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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    The U23 Men's Freestyle Trials by the Numbers

    Joshua Saunders at 2020 Senior Nationals (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    This past weekend USA Wrestling picked its U23 Freestyle World Team across all 10 weights. After an abbreviated season, there were many college wrestlers ready to get in some matches, which led to some very large brackets. Several wrestlers had impressive statistical performances and the following takes a closer look at those competitors.

    Point Differential

    While Cornell has been in the news a lot recently due to the current coaching carousel, Joshua Saunders was able to pull in some headlines of his own in the 65 kg bracket. The Big Red wrestler finished third and picked up victories over the likes of Chad Red, Clay Carlson, and Sammy Alvarez.

    While Saunders did not win the tournament title, he did finish with the highest points differential at +5.07. Point differential is defined as points scored per minute minus points against per minute. Saunders' +5.07 differential was far and away ahead of the field as the second-highest differential belonged to Peyton Robb at only +3.25.

    Saunders lost only one match during the tournament. In his first bout of the day, he held a 9-0 lead against Eddie Homrock before he surrendered an exposure and the fall. Saunders finished with at least 10 points in his other nine matches and averaged 11.4 points per match. Only Chad Red managed to score more than two points against Saunders.

    Other top performers in terms of striking differential were Robb, Patrick Kennedy (+3.05), Luke Surber (+3.04), and Patrick Glory (+2.83).

    Robb made the finals at 74 kg after winning his first five bouts by a combined 50-0 score. The Nebraska wrestler then dispatched Quincy Monday in the best-of-three final with victories coming via 12-3 and 7-5 scores.

    After an abbreviated true freshman season at Iowa, Kennedy had a strong performance at U23s. Kennedy finished third at 79 kg. Outside of his one loss against Michael O'Malley in the semifinals, he outscored his opposition by a combined score of 51-0. Along the way, he picked up a signature victory over Indiana's Donnell Washington.

    Surber went 8-1 in limited action for Oklahoma State this past season at 197 pounds. In this tournament at 92 kg, he fell against All-American Jake Woodley in the quarterfinals before fighting all the way back for third. He averaged 3.77 points per minute, which was the fifth-highest rate in the tournament.

    After missing the collegiate season due to the Ivy League sitting out last season, Glory returned to action in a big way, with the tournament title at 57 kg. He outscored his opponents 58-7 and did not surrender a single point in the best-of-three finals series against Utah Valley All-American Taylor LaMont.

    Other High Scorers

    Not only did Saunders have the best point differential, but he also scored at the highest rate in the tournament. His 5.61 points per minute were tops across all divisions. Not all of the top scorers finished with high differentials. The following two wrestlers excelled on the offensive end even if they allowed their opponents to score a fair share as well.

    Minnesota's Samuel Skillings failed to place at 79 kg, but he certainly lit up the scoreboard while he was on the match. Skillings went 4-2 and in his four victories, he scored 57 points. He finished the tournament with a 5.61 points per minute rate, which was only behind Saunders.

    Patrick McKee, who also wrestles for Minnesota, had the third-highest scoring rate in the tournament. He averaged 4.49 points per minute at 61 kg. McKee forfeited out of the tournament after dropping a 10-0 match against Jesse Mendez. However, before that, he defeated Alex Friddle, Daniel Leal and Carmen Ferrante by a combined 35-4 score.

    Toughest to Score On

    Jay Aiello is a three-time NCAA qualifier who will be looking to become an NCAA All-American for the first time in 2021. That campaign got off to a strong start at U23s. On the Virginia wrestler's way to winning the tournament title at 97 kg, Aiello surrendered only a single point. His 0.06 points allowed per minute was by far the lowest rate of the tournament.

    The second-best points allowed per minute rate belonged to Nino Bonaccorsi, who won the tournament at 92 kg. He let his opponents to score only 0.23 points per minute in his six matches. The Pittsburgh wrestler's toughest match came in the semifinals, where he needed a late score to take a 5-4 decision over Cameron Caffey of Michigan State. After a surprise runner-up performance at the 2021 NCAA tournament, he could be ready to make a return trip to the finals this year.

    Another Virginia wrestler had a strong defensive performance as well. At 86 kg, Michael Battista allowed his opponents to register only 0.28 points per minute and finished third in the tournament. His lone defeat on the day came against Chris Foca via a 2-1 score, and he picked up victories over Neil Antrassian, Max Lyon and Jack Jessen.

    Highest Scoring Match

    A first-round match between Hamzah Al Saudi and Austin Lane provided the highest scoring bout of the tournament. Al Saudi, who wrestled for Cerritos College during the 2020 California CC season, held a 9-5 lead at the break before the match exploded in the second period. Lane, who wrestles for NAIA Marian University, started things with an early four-point throw. However, Al Saudi would regain control and score 14 of the next 18 points to take the 23-12 victory by superiority.

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