about the kind of adjustments that at first glance also appear not to be such a big deal, but lead to big results. Growth comes in bunches usually and when some of the nation’s best young wrestlers put it all on display at the same day and time, you take notice of these things. In total, the 2017 US Cadet Greco-Roman World Team Trials brought offered closer looks at numerous Fargo champs who have enjoyed a lot of progress as well as some new names that will be worth remembering.
In other words, 2017 US Cadet Greco-Roman World Team coaches Lucas Steldt and Zac Dominguez might have themselves quite the haul to bring to Athens. The action shook out on Friday at the Cadet World Team Trials held on the campus of the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio and streamed live on FloWrestling.
Malik Johnson (58 kg, Missouri) jumped up two weight classes in 2017 and going by what he pulled off yesterday, is even sharper and scarier than he was a year ago. Johnson came of age in 2016 by winning this tournament with the kind of approach that could serve him well as a Senior eventually. What worked for him then worked for him in Akron. For all of his athletic gifts, Johnson is cerebral and decisive in how he launches his attacks, and he needed to be just that to make his second World Team.
Three straight tech falls opened up Johnson’s day before he was challenged a little bit by a scrappy Braeden Dickinson (Idaho) in the semifinals. Nursing a 1-0 passivity lead, Johnson got to work following a takedown and gutted Dickinson over for another pair of points and a 5-0 lead to close out the first period. In the second, Dickinson unfurled a nice two-point correct hold arm throw only to have Johnson reach inside for a reverse headlock and pull him over for his own two. Johnson won the bout 7-2.
That put Johnson in the finals against Jevon Parrish (Kansas), who himself put together a very strong day and at times was a revelation. And it was Parrish who actually cracked this thing open with a two-point arm toss before momentarily catching Johnson on his back in the ensuing scramble. Down 4-0, Johnson had to get to work and he did so by chipping away. First it was two. And then one. And then Johnson delivered on a four-point throw at the edge to go up 8-4. When it was all said and done, Johnson got out of the first match in the best-of-three series with a 10-5 win.
If the first bout was competitive, the second was contentious. Once again, Parrish took the initiative by going up 5-1 after a beautiful arm throw. Johnson was being tested and in order for him to win, let alone stay in it, he stopped overreaching and instead, began playing a more patient game. He used his legs to get inside instead of prodding from a distance and that was the turning point. Once in Parrish’s clutches, Johnson snagged an arm and swiftly arched back into Parrish to take him to his back for four. It was gut-check time (no pun). Despite holding the criteria edge, Johnson still remained engaged and coaxed Parrish out with under :10 remaining to sweep the series and punch his ticket to Athens.
Schultz exacts revenge on promising Curd
When Tyler Curd (Missouri) won the Fargo Nationals last July, Cohlton Schultz (Colorado) was one of his victims. The two met in the quarterfinals in the Fargodome last year and Curd threw the bushy-haired prodigy three times en-route to a surprisingly dominant win. And the best thing about Curd wasn’t that he wound up winning the whole thing anyway, but that he is clearly a legitimate Greco prospect going forward. Even just a few weeks ago, there he was in California at the 2017 Junior Greco World Duals mixing it up with international competition in a third-place effort. The US program could use someone like him to blossom.
But it is Schultz who is the headline grabber, something that the loss to Curd last year did little to derail. He was also on the Cadet World Team last year but the hits have just kept on coming. In April, Schultz secured his spot on the Junior World Team, meaning this kid now has two World Championships to gear up for in 2017.
For as one-sided as their match-up in Fargo turned out, these two bouts were also similarly dominated by one athlete. Except twice. And with the opposite wrestler winning. In the first bout, Schultz picked up two when he landed on Curd out of the boundary. Most of the first period was spent with the wrestlers jostling for position, but that is also notable. When they met last July, Curd easily walked in over-under’s and managed to toss Schultz over. This time around, it was Schultz who controlled the tie-ups, even though on occasion Curd did pry his way in for a chance or two. In the second period, Schultz nailed a takedown and three guts to walk away the winner 9-0 (Curd’s side challenged and lost for the extra point).
The second and last bout did not go as long. Schultz came around back after cinching a bodylock and immediately went to work with a gut. He turned Curd twice, re-adjusting his lock to make it a trap-arm, and then rolled his way to Athens. It was an impressive ending to the finals series and now leads to Schultz having what could only be described as an extremely busy summer of preparation for two World Championships.
Mauger, Decker, and Byrd
Idaho’s Kase Mauger won at 42 kilograms by getting past Joey Manno (New Jersey) in two straight. The first of their best-of-three saw Mauger constantly staying upright and stalking takedown opportunities and he used a nice deep gutwrench to blow this one wide open late in the second period before shutting the door with a step-out point. Match 2 was a quick one. Mauger got behind for a takedown and a gutwrench. He then added on another two turns to seal it all up.
2016 Fargo Cadet National champ Dylan Ragusin (46 kg, Illinois) was forced to come back after a first round finals loss to Parker Decker (Texas) in order to emerge as the winner of the 46 kilogram weight class. Their first battle was an 8-4 triumph for Decker and he looked to carry the momentum going into the next one. An early arm throw attempt for Decker came close, but Ragusin managed to stay on his feet. After the first minute of this bout, you could already see it was going to be a grind. It was a chess match as the pair collided into two-on-ones and reaching underhooks with neither able to exploit the other’s positioning. Ragusin reeled Decker in with a long arm drag and took him straight to his back for four, which would be the summation of his scoring in what was a 4-2 victory to knot the series at one a piece.
With each owning a win, the third and final bout promised to deliver some drama. It wound up being quite anticlimactic. Ragusin lasered in off of a takedown and looped around a gutwrench to roll Decker three times inside of :30. Should he continue to add to his growing arsenal on his feet, Ragusin could be a very major player come the festivities later in the summer.
Everyone already knew the scope of talent Lucas Byrd (54 kg, Ohio) possesses. He is aggressive, agile, and exciting. In Anthony Molton (Illinois), he was facing someone with his own considerable gifts and miles of potential. Plus, both have been successful in this style previously. Byrd was a bronze at Fargo in 2015 and a runner-up last year with Molton taking bronze himself in 2016. So it should have been no surprise that Molton felt like he could do something here and made that point abundantly clear when he hurled Byrd up and away for a big five soon into their first finals match. He then held onto Byrd and collected another two with a correct hold off of a reverse lift. Jaw-dropping stuff, especially at this level in the US. Molton exited Match 1 with a dominant 12-2 win that didn’t see the second period.
Match 2 switched it all up. This time, Byrd was the one with the five-pointer, as he got deep on a bodylock and threw it over on the boundary. Molton seemed to land head-first and was shook up for a couple of minutes following the maneuver. Byrd picked up another two with a front headlock roll in the first period and then added a step-out in the second to win 8-1 and set up a conclusive third bout.
Tied at 1-1 in the first period of the deciding contest, Byrd and Molton were scrambling on their feet at the edge when Byrd, who was actually in front of Molton, reached back and arched in. Molton was then whipped to the surface, once again landing head first, requiring medical attention. The sequence scored four for Byrd, giving him a 5-1 cushion. Up 7-1 in the second frame, Byrd iced the proceedings with a takedown.
2017 US Cadet Greco-Roman World Team Trials Finals
42 kg — Kase Mauger (Idaho)
Kase Mauger (Idaho) def. Joseph Manno (New Jersey) 10-2, TF
Kase Mauger (Idaho) def. Joseph Manno (New Jersey) 8-0, TF
46 kg — Dylan Ragusin (Illinois)
Parker Decker (Texas) def. Dylan Ragusin (Illinois) 8-4
Dylan Ragusin (Illinois) def. Parker Decker (Texas) 4-2
Dylan Ragusin (Illinois) def. Parker Decker (Texas) 8-0, TF
50 kg — Lucas Byrd (Ohio)
Anthony Molton (Illinois) def. Lucas Byrd (Ohio) 12-2, TF
Lucas Byrd (Ohio) def. Anthony Molton (Illinois) 8-1
Lucas Byrd (Ohio) def. Anthony Molton (Illinois) 9-1, TF
54 kg — Ridge Lovett (Idaho)
Ridge Lovett (Idaho) def. King Sandoval (Maryland) 12-4, TF
Ridge Lovett (Idaho) def. King Sandoval (Maryland) 6-5
58 kg — Malik Johnson (Missouri)
Malik Johnson (Team Punishment) def. Jevon Parrish (Kansas) 10-5
Malik Johnson (Team Punishment) def. Jevon Parrish (Kansas) 6-5
63 kg — Mason Phillips (Washington)
Mason Phillips (Washington) def. Trevor Mansfield (South Carolina), 10-1
Mason Phillips (Washington) def. Trevor Mansfield (South Carolina) 7-2
69 kg — Will Lewan (Illinois)
Will Lewan (Illinois) def. Mason Reiniche (Tennessee) 8-0, TF
Will Lewan (Illinois) def. Mason Reiniche (Tennessee) 9-1, TF
76 kg — Jake Hendricks (Pennsylvania)
Christopher Foca (New Jersey) def. Jake Hendricks (Pennsylvania) 15-8
Jake Hendricks (Pennsylvania) def. Christopher Foca (New Jersey) 10-2, TF
Jake Hendricks (Pennsylvania) def. Christopher Foca (New Jersey) via fall
85 kg — Ashton Sharp (Missouri)
Peter Christensen (Illinois) def. Ashton Sharp (Missouri) 7-4
Ashton Sharp (Missouri) def. Peter Christensen (Illinois) 8-5
Ashton Sharp (Missouri) def. Peter Christensen (Illinois) 8-4
100 kg — Cohlton Schultz (Colorado)
Cohlton Schultz (Colorado) tech. fall Tyler Curd (Missouri) 9-0, TF
Cohlton Schultz (Colorado) tech. fall Tyler Curd (Missouri) 8-0, TF