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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    2021 World Team Trials Preview - Greco-Roman

    Max Nowry (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    Just over a month after the Olympics wrapped up, we have another critical event scheduled for this weekend on the Senior level, the 2021 World Team Trials. USA Wrestling has stated that any Olympic medalist could claim a spot (at that same weight) on the world team, if they chose. 8 of the 9 medalists elected to compete at the 2021 World Championships October 2-10th. Only Gable Steveson declined the invitation. So the non-Olympic weights, along with weights where the United States did not medal, and 125 kg in men's freestyle, will be up-for-grabs.

    These limited numbers of available weights have created an Olympic Trials-like effect for competitors who have moved up or down in search of a berth on the world team. Of course, that can only benefit wrestling fans who should be treated to some incredible matchups.

    We'll continue our 2021 World Team Trials previews by looking at the men's Greco-Roman team. Since there were no Olympic medalists on the Greco side, all ten weights will be contested in Lincoln, Nebraska.

    55 kg

    Of the smaller Greco weights, this bracket has one of the more sizable favorites, with Max Nowry as the one seed. Nowry is back at his normal weight, which was not contested in the non-Olympic year. Nowry has rarely competed above 55 kg for the past decade. Even so, he turned in a respectable performance at the Olympic Trials, taking fourth in the Challenge Tournament. The only opponent to defeat him in Fort Worth was Sam Jones, who is expected to compete at 63 kg. Nowry is looking to make his second Senior World Team, as he broke through in 2019 and ended up wrestling for a bronze medal.

    Opposing Nowry will be a familiar face in Brady Koontz, a world team member at three different age groups. Koontz and Nowry clashed at Final X in 2019. While that series was relatively lopsided, in favor of Nowry, Koontz seemingly closed the gap at Senior Nationals in April and fell 1-1 on criteria.

    Unfortunately, based on preseeds, we may not see a Senior National rematch between Koontz and Dalton Duffield. Though Koontz prevailed via fall, Duffield did register a five-point throw earlier in the bout.

    We'll also get a glimpse of the future with third-seeded Billy Sullivan. Billy was a Junior World team member this year and grabbed a bronze medal at the Junior Pan-Am's in 2019.

    The fourth seed belongs to Jacob Cochran, who took it to the former U23 World Team member Duffield, 12-4, in the third-place bout at Seniors.

    Champion Prediction: Max Nowry

    60 kg

    Olympian Ildar Hafizov leads the way at 60 kg and will get the top seed here. Hafizov, a finalist at the 2020 Pan-American Olympic Qualifier, used that placement to avoid competing in the Olympic Trials Challenge Tournament. Instead, he just needed a pair of shutout victories over Army WCAP teammate Ryan Mango to secure his second Olympic berth (and first for the United States). Hafizov made two other World Team's during the last quad and competed at three others before that. The only other American that made the team at 60 kg during this past quad was Dalton Roberts, who did so in 2018. Roberts will take the second seed. Additionally, he has made four other age-group world team's during his young career. Earlier this year, Roberts teched his way through Senior Nationals.

    Roberts' finals opponent at Seniors was Dylan Koontz, who will be the fourth seed. Koontz also was a finalist for the U23 World Team this year.

    Right ahead of Koontz is Randon Miranda, who is no stranger to international competition. He has made three age-group world teams and claimed a win during the 2020 Olympic Trials. During Senior Nationals in 2020, Miranda defeated both of the Koontz twins on his way to a fifth-place finish. This year he won the same tournament, but up at 63 kg.

    The fifth and sixth seeds are expected to go to King Sandoval and Aidan Nutter. The Maryland star, Sandoval, was fourth at Senior Nationals this year. Nutter was fourth at the Junior WTT's in 2021.

    Champion Prediction: Ildar Hafizov

    63 kg

    This weight class should be fun because we'll have the opportunity to see a first-time Senior-level world team member get crowned, no matter the result. The top seed is Leslie Fuenffinger. At the Olympic Trials, Fuenffinger logged wins over opponents like Randon Miranda and Dalton Roberts in order to achieve a berth in the Challenge Tournament finals. There he fell to Army WCAP teammate Ryan Mango, who also beat him in Final X in 2019. Fuenffinger rebounded and earned a spot on the national team as he pinned Sam Jones in a true third-place bout.

    Of course, who's on the other half of the bracket from Fuenffinger? It's Jones. Though he couldn't claim a spot on the national team, Jones had an excellent Trials. He scored a pair of wins over Max Nowry and Utah Valley All-American Taylor LaMont.

    2021 U23 World Team member David Stepanian will likely have the third seed. Stepanian was also a runner-up at Senior Nationals this year. His future U23 world teammate, Dylan Gregerson, will be in this weight class, as well. Gregerson made the team at 60 kg, while Stepanian was at this weight class. Also in 2021, Stepanian was a runner-up at Senior Nationals. The two opponents that finished directly below him, We Rachal and Corbin Nirschl are expected to attend. Rachel and Nirschl both met in the finals of Senior Nationals and U23's third year. Both times Rachel got his hand raised after a one-point decision.

    There will be a youth infusion from the seventh seed Chayse LaJoie a 2021 Junior World Team member. LaJoie won a pair of Junior National titles in Fargo in 2018 and 2019. He is expected to enroll at Cornell after possibly taking a grayshirt season in 2021-22.

    Champion Prediction: Leslie Fuenffinger

    67 kg

    Overall, the 67 kg weight class is really solid and has a host of capable challengers that could come away with the world team berth. Olympian Alex Sancho will be the top seed and has established himself as the man to beat at this weight. He earned his place on the Olympic team after defeating fellow Army WCAP teammate Ellis Coleman in a pair of hard-fought bouts. Once again, a WCAP training partner should present his most significant push; however, that will come from Jesse Thielke. Jesse is an Olympian himself, making the 2016 team at 59 kg. He has also made a pair of World Championship squads and owns a Junior World bronze medal. Over the past few years, Thielke has missed a significant amount of mat time due to injuries, so if he's close to top form, he could take the spot.

    Another top contender here looking to make his Senior-level breakthrough is Hayden Tuma. Hayden has been a part of four age-group world teams and has been in the mix on the Senior front. Tuma comes in hot after scoring a pair of wins over Nolan Baker and Alston Nutter to win a 2021 Senior National title.

    2019 UWW Junior Runner-up Calvin Germinaro, is putting together some strong results at the Senior level. He was a finalist in 2020 at Senior Nationals. Germinaro is a young stud to watch out of the great Minnesota Storm Greco program.

    Speaking of youth, Alston Nutter and Peyton Omania both qualify, as well. Nutter made the U23 World Team this year. He has a pair of Junior World Teams on his resume and even won a bronze medal at the 2019 tournament. Also coming home with bronze from Tallin, Estonia was Omania. The Michigan State star made the U23 that year, too, and has been a part of four age-group teams.

    Champion Prediction: Jesse Thielke

    72 kg

    Yes, you saw that right! That's Pat Smith's name down at 72 kg. The two-time world team member hasn't competed at the weight since early-2018, but immediately becomes the favorite, provided his weight descent is without issue. Smith is looking to get back on the horse after suffering an upset in the semifinals of the Olympic Trials Challenge Tournament. Earlier in 2021, while at 77 kg, Smith was fifth at the Matteo Pellicone and seventh at the Henri DeGlane.

    The next tier of competitors at this weight features Benji Peak, Jamel Johnson, and Michael Hooker. Peak made the finals of the Olympic Trials Challenge Tournament down at 67 kg. Along the way, he teched Johnson, and former world team member Raymond Bunker. Peak also teched his way through the U23 WTT's in the spring. Johnson was a couple of matches away from a world team berth in 2019, as he fell in Final X to Ellis Coleman. He made the finals of Senior Nationals earlier this year after downing Hooker in the semis. Hooker rebounded to take third. At the Olympic Trials, Hooker picked up a win on the championship side before falling to Bunker.

    A lower seed to watch at this weight is Purdue national qualifier Griffin Parriott. He was fourth at Senior Nationals and battled the eventual champion, Xavier Johnson, to an 8-5 decision before settling into his final placement.

    Champion Prediction: Pat Smith

    77 kg

    77 kg is shaping up to be one of the deeper, possibly wide-open weights of the entire tournament. One of the stories of the Olympic Trials was the emergence of Jesse Porter. Just to make the Trials, Porter needed to earn a spot at the Last Chance Qualifier, a week beforehand. Then, as the 11th seed, Porter stormed through the bracket and knocked off a pair of former world team members, just to get to the finals. Unfortunately, Porter wasn't able to compete at the Olympics because the weight class was not qualified and he was not able to make the finals at the OG qualifier. Even though Porter came from the 11th seed, he's far from a flash in the plan. Porter made U23 World Teams every year between 2017-19.

    Porter's Olympic Trials finals opponent Peyton Walsh will be back and looking to reverse the result of their series. Less than two months after the Trials, Walsh went down to Guatemala City and won a Pan-American title, which was the first of his career. Expected to take the third seed is Austin Morrow, a winner of three matches at the Olympic Trials.

    Veteran Alec Ortiz is coming off a title at 2021 Senior Nationals. He was third at the same tournament in 2020 after losing to Minnesota Storm teammate Pat Smith in the semifinals.

    A pair of U23 opponents are expected to receive the next two seeds. Britton Holmes and Ryan Epps competed in the best-of-three finals in the 2021 tournament and Holmes swept the series. Though he's been in the mix at various age-group levels, that is Holmes' first world team of any sort. Epps battled Ortiz to a relative stalemate in a 2-1 finals loss in the 2021 Senior National finals. He also gave Kendrick Sanders a close encounter in the same tournament in 2020.

    The seventh seed should go to Ohio State's Fritz Schierl. Fritz was fourth at Senior Nationals and actually posted a win over Holmes, so we'll see if the final seeds end up sticking.

    Champion Prediction: Peyton Walsh

    82 kg

    The back half of the Greco-Roman weights seem to feature a distinct favorite at the final four weights. Starting here with Ben Provisor. The 31-year-old Provisor is a two-time Olympian that has also made the 2017 World Team. For the Olympic Trials, Provisor dropped down to 77 kg and was blocked from making a third team after losing to Peyton Walsh in his first match. At Senior Nationals, just about a month later, Provisor flipped that result. Provisor has a much longer track record than anyone else in the field.

    The second seed should belong to Spencer Woods. Woods earned a pair of wins at the Olympic Trials (at 87 kg) to finish third in the Challenge Tournament.

    2021 U23 World Team member, Tommy Brackett, should be the third seed. Brackett and Woods met in the Senior National finals at 87 kg this year. Woods prevailed with a 9-3 win.

    Richard Carlson and Tyler Cunningham are slated to receive the fourth and fifth seeds, respectively.

    Champion Prediction: Ben Provisor

    87 kg

    As of now, it appears that only three wrestlers will get seeded at 87 kg. Alan Vera is the unquestioned #1. He captured a Senior National title in 2020 by logging a dominant 7-1 victory over longtime Greco mainstay Joe Rau in the finals. Vera was the top seed at the 2021 Olympic Trials and expected to meet Rau for an Olympic berth; however, he was upended by John Stefanowicz in the Challenge Tournament semifinals. Even after an upset, Vera remains one of our top medal threats on the Greco team.

    2018 U23 World Team member George Sikes would get the second seed. Sikes has competed in two major events this year at 82 kg. He's found success in both, finishing third at Senior Nationals and he made the U23 finals, opposite Brackett.

    2021 U23 fourth-place finisher Tyler Hannah is currently in the third seed. He was a two-time Cadet Greco finalist in Fargo and won a stop sign in 2018.

    Champion Prediction: Alan Vera

    97 kg

    The last quad at 97 kg was absolutely dominated domestically by G'Angelo Hancock. He shows no signs of slowing down, so that reign will probably run until at least the 2024 Games. Hancock finished seventh at his first Olympic Games in 2020 and could have (or possibly should have) defeated one of the eventual bronze medalists Tadeusz Michalik. It would be a monumental upset for Hancock not to extend his current Senior world team streak from 2017 to 2021.

    One of Hancock's frequent challengers domestically has been the Army WCAP's Lucas Sheridan. The former Indiana national qualifier opposed Hancock in Final X 2019 with a spot on the world team hanging in the balance. He was knocked off by upstart sensation Braxton Amos in the semifinals of the 2020 Olympic Trials, but bounced back to earn a place on the national team.

    The competitor at this weight that is having a breakout year is Nicholas Boykin. None of his opponents at Senior Nationals or the U23 WTT's went the full distance. Each bout at Senior's ended in a fall. At the Olympic Trials, Boykin knocked off Dan Miller, but fell to Amos in the Challenge Tournament finals.

    Boykin's 2021 Senior finals opponent James Souza should slot into the fourth seed. Souza was actually leading Boykin in that bout, but was pinned. The fifth seed, Khymba Johnson, went 1-2 at the Olympic Trials and gave Boykin a close match.

    The final seedable wrestler at the weight is Chad Porter. The former Junior/U23 World Team member has shown out well at the recent domestic tournaments. He fell to Boykin in the U23 finals and made the semis at Seniors. There he dropped a match to Souza and then settled for fourth place.

    Champion Prediction: G'Angelo Hancock

    130 kg

    We'll have the opportunity to see a changing of the guard, of sorts, at 130 kg, since Adam Coon and Robby Smith have made every World/Olympic team dating back to 2013. The youngster next-in-line at the weight is Arizona State All-American Cohlton Schultz. Cohlton is ready to make an impact on the Senior level after winning a Cadet world title and earning a pair of Junior world medals. Schultz opposed Coon in both the Olympic Trials finals and in Final X 2019.

    Not ready to turn the page and hand anything over to Schultz is a contingent that includes the Army WCAP's Jacob Mitchell. Mitchell was a World Team Trials runner-up to Schultz in 2019 and fell by just a point to him in the Olympic Trials semis.

    Veteran Donny Longendyke could get the third seed. Longendyke was defeated by Mitchell for third place in the 2020 Olympic Trials Challenge Tournament. A year ago, Longendyke was third at Senior Nationals. There, his only loss came to former Nebraska football player Tanner Farmer. He would get revenge on the backside at the Trials. Farmer is right behind Longendyke as the fourth seed.

    The 2021 Senior National Champion Malcolm Allen is next in line as the fifth seed. To win his title, he defeated longtime 97 kg contender Dan Miller in the finals. 2020 Senior National runner-up and Olympic Trials participant West Cathcart is the sixth seed.

    Champion Prediction: Cohlton Schultz

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