79 kilograms: Alex Dieringer vs. Zahid Valencia
Dieringer has been closing the gap on Kyle Dake. At the 2017 Paris Invitational, the former Cornell wrestler won via definitive 10-0 technical fall. In their rematch at the 2017 U.S. Open, Dake edged Dieringer in a much closer 3-0 match. They met once again in the finals of the 2018 U.S. Open. Once again Dake pulled out the victory, but it was only a 5-5 victory on criteria. Dieringer is expected to win the World Team Trials and face off against Dake in the Final X best-of-three series. However, he will have a unique challenger at the trials.
Valencia recently finished his sophomore season at Arizona State. He went undefeated and claimed his first NCAA title with a victory over Junior world champion Mark Hall in the finals. Last summer, Valencia represented the U.S. Junior World Championships and picked up a silver medal.
While both are accomplished wrestlers at the collegiate level, the stylistic matchup might be the reason why this bout is so interesting. Valencia is an extremely high-volume shooter. He is almost constantly going for leg attacks. That seems like a solid strategy against Dieringer. The former Oklahoma State wrestler does an amazing job at holding position and rarely gives up a lot of points. The diametrically opposed styles could result in one of the better matches at the World Team Trials.
Daton Fix and Tony Ramos embrace after their U.S. Open match (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
57 kilograms: Tony Ramos vs. Daton Fix
Many expected the bout between Ramos and Fix to happen at the U.S. Open, and it did. They faced off in the finals, where Ramos picked up a 2-2 victory on criteria. Thanks to that victory, he will be sitting in the best-of-three finals of the World Team Trials. Thomas Gilman, on the back of his silver medal at last year's World Championships, will be sitting at Final X.
In the match, Fix was certainly the aggressor. However, Ramos was stout defensively as per usual. After going on the shot clock for the second time, Ramos got in deep on a single. In the ensuing scramble, Fix gave up an exposure. That two-point score trumped Fix's shot-clock point and pushout point. It is possible that with adjustments, Fix will be able to solve some of Ramos' defensive riddles and score. However, the Tar Heel Wrestling Club representative remains one of the toughest lightweights to score on from neutral.
65 kilograms: Logan Stieber vs. Jaydin Eierman
In perhaps the upset of the tournament, Eierman took out Stieber in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. In the match, Eierman, who will be a junior at Missouri next year, seemed to be on the defensive after the first period. In the opening frame, Stieber was in deep on multiple leg attacks and scored four points off a takedown and an exposure. However, Eierman stormed back with three takedowns in the second period to take the match 6-5.
Eierman went on to lose against Joey McKenna in the finals and therefore missed out on a spot in Final X. While he would have liked that positioning, that defeat sets up this potential rematch for this weekend. In theory, Stieber could have a few changes to his leg attack finishes and take this match. On the other hand, Eierman showed that his stingy defense gives the former four-time champion a lot of problems.
Jason Chamberlain topped Frank Molinaro in the U.S. Open semifinals (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
70 kilograms: Frank Molinaro vs. Jason Chamberlain
Chamberlain made quite the run at the U.S. Open. In the semifinals, he took out Molinaro, the country's 2016 Olympian at 65 kilograms. Then in the finals, Chamberlain defeated NCAA champion Hayden Hidlay. Earlier this year, the former Boise State wrestler made it to the finals of the Cerro Pelado International before falling to Franklin Maren Castillo of host Cuba.
Prior to the Open, Molinaro appeared to be the No. 1 challenger to James Green's supremacy in the U.S. at 70 kilograms. Earlier this year, he finished with a bronze medal in a tough field at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix. In the tournament, he made it all the way to the semifinals before falling against 2016 world champion Magomed Kurbanaliev.
Chamberlain may have burst onto the scene at the Open, but he also proved that he belongs. Molinaro has shown the ability to show up when it matters most. He will need to do that again here in order to earn the match against Green at Final X.
74 kilograms: Isaiah Martinez vs. Nazar Kulchytskyy
Martinez recently finished his career at Illinois with two national titles and only three career losses. Almost immediately after the season, he announced he would continue wrestling for the Illinois RTC. Many top contenders have cleared out of 74 kilograms in order to avoid the roadblock that is Jordan Burroughs. However, Martinez remains at the weight class. At the U.S. Open, Martinez outscored his opponents 49-0 on the way to the championship. If he wins the World Team Trials, he will certainly face a challenge in Burroughs, but he might have a chance.
Kulchytskyy did not compete at the Open since he had already qualified for the tournament. Earlier this month, he did represent the country at the Pan American Championships. He outscored his first two opponents 21-0 before falling against Cuba's Livan Lopez Azcuy in the finals. Kulchytskyy has never really been able to break through, but he has remained one of the tougher domestic wrestlers. He should be able to provide a stern test for Martinez on the way to a match with Burroughs.