2022 65 kg US Open champion Kendric Maple (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
The finals of the US Open Senior men's freestyle division concluded Saturday night with plenty of fireworks from Las Vegas. Wrestlers who placed in the top seven in their respective weight class qualified for the World Team Trials in three short weeks.
The night began with a matchup between former Lockport (Ill) high school teammates Matt Ramos and Anthony Molton. As expected, the pair was tentative for the bulk of the match; however, Ramos capitalized on all of the flurries of action. He kicked off the scoring with a big double leg for four points and managed to avoid giving up points in a throw situation near the edge of the mat and actually picked up points for himself. That provided the cushion he needed for a 9-3 victory.
That bout wasn't the only one between friends. At 74 kg, western Pennsylvania natives Jason Nolf and Josh Shields squared off. In his post-match interview, Nolf claimed to have worked on his par terre positioning leading up to the event. That was evident as he got two sets of exposure points to finish the match 11-0.
There was also some familiarity at 61 kg as former Penn State national champion defeated Nittany Lion Wrestling Club member Josh Rodriguez, 3-1, for the title. Megaludis is coming off a three-year layoff due to multiple knee injuries, but looks as good as ever. He'll be another name to look out for in a deep 61 kg bracket.
One of the biggest subplots of the tournament took place at 65 kg as Kendric Maple made his return to pay off a bet to his Missouri team after 165 lber Keegan O'Toole won an NCAA title. Maple not only showed up and wrestled, but he also won the entire thing. The 2017 US Open champion added a second career title to his resume with a fall over Matt Kolodzik in under a minute. Now we can add Maple to the list of contenders at an always competitive 65 kg weight class.
Speaking of open weights. The retirement of James Green has left 70 kg up for the taking. Green had been the US rep at the weight every year since the weight classes' inception in 2015. Could Alec Pantaleo be that guy? He held off a dangerous Jordan Oliver, 3-2, to take the upper hand heading into the WTT's. Just over a month ago, at the Rudis SuperMatch, Pantaleo stifled Oliver, as well.
Penn RTC teammates, David McFadden and Mark Hall, will bring titles back home to Philadelphia, from 79 kg and 86, respectively. McFadden was victorious in the most exciting bout of the evening. He was shaken up by an exchange at the edge of the mat and trailed Vincenzo Joseph in the waning seconds of the bout. McFadden, who rallied late in his quarter and semifinal matches, used a crotch lift to expose Joseph and take the victory 7-6. A point for a lost challenge made the official score 8-6.
There was no such drama for Hall as he pull up his third tech fall of the tournament, downing Iowa State All-American Marcus Coleman, 10-0 in the finals. The win marks back-to-back years with an Open title for Hall.
One of the more enjoyable matches of the evening took place at 92 kg as current collegiate wrestlers Cam Caffey (Michigan State) and Isaac Trumble (NC State) did battle. The two exchanged scores the entire bout, but it was Caffey who blew the match open with a four-pointer in the second period.
Mike Macchiavello grabbed a title at 97 kg after fending off veteran Joe Rau, 6-1. The past Greco world team member, Rau, kept the match close late, hoping to steal one from the top seed. Macchiavello cautious to go underneath the Greco star, picked his spots perfectly and got two scores late to widen the margin.
The evening was capped by a contest between two very different heavyweights. Hayden Zillmer, a 2018 Final X participant at 92 kg, has been competing at 125 kg this year and looks as good as ever. He repeated his victory from the Bill Farrell by downing the hulking Dom Bradley. Tentative around the much larger opponent, Zillmer was able to get a step-out point with :33 seconds remaining to nudge ahead of Bradley on criteria.
The US Open will conclude Sunday with the finals and medal round matches for Senior Men's Greco-Roman.
Senior Men's Freestyle Finals Results
57 kg - Matt Ramos (Boilermaker RTC) over Anthony Molton (Buies Creek RTC) 9-3
61 kg - Nico Megaludis (Pittsburgh WC) over Josh Rodriguez (NLWC) 3-1
65 kg - Kendric Maple (Sunkist Kids) fall Matt Kolodzik (NYAC) :54
70 kg - Alec Pantaleo (CKWC) over Jordan Oliver (Sunkist Kids) 3-2
74 kg - Jason Nolf (NLWC) over Josh Shields (Sunkist Kids) 11-0
79 kg - David McFadden (Penn RTC) over Vincenzo Joseph (California RTC) 8-6
86 kg - Mark Hall (Penn RTC) over Marcus Coleman (Iowa) 10-0
92 kg - Cam Caffey (Michigan WC) over Isaac Trumble (Wolfpack WC) 11-7
97 kg - Mike Macchiavello (Wolfpack WC) over Joe Rau (Wildcat WC) 6-1
125 kg - Hayden Zillmer (Gopher WC) over Dom Bradley (Sunkist Kids) 2-2