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  • Photo: Photo/Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Photo/Tony Rotundo

    WRTC Underground 2 Preview & Predictions

    Thomas Gilman wrestling at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    The Wisconsin RTC is back with their second event on Rokfin. WRTC Underground 2 features a main event between NCAA champion Seth Gross and world silver medalist Thomas Gilman. The rest of the card features some interesting tests for the members of the WRTC as well as the Wisconsin team. The following is a match-by-match preview of the show, which takes place Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.

    Graham Calhoun vs. Tanner Mendoza

    Calhoun signed with Wisconsin back in November 2019, and it appears as if he could be taking a gap year and spending this year with the Badger RTC since he does not appear on the official roster. At the high school level, he was a two-time state placer in Indiana and finished his career with a 133-9 record. Calhoun recently competed at Junior Nationals at 79 kilograms where he dropped a pair of matches against Jaden Bullock and Gage Hockett.

    Mendoza will be a true freshman for Arkansas Little Rock this upcoming season. The former high school student at Valiant College Prep was an Arizona state champion and won NHSCA nationals as a junior. Like Calhoun, Mendoza also wrestled at 79 kilograms in the recent Junior Nationals. He went 3-2 on the day with all three of his victories coming by way of match termination. His run through the consolation bracket came to an end with a one-point loss against Penn starter Neil Antrassian.

    Based on their finishes alone at Junior Nationals, Mendoza should be the favorite in this match. He showed an interesting mix of clean takedowns and freestyle-specific scoring techniques in the tournament, and that should be enough to take the victory here.

    Prediction: Mendoza VPO1 over Calhoun

    Dresden Simon vs. Aidan Medora

    Simon has one year of eligibility remaining at Central Michigan. This past season, he went 29-8 and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time. During the year, Simon picked up victories over the likes of Kyle Shoop (Lehigh), Michael Blockus (Northern Iowa), Carter Happel (Iowa) and Grant Leeth (Missouri). He culminated the season with a title at the MAC tournament. After the season, the NWCA awarded Simon with second-team All-American honors.

    Medora is a new addition to the Wisconsin program. He was a two-time state champion in Wisconsin who finished his high school career with a 105-4 record. Medora finished second at Fargo in 2017 at the cadet level. He recently competed at the Junior Nationals and went 3-2 with victories over Danny Fongaro, Austin Keal and Cade Schmitz.

    This will likely be a tough test for Wisconsin's true freshman. Simon clearly took a step forward this past season, and his All-American finish reflects that progress. He does a good job of holding his stances and moved even the toughest wrestlers he faced in the ties. That will likely be too much for the young wrestler to contend with.

    Prediction: Simon VPO1 over Medora

    Mateah Roehl vs. Katelynn Gunderson

    Roehl will be the freshman at North Central this upcoming season. The Wisconsin native wrestled on the high school level at Johnson Creek. In 2017, she entered Folkstyle Nationals and pulled out a sixth-place finish after coming up short against Lizette Rodriguez in the fifth-place match. Last year, she wrestled at Fargo in the 122-pound division. She went 3-2 with two match-termination wins but failed to place.

    Gunderson wrestles collegiately for Lakeland. She sat out her first season on campus with an injury but returned to the starting lineup last year. Gunderson finished fourth at the North Central College Open, which was her best finish of the year. She represented the Muskies at the 2020 WCWA Nationals, but she went 2-2 and failed to place.

    This is a match that could easily be a preview for the upcoming season. Gunderson has the experience on the college level, and that might end up being the difference in this contest.

    Prediction: Gunderson VPO1 over Roehl

    Pete Christensen vs. Jake Rau

    Christensen is expected to step into a starting role for Wisconsin at 197 pounds this year. Last season, he went 8-9 as a true freshman and started in three duals. He returned to freestyle for the first time since 2018 on the debut WRTC Underground show. For the event, he moved up to heavyweight on late notice to wrestle Danny Chaid. Christensen scored some early points, but Chaid took over and finished the bout 14-4.

    Rau is a two-time Wisconsin state champion who will begin his collegiate career at Itasca Community College. During his senior year at 220 pounds, he went 38-2 and finished his career with 139 total victories.

    Look for Christensen to be the favorite in this match after filling as the underdog in his last match. Rau might have a bit of a size advantage against the 197 pounder, but Christensen's experience on the college level should widen the gap in this one.

    Prediction: Christensen VPO1 over Rau

    Joe Zargo vs. Joey Bianchi

    Like Calhoun, Zargo might be using this season as a sort of gap year since he signed with Wisconsin but is not listed on their roster. He signed with Wisconsin as a highly ranked recruit out of Bergen Catholic. Before the first WRTC Underground show, he went 4-2 at Junior Nationals. On the show, he scored a quick 10-0 victory over NC State's Hunter Lewis.

    Bianchi joined his older brother at Arkansas Little Rock this past season. He redshirted and went 4-5 on the year, and he was the runner-up at the season opening Oklahoma City Open. On the high school level, Bianchi finished fourth at Fargo in Greco back in 2018. He recently entered the 2020 Junior Nationals in freestyle and went 3-2.

    These two actually met at Junior Nationals. In that match, Bianchi managed to make it to the second period. However, Zargo was dominant throughout and took it via a 13-2 score. Look for Zargo to be just as dominant in this second meeting.

    Prediction: Zargo VSU over Bianchi

    Chris Weiler vs. Kobe Woods

    Weiler was a two-time NCAA qualifier for Lehigh. Following this past season, the NWCA awarded him with third-team All-American honors. Over the offseason, he transferred to Wisconsin for his final year. The 184-pounder went 17-7 last season with key wins over Cade Belshay (Arizona State), Tanner Harvey (American) and Louie DePrez (Binghamton). He is expected to hold down the 184-pound spot for the Badgers this year.

    Woods spent his first two years of college wrestling at Purdue before transferring to Wartburg before the 2018-2019 season. This past year Woods went 18-7 as the 197-pound starter for the Division III powerhouse. He has one season of college eligibility remaining. At the high school level, Woods was an Indiana state champion and made the finals of the 2015 Cadet World Team Trials. He recently entered U23 Nationals and wrestled his way to a fourth-place finish.

    Despite the fact that Woods has always seemed to have better results in freestyle, Weiler should be the favorite in this match. Woods went 0-2 against Division I competition last season, and Weiler appeared to be competitive against some of the top wrestlers at his weight.

    Prediction: Weiler VPO1 over Woods

    Kyle Burwick vs. Paul Bianchi

    Burwick redshirted last season for Wisconsin. He went 16-6 on the year and picked up key wins over Minnesota's Boo Dryden and Rutgers' Malcolm Robinson. On the high school level, Burwick finished his career as the top-ranked wrestler at 126 pounds with a 293-18 record. The North Dakota native was also a five-time state champion. Burwick recently competed at Junior Nationals. He made the quarterfinals before dropping an 8-8 match on criteria against No. 3-ranked high school junior Jesse Mendez.

    After three seasons at North Dakota State, Bianchi joined Little Rock for their first season on the mats. Last year, he went 13-7 in his first year up at 133 pounds and picked up key victories over Dryden and Jamie Hernandez (North Carolina). Bianchi ended his season with a second-place finish at the Pac-12 tournament.

    This should be an interesting match between a former North Dakota prep and a former North Dakota State competitor. Burwick is expected to enter the starting lineup for Wisconsin this year, and this match could say a lot about his prospects going forward. He had some strong performances during his redshirt season, but he will be facing wrestlers on Bianchi's level on the regular as a starter in the Big Ten. Look for Burwick to pull out the victory here, but the veteran will not make it easy on him.

    Prediction: Burwick VPO1 over Bianchi

    Eric Barnett vs. Drew Hildebrandt

    Barnett started as a true freshman this past season for Wisconsin. He finished with a 21-11 record highlighted by wins over Alex Thomsen (Nebraska), Malik Heinselman (Ohio State) and Christian Moody (Oklahoma). As a prep, Barnett finished with a 185-3 record and was a Fargo champion.

    This past season Hildebrandt qualified for the NCAA tournament for the second time. He finished the year 31-3 and won the MAC tournament. After the Midlands Tournament, he did not lose another match and finished the year on a 12-match winning streak including wins over Logan Heil (Cleveland State), Cameron Valdiviez (Missouri) and Killian Cardinale (Old Dominion). Following the year, the NCWA awarded Hildebrandt with first-team All-American honors.

    The two met this past season at the Midlands. In that meeting, Hildebrandt won a solid 9-4 victory. Barnett scored the first takedown of the match, but the Central Michigan representative really took over after that. Despite that result, expect this confrontation to be closer. Hildebrandt does a lot of his best work from the top position. He still scored from neutral in their first meeting, but a takedown contest will be a tighter affair.

    Prediction: Hildebrandt VPO1 over Barnett

    Kylie Welker vs. Amor Tuttle

    Welker had quite the year in 2019. She won the Cadet Women's Nationals in May to earn a spot on the world team. She then brought home a bronze medal from the Cadet World Championships with a 59-second fall over Uzbekistan's Laylokhon Sobirova in the bronze-medal match. Welker moved up the junior level this year and finished second at Junior Nationals last month. She defeated her first three opponents by a combined 32-0 before running into multiple-time world medalist Macey Kilty in the finals.

    Tuttle is a two-time Fargo placer. In 2019, she finished fifth after defeating Sydney Harper in the fifth-place match. The Minnesota native entered both U23 and Junior Nationals last month. Somewhat surprisingly, she won a bronze medal in the U23 bracket despite an eighth-place finish on the junior level. In the U23 tournament, Tuttle picked up victories over Brianna Csontos and Skie Rice.

    Despite Tutte's finish at U23 Nationals, Welker remains a strong favorite in this match. She has proven herself to be one of the top high school wrestlers in the country, and she will get the opportunity to show it in this bout.

    Prediction: Welker VSU over Tuttle

    Ronna Heaton vs. Koral Sugiyama

    Heaton comes into this match with a lot of momentum. She finished second at the 2020 Senior Nationals after coming up short against Katherine Shai. Heaton then entered the U23 Nationals and ran the table on the way to the tournament title. Along the way, she defeated Anja Tschohi, Tiare Ikei and Cheyenne Sisenstein. Heaton is also a two-time cadet world medalist after winning gold in 2015 and silver in 2016.

    Sugiyama finished her collegiate career at Campbellsville in 2019 with a second-place finish at the NAIA tournament. She followed that up by finishing fourth at the 2019 U23 Nationals. Sugiyama returned this year for U23 Nationals and made the finals before coming up short against Desiree Zavala. In the semifinals, she picked up a very impressive 16-6 tech over Gracie Figueroa.

    Heaton is still looking for senior level international success to match her accomplishments at the age level, but she appears to have made strides recently. Weight may play a factor in this bout since Sugiyama was up at 59 kilograms for U23s, while Heaton was all the way down at 53 kilograms. With that being said, Heaton should be able to make a difference with her turning ability and take this match.

    Prediction: Heaton VPO1 over Sugiyama

    Evan Wick vs. Kennedy Monday

    Wick comes into this event after having some mixed results at the RTC Cup. He represented the Gopher WC at the event and went 1-2. He defeated NCAA champion Mekhi Lewis but dropped a pair of matches against Logan Massa and Tommy Gantt. Prior to the RTC Cup, Wick had a very strong performance at U23 Nationals. The former Wisconsin All-American won the tournament with victories over Jacori Teemer and Danny Braunagel.

    Monday's last action was a shootout match against former Duke wrestler Mitch Finesilver. The two faced off on the first Tar Heel Wrestling Club event on Dec. 4. Both wrestlers put major points on the board, but Finesilver took the 13-11 victory. The North Carolina wrestler went 20-8 this past season. The two-time NCAA qualifier will have one more shot at All-American status this upcoming year.

    Monday does his best work when he is able to create distance and shoot from the outside. Unfortunately for him, Wick is extremely long and does a good job getting his hands on people. On top of that, Wick should be able to reliably score if he is able to get on top in this bout.

    Prediction: Wick VPO1 over Monday

    Maria Vidales vs. Erin Golston

    Vidales is a senior for Emmanuel. Last year she took an Olympic redshirt, and is expected to return to the lineup this season. Vidales is a two-time WCWA All-American after finishing third as a freshman and second as a sophomore. At the recent U23 Nationals, she finished third in the 50-kilogram division with wins over Valerie Acosta, Sydney McGhee, Jaclyn McNichols, Ashley Gooman and Aleeah Gould.

    Golston had been scheduled for a faceoff with Sarah Hildebrandt on the HWC Showdown Open. However, Hildebrandt pulled out at the last minute. Golston went on to pick up a quick 10-0 victory over Devyn Gomez on the show. The veteran is a three-time junior world medalist. She moved up the senior level after winning a junior world silver in 2013. During the 2019 season, she scored silver medals at the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov tournament, the Pan American Championships and the Bill Farrell Memorial International.

    Over the past year, Golston has not been particularly active, but she has been a regular on the senior level for some time now. Look for Vidales to maybe give her some trouble early, but Golston should be able to control this match from start to finish.

    Prediction: Golston VPO1 over Vidales

    Seth Gross vs. Thomas Gilman

    Gross went 3-1 at the RTC Cup. He scored dominant victories over Darian Cruz, Zach Sanders and Jakob Camacho before running into Nahshon Garrett in the finals. The match was close early, but Garrett was able to score a four-point takedown to seal the 12-4 victory. Following his final college season where he went 27-2 and picked up another All-American season, Gross returned to freestyle at Beat The Streets. He engaged in a back-and-forth battle against Joe Colon and ultimately dropped a 21-15 match. Gross got back on the winning track with a 10-7 victory over former collegiate rival Bryce Meredith.

    Gilman recently moved from the Hawkeye Wrestling Club to the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club. Since the move, the former Iowa All-American and world silver medalist has wrestled on a pair of NLWC shows. On the debut show, he scored a 14-4 match termination victory over Cruz. Gilman then returned on the third show from the club and scored a fall over Frank Perrelli.

    This should be an interesting clash of styles. Gross certainly has the wider variety of ways to score, but he will also find himself at a disadvantage in a takedown battle. If Gross can introduce a level of scrambling into the match, he certainly has a chance. However, it is more likely that Gilman will slow the action down and try to win by controlling the ties. It should be a good barometer for where both wrestlers are with the Olympic Team Trials at 57 kilograms on the horizon.

    Prediction: Gilman VPO1 over Gross

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