2017 Cadet World Champion Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, NYAC) found himself in unfamiliar territory before he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, while Peyton Omania (67 kg, Unattached), Barrett Hughes (87 kg, OKRTC), and four talented Wisconsinites all impressed in their own ways. The 2018 UWW Junior Greco-Roman World Team Trials finals was a lot of things, but boring isn’t one of them.
The action began on Friday afternoon at Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana and aired live in the US on FloWrestling.
In the heavyweight best-of-three final, 2017 Fargo National/Junior Pan Am champ Anthony Cassioppi (ISI) took Match 1 against Schultz after erasing an early 3-0 deficit and turning it into a 4-3 lead. The second period saw Schultz awarded with his second passivity of the point of the contest, though he was unable to capitalize further from par terre top. As the clock began to wind down, Cassioppi seized on a front headlock that he used to snap-and-spin, and he immediately transitioned into a gutwrench to pile on another pair, ultimately sealing an 8-4 victory to the surprise of many.
Match 2 didn’t offer much in the way of letup. It was back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Similar to the opening battle, Schultz received the first passivity point, and in the ensuing par terre, the Coloradan quickly circled to Cassioppi’s head for a try at a front headlock. As the movement progressed, Cassioppi popped up and reversed position, for which no points came his way until a challenge determined he deserved two. In the second period — and in short order — Cassioppi was banged for a two-point caution before he attempted an arm spin that Schultz snuffed for a takedown and a 5-2 advantage. Following a Cassioppi point on a step-out, Schultz snared two with a double underhook slide-by. Once again, the waning seconds creeped into the picture. Just as time was to run out, Cassioppi scored his own takedown and two more on a gut, but Schultz survived with a 7-7 criteria win to tie the series.
The third and decisive contest provided even more drama than the initial two. Cassioppi, operating with a touch more urgency, owned a 4-2 advantage entering the second period. Up to that point, the duo remained mired in a tactical battle with neither able to find the one big score that could deliver some precious breathing room. Schultz inched forward when Cassioppi was penalized for passivity with :50 to go. They returned standing after Schultz attempted to wrangle a gut that was defended well by Cassioppi. Down 4-3 with :12 left, Schultz got the answer he was looking for. Similar to the temerity he showed winning his World title last year, Schultz adjusted to snake around Cassioppi and he rolled his foe over to the mat for four monstrous points. A last-gasp challenge from Cassioppi was denied, making the official tally 8-4. With the win, Schultz earns spots on two World Teams for the second consecutive year on the heels of his U23 Trials triumph in Akron last week.
Wisconsin Times Four
Four of the first five weight classes went to Greco athletes from Wisconsin and two of them ran the table by getting past prior World Team members. At 55 kilograms, Brady Koontz (Unattached) ignited an offensive display that 2017 Junior World silver medalist Cevion Severado (NYAC) had little answer for as he piled on the points en-route to a 15-5 tech. Match 2 was decidedly tighter, however. Koontz benefitted from an early caution-and-two and a Severado passivity to jump ahead 3-0. Behind 3-1 in the second frame, Severado tried unleashing the speed and angles that took him to a World final. He made several blitzing duck-under attempts, and although they failed to yield a takedown, the activity did put him in position to steal the match with :30 remaining when Koontz was knocked for passivity. But from bottom, the Ohio State redshirt defended Severado’s lift until the whistle, walking away a World Team member for the first time in his career.
NMU hotshot Benji Peak, dubbed “Mr. Fantastic” for his height (6’0) and long limbs, gritted his teeth through two grueling wins at the expense of former two-time Cadet World Teamer Malik Johnson (Unattached). Johnson dropped the first of the series in unexpectedly cruel fashion. Holding a 6-4 lead with time running out, the Missouri wrestler was hit for a caution-and-two allowing Peak to emerge 6-6 on criteria. Match 2 unfolded a bit more conventionally. Peak surged to an 8-1 lead on takedown, a huge drive-forward bodylock, and gutwrench. Johnson managed to turn the tables briefly to pick up two of his own, cutting the margin to five entering the break.
Johnson kept fighting back in the second, even if his offense arrived in spurts. He was able to coerce Peak off the boundary not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times in the period, with the fourth netting him an extra point to knot the score (though Peak still owned criteria). The gradual shift in momentum was noticed by Peak, who reportedly dealt with a depleting weight cut prior to action on Friday. Johnson dashed and darted, doing whatever he could to find a lane that would open up an opportunity. But as he circled around the perimeter, Peak careened inside to force a late step-out point that he carried to the finish line.
The series win gives Peak his first-ever World Team Trials title — but it does not make him a World Team member yet. 2016 Junior World bronze medalist Taylor LaMont (OU) is afforded a special wrestle-off due to his placing in the top-four at the US Senior Open back in April, as well as his candidacy at the Senior Trials two weeks from now.
Alston Nutter (63 kg, NMU/OTS) dominantly ran through the Junior Nationals in Las Vegas to punch his ticket to the Trial finals today and he made the most of it. Working against Dylan Gregerson (UVRTC), Nutter lasered into a bodylock-gut combo and closed out Match 1 shortly thereafter with another bodylock-to-takedown for a brisk 8-0 tech. Match 2’s conclusion betrayed striking similarities. Gregerson wanted to mash inside, but Nutter once again pivoted in the exchanges and exploded into big sequences as he wrapped up his first World Team Trials conquest 10-2.
“I felt great going into my matches, got a good workout in with (NMU assistant coach Andy) Bisek beforehand, so I was feeling great,” Nutter said afterwards before adding what he felt were his main focuses during training leading up to the event. “My conditioning and making sure my technique was perfect, making sure everything was perfect, no pauses, just getting straight to the point. I did a lot of training, a lot of running, and with my technique, those are the items I wanted to perfect.”
Like Nutter, Tyler Dow (Badger RTC) didn’t have to take his chances in the mini tournament. That burden fell on talented tough guy Lenny Merkin (NJRTC). One of Dow’s greatest assets, aside from years of experience and refined skills in all phases of Greco-Roman, is his wingspan that allows him to bully into underhooks with relative ease. This attribute came in handy in the second period of Match 1, as Dow found double underhooks for a four-point lift at the edge and added an over/under toss for another four to put a halt to the bout via 10-0 tech fall. Merkin dialed up the intensity for Round 2, and he tried plowing ahead with all of his might. But in the end, Dow’s ability to engineer timely offense proved too much, resulting in an 8-4 decision that now represents a shot at a World medal this September.
Omania Thrills; Hughes Adjusts
It was a winner-take-all proposition for multi-time World Team member Dominick Demas (OU) and 2016 Cadet World Team member Peyton Omania (Unattached). The pair had put on quite the show at April’s Nationals, where they met in the finals and combined for 28 points in what was an 18-10 tech win for Omania. Although nothing is guaranteed, particularly in Greco-Roman, the consensus was that Demas would somehow do his part to make this best-of-three series a reality. While it took a hard-fought decision over Britton Holmes (NMU/OTS) to do it, Demas was able to hold up his end of the bargain, and then later on in the afternoon, Omania cashed in.
A furious rally for Demas late in Match 1 started when he picked up two on an arm throw before tacking on an additional deuce when a scramble near the edge saw Demas come out on top. Omania flew in for a “Flying Squirrel” attempt right before the buzzer and even got his hands locked, but Demas remained upright at the buzzer to check in with an exciting 5-4 victory. Match 2 was altogether different. And one-sided. Omania bodied Demas over for four; Demas yielded two from an arm spin; Omania nabbed a takedown in response, and then after a reset, walloped a four-point-eye-popping headlock to seal it up.
Demas got off on the right foot in Match 3 by uncorking a two-point arm spin, one of his go-to’s and a weapon he can usually rely on due to his speed and the variety of angles he can get them from. The problem? Omania wasn’t having it. They clashed out of bounds with Michigan State-bound Omania receiving the point, and it was only the beginning. The officials decided that Demas was being passive and Omania didn’t let the opportunity slip away. He touch-started and immediately hoisted up a lift that netted two. Omania then re-locked and scored again. The end was near. As they rose, Omania poured in for one more takedown to all but sew up a sparkling 2-1 series win over one of the country’s most respected age-group competitors.
When Barrett Hughes (CRTC/TMWC) and Cameron Caffey (MSU) locked up in the Junior National final, it was a scoreboard-breaking mess. Both wrestlers had their moments, Hughes a few more than Caffey, and the Oklahoma Stater wound up the victor of a 16-14 decision, that while noteworthy, put all of his inexperience in this style on display.
Since that evening six weeks ago, Hughes has undergone some important changes.
Whereas Caffey showed that he could exploit Hughes’s greeness the first time around, he was unable to mount a serious challenge on Friday. Hughes powered and pounded through Match 1 by rolling Caffey out to the tune of an 8-0 tech in just over a minute. The second bout did not deviate too much from the opener. Hughes battled to the inside and tossed and turned his way to a World Team spot shortly into the second period. Provided he can smooth out some of the rough edges before September arrives, Hughes could wind up becoming a very interesting person to keep an eye on in Slovakia.
“Bad” Chad Actually Really, Really Sharp
One of the day’s biggest surprises came at 97 kilograms, where National champ Austin Harris (CRTC/TMWC) and Olympic Training Center resident athlete Nick Boykin (Sunkist) figured to be on a collision course. Of course, no one thought to alert Chad Porter (Sunkist) regarding how the script was supposed to play out. Porter defeated Boykin in the challenge tourney semis and 2017 U23 Trials runner-up Anthony Riopelle (NMU/OTS) in the finals to set up the best-of-three showdown with Harris. An 8-3 decision for Porter in Match 1 gave way to a slightly-wider 9-3 victory in Match 2. An impressive all-around day for Porter who has taken a big step up and projects to be a potentially very-serious contender for a podium spot following a summer of preparation.
After the tournament came to a close, the two men who will lead the US squad at the Junior World Championships in September intimated optimistic feelings regarding the talent they will soon be working with.
“I think we have a great group of guys who can do something special at the World Championships this year,” co-head coach Nate Engel said. “I think they have what it takes to get on the podium and help us bring home a team trophy. I truly believe that. From the grassroots level on up, everyone has been working hard in the United States. One of the coolest things I saw today was how many of the top-tier Division I programs had athletes make the Team. You had Oklahoma State, Cornell, OU (University of Oklahoma). This was the first time in a long time I’ve seen programs that are normally just free and folkstyle a lot showcase athletes for Greco, and that is a buy-in from the coaches, which is really neat to see.”
Engel’s fellow head coach Herb House is coming from a similar wavelength.
“It’s a very talented, eager team,” offered House. “They’re young, they have a great energy, and I think we have a great team. We’ve got Cohlton Schultz, Peyton (Omania), and a lot of new kids who are going to surprise a lot of people this year. We are still waiting on Kamal (Bey) and (Taylor) LaMont to wrestle-off, but if they make the Team — and I expect them to — we are going to have a great shot at bringing some medals home as well as a great overall performance at the Worlds.”
United States National Team head coach Matt Lindland was also encouraged after the tournament and enjoyed the fact that most of the athletes who prevailed on Friday faced varying degrees of adversity.
“I think we’ve got the right guys on the Team and had athletes challenge those right guys,” Lindland said. “It is impressive that we are building that kind of depth at the Junior level. It is unfortunate that some of those top guys are still in a folkstyle system and they won’t be training Greco-Roman full-time. This tournament didn’t have big numbers, but the guys who were there are very talented athletes. It was a lot of fun to watch.”
- Andrew Berreyesa (FLWC), fresh off of competing last week at the U23 Trials, wrapped up his first World Team spot with two straight victories over Tommy Brackett (Wave/NMU). Berreyesa fell to Brackett via tech last October but has now defeated the highly-touted prospect three straight times.
- Counting Brackett, who will begin attending NMU in the fall, the school put four athletes in the best-of-three finals: Peak, Nutter, Josh Anderson (77 kg), and Brackett.
- Match 1 of the heavyweight series wasn’t the first time Cassioppi gave Schultz some issues. When they met in the 2017 Junior Trials final, Schultz won the first bout 8-7 (but rattled off a 13-4 tech in Match 2).
- Before today, the last time Schultz dropped a match to a domestic opponent was in July of 2016 at the Fargo Cadet Nationals, where Tyler Curd (Champion WC) earned a stunning tech. Curd competed on Friday at 97 kilos and finished fourth.
- Eight of the 22 best-of-three finals matches ended early — six tech falls and two pins.
- Three out of the ten challenge tournament champs won the tournament — Koontz, Peak, and Porter.
- Like Peak, if 77-kilogram World Team Trials winner Anthony Mantanona (OU) wishes to become a World Team member, he will be required to wrestle off at a date yet to be determined: reigning Junior World Champion Kamal Bey (Sunkist) intends on exercising his right for a shot at repeating.
2018 UWW Junior Greco-Roman World Team Trials Finals
55 kg: Cevion Severado (NYAC) vs. Brady Koontz (Unattached)
Match 1 — Brady def. Severado 15-5, TF
Match 2 — Brady def. Severado 3-3 (criteria)
Brady wins series 2-0
60 kg: Malik Johnson (Unattached) vs. Benji Peak (NMU/OTS)
Match 1 — Peak def. Johnson 6-6 (criteria)
Match 2 — Peak def. Johnson 9-8
Peak wins series 2-0
63 kg: Alston Nutter (NMU/OTS) vs. Dylan Gregerson (UVRTC)
Match 1 — Nutter def. Gregerson 8-0, TF
Match 2 — Nutter def. Gregerson 10-2, TF
Nutter wins series 2-0
67 kg: Peyton Omania (Unattached) vs. Dominick Demas (OU)
Match 1 — Demas def. Omania 5-4
Match 2 — Omania def. Demas 10-2
Match 3 — Omania def. Demas 8-2
Omania wins series 2-1
72 kg: Tyler Dow (Badger RTC) vs. Lenny Merkin (NJRTC)
Match 1 — Dow def. Merkin 10-0, TF
Match 2 — Dow def. Merkin 8-4
Dow wins series 2-0
77 kg: Anthony Mantanona (OU) vs. Josh Anderson (NMU/OTS-MWC)
Match 1 — Mantanona def. Anderson 14-12
Match 2 — Mantanona def. Anderson via fall
Mantanona wins series 2-0
82 kg: Andrew Berreyesa (FLWC) def. Tommy Brackett (Wave/NMU)
Match 1 — Berreyesa def. Brackett 5-0
Match 2 — Berreyesa def. Brackett 3-1
Berreyesa wins series 2-0
87 kg: Barrett Hughes (CRTC/TMWC) vs. Cameron Caffey (MSU)
Match 1 — Hughes def. Caffey via fall
Match 2 — Hughes def. Caffey 9-0
Hughes wins series 2-0
97 kg: Austin Harris (CRTC/TMWC) vs. Chad Porter (Sunkist)
Match 1 — Porter def. Harris 8-3
Match 2 — Porter def. Harris 9-3
Porter wins series 2-0
130 kg: Cohlton Schultz (NYAC) vs. Anthony Cassioppi (ISI)
Match 1 — Cassioppi def. Schultz 8-4
Match 2 — Schultz def. Cassioppi 7-7 (criteria)
Match 3 — Schultz def. Cassioppi 8-4
Challenge Tournament Runner-Ups
55 kg: Joseph Harrison (MWC)
60 kg: Logan Treaster (Navy-Marine Corps RTC)
63 kg: Mason Hartshorn (NMU/OTS)
67 kg: Britton Holmes (NMU/OTS)
72 kg: Calvin Germinaro (Minnesota Storm)
77 kg: Jack Ervien (Unattached)
82 kg: Zach Braunagel (IRTC)
87 kg: George Sikes (NMU/OTS)
97 kg: Anthony Riopelle (NMU/OTS)
130 kg: Tommy Helton (SIRTC)
Challenge Tournament Third-Place Results
55 kg: Rayvon Foley (MSU) def. Elijah Varona (Garage Boyz) 8-0, TF
60 kg: Delon Kanari (NMU/OTS) def. Jet Taylor Sallisaw (CRTC/TMWC) 9-0, TF
63 kg: Mosha Schwartz (X-Calibur) def. Luis Hernandez (Garage Boyz) 12-5
67 kg: Riley Briggs (NMU/OTS) def. Jose Rubio Rio (Sunnyside WC) 10-1, TF
77 kg: Jake Hendricks (X-Calibur) def. Andrew Buckley (Navy-Marine Corps RTC) 8-0, TF
87 kg: Nick Casperson (LOG) def. Matthew Waddell (OU) 8-0, TF
97 kg: Nick Boykin (Sunkist) def. Tyler Curd (Champion WC) 10-0, TF