Joe Colon defeated Nahshon Garrett 20-13 in U.S. Open finals (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
61 kilograms: Joe Colon vs. Nahshon Garrett
Colon earned his spot in Final X with a victory at the U.S. Open. In the finals, he defeated Garrett in a 20-13 match that had everyone hoping for a rematch. Now, the fans will get their wish.
Prior to the Open, Colon had a strong performance at the Outstanding Ukrainian Memorial, where he took home a bronze medal. His only defeat of the tournament came against world silver medalist Beka Lomtadze (Georgia). In his most recent action, Colon torched the field at the Pan American Championships. He earned a gold medal on the back of three technical falls and a pin.
After falling to Colon at the Open, Garrett needed to go through the World Team Trials in order to reach Final X. He made the finals with a victory over Seth Gross in a battle of NCAA champions. Then, in the finals, he swept another NCAA champion Nico Megaludis in two straight matches.
Outside of the Open and the Trials, Garrett only competed in the Outstanding Ukrainian Memorial. He reached the repechage but dropped the match to Jozsef Molnar (Hungary) and finished fifth.
With 33 total points, it is safe to say that their match at the Open had a little bit of everything. Garrett was able to get to legs. However, Colon had the freestyle savvy to turn a lot of those attacks into his own points. On top of that, Colon has shown the ability to do major damage from the top against Garrett.
Prediction: Colon in 3
50 kilograms: Whitney Conder vs. Victoria Anthony
Conder defeated Anthony in the finals of the U.S. Open thanks in no small part to her trademark double leg takedown and her stingy defense. On the international circuit, Conder went three-for-three and won every tournament she entered. She began the year with four straight technical falls at the Flatz Open. Conder returned a few months later and claimed the title at the Bill Farrell Memorial International. In her last action, she represented the U.S. at the Pan American Championships and picked up three victories and another gold medal.
Anthony bounced back from her loss to Conder at the Open and won a spot in Final X via the World Team Trials. She needed a third match to dispatch Erin Golston in the finals, but she came through with a 13-0 technical fall in the deciding match.
During the year, Anthony failed to place at both the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix and the Kippan Lady Open. However, she had a strong showing at the Women's World Cup in her last action before the Open. Anthony defeated Narangerel Erdenesukh (Mongolia) and Jessica MacDonald (Canada) with her only loss coming against Junior world champion Yuki Irie (Japan).
Conder proved that she has the ability to survive pretty much any attack from Anthony. Plus, she was able to score from the outside even though everyone in the gym knew it was coming. Conder should have a big advantage in this match.
Prediction: Conder in two
92 kilograms: J'den Cox vs. Hayden Zillmer
Even though Cox is a returning world bronze medalist, he still needed to qualify for Final X due to his weight class change. He made his way through the U.S. Open without surrendering a single point, and he has been been sitting in Final X ever since. In the finals of the Open, he knocked off Zilmer in an extremely low scoring match.
Cox began his year with a silver medal performance at the Outstanding Ukrainian Memorial. He made the finals before falling to Olympic gold medalist Sharif Sharifov (Azerbaijan). Cox then represented the U.S. at the World Cup. He split time with Zillmer and dropped two out of his three matches. After missing the Pan American Championships with an illness, Cox returned at Beat the Streets and edged Yurieskii Torreblanca Queralta (Cuba) in a one-point match.
Zillmer qualified for Final X via the World Team Trials after coming up short against Cox. At the Trials, he knocked off veteran Deron Winn in two-straight matches in the finals.
Prior to the Trials, Zillmer made the trip to Cuba for the Cerro Pelado International. Despite dropping his first match against Reineris Salas Perez (Cuba), Zillmer took home a gold medal in the round-robin tournament. He also picked up wins over Erik Thiele (Germany) and fellow Americans Micah Burak and Ty Walz. In his only other international experience of the year, Zillmer shutout and defeated Deepak Punia (India) at the World Cup.
At this point in his career, Cox is extremely hard to score on. This year, he has been able to shut down the offense of many talented wrestlers on the domestic scene. While the two-point victory of their first match does not seem like a huge mountain for Zillmer to climb, scoring two points against Cox is much easier said than done. On the other hand, if Cox continues to rely on his defense, he could open the door for an upset. However, that seems less than likely at this point.
Prediction: Cox in 2
Sarah Hildebrandt topped Haley Augello 6-1 in the finals of the U.S. Open (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
53 kilograms: Sarah Hildebrandt vs. Haley Augello
Hildebrandt made it to the finals of the U.S. Open without surrendering a point. Once there, she defeated Augello via a 6-1 score and walked away with a spot in Final X. Hildebrandt started her international season with a bronze medal at the Klippan Lady Open. She fell against Junior world champion Nanami Irie (Japan), but she defeated three other competitors for the medal. Hildebrandt then broke through for her first tournament win of the year at the Outstanding Ukrainian Memorial. She outscored her four opponents 30-0, including U23 European bronze medalist Denes Mercedesz (Hungary) in the finals. In her most recent action, Hildebrandt swept her way to a gold medal at the Pan American Championships with three pins and a technical fall.
Augello needed to win the World Team Trials to earn a rematch with Hildebrandt, and she turned out to be more than up to the challenge. At the Trials, she dominated a pair of matches against Cody Pfau. Augello scored technical falls in both matches in a combined 2:33. Augello competed sparingly this year without very much success. However, she is a veteran who has proven time and time again that she belongs at this level.
In the first match, Augello pushed the action with her leg attacks. However, she struggled to get in range. Hildebrandt did a good job of turning Augello's attacks into points. If Augello takes her foot off the gas, this could turn into a slower match. Even if that is the case, Hildebrandt proved she could successfully defend Augello's best attacks and score.
Prediction: Hildebrandt in two
65 kilograms: Julia Salata vs. Forrest Molinari
Salata defeated Molinari 5-0 in the finals of the U.S. Open and took home the first spot in Final X. During the year, she competed sparingly on the international circuit. She went 1-1 and failed to place at the Klippan Lady Open. A month later, Salata represented the U.S at the Women's World Cup. She started off strong with a 30-second technical fall over Braxton Stone (Canada). However, in her second match, she fell against U23 world champion Ayana Gempei (Japan).
Molinari earned her spot in Final X via the World Team Trials. She bested Jayden Laurent in a pair of close matches in the finals. Earlier in the year, Molinari got off to a good start with a gold medal performance at the Flatz Open. At the tournament, she pinned both of her opponents. Molinari had a much tougher time at the Klippan Lady Open, but she bounced back with strong performances at the Women's World Cup and Pan American Championships. At the World Cup, she knocked off U23 world bronze medalist Moa Nygren (Sweden) and pinned world champion Battsetseg Soronzonbold.
In their bout at the U.S. Open, Salata was the aggressor from the start. She came up short on multiple attempts in the first, but she scored early in the second with a takedown. Molinari was hesitant to engage. When she did, Salata countered with a crotch lock and scored. It looks like Salata is a step ahead in terms of offense and defense.
Prediction: Salata in 2
Adam Coon won a U.S. Open title in April (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
125 kilograms: Nick Gwiazdowski vs. Adam Coon
Gwiazdowski broke through and picked up his first world-level medal last year. He defeated NatsagsÃ¼rengiin Zolboo (Mongolia) in his final match at the 2017 World Championships to bring home bronze medal.
He began his 2018 run with another bronze medal, this time at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix. Gwiazdowski lost to U23 European champion Muradin Kushkhov (Russia) on the front side, but he managed to fight his way back in the repechage. The former NC State star then represented the U.S. at both the World Cup and the Pan American Championships. At the World Cup, he went 2-1 with wins over Nobuyoshi Arakida (Japan) and Zviadi Metreveli (Georgia). At the Pan American Championships, Gwiazdowski swept his way to a gold medal and defeated his three opponents by a combined 30-0 score. In his last action, he took to the mat along the Hudson River for Beat the Streets. At the event, he bested Yudenny Alapajon Estevez (Cuba) via a 9-1 score.
Coon is trying to make the U.S. World Team in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. Before stepping out on the Final X mat in Bethlehem, he will have competed at the Greco trials in Tulsa, Okla. Already this year, he has made the finals of the U.S. Open in both styles. In Greco, he fell to multiple-time U.S. representative Robby Smith. On the other hand, he defeated Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner in the finals of the freestyle version the Open. With Gwiazdowski already sitting in Final X, Coon still had to go to the Trials. He advanced directly to the finals where he defeated former Minnesota wrestler Tony Nelson to earn this spot.
During his senior season at Michigan this past year, Coon became the chief rival of Olympic gold medalist and fellow senior Kyle Snyder. Coon got the better of Snyder in a dual match in February. However, they met again in the finals of the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Championships, and Snyder won both matches. Despite the losses, Coon established himself as a legitimate contender for the heavyweight spot on the U.S. ladder.
For the most part, Gwiazdowski has struggled against guys who can match him in the quickness department. While Coon will have a size advantage in this match, he will not be able to match quickness with Gwiazdowski. For Coon to pull the upset, he will need to control position on the mat and prevent Gwiazdowski from getting to his attacks.
Prediction: Gwiazdowski in 3