74 kg US Open champion Jason Nolf (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Last weekend's US Open had plenty of drama and intrigue in the men's freestyle division. Perhaps the strongest performance came from Jason Nolf. The three-time NCAA champion won the 74-kg bracket, and had some of the best numbers of the weekend. The following is a look at the top statistical performers in men's freestyle from the U.S. Open.
It will certainly still be a tough challenge to qualify for the World team at 74 kg, but Nolf made about as strong of a statement as possible at the U.S. Open. The former Penn State wrestler averaged 5.16 points per minute, allowed absolutely zero points and therefore finished with a +5.16 point differential. That measure was, far and away, the highest across the entire senior-level men's freestyle bracket.
Nolf did not even enter the second period until his finals match against Joshua Shields. This is thanks in large part to his turning ability on the ground. After finishing college in 2016, he has clearly made strides in par terre. Of the 48 match points he scored, 26 came in the par-terre position. Nolf was also diverse with his grounded offense. Of those 26 points, he added 12 via gut wrench, 10 with the leg lace and four with a bar and half combination.
With another five victories at the Open, Nolf has gone 9-1 in 2022 with his only loss coming against U23 World champion Chermen Valiev in the finals of the Yarygin tournament. Kyle Dake will be sitting in Final X thanks to his gold medal from the 2021 World Championships. At this point, it looks like Nolf might be the favorite to meet him there, and the rematch might be a lot closer than their match at last year's Olympic Trials.
Another standout in terms of point differential was fellow former Penn State wrestler Mark Hall. He finished with a +3.24 differential, which was the third-highest across all weight classes. He allowed only two points (0.19 per minute) on his way to the title at 86 kg. Hall averaged 3.43 points per minute and achieved match termination in all four of his bouts. It was a vintage performance for Hall who has occasionally struggled to get to his offense since making the move up to 86 kg.
Jesse Mendez, the number-one recruit in the class of 2022, entered the senior-level Open at 61 kg despite having U20 eligibility. He lost a front side match against Daniel DeShazer in the Round of 16, but wrestled all the way back to finish third. Mendez scored 3.57 points per minute, while allowing only 0.57 and therefore had a +3.00 differential, which was the fifth-highest of the tournament.
Top Five Points Differential Performances
1. Jason Nolf +5.16
2. Matthew Kolodzik +3.70
3. Mark Hall +3.24
4. Brock Mauller +3.21
5. Jesse Mendez +3.00
Points per Minute
As is occasionally the case, the highest-scoring wrestler in the tournament was not actually a champion. Former Princeton wrestler Matthew Kolodzik averaged 5.36 points per minute across his five matches at 65 kg, which slightly edged Nolf's 5.16 rate. Of Course, Kolodzik's rate is somewhat bolstered by his quick loss via fall in the finals against Kendric Maple.
Despite that blemish, Kolodzik had a strong performance at the Open. He scored at least 11 points in all four of his matches leading up to the finals. In the semifinals, Kolodzik defeated the number-one seed Evan Henderson by a 16-6 score. The 16 points scored were tied for the sixth-most points scored by a wrestler in any match.
Current Princeton wrestler Nathan Dugan had a boom or bust tournament at 86 kg. He went 3-2 in the tournament with all five of his matches ending via match termination. His 4.33 points per minute rate was impressive, but his two losses came by a combined 21-0 score.
Former Oklahoma state high school runner-up and Northern Michigan OTS trainee Alec McDoulett had a similar tournament down at 70 kg. He went 2-2 in the bracket with his wins over Seonghun Chung and Leo Rodriguez coming via 10-0 superiority, while his losses against Riley Gurr and Luke Wick went 14-3 and 10-1 respectively.
Top Five Points per Minute Performances
1. Matthew Kolodzik 5.36
2. Jason Nolf 5.16
3. Nathan Dugan 4.53
4. Alec McDoulett 4.26
5. Brandon Wright 3.96
Points Against per Minute
Nolf was the only wrestler in men's freestyle to not surrender a single point, so obviously, he would be the leader in terms of points allowed per minute. The second-best performer in terms of this metric was Kendric Maple. The former Oklahoma national champion allowed only two points on his path to the tournament title at 65 kg. Both of those points came in his semifinal match against Pat Lugo.
Another competitor with a strong defensive performance was Ty Walz. The Virginia Tech veteran moved back up to heavyweight and finished third. His lone loss of the tournament came against Dominique Bradley. This was also the only match where Walz allowed any points. Defense was an essential element of Walz's success on the weekend. Three of his wins came by VPO, and there were only 20 matches that ended via that result throughout the entire tournament.
Rounding out the top five in terms of points per minute was Michael Macchiavello. The 2019 NCAA champion allowed only three total points on his path to the title at 97 kg. Timothy Dudley scored two points in the semifinals
Top Five Points Allowed per Minute Performances
1. Jason Nolf 0.00
2. Kendric Maple 0.14
3. Mark Hall 0.19
4. Ty Walz 0.20
5. Michael Macchiavello 0.24
Highest Scoring Matches
The highest-scoring match of the tournament came in the Round of 32 in the 74-kg division. George Mason's Loranzo Rajaonarivelo had a bye in the opening round, while current Oregon State competitor and former NJCAA champion Isaiah Crosby scored an 11-0 match termination victory over Victor Montes to advance.
Rajaonarivelo started the scoring with an exposure off a crotch lift. Crosby then got back into the match with a four-point turn as his opponent tried to hold in the quad pod position. Rajaonarivelo then appeared to take over with six-straight points, and he went to the break leading 10-7.
In the second, Crosby got off to a hot start with his own six-point run. He scored a pair of takedowns and a leg lace to go ahead. However, Rajaonarivelo immediately scored a reversal and went to his own leg lace to retake the lead by a 20-13 score. After an injury timeout, Rajaonarivelo added another takedown and gut wrench to seal the 24-13 victory.
Highest Scoring Matches
1. Loranzo Rajaonarivelo VSU1 over Isaiah Crosby (24-13)
2. Steven Kroesen VSU1 over Matthew Minton (22-12)
3. Nick Incontrera VPO1 over Quentin Perez (16-15)
4. Jacen Petersen VPO1 over Hayden Hastings (15-14)
5. Evan Wick VPO1 over Isaiah White (16-12)
5. Keller Rock VFA over Hunter Mullin (15-13)
5. Alec Pantaleo VPO1 over Luka Wick (18-10)
5. Mitchel Hrnyak VPO1 over Jordan Monroe (16-12)