Saturday: Jordan Burroughs vs. David Taylor, Adeline Gray vs. Tamyra Mensah-Stock (Photos/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
The college folkstyle season is finally starting to pick up steam, but that will not prevent yet another domestic freestyle event. FloWrestling presents a 11-match card headlined by a rivalry match between Jordan Burroughs facing off against David Taylor on Saturday. The two world champions are both favorites to win spots on the upcoming Olympic team at 74 and 86 kilograms respectively. Before that, they will need to revisit their extensive rivalry. The following is a match-by-match preview of the event.
155 pounds: Mitch McKee vs. Tristan Moran
McKee has been active on the domestic wrestling circuit since finishing up his collegiate eligibility at Minnesota. His post-college career started at the Rumble on the Rooftop show with a 6-2 victory over Nick Dardanes. McKee returned to action this past November against collegiate rival Max Murin and dropped a 4-2 decision. He then represented the Minnesota Storm at the RTC and split a pair of matches with a 15-6 win over Kevin Jack and a 14-4 loss against Sammy Sasso. While at Minnesota, McKee was a two-time All-American with his best finish coming when he finished sixth as a junior.
As a senior this past season at Wisconsin, Moran finished as a Second Team All-American. He went 21-7 and qualified for the NCAA tournament through the Big Ten. His collegiate career started at Oklahoma State where he spent three years before transferring to Wisconsin. As a senior, Moran picked up victories over the likes of Chad Red, Zach Sherman and Grant Leeth.
McKee and Moran met three times on the collegiate mats. The Minnesota representative won the first match by fall during the 2019 season. Their first rematch came at the Big Ten tournament. This time Moran won a 7-6 decision. This past season, McKee pulled ahead with a 7-6 decision of his own.
Not only does McKee have the advantage in the series, but he always performs better in freestyle. He should be able to score early and often in this match from both neutral and the top position.
Prediction: McKee VSU1 over Moran
61 kilograms: Ronna Heaton vs. Desiree Zavala
Heaton has had a very strong 2020. She finished second at Senior Nationals before entering the U23 Nationals and taking home the tournament title. Heaton then headlined the second Wisconsin RTC Underground show against Koral Sugiyama and scored a 10-7 victory. On the agre-group level, Heaton was also a two-time cadet world medalist after winning gold in 2015 and silver in 2016.
Zavala has wrestled on a pair of freestyle cards this year. She dropped a 14-10 match against Jennifer Page on the debut NLWC show in what was a wild match. Zavala then dropped a 10-0 match against Macey Kilty on the undercard of the 195-pound 8-Man Challenge show. The highlight of her 2020 so far has been a gold medal at U23 Nationals where she bested Sophia Smith, Paige Respicio and Sugiyama by a combined 31-0 score.
This has the potential to be a very exciting match. Both wrestlers score a lot of points and end up in more shootouts than their coaches would probably like. Heaton should likely be the favorite due to her international credentials, but there are a wide range of possibilities in this one.
Prediction: Heaton VPO1 over Zavala
215 pounds: Nate Jackson vs. Wynn Michalak
Jackson has had both an active and successful 2020. He finished second at Senior Nationals and also competed in the 195-pound 8-Man Challenge, NLWC 3 and the RTC Cup. Along the way, Jackson has picked up victories over the likes of Sammy Brooks, Ketih Gavin, Drew Foster and Brett Pfarr.
Michalak was a three-time All-American at Central Michigan with his best finish coming during his senior season. That year, he finished second at 197 pounds. He continued to compete on the freestyle circuit and won Senior Nationals in 2015. In his last action, Michalak finished seventh at the 2019 Senior Nationals with wins over Michael Boykin, Tim Smith and Jeremiah Imonode.
Jackson has been much more active recently and comes into this match with a bit of momentum. Michalak will give him a tough test but look for Jackson to push the pace and take this bout.
Prediction: Jackson VPO over Michalak
61 kilograms: Seth Gross vs. Zane Richards
Gross had some ups and downs during 2020, but he finished the year with a big victory. He faced off against Thomas Gilman in the main event of WRTC Underground 2 in what could potentially be a preview of the 57-kilogram Olympic Team Trials preview. Gilman was the aggressor throughout, but Gross slipped out of several offensive attacks. In the end, Gross took the match 4-4 on criteria. During the year, the former NCAA champion also picked up victories over the likes of Bryce Meredith, Zach Sanders and Darian Cruz.
Richards finished 2019 by going 3-2 at that year's Senior Nationals with wins over Austin Miller, Jacob Moran and Eddie Kilmara. He returned to action mid-2020 on the Rumble on the Rooftop card. On that date, Richards engaged in a wild back-and-forth match against Sanders, and he ultimately won 13-11. The former Illinois wrestler finished his collegiate eligibility in 2017 with a seventh-place finish to become an All-American for the second time.
Not only should Gross be the favorite in this contest, but the style should make for an exciting match. Richards is not afraid to engage in risky positions. This should allow Gross many opportunities to score and ultimately take the match.
Prediction: Gross VSU1 over Richards
143 pounds: Ethan Lizak vs. Matt McDonough
Lizak has picked up his pace over the last few months and wrestled in three events. Unfortunately for him, he has had some struggles. Lizak started 2020 late at Senior Nationals where he went 2-2. He picked up victories over Earl Hall and Michael Jaffe but dropped matches against Jaydin Eierman and Chad Red. Lizak returned on the debut show for the Pittsburgh WC and dropped a 4-1 match against Micky Phillippi. In his last action, the former NCAA runner up dropped a 4-3 decision against Kamol Begakov.
McDonough will be returning to competitive action for the first time since 2015. The two-time NCAA champion finished his college career at Iowa back in 2013. He won titles as both a freshman and a junior and was a three-time All-American. On the international circuit, his best finish was a bronze medal at the 2014 University World Championships.
This is an interesting match since both wrestlers really represent different generations of college wrestling. McDonough has been out of high-level action for so long, it is hard to see him have success here. However, in his prime, he would have the ability to get to legs and finish takedowns against Lizak,
Prediction: Lizak VPO1 over McDonough
65 kilograms: Nahshon Garrett vs. Joey McKenna
After finishing sixth at the 2019 Senior Nationals, Garrett's action in 2020 consisted solely of a performance at the RTC Cup. At the event, he went 2-3 with victories over Seth Gross and Zach Sanders. However, he also dropped a pair of matches against Vito Arujau as well as a bout against Jack Mueller. Garrett won an NCAA title during his senior year at Cornell and won Final X in 2018.
McKenna's year got off to a tough start in 2020. He dropped an 8-2 match against Tyler Berger on the debut Wrestling Underground show in August. However, McKenna bounced back with a strong performance at Senior Nationals. He finished third with victories over Caleb Craig, Kevon Davenport, Jaden Abas, Chad Red, Nick Dardanes, Jaydin Eierman and Yahya Thomas. McKenna's only defeat came against Andrew Alirez. During his collegiate career at both Ohio State and Stanford, he was a three-time All-American and one-time NCAA finalist.
Garrett should have a speed and quickness advantage on the feet. However, McKenna will be the larger wrestler and has always had solid defense. Garrett might be able to get on the board early, but once McKenna gets a feel for the pace, he should be able to pull it out.
Prediction: McKenna VPO1 over Garrett
51 kilograms: Emily Shilson vs. Erin Golston
This past year Shilson wrestled in Senior Nationals, U23 Nationals and Junior Nationals. She finished sixth on the senior level but won titles at both age-group levels. On the way to those titles she outscored her opponents by a combined 80-6 score. Shilson also wrestled at Beat the Streets and the undercard of the 195 pound 8-Man Challenge card with victories over Charlotte Fowler and Stefana Jelacic respectively.
Golston is a three-time junior world medalist who moved up to the senior level after winning a silver medal in 2013. During the 2019 season, she scored silver medals at the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov tournament, the Pan American Championships and the Bill Farrell Memorial International. This past year, Golston wrestled on a pair of streamed cards. At the HWC Showdown Open, she scored a dominant 10-0 victory over Devyn Gomez. Golston returned at WRTC Underground 2 and took home a 7-1 victory over Maria Vidales.
Shilson has a bright future ahead of her, but this match might be too much too soon. Golston is now a seasoned veteran at this point, and she should be able to use her physical advantages to make this a low scoring bout. If she can control the pace and position, she should be able to take a close victory.
Prediction: Golston VPO1 over Shilson
152 pounds: James Green vs. Pat Lugo
Green's 2020 started prior to the pandemic shutdowns. The two-time world medalist entered the Matteo Pellicone but dropped his first match against Yones Emamichoghaei. Green returned to action in November at the HWC Showdown Open and defeated Alex Marinelli. He then joined the joint SERTC and NJRTC team for the RTC Cup. At the event, Green went 3-2 with victories over Brayton Lee and Anthony Echemendia. In his last action, the former Nebraska wrestler entered the 150-pound 8-Man Challenge. Green won his first two matches over Bryce Meredith and Alec Pantaleo, but he came up short in the finals against Bajrang Punia.
Lugo appeared to be on the way to an NCAA title during his senior season at Iowa. Unfortunately, the tournament never materialized, and he had to settle for a First Team All-American honor from the NWCA. He then transitioned to freestyle and picked up a pair of impressive victories. Lugo took a 5-0 victory over Luke Pletcher at the Rumble on the Rooftop. He returned at the HWC Showdown Open and scored a 7-2 victory over Matt Kolodzik. Lugo then took a late-notice slot in the 150-pound 8-Man Challenge but dropped his opening match against eventual champion Bajrang.
This bout might be a strength vs. strength situation. Both wrestlers like to get in the ties and dominate physically. Due to a slight size difference, the edge in that position will likely favor Green. On top of that, he has a vast edge in terms of freestyle experience. If he gets on top position, he could make a difference with his lace.
Prediction: Green VPO1 over Lugo
97 kilograms: J'den Cox vs. Hayden Zillmer
Cox started 2020 with a strong showing at the Granma y Cerro Pelado. He defeated Reineris Salas, Jacob Kasper and Yonger Bastida to claim the tournament title. The two-time world champion was set to return at the RTC Cup. However, shortly before the event, Cox announced that had received a positive COVID test. Cox returns to action here for the first time since that test result in his quest to a second Olympic team.
Zillmer recently finished third at the 2020 Senior Nationals. Along the way, he picked up wins over the likes of Tim Dudley and Eric Schultz. His only defeat came in the semifinals against Kollin Moore. Zillmer returned to action at the RTC Cup. There he went 3-1 with victories coming over Ty Walz, Michael Macchiavello and Dudley.
At his best, Zillmer is a tough defensive wrestler who is a tough out for anyone. In that sense, he should be a good test for Cox who is returning from a layoff. However, Cox holds multiple victories over Zillmer, so the result should not be in doubt.
Prediction: Cox VSU1 over Zillmer
76 kilograms: Adeline Gray vs. Tamyra Mensah-Stock
Gray is a seven-time world medalist and five-time world champion who is still looking for her first Olympic medal. This past year she competed in two events. At the Pan American Championships, she won her first two matches before taking an injury default in the finals. Gray returned at Senior Nationals and won all three of her matches in under six minutes total.
Mensah-Stock is a two-time world medalist in her own right. In 2019 she brought through and won a gold medal at 68 kilograms. She had a limited 2020 that saw her compete at the Matteo Pellicone and Pan American Championships. In the first of the two tournaments, she wrestled her way to the finals and picked up an impressive victory over Blessing Oborududu but ultimately finished second. Mensah-Stock returned at the Pan American Championships and dominated her way through the field. She won the tournament with three falls along the way.
A battle of world champions is always a treat, but it is even more interesting when it happens during domestic competition. Mensah-Stock does her best work when she is able to use her physical advantages and get to her leg attacks. Unfortunately, there are several factors working against here. Gray wrestles at a higher weight, has an equally physical style and has a much more diverse offense.
Prediction: Gray VPO1 over Mensah-Stock
86 kilograms: Jordan Burroughs vs. David Taylor
Burroughs began 2020 with a dominant performance at the Pan American Championships. The eight-time world/Olympic medalist won all three of his matches including an 8-1 win over rival Franklin Gomez. Burroughs returned to action against Zahid Valencia this past November. He fell behind the two-time NCAA champion early but stormed back to take the match 8-5. Burroughs has held down the U.S. spot at 74 kilograms since 2011, but he is expected to face his toughest domestic path during this Olympic cycle.
Taylor returned from injury for the first time last March. The 2018 world champion qualified the 86-kilogram weight class for the upcoming Olympics with a 3-0 performance at the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualification tournament where he defeated both Pedro Ceballos and Yurieski Torreblanca. Taylor looked equally dominant in an 11-0 victory over Myles Martin in July. However, he struggled against veteran Gabe Dean on the third NLWC show this past November.
Burroughs and Taylor have a history. The former Nebraska wrestler owns a 4-0 edge over Taylor with their last meeting coming in the finals of the 2014 World Team Trials. Burroughs won the best-of-three series with a 2-0 sweep.
In their final bout, Burroughs got on the board first with a blast double while on the shot clock. Taylor evened things with a counter takedown off a short shot. In the second period, the former Penn State wrestler pulled ahead with a single-leg attempt that led to a step out. Burroughs regained the lead with a re-shot single that he finished on the edge. He then iced it with another double in the middle of the mat.
Not only was that match a long time ago, but both wrestlers have changed quite a bit. Burroughs has somewhat moved away from his blast double, but he is still able to get to legs and finish. On the other hand, Taylor has put on significant weight and moved up to 86 kilograms. In his recent bout against Valencia, Burroughs appeared to have some trouble with the size and reach of the larger opponent. However, he was able to turn up the heat late. What will happen if Taylor does not fade throughout the bout. Taylor thrives when he is able to push the pace, but will he be able to bully Burroughs around the mat? That seems unlikely. Taylor will likely be a much tougher test this time, but it is hard to pick against Burroughs ability to manage a match and pull out victories.
Prediction: Burroughs VPO1 over Taylor