This past weekend saw a ton of America’s best wrestlers take the mats to grab a highly coveted spot in Team USA’s lineup, ahead of this summer’s World Championships in Paris, France. A lot of America’s best are Penn Staters. Let’s take a look at the results.
Junior World Team
|50kg||Malik Heinselman (OHST)|
|55kg||Daton Fix (OKST)|
|60kg||Mitch McKee (MINN)|
|66kg||Ryan Deakin (JNW)|
|74kg||Mark Hall (PSU)|
|84kg||Zahid Valencia (ASU)|
|96kg||Kollin Moore (OHST)|
|120kg||Gable Steveson (MINN)|
As a reminder, the winners of April’s “Nationals” tournament received an automatic spot in a best 2-of-3 final. By virtue of his Junior Nationals victory, Mark Hall awaited the winner of the “challenge bracket” - which turned out to be the same guy, Alex Marinelli (IOWA) whom Hall beat for the Junior Nationals title. Hall dispatched Marinelli again, 2-0, in dominating fashion (though not without a little pain, even if it was self-induced).
nothing like spiking myself off my own head https://t.co/WEKkKE9hTD— Mark Hall II (@BaybeeMarky_PSU) June 10, 2017
Penn State also had two incoming freshmen - Jarod Verkleeren and Brady Berge - compete in the challenge bracket at 66kg (145.5lbs). Verk didn’t have his best stuff. He made the quarterfinals, but with a heavily wrapped elbow and a seriously questionable call that resulted in an 8-point match swing, he dropped his quarterfinal to Ohio’s David Carr. Then, in the consolations, he dropped his next match to Nebraska super frosh Chad Red, 4-3.
Berge had a nice run but fell just short. He took out Carr in his semi-final, but lost a close one to Edinboro’s Pat Lugo in the challenge bracket final, 8-6. Because Carr wrestled clear of the field in the consolations - and because Berge had already beaten Carr - Berge finished 3rd, and made the Junior World team. Congrats to Brady.
Senior World Team
|57kg||Thomas Gilman (IOWA)||Tony Ramos (UNC)||Nathan Tomasello (OHST)|
|61kg||Logan Stieber (OHST)||Kendric Maple (OU)||Brandon Wright (NYAC)|
|65kg||Zain Retherford (PSU)||Frank Molinaro (PSU)||BJ Futrell (NYAC)|
|74kg||James Green (NEB)||Jimmy Kennedy (ILL)||Jason Nolf (PSU)|
|86kg||J'Den Cox (MIZZ)||David Taylor (PSU)||Richard Perry (BLOOM)|
|97kg||Kyle Snyder (OHST)||Kyven Gadsen (ISU)||Hayden Zillmer (NDSU)|
|125kg||Nick Gwiazdowski (NCST)||Dom Bradley (MIZZ)||Tony Nelson (MINN)|
And here’s why we need to spend a little extra time soaking in a 5-for-5 NCAA finals performance when we get it - because this one hurts more than it feels good.
Our leadoff guy, Nico Megaludis, had a bad day, and you could tell it was a bad day in his first match, a close 2-0 win over old nemesis Zach Sanders (MINN). If you didn’t see the signs in that one, then they pounded you over the head in his semi-final against Thomas Gilman. Gilman, who’d never scored a single takedown on Nico in 4 previous matches, won by technical fall, 11-0. And just like that, 12 months of hard work went down like the Hindenburg. Sent to the consolations, Nico lost immediately to old foe Frank Perelli (CORN), 7-2 - Nico’s first loss to Perelli since December 2011, Nico’s true freshman season.
That’s the sadistic side of wrestling, of course: it’s one day. 12 months of hard work boils down to one stinking day. And if you’re not at your absolute best on that particular 24 hour span, there’s no mercy to be found among your peers. (Chin up, Nico).
At 70kg, Jason Nolf placed 3rd, and is officially a Team USA member for the first time. But in Nolf’s case, it wasn’t one day, but one move. Leading his semi-final, Nolf gave up what appeared to be 2, but was scored as 4, to close out the first period. Nolf managed to tie the bout 6-6 in the second period, but he still trailed on criteria thanks to the questionable 4. A final seconds desperation takedown attempt was countered by Kennedy, who advanced 8-6.
And that was the last time Nolf would lose. Jason settled all family business in the consolations, beating past Team member Jason Chamberlain 4-0; getting revenge on past Team member Chase Pami (from April’s Open) 8-0; and earning the 3rd spot on Team USA with a 7-2 win over Nazar Kulchitsky. Nolf’s “devil may care” approach to leg defense isn’t a great fit for international freestyle rules - but whoooo boy, does the kid learn fast. The jump Nolf made between the Open (April 28th) and Trials (June 9th) was impressive. Nolf’s a freaking killer, and he’s coming hard at freestyle.
Then there’s Magic Man. Whole lotta pain in this one, so let’s just stick with the cold hard facts. David killed his early opponents, Joe Rau (13-0) and Pat Downey (10-0) to make the challenge bracket final against half-man, half-horse Nick Heflin. DT fell behind early but battled back to win 13-9. All of that just to make the best-of-3 final against J’Den Cox, 2016 Olympic Bronze, who gave up exactly zero takedowns at the Olympics.
Dave won the first bout, 9-3. And then.....things. Sucky things. DT lost the second 4-3. And the third, 5-3, finishing runner-up.
Here’s another fact: you can’t wrestle from your knee. It’s an auto ding from the ref - you’re “put on the clock” for passivity, and if you don’t score an offensive point in 30 seconds, your opponent gets 1 point.
And yet...(courtesy of Friend of BSD Nomad):
now in gif form pic.twitter.com/cObEkNQlzj— The Wrestling Nomad (@wrestlingnomad) June 12, 2017
This is why, friends, you can’t get too heavily invested in international freestyle: you’re going to end up angry. Maybe not pull-a-gun angry, but, you know, pretty angry. Have you ever watched an international freestyle tournament, been invested, and not gotten angry at some point? If so, please explain how in the comments.
Going Out On A High Note
Zain Retherford is your new Team USA representative at 65kg. As mentioned late last week, Jordan Oliver peed hot, and was stripped of his US Open win, and disqualified from the Team Trials. As a result, Nittany Lion great Frank Molinaro took the US Open crown, and got to await the challenge bracket winner in the final.
To no one’s surprise, that was Zain. Zain tech’d the challenge bracket field, going (14-2) over Jaydin Eierman (MIZZ), (11-0) over Nick Dardanes (IOWA), and (10-0) over BJ Futrell, who is ranked #16 in the world by United World Wrestling. All of this meant we PSU fans would get to learn the answer to the age old question: what happens when Zain and Frank go live in the practice room?
And before we get to that answer, let’s remember that Frank had quickly developed a knack for irritating the crap out of his international opponents. Last summer after winning the USA Trials, he had a guy take a swing at him in Turkey; another punch him in the face at World Cup in LA; and, most famously, he got bitten at the Olympics. These were not accidents.
Those were the Eastern Euro commies, though. Would Frank unleash the “dirty Jersey” on his own kin? Or would he see a fellow PSU brother, and shelve the extra curriculars?
LOLNOPE. There are no holds barred in a fight between brothers. And this was 3 rounds of armageddon. Holy smokes. Here’s the ending, both exhausted, with Zain looking like he’d stuck his face into a sausage maker.
Bloody smiles are the best smiles. Zain makes his first world team. pic.twitter.com/YQRRKgRsBG— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) June 11, 2017
But as Zain said post match - he’ll get his face stitched back together, and they’ll always be brothers. Nothing but love, blood, respect, and more blood (as brilliantly captured by Tony Rotundo, the best in the biz). Congratulations, Zain!