Champs crowned at FILA Cadet Nationals, Pico earns OW

AKRON, Ohio -- The twelve hours of wrestling over three sessions, two covering all day Saturday and one on Sunday morning, concluded with a set of championship bouts at the FILA Cadet Nationals that were mostly one-sided. Six of the eleven championship bouts ended in technical falls (margin of greater than ten points), five of those not making it out of the first three-minute period; while a seventh match ended in a first period fall.

Most notable among the technical fall victories was the one earned by Aaron Pico of California at 63 kilos (138.75 pounds), who was also named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler. It was the ninth such victory for Pico, the nation's No. 1-ranked overall Class of 2016 wrestler, in as many matches over the two-day event. That victory over Tyler Berger of Oregon came by a 10-0 score at the 2:16 mark. Scores for Pico came in the form of a takedown, push-out, takedown, push-out, and one last takedown followed by a turn.

Of significance is that just over ten months ago -- obviously under the "old" rules -- these two wrestled in a three-period bout during the round-robin of Cadet freestyle, a match that Pico won 0-2, 1-0, 1-0. "I was able to make some adjustments (from their previous meeting) against this very tough opponent." said Pico, "I got my offensive attacks and pace going, and was able to break down and through him."

This finals match was so reflective of all the matches wrestled this weekend, and of all his matches regardless of style: relentless pressure, precise positional execution, and crazy good hand-fighting. "It's something that my coach (Valentin Kalika) works on with me. I feel very comfortable going forward, not as comfortable going backward, so I aim to always attack."

A pair of wrestlers from Saegerstown, Pa., made the FILA Cadet freestyle world team with first period technical fall victories in the championship bout. Devin Brown earned the title at 46 kilos (101.25 pounds) with a 13-3 victory over Ian Parker of Michigan, his fifth technical fall out of six matches wrestled in the tournament.

"I can't wait to go to Serbia," said Brown. "It's one of the best feelings ever in my life, and such an honor to represent my country."

Spencer Lee, ranked No. 1 overall among junior high wrestlers earned his title at 50 kilos (110.25 pounds) with a 13-2 victory at the 1:19 mark against Daton Fix of Oklahoma, who is ranked No. 7 in the junior high group. This cemented a weekend of eight dominant victories, four by fall and four by technical fall.

"I'm looking forward to what's ahead of me (as a wrestler, be it Cadet Worlds or high school)," said Lee, who has already finished as a runner-up in high school level competition at the Super 32 Challenge and FloNationals, and won a fourth consecutive PJW championship two months ago. "There is obviously some pressure, but I think I can continue to even improve."

Also winning in dominant fashion was Stevan Micic of Indiana at 54 kilos (119 pounds), who won all seven of his matches by technical fall, and also not giving up a point to any opponent. His last three matches against a trio of top 40 Class of 2015 wrestlers lasted under five minutes in aggregate with the point margin being 32-0; those being against No. 36 Jose Rodriguez of Ohio, No. 38 Austin Assad of Ohio, and No. 27 Kaid Brock of Oklahoma (whom he beat 10-0 in the final at the 2:30 mark).

The finals match for Micic featured two takedown/lace sequences and a final takedown to end the proceedings. The five matches prior to the Assad match on Sunday morning were all takedowns followed by a series of laces that ended the proceedings in less than 45 seconds each. This was the third placement finish for Micic at FILA Cadet Nationals, as the No. 31 ranked Class of 2014 prospect had finished fifth and second the prior two years in Akron.

"I come ready to wrestle hard and perform my best in these big events (FILA Cadets, Fargo, etc.)," said Micic. "I want to get after it and make a name for myself on the national landscape. Going forward, I would love to thrive in college and compete at the senior international level."

Joining Micic as a Class of 2014 wrestler to win his final by technical fall was Sean Fausz of Kentucky at 58 kilos (127.75 pounds). He improved upon last year's third place finish with an 11-1 victory at the 1:47 mark over Nick Lee of Indiana, who is ranked No. 5 overall among junior high wrestlers. This was the seventh technical fall for Fausz out of eight matches, the first six matches of which he scored shutout technical falls.

"This was my final year as a FILA Cadet, and I was pretty close to making it last year," said Fausz. "So making the team (this year) was a big goal of mine, and it feels great to have gotten it done.

"I am so much better at my turns (from par terre). Last year I scored on only one in the whole tournament, while this year I scored in bunches on top."

Two of the three tightest finals matches were also won by Class of 2014 prospects. At 69 kilos (152 pounds), Jon-Jay Chavez of Idaho added a freestyle title to the Greco-Roman title that he won on Friday with a 7-4 victory over Nick Reenan of Texas, who is ranked No. 10 in the Class of 2016, in the final. Reenan scored the match's opening takedown, but Chavez was able to respond with a reversal at the edge and a pair of push-outs to take a 3-2 lead after one period. In the second period, Chavez scored a leg-attack finish at the edge of the mat to stretch the lead, Reenan did respond with a takedown to cut it to 5-4, but Chavez sealed the deal with a fireman's takedown finish inside the last 30 seconds.

"It feels awesome and is an amazing accomplishment," said Chavez about his double titles, "I really worked hard for them." He also is undecided about which of the two styles (freestyle or Greco-Roman) he will participate in at FILA Cadet Worlds in Serbia come August.

The most anticipated match of the tournament came at 76 kilos (167.5 pounds), where Bo Nickal of Texas (ranked No. 10 overall in the Class of 2014) scored his third victory over Mark Hall (ranked No. 2 in the Class of 2016) in the last calendar year. Last spring, Nickal had victories over Hall at the Cadet Folkstyle and the FILA Cadet freestyle tournaments. Late on Sunday morning, Nickal overcame unfavorable circumstances early in the match to earn a relatively decisive 8-6 victory.

"I feel very comfortable going offense verse offense," said Nickal about having Hall's number. "I feel very comfortable working up top (upper-body ties), and that I can beat anyone that I face in any position."

About bouncing back from the early 3-2 deficit, a sequence that probably should have been scored as either 3-3 or a 5-3 Nickal lead, "I just kept focused mentally, and felt that I would out-perform him over the six minutes."

The bounce back was not immediate, as Hall scored the next takedown to make it 5-2, but then Nickal answered with a takedown of his own to trail 5-4 at the intermission. Then after the intermission, Nickal scored a takedown to gain the lead, and made it 8-5 with a trap-arm gut-wrench right off that. Hall did get a push-out very late in the match for the final margin.

Last in this string of matches was a battle of returning Fargo doublers at 100 kilos (220.25 pounds) between Lance Benick of Minnesota and Roy Nash of Utah, Benick also winning Cadet folkstyle last year to earn a triple corwn. On Friday afternoon, Nash earned the finals victory over Benick in Greco-Roman. However, late on Sunday morning, Benick - also ranked No. 6 overall in the Class of 2015 - earned the 16-15 victory in a high-scoring shootout on a takedown with two seconds remaining in the bout.

The match went back-and-forth with Benick dominating situations in which he could finish leg attacks, while Nash scored via upper-body-based attacks and the occasional counter. The first period ended in a 7-7 tie. Then with less than a minute to go it was tied at 14-all, Benick having the edge due to scoring the match's only three-point move in the first period via a takedown finished on a gut-wrench. However, Nash scored a pushout to go ahead 15-14 to set up the end of match heroics.

"Winning at the buzzer (like I did) feels great," said Benick. "However, I wasn't in shape for the new format (two three-minute periods), and think I could have won by more if in better condition."

Rounding out the FILA Cadet World Team members are Austin Gomez of Illinois, champion at 42 kilos (92.5 pounds), and Angus Arthur of Michigan, champion at 85 kilos (187.25 pounds).

Gomez scored a 9-7 victory over Brent Jones of Minnesota, the second time Jones lost in the championship match this weekend. He scored the opening takedown, but then trailed 6-2 midway through the first period. That deficit was cut to 7-5 by the intermission. During the second stanza, Gomez tied the match -- going ahead on criteria - as he caught Jones in a scramble for two points. However, that was rendered moot when he scored on a throw, winning the sequence by securing a half-nelson.

"I've been waiting for my Cadet year, and the opportunity to make this world team," the freshman-to-be at Glenbard North commented after the match. "I just didn't give up, and listened to my coaches."

Arthur joined Chavez in winning both the Greco-Roman and freestyle tournaments this weekend. The nation's No. 47 ranked Class of 2015 wrestler upended Robert Steveson of Minnesota, who is ranked No. 20 in that grade, with a 12-2 technical fall victory at the 3:46 mark.

Steveson did earn the match's opening takedown. However, Arthur responded with a takedown ran right into a pair of two-point exposures to make it 6-2 after one. In the second period, Arthur scored four more via a takedown followed by a gut-wrench turn, and finished the deal with a pair of push-outs.

"It feels good, and shows that my training has paid off," said Arthur about winning double titles this weekend. "I'm not sure which style I'm going to do (at FILA Cadet Worlds in Serbia) but I know that I can only do one."

Rounding out Sunday's titlists was Adam Lemke-Bell of Illinois, who won at 125 kilos (275.5 pounds), a weight class that is not conducted at the FILA Cadet Worlds, with a fall over Nick Nader of Ohio at the 2:03 mark. Of interest here is the fact Lemke-Bell is only a second year wrestler, having picked up the sport during his freshman year of high school at Oak Park-River Forest.

"I give all the credit in the world to the OPRF program," said Lemke-Bell. "There is no better coaching staff out there, and I'm incredibly lucky to be in this position to accelerate so quickly."

He is also a second-year Cadet in USA Wrestling, and indicated he is looking forward to Fargo this summer, and hopes to make a run at double titles.

Finals Results:
42 kilos (92.5 pounds): Austin Gomez (Illinois) dec. Brent Jones (Minnesota), 9-7
46 (101.25): Devin Brown (Pennsylvania) tech. fall Ian Parker (Michigan), 13-3
50 (110.25): Spencer Lee (Pennsylvania) tech. fall Daton Fix (Oklahoma), 13-2 1:19
54 (119): Stevan Micic (Indiana) tech. fall Kaid Brock (Oklahoma). 10-0, 2:30
58 (127.75): Sean Fausz (Kentucky) tech. fall Nick Lee (Indiana), 11-1, 1:47
63 (138.75): Aaron Pico (California) tech. fall Tyler Berger (Oregon), 10-0 2:16
69 (152): Jon-Jay Chavez (Idaho) dec. Nick Reenan (Texas), 7-4
76 (167.5): Bo Nickal (Texas) dec. Mark Hall (Minnesota), 8-6
85 (187.25): Angus Arthur (Michigan) tech. fall Robert Steveson (Minnesota), 12-2 3:46
100 (220.25): Lance Benick (Minnesota) dec. Roy Nash (Utah), 16-15
125 (275.5): Adam Lemke-Bell (Illinois) pinned Nick Nader (Ohio), 2:03

True-Second Match Results:
42 kilos: Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma) tech. fall Jones, 14-4
46: Matthew Schmitt (Missouri) tech. fall Parker, 11-0
50: Fix tech. fall Jack Mueller (Texas), 10-0
58: N. Lee tech. fall Will Crisco (Pennsylvania), 11-0
63: Logan Massa dec. Berger, 14-11
85: Steveson tech. fall Andrew Marsden (Illinois), 20-8
100: Connor Tolley (Indiana) dec. Nash, 14-6


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Widowmaker (1) about 5 years ago
Another Great Tournament for the "Dream Killer"!! Congrats Lance B.