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  • Photo: Photo/Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Photo/Tony Rotundo

    Final X: Lincoln Preview & Predictions

    Jordan Burroughs defeated Isaiah Martinez at 2018 Final X: Lincoln (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    The second Final X event takes place this Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska, and it will determine 15 more spots on the U.S. World team in all three styles. In the main event, Jordan Burroughs will look to continue his extensive streak of World or Olympic team appearances, and there are plenty of other exciting and intriguing matches.

    The following is a weight-by-weight preview with predictions for Final X: Lincoln.

    Women's wrestling 59 kilograms: Alli Ragan vs. Lauren Louive

    Ragan and Louive entered the U.S. Open as the top two seeds. Ragan took care of business and made her way to the tournament title by outscoring her opponents 35-2. Ragan is a two-time world silver medalist and clearly looking forward to getting back to that stage and trying to break through for gold.

    Louive entered the Open as the second seed, but she ended up falling against Abby Nette in the semifinals. To qualify for Final X, she had to go through the World Team Trials. At that event, she reversed her loss from the U.S. Open. They met once again in the semifinals. This time Louive took the bout 8-6. Then in the finals, she bested Michaela Beck in the second and third matches of their three-match series.

    Last year Ragan missed the World Championships after qualifying for the spot. She appears to have recovered from her injuries and returned to her old form here. Look for her to dominate the neutral exchanges on the way to a victory.

    Prediction: Ragan over Louive

    Greco-Roman 60 kilograms: Leslie Fuenffinger vs. Ildar Hafizov

    Fuenffinger had to go through two different generations to win the U.S. Open. In the quarterfinals, he knocked off Utah Valley wrestler Taylor LaMont before taking out number-one seed Dalton Roberts in the semifinals. Fuengginger then knocked off veteran Hafizov in the finals to qualify for Final X.

    Hafizov got everything right in a hurry as he was extremely dominant at the World Team Trials. He scored a 10-0 tech over Taylor LaMont in only 47 seconds to make the finals. Hafizov then scored 7-0 and 8-1 victories over Randon Miranda to reach Final X.

    Fuenffinger and Hafizov come from very different backgrounds. Fuenffinger was a Division III national champion for Ausburg before transitioning to Greco. Hafizov was born in Uzbekistan before enlisting in the U.S. Army in 2015. Both wrestlers now represent the Army World Class Athlete Program, so they are likely familiar with each other. Fuenffinger won the most recent match, so it is hard to pick against him here. However, wrestlers with this level of familiarity could lead to a wild match.

    Prediction: Fuenffinger over Hafizov

    Women's wrestling 55 kilograms: Jacarra Winchester vs. Dominique Parrish

    Winchester entered the U.S. Open as the No. 1 seed, and she performed like it. She did not surrender a single point during her run to the title and outscored her opponents 36-0. Wincherster made the World Team last year and nearly brought home a medal. She fell in the semifinals and came up short in the bronze-medal match.

    Parrish surprisingly lost her first match at the U.S. Open as the No. 2 seed. However, she ended up wrestling all the way back to finish third. Her five-match run through the backside of the bracket ended with a first-period tech over Alisha Howk. To make Final X, Parrish needed to win the World Team Trials and waiting for her in the finals was the same lady who upset her at the Open. This time Parrish took care of business against Areana Villaescusa in straight matches.

    Parrish has shown the type of perseverance she will need to be victorious here. However, Winchester has been on another level domestically, and it is hard to see her not pulling this out and making her second straight World Team.

    Prediction: Winchester over Parrish

    Greco-Roman 72 kilograms: Raymond Bunker vs. Alex Mossing

    ReVaugh Perkins was the man to beat the U.S. Open, and Bunker got it done with an upset in the finals. In the match, Perkins got out to a 3-0 lead with a passivity point and a turn. From there, Mossing got back on track with a step-out point. In the second, Bunker got his chance on top and scored the turn with a reverse lift for the 4-3 victory.

    Mossing qualified for the World Team Trials after finishing as the runner up at the 2018 U23 Trials. The bracket was not particularly kind to Mossing, and he faced off against Perkins in the second round. Right after giving up a four-point throw, Mossing reversed position in the ensuing scramble and scored the fall. From there, he fought his way all the way to a spot in Final X. In the finals, he needed all three matches to get past Army WCAP's Michael Hooker.

    During the Trials, Mossing had some of the most wild and exciting matches under Greco rules. However, there are not a lot of guys who can hold position like Bunker. If he is able to avoid the big moves from Mossing, he should be able to take this in a pair of low scoring and yet dominant matches.

    Prediction: Bunker over Mossing

    Greco-Roman 63 kilograms: Ryan Mango vs. Xavier Johnson

    The absence of Olympian Jesse Thielke appeared to create a spot for Ryan Mango at this weight class, and that turned out to be true. At the U.S. Open, he needed a 3-3 victory to get past a tough Travis Rice in the semifinals and then rolled to a 9-1 tech in the finals over Sam Jones.

    Interestingly enough, Johnson had to go through the same road at the World Team Trials. He needed his own close victory over Rice in the semifinals, and he got it done with a 3-2 wins. Then he showed a huge edge against Jones in the finals and won a pair of match via fall and 7-4 decision.

    Mango is almost certainly getting a chance to show the world what he can do. Johnson will not be an easy to pass obstacle, but looks for Mango to get it done.

    Prediction: Mango over Johnson

    Greco-Roman 97 kilograms: G'Angelo Hancock vs. Lucas Sheridan

    Hancock will turn 22 before the 2019 World Championships. Despite being young in the game, he has already developed into one of the brightest domestic stars in Greco, and he is almost certainly the most busy. In addition to qualifying for Final X through the Open, he has already locked up a spot on the U23 World Team. Through both tournaments he surrendered only thee combined points.

    Sheridan lasted only a little over a minute against Hancock at the U.S. Open, so he needed to go to the Trials to reach Final X. There he ran through Khymba Johnson and then won the best-of-three series after dropping the first bout against Daniel Miller.

    Their match at the U.S. Open was really not much of a contest. Hancock was able to score to driving forward and turning at will from the top position. Sheridan put himself into some bad spots with some poor thought out throws. However, it seems unlikely he will be able to do much to reverse this result.

    Prediction: Hancock over Sheridan

    Women's wrestling 62 kilograms: Mallory Velte vs. Kayla Miracle

    Velte was able to advance straight to Final X based on her bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships. Despite not needing to qualify, Velte has remained active this year. She picked up victories at New York and Hollywood editions of Beat the Streets, and Velte also finished with a bronze at the 2019 Pan American Championships.

    The path to Final X can be arduous when a wrestler qualifies via world medal. Miracle needed to win both the U.S. Open and the Trials to earn this spot. She blitzed her way through the U.S. Open. In the process, Miracle did not even let an opponent make it to the second period. That tournament title allowed her to sit in the finals of the Trials. Desiree Savala was her opponent, but she also failed to make it to the second period in a pair of matches.

    This should be one of the more interesting series of the event. Last year, Velte needed three matches to keep Miracle off the World Team. However, the two met earlier this year at the Dan Kolov, and Miracle was the one walking away with the win by fall.

    There were signs last year in Final X that Miracle was starting to put it together. That progression appears to have continued this year. Look for her to break through against Velte. Then again, if the returning world medalist gets back on the team, nobody should be surprised.

    Prediction: Miracle over Velte

    Women's wrestling 53 kilograms: Sarah Hildebrandt vs. Katherine Shai

    Hildebrandt is coming off her first trip to the World Championships and her first Senior-level world medal. For her efforts, she was named 2018 USA Wrestling Women's Wrestler of the Year. Since winning her silver medal, Hildebrandt has returned to action with gold medals at the Pan American Championships and the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix.

    Shai came up short in the finals of the U.S. Open against upstart Tiare Ikei. However, she was able to avenge that defeat at the World Team Trials. She ran over Ikei with a tech and a fall in their best-of-three series.

    This is likely going to be Hildebrandt's weight for the foreseeable future. However, she has dealt with some injuries in the rest past, which might open the door for Shai. In the end, the smart money is on Hildebrandt.

    Prediction: Hildebrandt over Shai

    Women's wrestling 76 kilograms: Adeline Gray vs. Precious Bell

    Gray won her fourth gold medal at the World Championships last year. She appears to be on a mission to pick up that elusive Olympic gold medal next year. Since winning her world title, she has looked impressive at Beat the Streets and picked up a gold at the Pan American Championships.

    Bell went on an unexpected run at the U.S. Open. She entered as the No. 5 seed and made it all the way to finals. Along the way, she knocked off the top seed Paige Baynes with a second-period tech. In the finals, she picked up a fall over Hannah Gladden. She had to duplicate that win at the World Team Trials, and she got it done in two straight matches.

    Bell might be the future, but at this point Gray is the present. Her path to an Olympic gold medal goes through Final X as well as Bell, and that is where Gray appears to be headed.

    Prediction: Gray over Bell

    Greco-Roman 130 kilograms: Adam Coon vs. Cohlton Schultz

    Last year Coon went straight from the NCAA wrestling mats to a world silver medal in Greco. This year he once again tried to make both the Greco and freestyle teams. On the freestyle side, he ran into freshman prodigy Gable Steveson at the World Team Trials and fell. Here he will face off another young heavyweight prospect.

    With a cadet world title and a junior world bronze medal, Schultz was clearly going to be a factor on the heavyweight scene in Greco. However, few could have predicted how quickly he would make his mark on the senior level. That happened in a big way at the World Team Trials. In the finals, he was able to take out Olympian Robby Smith in a tough three-match series.

    Now Schultz will take on another tough opponent. While he seems to have the perfect body type and skill set for Greco, Coon did show some vulnerability on the freestyle side. It will be tough for Schultz to pull off the upset here against a returning medalist, but anything is possible.

    Prediction: Coon over Schultz

    Freestyle 61 kilograms: Joe Colon vs. Tyler Graff

    Colon ended up on the World Team last year after an injury to Nahshon Garrett opened up a spot. Despite not winning at Final X, he was able to shock the world and come home with a silver medal. Since winning that medal, he has experienced mixed results. He won a gold medal at the Pan American Champions, but he failed to place at the Ivan Yarygin and Dan Kolov tournaments. In his last match, he dropped a close decision against reigning NCAA champion Nick Suriano at Beat the Streets.

    Graff finished a disappointing fourth at the U.S. Open after a quarterfinal loss against Joey Palmer. The two met again in the semifinals of the World Team Trials, and this time Graff was able to implement his will and take home a 4-0 decision. Graff then qualified for Final X with a pair of victories over Cody Brewer. Their first match was all action as they combined to put up 38 points.

    Historically, Graff has been able to find success when he is able to control the pace of the match and keep it low scoring. However, recently he has been putting up a lot of points in certain contests. Colon is exceedingly dangerous from the top position and will almost certainly put up points if given the chance. In the neutral position this is anyone's match.

    Prediction: Graff over Colon

    Freestyle 97 kilograms: Kyle Snyder vs. Kyven Gadson

    Snyder has been on a mission to get another shot at his rival Abdulrashid Sadulaev since falling in the 2018 world finals. Outside of a one-loss performance at the Ivan Yarygin, Snyder has been virtually flawless. He won the Dan Kolov and the Pan American Championships. In his last action, he scored a 15-1 victory over Canada's Nishan Randhawa at Beat the Streets.

    Gadson deserves credit for not vacating this weight class due to the dominance of Snyder. These two faced off in Final X last year. Even though he was able to viciously drive Snyder off the stage with a takedown attempt, he fell in two straight matches. Gadson ran through his opponents at both the U.S. Open and the World Team Trials. In both tournaments combined, he surrendered only two total points.

    In his final collegiate match Gadson scored a major upset and pinned Snyder in the NCAA finals. However, since that match, Snyder has owned the series. You could make the case that perhaps Snyder is looking past Gadson at this point on his way to Sadulaev. Even if that is the case, this will be a tough match for Gadson.

    Prediction: Snyder over Gadson

    Freestyle 70 kilograms: Ryan Deakin vs. James Green

    Many expected 70 kilograms at the U.S. Open to come down to Green and Jason Nolf. That match happened in the semifinals, and Green was able to escape with a victory. However, Deakin had other plans when it came to the finals. He scored one of the biggest upsets of the tournament and knocked off Green via an 8-6 score.

    After falling against Deakin, Green needed to go through the Trials to qualify for Final X. The multiple-time world medalist took out Mario Mason and Cory Clark before taking the best-of-three series over Anthony Ashanault in the finals.

    There are a lot of questions going into this match. Will Green be able to regain his world medalist form? Can Deakin repeat his U.S. Open performance despite placing fifth at this past year's NCAA tournament? Regardless of what one thinks about the first match, Green has now had time to prepare specifically for Deakin. His veteranship should be more than enough to carry him to a victory here.

    Prediction: Green over Deakin

    Freestyle 57 kilograms: Daton Fix vs. Thomas Gilman

    Last year, Gilman had Fix's number in Final X, and the former Iowa wrestler took the victory in two straight matches. This year might turn out a little different. These two met in the finals of the U.S. Open, and Fix was able to score an 8-4 victory. After finishing as the NCAA runner-up with controversial circumstance, Fix is looking to get over that defeat and make a Senior World Team.

    After defeating Fix last year, Gilman went on to represent the U.S. at the 2018 World Championships. He made it all the way to a bronze medal match, but he failed to medal at back-to-back world tournaments. In order to qualify for Final X this year, Gilman needed to go through the World Team Trials. In the finals, he faced off against Darian Cruz who upset him in his last NCAA tournament. This time Gilman took care of business and won the series in two matches.

    Fix was able to open up and get to his offense in their match at the U.S. Open. This has not always been the case with him in the past. Gilman has shown throughout their career series, that he has been able to make adjustments, and that should pay dividends here.

    Prediction: Gilman over Fix

    Freestyle 74 kilograms: Jordan Burroughs vs. Isaiah Martinez

    For the second straight year Burroughs is sitting in Final X after picking up a medal at the 2018 World Championships. He now has seven world/Olympic medals and five of those are gold. Many expected Kyle Dake to drop down to this weight in preparation for 2020, but that did not end up happening. In his most recent match, Burroughs knocked off former Hodge Trophy winner and current UFC fighter Ben Askren in the main event of the Beat the Streets event.

    For the second straight year, Burroughs' opponent at Final X will be Martinez. He won both the U.S. Open and the World Team Trials to earn the spot. His path through the trials became much harder when his former collegiate rival Jason Nolf moved up to 74 kilograms. Even though he needed three matches, Martinez still got it done with a 12-2 victory in the deciding match.

    Martinez has made noticeable improvements to his overall game since their meeting last year. However, Burroughs has been dominant at this weight class both domestically and internationally. That dominance is unlikely to end here

    Prediction: Burroughs over Martinez

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