120 lb Junior National Champion Kannon Webster (Photo courtesy of Josh Conklin; JoshConklinPhotos.com)
A month after falling at the Junior National Duals, Team Illinois returned to the top of the heap in Men's Junior freestyle. Illinois claimed their fourth consecutive team title behind a pair of champions and 11 All-Americans. The first of the two winners for Illinois was Kannon Webster at 120 lbs. Just a rising junior, Webster dominated graduating senior Yusief Lillie. Despite the age discrepancy and an opponent that was the decorated of any wrestler in any of the tournaments in Fargo (he entered as a five-time medalist), Webster was never in danger during a 12-1 tech. Along with his win over Lillie, Webster defeated past 16U finalists Jett Stickenberger (Colorado) and Mitchell Neiner (Washington), as well as top-seeded Cooper Flynn.
The second champion for Illinois was 132 lber Nasir Bailey. Bailey scored a clutch takedown over Emilio Ysaguirre (Arizona) as time expired to win the stop sign 4-4 with criteria in his favor. Bailey had quite the run himself downing South Dakota State recruit Derrick Cardinal (Minnesota), Virginia signee Kyren Butler (Ohio), and Missouri recruit Zeke Seltzer (Indiana), just for a place in the finals. Even in defeat, Ysaguirre made himself a household name by knocking off pound-for-pound #1 Nic Bouzakis (Pennsylvania) in the quarterfinals.
Outstanding Wrestler honors were given to Drake Ayala (Iowa), who logged a 10-0 tech of Sergio Lemley (Indiana), within the first minute. Ayala was the only wrestler at the tournament to win his second Junior freestyle national title. In fact, none of Ayala's seven bouts lasted into the second period. He won in his opening match via fall before reeling off six straight tech falls, outscoring the opposition 64-2.
The championship finals started with a run of lopsided bouts. Each of the first five matches were decided by techs. Zane Donley (Oklahoma - 100), Hunter Taylor (Missouri - 106), Braeden Davis (Michigan - 106), Webster, then Ayala logged wins without much resistance.
Davis was one of the trio champions for Team Michigan, the only state to produce three. Josh Barr and Manuel Rojas went back-to-back at 160 and 170 lbs for Michigan. Rojas finally got over the hump after taking second at the 16U division in both 2018 and 2019. Barr was a prominent finisher in 2019, as well, placing fourth.
While Ayala grabbed his second Junior title and third overall, it was Jordan Williams (Oklahoma) at 145 that also claimed his third stop sign. Williams won a pair at the 16U level in 2018 and 2019. His win featured one of the more dramatic endings of the afternoon. Caleb Rathjen generally controlled the bulk of the bout and held a 3-1 lead into the waning seconds. Williams was able to gain a pair of points via exposure as the clock expired. A lost challenge by the Iowa bench made the final score, 4-3.
Another competitor that is no stranger to the top step on the Fargo podium is the winner at 182 lbs, TJ Stewart (Maryland). Stewart won a 16U freestyle title in 2019. This time he was paired with the top-ranked 182 lber in the nation, Brian Soldano (New Jersey). Stewart jumped out to a 6-0
Aside from Ayala, the only graduated seniors that claimed national titles on Tuesday were Tagen Jamison (Texas) and Ben Kawczynski (Wisconsin). Jamison cruised to a 7-2 win over Iowa State recruit Casey Swiderski (Michigan). Jamison will continue his career at Minnesota. Kawczynski was relentless with his reattacks and stopped the top-ranked big man, Chase Horne (Georgia), 12-4. He will enroll at UW-LaCrosse in the fall.
Before Kawczynski took the mat, 220 lber Christian Carroll (Indiana) put on a clinic. Carroll teched Iowa's Ben Kueter 12-0 for his title. Only one of Carroll's seven bouts went the distance, as he racked up two falls and four techs.
Finally, a pair of rising seniors that have committed to ACC schools won titles at 160 and 195. Caleb Henson (Georgia) was the top-seed and held serve during a back-and-forth bout against Danny Wask (New Jersey), 9-9. The lead changed hands seven times throughout the six minutes and the Virginia Tech recruit was able to fend off a scrappy Wask. In the battle of Ohio natives, at 195 lbs, it was a future NC State Wolfpack, Dylan Fishback, that prevailed. Fishback scored a five-pointer early in the contest and never let up. He would go on to secure a fall over Ohio State recruit Seth Shumate, a double 16U champion from 2019.
Junior National Freestyle Finals
100 lbs - Zane Donley (OK) over Nate Smith (IN) 13-2
106 lbs - Hunter Taylor (MO) over Brandon Morvari (MN) 10-0
113 lbs - Braeden Davis (MI) over Benjamin Aranda (IL) 11-1
120 lbs - Kannon Webster (IL) over Yusief Lillie (WA) 12-1
126 lbs - Drake Ayala (IA) over Sergio Lemley (IN) 10-0
132 lbs - Nasir Bailey (IL) over Emilio Ysaguirre (AZ) 4-4
138 lbs - Tagen Jamison (TX) over Casey Swiderski (MI) 7-2
145 lbs - Jordan Williams (OK) over Caleb Rathjen (IA) 4-3
152 lbs - Caleb Henson (GA) Danny Wask (NJ) 9-9
160 lbs - Josh Barr (MI) over Aiden Riggins (IA) 4-4
170 lbs - Manuel Rojas (MI) over Brayden Thompson (IL) 5-2
182 lbs - Thomas Stewart (MD) over Brian Soldano (NJ) 8-4
195 lbs - Dylan Fishback (OH) over Seth Shumate (OH) Fall 5:25
220 lbs - Christian Carroll (IN) over Ben Kueter (IA) 12-0
285 lbs - Ben Kawczynski (WI) over Chase Horne (GA) 12-4