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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    2022 US Open Senior Men's Freestyle Preview

    The top seed at 79 kg Alex Dieringer (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.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. While that may seem like a big number, many of these brackets are loaded with either proven winners at the Senior level or promising prospects.

    Here's a look at the ten brackets Senior Men's Freestyle with unseeded threats to watch and a finals prediction, based on current preseeds.

    57 kg


    1. Matt Ramos (Boilermaker RTC)
    2. Jakob Camacho (Wolfpack Wrestling Club)
    3. Joey Prata (Oklahoma RTC)

    Compared to most of the brackets here, this weight is light with proven Senior-level competitors, so anything is possible. The top seed goes to Matt Ramos of Purdue. The former Cadet world champion started at 133 for the Boilermakers and wound up in the NCAA bloodround. Word is he'll compete at 125 for Purdue in 2022-23, so this move is in-line with those whispers. The second seed is also still in college, but has a track record at the Senior-level. Jakob Camacho won the 2021 Open and was seventh in 2020. Camacho is a two-time ACC Champion and also was a Round of 12 finisher in 2021. Joey Prata's 2022 season also ended a match shy of All-American status. He'll get another shot next season for Oklahoma and has thrived with the excellent lightweight coaches at OU.

    Unseeded threat: Sam Latona (Southeast RTC)

    A huge 125 lber for Virginia Tech, rumors out of Blacksburg are that Sam Latona will move up to 133 lbs next season. Latona was listed in the entries at 57 kgs, so he may give it another go in freestyle with more lenient weigh-in rules. If Latona is indeed at 57 kgs, he'll make an impact in this field. He has multiple wins in freestyle and folk over Camacho and was sixth at the 2020 Open. Latona also has a history with former teammate, Prata.

    Finals Pick: Jakob Camacho over Matt Ramos

    61 kg


    1. Tyler Graff Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    2. Nico Megaludis Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    3. Seth Gross Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club
    4. Joshua Rodriguez Nittany Lion Wrestling Club
    5. Daniel DeShazer Gopher Wrestling Club – RTC
    6. Josh Kramer Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club
    7. Brandon Wright Indiana
    8. Gabriel Townsell California RTC

    The fun really starts at 61 kg as it has a top-tier of contenders that can really get after it, offensively. Tyler Graff finally broke through in 2019 and made his first world team. That was after taking fourth at the Open that year. While a win would put him in a better position for another world team run, he's proven it's not necessary. Returning from a long injury-related layoff is 2016 Penn State national champion Nico Megaludis. Megaludis turned in some of his best freestyle results prior to his injuries, finishing as an Open runner-up in 2019. Another one in this bracket with PSU/Nittany Lion WC ties is the fourth seed, Josh Rodriguez. Rodriguez comes in after a great showing at the 2022 Dan Kolov, where he took home a bronze medal.

    While he puts up points in bunches, Seth Gross is still looking for a finish better than fifth at the Open (which he did in 2017). Gross has world team experience at the Cadet and Junior levels, now he's seeking to make a Senior team.

    The back half of the seeds feature a pair of wrestlers that have finished as runner's-up at the Open in previous appearances, with Josh Kramer (2021) and Brandon Wright (2017). A potential Wright/Megaludis quarterfinal could be the best one at this weight. While Kramer was a 2021 runner-up, Daniel DeShazer was third and eighth seed, Gabe Townsell, is a past U23 world teamer.

    Unseeded threat: Sean Fausz (TMWC)

    Speaking of U23 teams, Sean Fausz took home a bronze medal from the 2018 World Championships. He was also fifth at the Open in 2021. He'll certainly present a difficult matchup for wherever he's drawn into the bracket.

    Finals Pick: Seth Gross over Nico Megaludis

    65 kg


    1. Evan Henderson Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    2. Patricio Lugo Hawkeye Wrestling Club
    3. Luke Pletcher Pittsburgh Wrestling Club
    4. Ian Parker Iowa
    5. Matt Kolodzik New Jersey RTC
    6. Kendric Maple Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club
    7. Dean Heil Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)

    Longtime contender Evan Henderson sits atop this weight class with young talent (for the Senior level, that is). Henderson presumably gets the nod over Luke Pletcher after defeating him for third place at the 2021 World Team Trials. Pletcher also took fourth at the 2021 Open, losing to Pat Lugo in the consolation finals. Henderson recently won a shootout over Seth Gross at the Rudis SuperMatch 1 card. He placed in every iteration of the Open during the last quad, highlighted by a runner-up finish in 2020.

    The fourth and fifth seeds could be on a collision course for the second time in the last month as Ian Parker downed Matt Kolodzik at the 2022 Bill Farrell. Parker prevailed after a 6-1 win and Kolodzik battled back for third.

    A dangerous veteran is back in the mix with Kendric Maple, the 2017 US Open champion at 61 kg. Maple has a potentially tough road to the finals with Pletcher and then possibly Lugo in the way. At his peak, Maple's plenty capable of coming away with a stop sign. The preseeds are anchored by Dean Heil, a two-time national champion at Oklahoma State, who currently trains at the Naval Academy. Heil is looking to break into the top eight here for the first time.

    Unseeded threat: Kanen Storr (TMWC)

    Don't worry about a rough final year at Michigan, which saw Kanen Storr come up shy of qualifying for the 2022 NCAA Championships. Storr has always shined more in freestyle. He has placed at both the 2019 and 2020 Open.

    Finals Pick: Evan Henderson over Kendric Maple

    70 kg


    1. Alec Pantaleo Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    2. Jordan Oliver Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club
    3. Tyler Berger California Regional Training Center (CA RTC)
    4. Anthony Ashnault New York Athletic Club
    5. Brock Mauller Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club
    6. Will Lewan Cliff Keen Wrestling Club
    7. Austin Gomez Wisconsin RTC
    8. Sammy Sasso Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    9. Yahya Thomas, Wildcat Wrestling Club

    The recent retirement of James Green leaves this weight class wide open, as Green has represented the United States at the World Championships at 70 since the weight class's inception in 2015. However, after Green 70 kg is deep with talent. The top seed is Alec Pantaleo, a runner-up to Green at this tournament last year. Despite the loss, 2021 was a productive year for Pantaleo, who captured a title at the Matteo Pellicone and the Pan-American Championships. In March, Pantaleo defeated the second seed, Jordan Oliver, at the Rudis SuperMatch 1 card.

    Oliver was the 2020 Olympic Trials winner at 65 kg, though he didn't get to compete at the Games as the weight class never got qualified. At this point, 70 kg is probably a more ideal weight for Oliver. I'd expect to see a different version of Oliver at this tournament, as opposed to the SuperMatch.

    In a bit of a surprise, Tyler Berger edged Anthony Ashnault on criteria, to win the title at the Bill Farrell. That catapults Berger up to the third seed. Berger was also fourth at the WTT's last year at his weight. Ashnault comes in as the four.

    The remainder of the seeds are made up of current collegiate stars. Sixth-seeded, Will Lewan was a Cadet World Champion, while Brock Mauller, Austin Gomez and Yahya Thomas all have made age-group world teams. Early in the tournament, we may get yet another iteration of Thomas versus Ohio State NCAA runner-up Sammy Sasso. The two have tangled frequently in freestyle with Sasso coming out on top, generally by slim margins.

    Unseeded threat: Bryce Andonian (Southeast RTC)

    Last summer, Bryce Andonian proved he was capable of challenging the best in the world as he won a bronze medal at the Junior World Championships. His go-for-broke style was also on display at the 2022 NCAA Championships where he finished third at 149 lbs. Andonian had made three or four of the tournament's ten most exciting matches. He's just a fun to watch in freestyle.

    Finals Pick: Jordan Oliver over Alec Pantaleo

    74 kg


    1. Jason Nolf Nittany Lion Wrestling Club
    2. Tommy Gantt Wolfpack Wrestling Club
    3. Josh Shields Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club
    4. Joey Lavallee Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    5. Cam Amine Cliff Keen Wrestling Club

    For whatever reason, 74 kg has plenty of entries, but only five wrestlers who received preseeds. The favorite is three-time NCAA champion Jason Nolf. With this weight class not being contested at the 2021 WTT's, Nolf moved up to 79 kg and took fourth place. He's seeking his first Open title after placing third in 2019 and fourth in 2017. 2019 runner-up Tommy Gantt looks like Nolf's biggest hurdle on the way to a stop sign. Gantt was also third at Senior Nationals in 2019 and has established himself as one of the top-tier at this weight.

    Josh Shields nets the third seed on the strength of a Bill Farrell Championship win over Joey Lavallee, the fourth seed. Both placed at the 2021 tournament, with Lavallee making the finals, while Shields settled for fifth.

    NCAA fourth-place finisher and Big Ten runner-up Cam Amine gets the fifth seed. If past freestyle success for his family and the CKWC are any indication, Amine should do just fine here.

    Unseeded threat: Quentin Perez (California RTC)

    The former national qualifier from Campbell, Quentin Perez, is now training at the California RTC. Perez was recently third at the Bill Farrell, competing up at 79 kg. He has an impressive array of training partners around his weight with Berger, Stanford national champion Shane Griffith, and Stanford assistant Vincenzo Joseph. I'd expect Perez to continue trending up.

    Finals Pick: Jason Nolf over Tommy Gantt

    79 kg


    1. Alex Dieringer Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    2. Isaiah Martinez Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    3. Chance Marsteller Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    4. Evan Wick Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    5. Taylor Lujan Panther Wrestling Club RTC
    6. Mickey O'Malley Pennsylvania RTC
    7. David McFadden Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    8. Vincenzo Joseph California RTC

    Perhaps the most loaded weight class in the Senior Men's freestyle competition is 79 kg. The top seed is Alex Dieringer who has made the finals twice in Vegas (1st in 2019 and 2nd in 2018). Dieringer has made it to the deciding series for the World Team twice in his career, losing in 2019 to Kyle Dake and last year to Jordan Burroughs. Speaking of Burroughs, one of the few Americans to ever defeat Jordan in freestyle is second-seeded Isaiah Martinez. IMar did so at Final X in 2019, before falling in three matches. Martinez has a pair of NCAA and US Open titles to his name.

    The third and fourth seeds, Chance Marsteller and Evan Wick, both finished third in the nation during their final season of collegiate competition. Wick has placed fourth twice at the Open and at the Olympic Trials. Marsteller was a finalist here in 2019 and actually took third in Greco last year.

    This bracket is so loaded that the 2021 champion, Taylor Lujan, comes in as the fifth seed. Lujan's breakout freestyle performance was in 2020 when he made the finals of the FloWrestling 195 lb eight-man bracket.

    The sixth and seventh seeds are quite familiar with each other as Mickey O'Malley is an active wrestler for Drexel and David McFadden is one of his coaches. At the 2021 Open, O'Malley finished fourth while McFadden was sixth.

    Two-time NCAA champion and three-time finalist Vincenzo Joseph rounds out the seeds at number eight. A quarterfinal match between him and Dieringer sounds remarkable on paper and in person.

    Unseeded threat: Devin Skatzka (Spartan Combat RTC)

    The highest returning placer from the 2021 tournament without a seed is Devin Skatzka. The former Minnesota All-American is now training out of Cornell and Spartan Combat, so it'll be interesting to see his growth. With such an imposing top-eight, it may be difficult for anyone unseeded to crack the top-eight, barring an unforeseen injury.

    Finals Pick: Alex Dieringer over Isaiah Martinez

    86 kg


    1. Mark Hall, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    2. Trent Hidlay, Wolfpack Wrestling Club
    3. Nick Reenan, Wolfpack Wrestling Club
    4. Owen Webster, Gopher Wrestling Club – RTC
    5. Andrew Morgan, Spartan Combat RTC

    Could we see a rematch of the 2021 US Open finals? If seeds hold, that could be the case with Mark Hall and Trent Hidlay as the one and two seeds, respectively. Hall is coming off a big win over Myles Martin on the SuperMatch card. Since 86 kg wasn't available for competition at the 2021 WTT's, Trent Hidlay moved up to 92 kg and managed to finish third, with a win over former NCAA champion Drew Foster in the consolation finals. Hidlay was also third at the 2020 Open and was a 2019 Junior world bronze medalist. Hall, of course, has two Junior world titles and one at the Cadet level.

    Before a Hall/Hidlay rematch, Trent may have to square off with NC State and WWC teammate Nick Reenan. Nick famously made Final X in 2018, opposite David Taylor, at this weight. Reenan has finished in the top-six three times here and made Cadet and Junior world team's in Greco.

    The final two seeded wrestlers at this weight, Owen Webster and Andrew Morgan, were placers at the Bill Farrell. Webster was a runner-up, while Morgan was fourth. The two clashed in the semis and it was Webster who came out on top, 8-2.

    Unseeded threat: Marcus Coleman (Iowa)

    We're going to go with Coleman here, but Nate Jackson was listed in the entries, but not shown as a preseed. If Jackson were to compete, it's difficult to imagine him not receiving a seed. Coleman was one of the most improved wrestlers in the nation this year, for Iowa State, and got on the NCAA podium for the first time. What can he do in freestyle?

    Finals Pick: Mark Hall over Trent Hidlay

    92 kg


    1. Isaac Trumble Wolfpack Wrestling Club
    2. Cam Caffey Michigan Wrestling Club
    3. Michael Battista Cavalier Wrestling Club
    4. Max Shaw Tar Heel Wrestling Club

    For whatever reason, 92 kg is another weight without any post-graduate Senior level stars. All four of the seeded wrestlers currently have collegiate eligibility. 2021 US Open fifth-place finisher (at 97 kg), Isaac Trumble, assumes the top seed. Trumble, an ACC runner-up, just competed at his first NCAA Tournament and went 1-2. Next up is Cam Caffey, a 2020 Big Ten runner-up, who has wrestled on the world stage before at the Junior World Championships (in Greco-Roman). Caffey also won gold medals in both styles at the Pan-American Junior Championships in 2018.

    Two more ACC wrestlers, Michael Battista and Max Shaw comprise the remaining seeded wrestlers. Both are one-time NCAA qualifiers. Battista was fourth at the 2021 Open at 86 kg.

    Unseeded Threat: Gerald Harris (Hurricane Wrestling Academy)

    The 2003 EWL Champion for Cleveland State and former UFC fighter, Gerald Harris, is a wild card here. About six months ago, Harris competed on a Stalemates card and acquitted himself well. He's currently a coach in Oklahoma.

    Finals Pick: Isaac Trumble over Cam Caffey

    97 kg


    1. Mike Macchiavello Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    2. Jay Aiello Cavalier Wrestling Club
    3. Joe Rau Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    4. Andy Smith Southeast RTC
    5. Sam Mitchell Bulls Wrestling Club
    6. TJ Dudley Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club

    Originally Mike Macchiavello appeared in the entries at 92 kg, but apparently will compete at this weight. Either way, Macchiavello would have been the top seed. The last time Macchiavello was in action, he won the Bill Farrell at 92 kg. The 2018 NCAA champion, Macchiavello, is seeking to improve upon his 2019 finish, when he was third at the Open. In order for Macchiavello to reign supreme, he'll need to get by either Jay Aiello or Joe Rau in the finals. Aiello started his senior season at Virginia with a bronze medal in U23 World Championships and finished in the NCAA Round of 12. The two-time World Team member for Greco-Roman, Rau, was a runner-up to Macchiavello at the Bill Farrell earlier this month.

    The fourth and fifth seeds, Andy Smith and Sam Mitchell, were both placers at the 2021 Open. Smith took third and Mitchell was sixth. Despite their freestyle accolades, Smith wasn't able to crack the Virginia Tech starting lineup this year and Mitchell was sub-.500 for Buffalo.

    The final seed is veteran TJ Dudley who has placed fourth or higher at every Open since 2018. He's one that should certainly outwrestle his seed.

    Unseeded Threat: 97 kg's looks to be the smallest bracket of the Senior Men's freestyle event. It's difficult to project any unseeded wrestler cracking the top-six.

    Finals Pick: Mike Macchiavello over Jay Aiello

    125 kg


    1. Hayden Zillmer Gopher Wrestling Club – RTC
    2. Dominique Bradley Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club
    3. Ty Walz Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    4. Demetrius Thomas Pittsburgh Wrestling Club
    5. Christian Lance Nebraska Wrestling Training Center
    6. Jordan Wood Lehigh Valley Wrestling Club
    7. Lucas Davison, Wildcat Wrestling Club
    8. Wyatt Hendrickson Air Force Regional Training Center
    9. Tate Orndorff Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
    10. Derek White Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)

    We'll end with a really stout group of heavyweights. None have made the Senior world team before, but there's a ton of experience mixed in with some talented collegiate stars. A title at the Bill Farrell gives Hayden Zillmer (yes, that Hayden Zillmer) the top seed. In 2018, Zillmer competed at 92 kg against J'den Cox in Final X Bethlehem (not to mention at 84 lbs in Fargo in 2007). Zillmer has made the US Open finals in both styles and was a freestyle champion at Senior Nationals in 2019. That came at 97 kg and the same tournament Dom Bradley was victorious in the 125 kg bracket. Bradley had previously won the Open in 2013 and 2016. He's also one of four age-group world medalists in this group. Bradley was a Junior World Champion in 2009, while Jordan Wood and Lucas Davison both won silver medals. Wood's came at the Cadet level and Davison Juniors. U23 world bronze medalist Ty Walz is the fourth.

    The lower portion of the seeds contains a handful of wrestlers that competed at the collegiate level in 2021-22. Wood and Davison were both All-Americans in Detroit, as was Christian Lance. Tate Orndorff came up a match shy this year, but got on the podium in St. Louis. Eighth-seeded Wyatt Hendrickson was a Junior World Teamer in 2021 and wrestled in the bronze medal match.

    The final seed of the bunch belongs to Derek White at the #10 spot. White was fourth at the Bill Farrell and participated in the Rudis SuperMatch card. White was a fourth-place finisher at the 2019 Open.

    Unseeded Threat: Ethan Laird (Broncs Wrestling Club)

    Another active collegiate wrestler in this bracket is Rider's Ethan Laird. Laird redshirted the 2021-22 season and went 11-1 with a runner-up finish at the MatMen Open and titles at the Bearcat and Patriot Open's. Last year, in regular-season action, Laird notched a win over Jordan Wood.

    Finals Pick: Hayden Zillmer over Dom Bradley

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