The two favorites at 60 kg Ildar Hafizov and Dalton Roberts (right) (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
The road to Belgrade, Serbia and the 2022 Senior World Championships begins this week as the US Open takes place in Las Vegas. While plenty of notable wrestlers have qualified for the World Team Trials or even Final X, there are still tons of quality competitors who need to punch their ticket to Coralville, Iowa for the WTT's. The top-seven finishers at each weight class will lock up a spot at the Trials.
Here's a look at the ten brackets Senior Men's Greco-Roman with unseeded threats to watch and a finals prediction, based on current preseeds.
1. Max Nowry (Army WCAP)
2. Dalton Duffield (Army WCAP)
3. Jacob Cochran (Northern Michigan)
4. Camden Russell (MWC)
Two-time Senior World team member Max Nowry is the man to beat here. Nowry has won the last three US Open's he's entered (2018, 2019, 2021) and has shown no signs of slowing down, despite being a key player on the Senior level for over a decade. Nowry's primary competition is expected to come from a wrestler that placed third at the 2021 World Team Trials, Dalton Duffield. Duffield was a 2019 Open runner-up and a 2018 U23 World team member. For third at the Trials, Duffield downed Jacob Cochran. The Northern Michigan student is a rising star at this weight. Last year, he was also third at the Open. Another promising prospect is Camden Russell, who placed twice in Fargo at the Junior level, including a title in 2019.
Finals Projection: Max Nowry over Dalton Duffield
1. Dalton Roberts (Army WCAP)
2. Ildar Hafizov (Army WCAP)
3. Dylan Koontz (Titan Mercury WC)
4. Alex Thomsen (Nebraska WTC)
It could be another chapter in the rivalry between Dalton Roberts and Ildar Hafizov. The two met in the WTT finals last year with Roberts coming out on top. Even more recently, the two clashed at the Bill Farrell, with the same result. This time the score was 6-5 for Roberts. Hafizov and Roberts have combined to make every World/Olympic team since 2017. Needless to say, we could see this match a couple more times this year with even greater stakes on the line.
Two young studs hope to prevent the latest rematch between Roberts and Hafizov. Dylan Koontz is a 2021 Open runner-up and finished fourth later in the year at the WTT's. Nebraska's Alex Thomsen is hoping to replicate his surprise performance from the 2020 Open where he stunned the field and came away with the title. A year later he was third.
Finals Projection: Dalton Roberts over Ildar Hafizov
1. Jesse Thielke (Army WCAP)
2. Corbin Nirschl (MWC)
3. Aidan Nutter (NYAC)
4. King Sandoval (Bandits WC)
Look who's back! 2016 Olympian Jesse Thielke gets the top seed here. We're not exactly sure what to expect from Thielke as he hasn't competed often in the past three years. The 2012 Junior World bronze medalist also has a pair of Senior World Team appearances to his name and should be a threat to make another if near his peak. Thielke did compete earlier this month and finished as a runner-up to Sam Jones (via tech) at the Bill Farrell.
The second seed belongs to Corbin Nirschl who was 1-2 at the Bill Farrell. Though he didn't place, Nirschl notched a win over Aidan Nutter, who went on to take fourth. Nirschl was fourth at the 2021 Open. Maryland's King Sandoval is the fourth seed. Sandoval was fourth at the Open last year at 60 kg.
Finals Prediction: Jesse Thielke over Corbin Nirschl
1. Peyton Omania (Michigan RTC/NYAC)
2. Alex Sancho (Army WCAP)
3. Alston Nutter (Sunkist Kids)
4. Lenny Merkin (Princeton WC)
5. Jamel Johnson (Marines)
6. Robert Perez III (Sunkist Kids)
7. Jessy Williams (Spartan Combat RTC)
8. Morgan Flaharty (NYAC)
The depth of this weight class makes it the first one where we could really have something unusual happen. Michigan State's Peyton Omania had an incredible run last year at the WTT's and found himself on the Senior World Team for the first time. Omania has been a staple on the age-group scene having made four different world teams and even grabbed a bronze as a Junior in 2019. Omania's WTT finals opponent was Alex Sancho, who had competed in the Olympic Games just a few months prior. That marked the first Senior World/Olympic team for Sancho. In his latest outing, Sancho crushed a talented field at the Bill Farrell. None of his three opponents made it out of the first period.
Another past Junior World medalist in this weight class is Alston Nutter, who was also an Open finalist in 2021. Fourth seed Lenny Merkin was a 2019 U23 World Team member and has a pair of top-four finishes at the Open. He was third in the Bill Farrell bracket won by Sancho. A dangerous fifth seed is Jamel Johnson, who was a Final X participant in 2019.
One of the young stars of this weight is Robert Perez III. Up at 72 kg, earlier this month, Perez III was third at the Bill Farrell and logged a win over veteran Michael Hooker. All the way down at the sixth seed is Jessy Williams, who has placed at the last five Open's, highlighted by a runner-up finish in 2018.
Finals Prediction: Alex Sancho over Jamel Johnson
1. Benji Peak (Sunkist Kids)
2. Orlando Ponce (Minnesota Storm)
3. Michael Hooker (Army WCAP)
4. Joe Betterman (Betterman Elite)
5. Eddie Smith (Pickaxe WC)
Looking to claim his second US Open title this week is Benji Peak who was a winner in 2020, as well. Peak was a runner-up to Pat Smith at the WTT's last fall and looks like he's nowhere near his peak. Second-seeded Orlando Ponce was a runner-up to Smith at the Bill Farrell. He stunned Michael Hooker in the opening round with a fall despite being down by five points. That loss dropped Hooker down to the third seed here. Hooker has placed third in two of his last three Open's.
Veteran and two-time World Team member Joe Betterman is back and slots in as the fourth seed. He'll likely meet two-time Open placer Eddie Smith to decide who gets to meet Peak in the semis.
Finals Prediction: Benji Peak over Michael Hooker
1. Kamal Bey (Army WCAP)
2. Britton Holmes (Army WCAP)
3. Payton Jacobson (Sunkist Kids)
4. Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm)
5. Fritz Schierl (Titan Mercury WC)
6. Riley Briggs (West Coast Greco RTC)
One of the biggest American superstars on the Greco scene is back with Kamal Bey. The 2017 Junior World Champion and 2018 Senior World Team member should be the guy to beat here and, once he knocks the rust off, for the World Team spot. He'll look to claim his fourth Open/Senior National title.
Britton Holmes is a 2021 U23 World Team member that was third at the Senior Trials last year. In 2021, he was fifth at the Open. A win over Alec Ortiz at the Bill Farrell, helped Holmes get the second seed. Peyton Jacobson also jumps ahead of Ortiz based on his performance at the Farrell.
The fifth seed, Fritz Schierl, actually finished higher than Holmes at the WTT's. He was a finalist in 2021 compared to third for Holmes. He'll aim to place at his third straight Open.
Finals Prediction: Kamal Bey over Britton Holmes
1. Spencer Woods (Army WCAP)
2. Tommy Brackett (Tennessee)
3. Tyler Cunningham (MWC)
4. Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm)
5. Jordan Lara (505 WC)
In 2019, one of the surprise stories of the Open was Spencer Woods' run to the finals. He proved it was no fluke by winning the tournament in 2021. He continued his ascend with a trip to the U23 World Championships and a finals berth at the Senior WTT's. At the Bill Farrell, Woods lost a close, one-point decision to two-time Olympian Ben Provisor.
Woods' finals opponent at the 2021 Open was Tommy Brackett, who comes in as the second seed. Brackett made the U23 World Team last year, also (Woods was at 87 kg).
The third and fourth seeds, Tyler Cunningham and Ryan Epps, respectively, finished in that exact order at the 2022 Bill Farrell. Epps was a WTT finalist last year up at 87 kg's.
Finals Prediction: Spencer Woods over Tommy Brackett
1. Alan Vera (NYAC)
2. George Sikes (NYAC)
3. Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm)
4. Timothy Young (Illinois)
2021 World Team member Alan Vera is looking to get back on the winning track after a shocking loss by fall to Richard Carlson at the Bill Farrell. Vera can add his second Open title to his name with a win this week. The second seed is George Sikes, who has placed at the Open twice. His best showing came in 2021, when he finished third. Sikes was a 2018 U23 World Team member who came in fourth at the Senior WTT's last year.
The third seed is Christian DuLaney, who recently was third at the Bill Farrell. DuLaney was fifth at the 2020 Open and will battle with Sikes for a spot in the finals. Fourth-seeded Timothy Young is also looking to place in Vegas for a second time.
Finals Prediction: Alan Vera over George Sikes
1. Lucas Sheridan (Army WCAP)
2. Khymba Johnson (NYAC)
3. Chad Porter (Sunkist Kids)
4. Guy Patron (Dubuque WC)
5. Christian Rouleau (Minnesota Storm)
Veteran Lucas Sheridan gets the top billing at 97 kg's and is looking for his first US Open title. Sheridan was second at the 2019 Open and later that year at Senior Nationals. His biggest obstacles for that first championship could come in the form of Khymba Johnson or Chad Porter. Johnson has become one of the key players at this weight earning fifth-place finishes twice at the Open and once at Senior Nationals. Third-seeded Chad Porter is had made U23 and Junior World Team in 2019 and 2018, respectively. To date, Porter's best finish at the Open was when he grabbed second place in 2020.
The fourth and fifth seeds, Guy Patron and Christian Rouleau, competed at the Bill Farrell and Rouleau was second and Patron third. The two didn't meet.
Finals Prediction: Lucas Sheridan over Chad Porter
1. Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kids WC)
2. West Cathcart (NYAC)
3. Courtney Freeman (Marines)
4. Keaton Fanning (Northern Michigan)
5. Kaleb Reeves (Eastern Iowa WC)
6. Tate Orndorff (Titan Mercury WC)
The heavy favorite, literally and figuratively, is Arizona State's NCAA finalist Cohlton Schultz. The Sun Devil big man is coming off a year where he qualified for the World Championships at the Senior level for the first time. Schultz has made the world finals at both the Cadet and Junior divisions. We could be looking at a rematch of the 2020 Open finals between Schultz and West Cathcart. Cathcart has placed on two other occasions, taking fourth and fifth.
Two of the other contenders at this weight, third-seeded Courtney Freeman and fifth-seeded Kaleb Reeves were in action at the 2020 Bill Farrell. Freeman was the runner-up, while Reeves was third.
Apparently doing double-duty and competing in both freestyle and Greco-Roman is Ohio State All-American Tate Orndorff. While Orndorff has placed top-eight twice in both styles, his best results have come in Greco with a runner-up finish in 2019.
Finals Prediction: Cohlton Schultz over West Cathcart