We got a lot of exciting wrestling action this past weekend in Las Vegas, at the US Open. Let’s take a look at how our Nittany Lions fared, in both the Junior and Senior divisions.
57kg - Gavin Teasdale - our newest Nittany Lion tech falled his way to the semifinals, which included an impressive 10-0 destruction of Michigan State’s RayVon Foley (who placed 7th at B1Gs last March). In the semis, rocking a Team Japan singlet, Gavin exploded to a comfortable 4-0 lead on Arizona State’s (and freestyle veteran) Brandon Courtney. But Courtney used a late counter-takedown and gut wrench to sneak out a 6-5 win. Points come fast in freestyle. No lead is safe. Gavin finished 4th, and we’ll likely see him next at the Junior Team Trials in June.
70kg - Jarod Verkleeren - a past Cadet World Gold medalist, Jarod entered as the 2-seed. He began with three straight 10-0 tech falls, but then the wheels came off. He got tech’d by surprise in the quarters, and suddenly in the consolations, he dropped a 5-5 decision on criteria to Missouri’s incoming freshman Brock Mauller. That left Jarod one win shy of the podium.
70kg - Brady Berge - the 3-seed, Brady tech falled his way to the final (including a tech fall win over the dude who knocked out Verkleeren). In the final against fellow super-frosh Austin O’Connor (UNC), Brady scored the first takedown and led 2-0 at the break. O’Connor looked like he choked Brady out from a front headlock, and scored the winning go-behind in the final 30 seconds to win 2-2 on criteria (last score). So Brady took silver.
79kg - Aaron Brooks - this field was crazy deep. Pretty easily the most difficult field at Juniors. Young Mr. Brooks murdered everyone anyhow. 4 techs and one 6-2 decision college soph (and past Fargo champ) Beau Breske (Nebraska). In a word: wow. Five of the other 7 All-Americans spent the past 12 months in a college room. Brooks whupped ‘em all.
86kg - Michael Beard - what a crazy tournament for Beard, who finished 7th. Beard began with a 10-0 tech fall. In his next match, wrestling some kid from Michigan State, Beard built an 8-0 lead behind 4 takedowns, and shot in again to finish off another 10-0 tech. Instead, he lost a scramble, gave up a trapped-arm gut wrench, and - poof - the score was 8-6.
No worries. Beard scored two more takedowns, and was again pushing toward the tech fall, with the score now 12-6 at the break. After intermission, Beard shoots a low single - but gets head pinched, and gives up a goofy 4. 12-10. Beard keeps on shooting, and score his 7th takedown. 14-10. Still looking to score, Beard shoots but gives up a go-behind - and then a couple guts, plus a tilt. Match over, lost 18-14. He won the takedown battle 7 to 2, but lost. Crazy match.
Into the consolations, Beard tech’d everyone - until the consolation quarters, where he again met the MSU kid. He lost 11-7. Didn’t watch that match, but I suspect it was on account of more crazy freestyle exposure stuff. Beard wrestled Iowa’s Myles Wilson for 7th, and tech’d him 10-0.
Awfully fun to watch, though. Kid never stops shooting (and generally speaking, scoring on his shots).
125kg - Seth Nevills - Big Snacks tech fall’d his way to the semi finals, where he wrestled NDSU’s Brandon Metz. There, Snacks built a dominating 6-0 lead, and - from our perspective - looked a whole lot better than Metz. But then, things. Referee things, scoring things - those type of “things”. I thought Snacks slipped a headlock and scored 4, but apparently I don’t understand how freestyle works. I watched another failed throw from Metz, looked at the score - and it was tied 8-8. So...go figure. I dunno. In any event, Snacks now trailed by criteria with around 20 seconds remaining. Metz got a gift go behind, and won 10-8. Snacks dropped to the consolations. He tech’d Iowa’s Aaron Costello 10-0, but lost the 3rd place match to Wisconsin’s Trent Hillger, and finished 4th.
57kg - Josh Rodriguez - new NLWC member JRod had a big win over Illinois’ Zane Richards, 5-4, in the second round. In the quarters he dropped a painfully close 2-1 decision to eventual champ Tony Ramos (now coaching at UNC). So Ramos’ win streak over Nittany Lions continues unabated. Unfortunately, JRod’s draw put him up against Frank Perrelli in the blood round, and he lost that one 5-2, and didn’t place. So his 2018 season is over, since he failed to qualify for the Team Trials.
61kg - Nico Megaludis - it’s been a while since we got to watch our guy Nico, but the wait was worth it. Nico wrestled really well, and spent both days living on opponents legs. Tons ‘o low single shots from Nico in this tournament. He picked up a huge second round win over Iowa’s Cory Clark, 12-9. And I thought he was the better wrestler in his quarterfinal match with eventual champ Joe Colon - but he lost on one move, a controversial head pinch exposure for 4, while leading 2-0. Casey challenged, the call was upheld, and Nico lost the match 5-2 (your opponent gets 1-point if you lose your challenge).
But Nico was back, and he ripped thru the consolations. He tech’d Pitt’s Shelton Mack, whipped NC State / Lehigh’s Darius Little, took a forfeit win over SDSU’s Seth Gross, and then wiped the mat down with past Open champ and US National Team member Tyler Graff, 10-0 tech, in the 3rd place match. Apparently the bump up to 61kg was a good move.
70kg - Frank Molinaro - the Gorilla Hulk didn’t quite have “it” this tournament. He got past last year’s Junior silver medalist Ryan Deakin (jNW) in the quarters, 10-6 - but wasn’t looking like his normal self. In the semis, he dropped a tight 4-2 decision to old nemesis Jason Chamberlain. He may have injured a hammy in that match, too. But with his spot at the Team Trials secured, Frank chose to default out to 6th place.
74kg - Dan Vallimont - Dan rolled through his half of the 74kg bracket, and into the final. But unfortunately, Dan didn’t have much in the final against Isaiah Martinez, and finished 2nd. Still plenty good enough to qualify for the trials, where he’ll likely get another shot at IMar.
79kg - Penn State didn’t have anyone in the field here, but holy smokes did Kyle Dake and Alex Dieringer put on a show. Dake won on criteria, 5-5.
86kg - David Taylor - Dave murdered everyone. Tech, Tech, Pin, Tech, 8-0 in the final over Richard Perry. We’ll get to watch him June 16th at Rec Hall, as he wrestles off for his spot on Team USA.
125kg - Jon Gingrich - Jon wrestled pretty well in his first big freestyle tournament, but fell one match shy of qualifying, losing in the blood round to old foe Tony Nelson (Minnesota) 5-3.
125kg - Jake Varner - Varner’s the guy who put Tony Nelson into the wrestlebacks, beating the Gopher 5-1 in the quarters. Jake also beat ASU’s Tanner Hall in the semis, 2-0, which put him into the final against Adam Coon. And if anyone can make the 6’2”, 235lb Varner look tiny, it’s the 6’6”, 300lb Adam Coon. Jake was winning on criteria, 1-1, late, but got crunched under a body lock, and gave up the winning takedown, in much the same fashion as did Kyle Snyder during the dual season. But it was a lot of fun watching the old man out there. I hope he gives the Trials bracket challenge a go.
That’s 2 golds, 3 silvers, 1 bronze, and 4 others on the podium. 10 total place winners. Not a bad haul.