Patrick Smith (left) and Benji Peak at the 2021 World Team Trials (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
By Friday evening, we'll know one-half of our 2020 Senior world team as the first leg of Final X will conclude competition. That marks the end of a qualifying process that started at the 2020 Olympic Trials (in April 2021). From the US Open, the field was narrowed down and at the World Team Trials, a week ago, matchups for Final X were determined.
Now that we know who will compete in Final X, InterMat has previews of each style, by site. We're starting with the Stillwater half of Final X, one that gets underway Friday afternoon. Here are the five Greco-Roman matchups, a preview of the action and the competitors who will square off in Oklahoma.
55 kg - Max Nowry vs. Brady Koontz
This is the only Greco-Roman rematch from our last Final X in 2019. That result meshed with the rest of the meetings between Max Nowry and Brady Koontz. It was a clean sweep by Nowry, 3-0 and 11-5. That marked the first Senior world team appearance for the veteran Nowry. It was the same story last year as Nowry edged Koontz to make the 2021 team. Now, this time Koontz was able to narrow the margin to 2-1 and 3-1. Can Koontz continue to inch closer and turn the tables on Nowry? Koontz has made world teams at each age group except for the Senior level, maybe it's his time. Even as Koontz continues to improve, Nowry isn't showing any signs of slowing down. He didn't need more than 90 seconds in either of his two matches at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament.
63 kg - Sam Jones vs. Jesse Thielke
In my eyes, this may be the most intriguing Greco-Roman series of either Final X lineup. Sam Jones has asserted himself as the man to beat at 63 kg. Jones was a US Open runner-up in 2018 and 2019, along with 2019 Senior Nationals, before breaking through and taking the world team spot in 2021. Before locking up his spot in Final X, Jones went to the Pan-American Championships and garnered his first career gold medal at the event. Jones' recent consistency and success have made him one of the faces of US Greco. But to go back-to-back and make a second world team, Jones will have to go through a highly decorated veteran in Jesse Thielke. The former Junior World bronze medalist, Thielke, made the 2016 Olympic Team, but has not competed regularly since 2019. In the interim, Thielke has moved to Army WCAP and appears to be reinvigorated. The results speak for themselves as Thielke went through the US Open and WTT qualifying without surrendering a point in five matches.
72 kg - Patrick Smith vs. Benji Peak
Another unreal series is this one at 72 kg. It will be an excellent contrast of style with the grinder, Patrick Smith and the high-flying Benji Peak. The two squared off at the 2021 WTT's and Smith prevailed on criteria in the first bout and by two points in the second. Smith's last appearance at Final X saw him take on an opponent that looked flashier than him (Kamal Bey), as well. After losing the first bout via tech, Smith used a workmanlike effort to claim a spot on the 2019 team. The style clash between these two was evident at the WTT Challenge Tournament, as all of Smith's bouts ended via early stoppage, though he wore his opponents down and eventually put them away in the second period. Peak didn't go into the second minute in either of his two matches. This has the opportunity to be a â€œchanging of the guardâ€ type of scenario with the young Peak making his first team or business-as-usual for the veteran Smith, earning a spot on the world team for the fourth time.
82 kg - Ben Provisor vs. Spencer Woods
It seems like a theme with this crop of Greco matches, but once again we'll have another matchup that features a highly-decorated veteran against a young, talented foe that has been knocking on the door recently. That's the case with Ben Provisor and Spencer Woods. And like some of the series we've discussed earlier, this is another rematch of the 2021 WTT's. Provisor swept the two bouts in his typical, hard-fought fashion. It gave the Grand View wrestler his fourth berth on a world/Olympic level. After getting to compete on the world stage, with the U23 world team in 2021, Woods looks ready to take that next step. The two have met already once in 2022 with Provisor getting the best of Woods, 5-3 in the US Open finals. Once again, Woods continues to inch closer to Provisor, so will he be able to make the necessary adjustments to close that gap in Stillwater?
130 kg - Cohlton Schultz vs. Tanner Farmer
The backstory at 130 kg is one of the best of any of the Final X matchups. Tanner Farmer qualified for Final X three years after his college football career ended. That's right, Farmer was a three-year starter for Nebraska's football team, before taking a graduate year at Concordia, returning to the wrestling mat and finishing as an NAIA national runner-up. Now Farmer is two matches away from making the Greco world team. Last year, Farmer entered the WTT's and finished third with wins over contenders Lee Herrington and Donny Longendyke. His only loss? It was 5-0 in the semifinals to Cohlton Schultz. Schultz went on to survive a three-match series with Jacob Mitchell to make his first Senior world team. It was never â€œifâ€ Schultz would make a Senior team, merely â€œwhenâ€, as he's had success at every age-group level. Schultz was a 2017 Cadet world champion and a two-time Junior World medalist. The Arizona State start has been able to balance high-level Greco performance with collegiate success, as he made the 2022 NCAA finals opposite Gable Steveson. It marked the second time that Schultz finished in the top four in two attempts. With more mat time, Farmer has clearly been able to improve by leaps and bounds, but is it enough to overcome one of the young superstars of the sport?