Wisconsin commits Hamiti, Copass win Super 32 titles; Bouzakis repeats

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- There's been a lot of chaos and uncertainty in 2020, and that is putting it mildly. The past two days in Myrtle Beach, S.C. for the 21st edition of the Super 32 Challenge were reflective of that theme. However, upon the conclusion of wrestling in the high school boys division, 14 wrestlers emerged as weight class champions, and they all were befitting the reputation that the tournament has earned over the years.

Wisconsin commit D.J. Hamiti won the title at 160 pounds
First and foremost, a pair of University of Wisconsin verbal commits for the Class of 2021 from Illinois reigned supreme in their respective weight classes.

Ranked No. 24 overall in the Class of 2021, D.J. Hamiti (Joliet Catholic, Ill.) had a dominant weekend in terms of results in winning the 160-pound weight class with all seven of his wins coming via bonus point results. It was a pin and three technical falls on Saturday before a 23-14 major decision over returning state runner-up Aaron Ayzerov (Paramus, N.J.) pushed him to the semifinal round. Despite giving up the first takedown in both the semifinal and final, Hamiti would secure wins by fall in both those matches to earn the belt. The semifinal pin came at the 3:24 mark over No. 53 overall senior Enrique Munguia (Elyria, Ohio), while in the final it was in 2:36 over top ten junior Matthew Singleton (Woodward Academy, Ga.).

Hayden Copass (Westview, Ill.) made a very strong case to be the No. 1 wrestler in the country at 285 pounds for the upcoming season, as he earned victories over what would arguably be the two most direct challengers to that position. In the semifinal, it was a 3-1 overtime victory over top-10 recruit Kyonte Hamilton (Georgetown Prep, Md.). Then in the final, Copass used a takedown with forty seconds left in regulation to secure the 3-1 victory over Chase Horne (West Laurens, Ga.) in a battle of wrestlers who were both runners-up at the Super 32 Challenge last year.

Another pair of stars affirmed their status this weekend, as Woodland (Ga.) teammates Caden McCrary and Caleb Henson won Super 32 titles in the 138 and 152-pound weight classes.

Ranked 50th overall in the Class of 2021, returning Super 32 placer McCrary went seven matches without giving up a single takedown. This included four matches against highly credentialed wrestlers to close out the tournament: 11-4 over three-time state finalist Maxwell Petersen (Byron, Minn.), 3-2 over two-time state runner-up Jayden Scott (Rush Henrietta, N.Y.), 5-2 over No. 49 overall senior Ramon Ramos (Casteel, Ariz.) in the semifinal, and then an 8-2 decision over two-time state runner-up Levi Haines (Biglerville, Pa.) in the final.

2018 Super 32 placer Henson entered the tournament ranked No. 11 overall in the junior class. On Saturday, he would earn three major decision victories and a technical fall to advance to a Sunday morning quarterfinal bout against the No. 35 overall junior in the country Mitchell Mesenbrink (Arrowhead, Wis.). Upon the fourth takedown of the match, Henson secured the pin at the 3:37 mark. The lone takedown allowed by Henson all weekend came in a 4-3 semifinal victory over two-time state placer Jonathan Ley (Cardinal Gibbons, Fla.), and then it was a 4-3 (ultimate) tiebreaker victory over No. 7 overall junior Anthony Ferrari (Stillwater, Okla.) in the championship match. Henson scored a first-period takedown, which was countered by a Ferrari reversal; the wrestlers traded escapes in the second and third periods, before being unable to score in the neutral sudden victory period, and then Henson chose down and secured the escape to win the title.

A pair of underclassmen from Michigan took gold at 113 pounds and 170 pounds. Ranked No. 26 overall in the sophomore class, Caden Horwath (Davison, Mich.) dominated his way to the semifinal round with two pins, a technical fall, and then a major decision. This set up a semifinal showdown with returning Super 32 runner-up Cory Land (Moody, Ala.). Land would score a first-period takedown, which Horwath countered with an escape in the first period, and then an escape and takedown in the second period; riding out Land for the duration of the third period was the difference in a 4-3 victory. The championship match was another 4-3 win, this one coming against the nation's top overall junior high wrestler, P.J. Duke (Minisink Valley, N.Y.). Horwath scored a first-period takedown for the key score of the bout, and got the championship-winning point via an escape with 26 seconds left in regulation.

Manuel Rojas entered the tournament ranked No. 41 overall in the Class of 2022 with a golden opportunity, as the 170-pound weight class was one of the least heralded of the tournament field. A technical fall and two pins pushed him to the last front side match of Saturday, where he would need a takedown in overtime to beat two-time state finalist Darion Johnson (Chiawana, Wash.), 5-3. A 7-3 decision against eventual tournament medalist Sammy Starr (Kiski Area, Pa.) pushed Rojas into a semifinal showdown against No. 41 overall senior Carson Manville (State College, Pa.). That match was 3-3 after one, and 4-4 midway through the third period before Rojas scored the match-deciding takedown in a 7-5 victory. A third-period takedown in the final against fellow junior James Rowley (Crescent Valley, Ore.), a two-time state champion, gave Rojas a 3-2 championship match victory and the Super 32 belt.

Though the pre-tournament narrative spent a lot of time talking about younger wrestlers ruling the day, seven of the 14 weight class champions were seniors, while none were freshmen. The lone freshman finalist was returning high school division champion Mason Gibson (Forest Hills, Pa.), the top overall wrestler in the Class of 2024. Gibson advanced to the final via a 6-6 tiebreaker rideout against state champion Joshua Koderhandt (Belleville West, Ill.) in a semifinal match at 120 pounds. However, No. 21 overall senior Cooper Flynn (McDonogh, Md.) had clear control throughout a 6-1 championship bout victory over Gibson, scoring a takedown in the first period and a turn in the second period.

The two earlier matches for Flynn on Sunday were less comfortable, with both being narrow victories over a pair of wrestlers from the Keystone State. Flynn outlasted No. 30 overall sophomore Tyler Kasak (Bethlehem Catholic, Pa.) 2-1 in the tiebreaker during the quarterfinal round when Kasak was called for a third caution in the top position; while it was a 4-2 semifinal victory over No. 49 overall sophomore Mac Church (Waynesburg, Pa.), when Flynn scored a reversal then a takedown in the third period after the first two periods went scoreless. Four of the five matches for Flynn on Saturday were decided by bonus point margins, with the exception being a 4-2 round of 32 victory over top 10 overall freshman Chris Coates (Liberty, Mo.).

Rounding out the senior champions were Drake Ayala (Fort Dodge, Iowa), Alek Martin (St. Paris Graham, Ohio), and Bennett Tabor (Simley, Minn.) whose titles came at 126, 145, and 220 pounds respectively.

Ranked No. 12 overall in the Class of 2021, Iowa verbal commit Ayala reached the final despite giving up the first takedown in matches from the round of 16 on. He was able to rally back for a 6-3 win over state runner-up Vincent Robinson (Homewood Flossmoor, Ill.), a 12-6 quarterfinal win over two-time state placer Jack Gioffre (Buchanan, Calif.), and then outlast Zeke Seltzer (Indianapolis Cathedral, Ind.) 10-9 in the semifinal; Seltzer is ranked No. 16 overall in the junior class. Ayala then made a first-period takedown stand up in a 3-2 championship match victory over No. 13 overall junior Troy Spratley (Collinsville, Okla.). This was a third consecutive Super 32 placement for Spratley, while 2018 runner-up Ayala was able to earn the belt this go around.

Martin had an absolute beast mode of a tournament last year in finishing third at 138 pounds, and this year the No. 63 overall senior moved the two steps up the podium necessary to become champion. The South Dakota State verbal commit had to come back from a 5-2 early third period deficit during the quarterfinal round with a pair of takedowns to tie the bout at 6-6 before winning 8-6 in overtime against No. 49 overall junior Michael Kilic (Woodward Academy, Ga.). The championship match was a 6-4 win over No. 12 overall sophomore Rocco Welsh (Waynesburg, Pa.); Martin used first and second-period takedowns to outlast a third-period takedown from Welsh.

Ranked No. 59 overall in the Class of 2021, the future Golden Gopher Tabor had a pair of falls and a 5-1 decision to reach the semifinal round against fellow top-100 senior Xavier Doolin (North Kansas City, Mo.). Tabor would get the turn and fall early in the second period of a scoreless semifinal bout. Then in the final, Tabor made a first-period takedown stand up in a 3-0 decision against a top 30 overall junior in Noah Pettigrew (Blair Academy, N.J.).

Clearly the tournament's most impressive performance came from its only repeat champion, No. 1 overall Class of 2022 wrestler Nic Bouzakis (Wyoming Seminary, Pa.), who steamrolled his way to the title at 132 pounds. Three pins and a technical fall pushed him through Saturday. Sunday morning's quarterfinal result was a first period pin over two-time state champion Jacob Mann (Ladue Horton Watkins, Mo.). Bouzakis scored takedowns in all three periods of decisive semifinal and final victories over a pair of highly credentialed Class of 2021 wrestlers: 10-4 over No. 51 overall Vince Cornella (Monarch, Co.) in the semifinal, then a 13-4 major decision over No. 40 overall Chance Lamer (Crescent Valley, Ore.) in the final.

Fellow junior Brian Soldano (High Point, N.J.) had an impressive run of his own to win the 182-pound weight class. Three pins and a major decision pushed the No. 24 overall Class of 2022 wrestler, and Rutgers verbal commit, into a semifinal against fellow returning Super 32 placer Joey Milano (Spring Ford, Pa.). Soldano had a 10-4 lead early in the third period, and survived 12-10 despite absorbing three takedowns from Milano in that last period. The championship match was an absolute barn burner against fellow junior Bennett Berge (Kasson-Mantorville, Minn.), who entered as the No. 15 overall wrestler in that class. The first period ended with Berge holding a 6-5 lead, then Soldano would tie the match at 6-6 with a third-period escape. Relatively promptly after the tying escape, Soldano would secure a go ahead takedown, and then just over a minute later, he got the fall at the 5:48 mark for the title.

Rounding out the weight class champions were a pair of sophomores, state champion Vincent Kilkearly (Greater Latrobe, Pa.) at 106 pounds and Christian Carroll (Mishawaka Penn, Ind.) at 195 pounds.

Kilkeary advanced to the final with a 3-1 semifinal win over state runner-up Zain Fugitt (Nixa, Mo.) based on a takedown with 35 seconds left in the match. He then used takedowns in the first and third period to beat fellow sophomore Braeden Davis (Dundee, Mich.) in the championship match.

Carroll missed almost all of his freshman high school season after sustaining an injury in December. After seven months off the mat, Carroll returned to training in July. Earlier this month, he won the Grappler Fall Classic at 215 pounds in this same Myrtle Beach venue; the key result being a semifinal victory over Pettigrew. In this tournament, he had two pins to reach the last match of Saturday, where Carroll earned a 9-3 victory over two-time state champion Isaiah Anderson (Chiawana, Wash.). The Sunday morning quarterfinal was a 5-2 victory over state champion Martin Cosgrove (Camden Catholic, N.J.) on the strength of first and third-period takedowns. It was then an 8-2 semifinal victory over two-time New England regional placer Conor Maslanek (Pelham, N.H.). This set up a final showdown against Gavin Nelson (Simley, Minn.), who entered as the No. 6 overall sophomore in the country; Nelson had upset pre-tournament favorite Seth Shumate (Dublin Coffman, Ohio) 5-4 in the semifinal via a takedown with three seconds left in the bout.

In the championship bout, Carroll picked up a takedown in the second period to propel himself to a 3-1 victory. If anyone had doubts about Carroll entering this tournament, they are officially gone now, and that is putting it mildly.

Finals results:
106: Vincent Kilkeary (Pennsylvania) dec. Braeden Davis (Michigan), 5-2
113: Caden Horwath (Michigan) dec. P.J. Duke (New York), 4-3
120: Cooper Flynn (Tennessee) dec. Mason Gibson (Pennsylvania), 6-1
126: Drake Ayala (Iowa) dec. Troy Spratley (New York), 3-2
132: Nic Bouzakis (Pennsylvania) maj. dec. Chance Lamer (Oregon), 13-4
138: Caden McCrary (Georgia) dec. Levi Haines (Pennsylvania), 8-2
145: Alek Martin (Ohio) dec. Rocco Welsh (Pennsylania), 6-4
152: Caleb Henson (Georgia) dec. Anthony Ferrari (Oklahoma), 4-3 UTB
160: D.J. Hamiti (Illinois) pinned Matthew Singleton (Georgia), 2:36
170: Manuel Rojas (Michigan) dec. James Rowley (Oregon), 3-2
182: Brian Soldano (New Jersey) pinned Bennett Berge (Minnesota), 5:48
195: Christian Carroll (Indiana) dec. Gavin Nelson (Minnesota), 3-1
220: Bennett Tabor (Minnesota) dec. Noah Pettigrew (Georgia), 3-0
285: Hayden Copass (Illinois) dec. Chase Horne (Georgia), 3-1


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