Jordan Oliver (left), Alec Pantaleo (center), and Ryan Deakin (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
On Friday, the wrestling world was shocked by the retirement of 70 kg mainstay and two-time world medalist James Green. The Nebraska alum has moved on to take a coaching position with USA Wrestling as their National Freestyle Developmental Coach. With the man who has represented the United States at 70 kg at every World Championship event since 2015 out of the picture, there's a huge void on our 2022 team.
That begs the question, who steps up and takes control of the weight class? Does someone go on a Green-like run and lockdown the weight for the next six years? Or will it turn out to be more like 65 kg; a weight class with plenty of capable contenders, all trading WTT wins back-and-forth.
Here are some of the key contenders who will vie for a spot on the World Team this year and going forward. What complicates 70 kg for the future is that it isn't an Olympic weight, so wrestlers in this bracket will either move up or down for the 2024 Trials. That could lead to a shakeup next year as they prep for the Olympic year.
Jordan Oliver - A veteran of the international wrestling game, Jordan Oliver has been a contender for world and Olympic teams for at least two cycles. Oliver won the 65 kg Olympic Trials in 2020, but did not get to represent the United States in Tokyo since the weight was not qualified. He's still seeking his first appearance at the World/Olympic Games. In non-Olympic years we've seen Oliver up at 70 kg and it's probably a more ideal weight for him. While Oliver may take losses in an exhibition setting, it's hard to bet against him in an â€œofficialâ€ tournament.
Alec Pantaleo - The wrestler that handed Oliver a recent loss is Alec Pantaleo, at Rudis Super Match. Pantaleo has continued to grow since hitting the Senior level full-time in 2019. He also scored a win over Oliver in the 2021 FloWrestling 150 lb 8-man bracket. At one point last year, Pantaleo held the #1 ranking in the world at 70 kg after winning the Poland Open, the Matteo Pellicone, and the Pan-American Championships. At the Poland Open, he knocked off James Green in the gold medal match. Pantaleo later had to pull out of the World Team Trials, in the semifinals, due to a rib injury. While Oliver and others may have â€œbiggerâ€ names, Pantaleo consistently turns in excellent results and should not be considered a dark horse here.
Ryan Deakin - In the last decade or so, we've seen more and more often, current or recently graduated collegiate wrestlers jump into the Senior level and experience positive results. By the time the US Open rolls around, Ryan Deakin will be just over a month removed from his final collegiate match, where he won a national title at 157 lbs. Even while competing for Northwestern, Deakin has proven himself to be one of the top contenders at 70 kg. In 2019, he knocked off James Green at the US Open and earned a berth in Final X. Only a select few domestic opponents have defeated Green, at 70 kg, since 2015. Deakin almost made the 2021 World Team Trials finals, but was thwarted by the incumbent, Green.
Zain Retherford - In 2021, we saw Zain Retherford move up to this weight class after competing at the Olympic Trials at 65 kg and making the 2019 world team at that weight. Retherford finished third at the 2021 Trials, which clinched a berth in this year's Trials. In his only competition thus far in 2022, Retherford dominated the field at the Dan Kolov, where his closest bout was a four-point win in the finals. Last year's Trials loss was only 2-2, on criteria, to Oliver, so Retherford should be one of the favorites in Coralville.
Tyler Berger - Who better to take over for Green than one of his former training partners at Nebraska, Tyler Berger? Berger is now out west at Stanford as a part of the California RTC. Working out with 2021 NCAA champion Shane Griffith and assistant coach Vincenzo Joseph couldn't have hurt his development, while in Palo Alto. Berger showed he was ready to compete with the top dogs at this weight as he won the Bill Farrell International with a victory over Anthony Ashnault in the final. That combined with a fourth-place showing at the 2021 WTT's earned the foreigner Cornhusker a spot in the 2022 Trials.
Anthony Ashnault - Growing up, Anthony Ashnault was never known for his freestyle accolades, but has placed himself amongst the contenders on the domestic ladder since 2019. Ashnault captured the first of his two Pan-American Championships that year and later was third at the WTT's. While he did not place at the Olympic Trials, Ashnault did claim a victory over Nahshon Garrett in the process. Recently, he fell to Berger at the Bill Farrell.
Current collegiate crop of 157 lbs - Quincy Monday, David Carr, and Jacori Teemer. Youth has prevailed recently on the Senior level as Gable Steveson, Daton Fix, and Yianni Diakomihalis all made world/Olympic teams within the last year, while still holding collegiate eligibility. David Carr and Jacori Teemer both captured hardware on the international front, as Carr is a Junior World Champion and Teemer has Cadet bronze to his name. Monday is a part of the NJ RTC, which has made a strong impact on the domestic scene in the past three years. Teemer hasn't qualified for the Trials and is set to compete at the Open, while Quincy Monday and Carr have locked up a spot in the WTT's based on their 2022 NCAA finish.