Ten days ago, America’s Junior squad won the freestyle World Championship in Tampere, Finland. It was USA’s first team title since 1984 (which featured PSU great Ken Chertow), and USA’s first ever against a full, international field (that is, when the Soviets and Iranians weren’t boycotting us over godless communism, or great satanism, or what-have-you).
A lot of credit goes to a lot of different people, both within and without USA Wrestling. Undoubtedly, though, the sea change America the beautiful now enjoys began with a bit of long-term strateegery. USAW identified young studs mature enough to handle a bump, and pulled those cadets and juniors into the same room with senior-level athletes. The experience imparted - particularly mentally - directly translated into better wrestlers at a younger age.
That’s a great thing, not just because of trophies, medals, or NCAAs, but because a wrestler’s career is short. It’s a rare individual who rolls beyond age 30 - your back, neck, and joints take an absolute mauling, and as all old men know too well, the recovery juices don’t flow as well as they used to ten years ago. Thus, if the senior level window is short - and it is - then it behooves everyone - wrestler, America, and fanboys like you and me - to see these guys develop earlier, rather than waiting for college careers to complete.
That’s the dynamic that was at work in Finland, as Team USA put 6 of 8 wrestlers into the finals. What a tournament. To the results:
- 50kg: Malik Heinselman (OHST commit) - 7th place
- 55kg: Daton Fix (OKST commit) - 1st
- 60kg: Mitch McKee (MINN) - 2nd
- 66kg: Ryan Deakin (JNW) - 2nd
- 74kg: Mark Hall (PSU) - 1st
- 85kg: Zahid Valencia (ASU) - 2nd
- 96kg: Kollin Moore (OHST) - 3rd
- 120kg: Gable Steveson (MINN commit) - 1st
Three special shout-outs - first, to Mark Hall, who earned his 2nd Junior gold via konkrete special in the final, pinning his opponent in 0:42 seconds. Which, that’s okay and all, I guess, but we’re holding Hall up for recognition because he properly named his pinning move as a konkrete special - and that’s the most important thing here at BSD. You pinned in the final, whoop-dee-do. But most importantly, what do you call the move you used?
lil konkrete special— Daylight™ (@BaybeeMarky_PSU) August 1, 2017
Second, to Daton Fix, who tech’d the entire field, outscoring planet Earth 55-1 to earn his first world gold. Daton’s performance was...wow. He destroyed everything in his path. The 55-1 scoring margin doesn’t truly capture just how badly he kicked the snot out of everyone. He made the returning junior gold quit in the first minute. Thermonuclear, salted Earth, no living organisms.
Third, to Gable Dan Steveson, total freak of nature. The Eastern Euro commies tried to get Gable barred from the tournament for - wait for it - being too young. They weren’t going to let him weigh-in without proper documentation, which they hoped he hadn’t brought with him to Finland. (But he did.) Then, in the semis (against a Russian), the commie cheater fix was in, and the lead referee tried to disqualify him - get this - for passivity. Gable got dinged twice, and a third would have resulted in a DQ. Thankfully, there was a Japanese judge on the panel who caught on to the heist and vetoed it. Result - the guy with two passivity penalties won by tech fall, 21-10. Steveson, if he played football, would be a 5-star DT with Nick Saban pounding on his door. He’s 17, weighs north of 240 lbs, but has feet like a lightweight. He’s pretty freaking special.
Senior World Championships
Next week in Paris, France, grown men with beards from around the world fight each other for bragging rights. Your Penn State Nittany Lions have two entries on the card - true freshman Mason Manville will wrestle Monday in Greco at 75kg; and senior Zain Retherford goes Saturday in Freestyle at 65kg.
TrackWrestling will stream the event, which you can buy for a mere $10.
Like Juniors, this Senior world team figures to earn some medals. It’s an intriguing mix of experienced vets, like 4x world champ Jordan Burroughs (age: 28), young vets like 2x world champ Kyle Snyder (age: 21), plus first-timers like Zain. Friend of BSD and international scene expert Wrestling Nomad (via Flo) has us covered with a complete list of entries from around the globe. Be on the lookout for Nomad’s forthcoming breakdowns. Until then, here’s our far less educated, quick first-pass at the weight classes:
- 57kg (Thomas Gilman, 1st world team) - Gilman’s new to Seniors, but so are most of the faces here at 57kg. None of last year’s Oly medalists return - not a one. But that doesn’t mean the field is empty. Bulgaria’s Dubov, Mongolia’s Erdenbat, Kazak’s Sanayev, and Turkey’s Atli are all very experienced. Iran is sending their backup (to Rahimi, who is injured). Russia is going with a name who sat outside the 2016 Oly mix - but expect him to be good, because Russia.
- 61kg (Logan Stieber, returning Gold) - LogieBear enters as the top seed, in large part to his world gold last year post-Olympics (61kg is not an Oly weight). But he’s going to have to slug it out through a crazy-deep weight. Azerbaijan’s Aliev, Georgia’s Kinchegashvili (Oly gold at 57kg), Ehsanpoor the Iranian beat LogieBear at World Cup, Erdogan the Turk, and the Ruskie, Rashidov. But, you know - this is the planet Earth championship. There’s going to be one or two tough matches.
- 65kg (Zain Retherford, 1st world team) - another bunch of names here at 65kg. Go figure. Anyhow, the common narrative - outside the NLWC at least - is that Zain’s a newbie to the senior level, and thus won’t medal. Maybe those prognosticators are correct - but I’m not buying the “newbie” stuff. Zain’s a past Cadet world gold who’s been training with - and just beat - the guy who placed 5th at the Olys, Frank the Tank. He also has a bottomless gas tank, which, if he doesn’t get hosed by corrupt officiating, will allow him to bury a lot of these foreigners who plainly earned their reputations for not wanting to go hard all 6 minutes. Plus, Zain’s style is made for international freestyle. And - AND - who wants to go underneath Zain? Forget ankle laces and gut wrenches - Zain will rip your freaking arms and face off. Sure I’m a homer, but I think Zain’s right there in the mix for a medal.
- 70kg (James Green, 2015 bronze) - James missed the medal stand in 2016 after trying to cut down to 65kg for the Olympics, and bumping back up to 70kg a couple of months later. But he’s looking awfully smooth now, back into his regular routine. USA needs James on the medal stand to have any shot at a team title.
- 74kg (Jordan Burroughs, 4x World Gold) - redemption run for the King? He’s lived with his one bad day at the Olympics for 12 months now. At 28, he’s “different” than he was at 24. But daggone is he good.
- 86kg (J’Den Cox, returning Oly bronze) - Oly Gold Russian tank Sadulaev moved up, which is great news for J’Den. Bad news for J’Den - Iranian Yazdani comes up from 74kg (where he took Oly gold), and he’s pretty good. Whither J’Den’s leg injury incurred during his 3rd bout with DT? We don’t know, but J’Den is a complete freak of nature. May as well add “alien healing abilities” to that.
- 97kg (Kyle Snyder, 2x world champ) - whew boy. It’s the dream match up, if we can get it: Snyderman vs Russian Tank Sadulaev. I’ve heard a lot of people who know what they’re talking about pick Sadulaev. I’m taking Snyderman. But woooh, what a fun match this would be. Really hope we get it because they’re both awesome.
- 125kg (Nick Gwiazdowski, 1st world team) - anyone know how old Turkey’s Akgul is? He’s gotta be 84 by now, right? Same with Georgia’s Petriashvili. Anyhow, Nick has two good feet, which are nice things for anyone to have, but especially when you wear big boy pants. Let’s go, Nick.
- Are you mentally exhausted by an entire summer’s worth of Nick Suriano transfer rumors? Don’t be! There are still a few days before fall classes start. Let’s spend them wondering what in the world is a-going-on, since 7 days after his transfer release request was granted, he still hasn’t transferred. I suppose this is what we all get for reading NJ.com’s Ryan Dunleavy - you know, the guy who didn’t see any way Saquon Barkley could play for Rutgers, because the Scarlet Knights team was/is too talented. Just no room for Heisman candidates / first round draft picks.
- To alleviate the exhaustion, have a watch at a really funny parody. Brilliant stuff here, from Cenzo and Mouse.
- If you’re not yet listening to PA Power Wrestling podcast, via JB’s MatTalkOnline network of shows, featuring new podcasters Tristan Warner and Mason Beckman - check it out, for crying out loud. They’re naturals. Pod-stars in the making. They recently pulled in Chance Marsteller for an update, and it’s a great listen. Chance sounds like he’s really in a good spot, heading the right direction at Lock Haven, and that’s awesome. Plus Chance tosses a bunch of compliments at the PSU room, which is our kryptonite. Flattery gets you everywhere here at BSD.