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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    2021 Senior Nationals Men's Freestyle Preview


    This weekend, many of the top stars in the men's freestyle world will be in action from Coralville, Iowa, as 2021 Senior Nationals takes place. The entire men's freestyle tournament will be held on Saturday. Even though the Olympics will be held later this summer, there will also be a World Championship event from Oslo, Norway, in early October. This event is the first step towards qualification for the World Championships. The top-five wrestlers from Senior Nationals will lock up a place at the World Team Trials in September. Anyone who competed at the Olympic Trials already has punched their ticket, as well.

    With the Olympics only having six weight classes (boo!), plenty of wrestlers had to make significant cuts to find a weight class. Now that we're focusing on the World Championships, with ten weight classes in contention, there are plenty of men that will be testing out new weight classes in Coralville.

    Here is a preview of the action that will go down on Saturday, along with picks for the top-six finishers. Entries are as of Thursday afternoon and could be subject to change.


    57 kg

    Clearly, the top entrant at 57 kg has to be NC State star Jakob Camacho. The 2020 ACC champion also has some experience at the Senior level. In 2020, Camacho was seventh at Senior Nationals and 1-1 for the Wolfpack Wrestling Club. Other names to watch include Illinois RTC's Dane Durlacher and Wisconsin RTC's Ethan Rotondo.

    Prediction

    Jakob Camacho over Ethan Rotondo


    61 kg

    As you can see here and with later weight classes, the non-Olympic weights tend to be more stacked at this event than the other six brackets. Leading the charge is Nahshon Garrett, who was a bit of a tweener with the Olympic weights. Garrett went 65 kg at the Trials, but is most effective here. In 2018, Garrett emerged victorious in a Final X series with Joe Colon that netted him a place on the World Team. Unfortunately for Garrett, he could not wrestle due to an injury and Colon went on to claim world bronze. Other veterans that have moved back to this weight include Shelton Mack, Ethan Lizak, and Sean Fausz. Mack managed to tally five wins at the Last Chance Qualifier and advanced to the third-place bout. One of those wins came at the expense of Fausz, a 2018 U23 World silver medalist at this weight. Lizak ended up going 1-2.

    A trio of collegiate stars will be in the mix to test themselves against Senior-level competition in 2021 All-American's Michael McGee and Chris Cannon, along with two-time ACC champ, Micky Phillipi. Phillipi was sixth at the U23 tournament in 2020. His final loss came to Josh Kramer, who also will be in the bracket. Speaking of testing themselves, high school freshman Wyatt Henson, an Iowa signee, will see how he stacks up against older competition. The two-time Pennsylvania state champ, Henson, was third in Junior Freestyle two years ago in Fargo.

    Predictions

    1st - Nahshon Garrett over Shelton Mack

    3rd - Sean Fausz over Ethan Lizak

    5th - Micky Phillipi over Chris Cannon


    65 kg

    65 kg is not as deep as its predecessor but has a handful of high-end competitors. Pat Lugo was the top seed at the Last Chance Qualifier, but fell in the finals and then had an Olympic Trials berth wrestled away from him by Mitch McKee in a true second-place match. Lugo has done well in standalone events with wins over Luke Pletcher and Matt Kolodzik. He was also a part of Flo's 150 lb eight-man bracket. Though Lugo fell in the opening round to Bajrang Punia, he did make the match closer than the 6-1 final would indicate. Pletcher is also in the mix here. He was 3-2 at the LCQ with losses to Kolodzik and McKee. Also, in single-event action, Pletcher headlined a Pittsburgh WC event where he downed two-time NCAA champ, Dean Heil. A second Hawkeye WC member will be in the mix with Jaydin Eierman. Eierman was second at the 2021 NCAA Championships and wasn't able to get ready for the LCQ with such a quick turnaround. Last year he took fifth at Senior Nationals. One of Eierman's long-time rivals, Dom Demas, is expected to compete. The two clashed in 2019 at the NCAA Championships and at the US Open and both bouts included plenty of fireworks. Demas has plenty of international experience, making a Junior World Team in 2018 and three additional age-group world team's in Greco-Roman. Additionally, this weight class will include 2020 NWCA All-American Henry Pohlmeyer and Purdue's Parker Filius, a fifth-place finisher at U23's in 2020.

    Predictions

    1st - Jaydin Eierman over Pat Lugo

    3rd - Luke Pletcher over Dom Demas

    5th - Henry Pohlmeyer over Parker Filius


    70 kg

    There's a whole lot of talent at 70 kg as the king of the weight class domestically has returned. James Green has made every world team at this weight since 2015. Along the way, he has picked up a silver and bronze medal at the World Championships. For the second consecutive Trials, Green cut down to 65 kg, but he was not nearly as effective as at this weight. He was teched in his only match of the tournament by Joey McKenna. In 2020, Green was a finalist in Flo's 150 lb bracket, topping one of his fellow combatants, Alec Pantaleo, along the way. Pantaleo has just knocked off Jordan Oliver, who recently won the Olympic Trials at 65 kg. He also was a representative at the U23 World Championships, at this weight, in 2019. Pantaleo also made a Junior team in 2016. At the RTC Cup, Pantaleo went unbeaten, with one of his wins coming against Brayton Lee. The Minnesota All-American was on the Junior World Team in 2019 and always is a tough out in freestyle. One of Lee's teammates on the 2019 World squad was Yahya Thomas. Yahya clinched a spot on the team by downing Ohio State's Sammy Sasso. Thomas is fresh off an incredible run at the NCAA Championships that saw him finish third despite starting as the 25th seed. Yet, another entrant with prior world-level experience in this bracket is Jacori Teemer. The Arizona State All-American was a Cadet World bronze medalist back in 2017. Teemer was sixth last year, at Senior Nationals, though he did compete up at 74 kg. Finally, Green's old training partner Tyler Berger shouldn't be overlooked. Berger scored wins over Pantaleo and Ryan Deakin at the Last Chance Qualifier on his way to third place.

    Predictions

    1st - James Green over Tyler Berger

    3rd - Alec Pantaleo over Yahya Thomas

    5th - Brayton Lee over Jacori Teemer


    74 kg

    While there's a decent amount of depth at 74 kg, you'd have to consider Hayden Hidlay a distinct favorite. Hidlay is apparently on his way up to 174 lb after spending his entire collegiate career competing at 157. Last year, Hidlay amassed seven wins at Senior Nationals as he fought for third place. He clinched third place with a wild victory over Evan Wick, an opponent that was third at the Olympic Trials Challenge Tournament. One of Hidlay's victims last year at Senior's was NCAA runner-up Joey Lavallee. Joey went on to take eighth at that tournament. Recently, he was fourth at the Last Chance Qualifier, grabbing five wins along the way. Hawkeye WC's Jeremiah Moody was among the wrestlers who fell to Lavallee at the LCQ. Moody was a Junior Pan-American gold medalist in 2018 and is always a tough out in freestyle. Arizona State's All-American Josh Shields wrestled a close bout with Pantaleo at the LCQ before bowing out after a 2-2 showing. He'll have the opportunity to go far in this bracket. Postgrads, Luke Zilverberg and Quentin Perez, are also dangerous here. Some current collegiate wrestlers in the mix are Jared Franek and Phil Conigliaro. Frank was an NCAA Round of 12 finisher this year and made a pair of Junior freestyle finals in his hometown, Fargo. Conigliaro also always excels in freestyle, cracking the top-eight at the US Open in 2019 and making the U23 finals.

    Predictions

    1st - Hayden Hidlay over Joey Lavallee

    3rd - Phil Conigliaro over Jeremiah Moody

    5th - Josh Shields over Quentin Perez


    79 kg

    Lots of fun storylines at 79 kgs! First and foremost is the return of Isaiah Martinez. IMar was unable to compete at the Olympic Trials due to injuries, which is a shame as we saw him push Jordan Burroughs to a decisive third match in their Final X series. Martinez will have to be up to the task as there's no shortage of potential challengers for him this weekend. 2018 U23 World Team member David McFadden will be in the mix. McFadden competed at 86 kg for the Last Chance Qualifier, but this is a more natural weight for the four-time AA from Virginia Tech. He won this weight at the U23 tournament in 2020. One of the opponents that defeated McFadden at the LCQ is Taylor Lujan won five bouts at the tournament, before his elimination. Lujan had a breakout performance (freestyle-wise) in Flo's 195 lb eight-man bracket. He pinned Gabe Dean and cruised by Pitt head coach Keith Gavin to make the finals, opposite Myles Martin. We also have to mention Chance Marsteller, who went 1-2 at the Trials and picked up a win over Vincenzo Joseph. Marsteller has past world-level experience as a Cadet, back in 2012. As with some success on the Cadet level is Travis Wittlake. The 2021 NCAA four-place finisher captured bronze back in 2016. Two collegiate seniors from 2020 could make an impact, as well. Devin Skatzka and Dylan Lydy both clashed many times on in the Big Ten and may renew acquaintances. Skatzka actually pinned Lujan at the LCQ but went 2-2, overall. A curious entry here is Mason Manville, who has competed primarily in Greco of late. Manville was a Cadet freestyle world champion in 2014 and made the Senior team in Greco in 2017.

    Predictions

    1st - Isaiah Martinez over Chance Marsteller

    3rd - David McFadden over Taylor Lujan

    5th - Travis Wittlake over Devin Skatzka


    86 kg

    As with many of these Olympic weights, there isn't a huge field, but there are some intriguing matchups at 86 kg. Mark Hall is the most well-known name. The three-time age-group world champion was stopped at the Last Chance Qualifier by 2019 NCAA champ, Drew Foster. Foster is expected to compete here, as well. Hall did not compete often in freestyle while at Penn State, but has now moved to the rapidly improving Penn RTC and could be a factor by the 2024 Trials. Foster's win over Hall netted him third place at the LCQ; however, he was defeated in a true second-place bout. He was also selected to participate in Flo's 195 lb bracket, though he was beaten in the opening round by college foe Myles Martin. A pair of NC State teammates, Trent Hidlay and Nick Reenan, are two other contenders at this weight. Hidlay is a Junior World bronze medalist and Reenan was a Final X participant, opposite David Taylor in 2018. Hidlay also was unbeaten at the RTC Cup with wins over notables like Myles Amine, Sam Brooks, and...Foster.

    Predictions

    1st - Trent Hidlay over Drew Foster

    3rd - Mark Hall over Nick Reenan


    92 kg

    Without the two-time world champion, J'Den Cox, this weight class is now up-for-grabs. Two of the biggest title threats have moved to this weight class in Kyven Gadson (down from 97) and Nate Jackson (up from 86). Gadson has made Final X in both years after its inception and has fallen to Kyle Snyder in both instances. He also secured a spot on the National Team with a first-period fall over Mike Macchiavello at the true third-place bout at the Olympic Trials. Kyven's lone loss at the tournament came to Ty Walz. However, he would avenge it in the Challenge Tournament consolation finals. Jackson has been the most active American wrestler since the COVID pandemic and has seen his stock rise significantly. In 2020, Jackson was a runner-up at Senior Nationals and a third-place finisher at Flo's 195 lb bracket. The only question is how he will adjust to the additional weight. Chattanooga grad Scottie Boykin barely missed out on a shot at the Trials. He was the runner-up at the Last Chance Qualifier, but was crushed in a true second-place bout by Wisconsin's freshman phenom, Braxton Amos. A pair of multiple-time college AA's in TJ Dudley and Willie Miklus could be threats, as well. One of Miklus' pupils at Michigan State, Cam Caffey, is quite formidable. Caffey was third at U23's in 2020, while competing down at 86 kg.

    Predictions

    1st - Nate Jackson over Kyven Gadson

    3rd - Scottie Boykin over TJ Dudley

    5th - Willie Miklus over Cam Caffey


    97 kg

    This weight was hurt by wrestlers going up and down in weight, so there aren't many familiar faces in the bracket. Austin Schafer has had some solid performances over the years. He was fourth at the Last Chance Qualifier and entered the event as the second seed. Wartburg's Kobe Woods was fourth at U23's in 2020 and is capable of challenging; however, Jacob Boyd, the wrestler that defeated him for third at that event, is also looming. Another non-DI wrestler to keep an eye on is Evan Hansen. Evan was a four-time national champion for NAIA power Grand View. South Dakota State's Nate Rotert represents another postgraduate that is expected to have a strong impact. Rotert was an NCAA Round of 12 finisher in 2018 after receiving the eighth seed. From the current collegiate crop is Isaac Trumble of NC State. Trumble took the collegiate world by storm after pinning eventual NCAA runner-up Nino Bonaccorsi; however, Trumble did not start in the postseason after losing a wrestle-off to Reenan.

    Predictions

    1st - Austin Schafer over Nate Rotert

    3rd - Isaac Trumble over Jake Boyd

    5th - Kobe Woods over Evan Hansen


    125 kg

    We'll end on a high note as the heavyweight class is a host of heavy hitters. Most notable two-time World bronze medalist Nick Gwaizdowski who announced earlier this week he would be in action this weekend and for the foreseeable future. Despite his Trials losses, to Gable Steveson, Gwiazdowski has been a mainstay at the weight for the entire last quad. One of his primary challengers during that span, Dom Bradley, will be in action. The 2019 Senior National champion and Junior World champion fell to Gwiz in the Trials semis, 6-0. A contender that has moved up to 125 lbs is Ty Walz. Walz and Gwiazdowski clashed many times in the ACC, while in college, but Walz has spent most of his career at the Senior level competing at 97 kg. Walz has been near the top of the heap for the bulk of that time. He should do the same at 125. Also moving up is youngster Lucas Davison. The 197 lber from Northwestern was a Junior World silver medalist in 2019 at 92 kg. One has to wonder if this is a sign of things to come next year on the collegiate scene. One of the elite NCAA talent's at 285 lbs is set to compete here in Tony Cassioppi. In his first opportunity to compete at national's, Cassioppi took third. He was a two-time Triple Crown winner during high school and even had wins over Mason Parris in freestyle. One more college heavyweight of note is Matt Stencel. The Central Michigan star had an off-key NCAA Tournament but has been among the elite wrestlers at the weight for the last three seasons. Two top postgrads are Demetrius Thomas and Derek White. Thomas was a two-time ACC champion for Pitt, while White was a national finalist in 2019.

    Predictions

    1st - Nick Gwiazdowski over Dom Bradley

    3rd - Ty Walz over Tony Cassioppi

    5th - Derek White over Demetrius Thomas

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