Tamyra Mensah-Stock defeated Adeline Gray in the main event (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)
AUSTIN, Texas -- It's an exciting time in the sport of wrestling with the high school and college seasons underway, and the Olympic Games less than 200 days away.
A number of American standouts with their sights set on Olympic gold were on display during a Flo Wrestling event Saturday night in Austin, Texas.
That star-studded list included five-time world champion Adeline Gray, two-time world champion J'den Cox, world champion Tamyra Mensah-Stock and two-time world medalist James Green.
The card was altered after the scheduled feature bout between Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs and world champion David Taylor was postponed.
The 10-match card Saturday still featured its share of top-notch competition. Kudos to Flo for putting it together.
Here is my breakdown from the evening's matches:
155 pounds: Mitch McKee tech. Tristan Moran, 11-1
McKee, an excellent freestyle wrestler, struck first and built an early 3-1 advantage. He followed with a leg attack for a takedown and transitioned to a pair of gut-wrenches to lead 9-1. McKee added with another takedown to finish a quick 11-1 win by technical superiority.
61 kilograms: Ronna Heaton dec. Desiree Zavala, 10-8
This promised to be an excellent women's freestyle battle between two top young wrestlers. Heaton, an age-group world champion, bolted to an early 3-0 lead in the first minute. Zavala finished effectively on a single leg to even the bout 3-3 late in the opening period. Heaton used an effective counter to score a takedown and lead 5-3 early in the second period. The wrestlers battled back and forth with Heaton scoring on another strong counter to go up 10-6. Zavala scored on a leg attack to draw within 10-8 with 45 seconds to go. Heaton fought off a shot attempt in the final seconds to win 10-8 in an action-packed bout.
215 pounds: Nate Jackson tech. Wynn Michalak, 12-1
Jackson opened the scoring with a throw-by maneuver to lead 2-0. Jackson added with a double-leg takedown and leg lace to build a 6-0 cushion. The explosive Jackson finished strong again with another leg attack to lead 8-0. Michalak came back with a shot and a pushout. Jackson scored another takedown off a single-leg shot to lead 9-1 at the break. Jackson scored on a re-attack to prevail 12-1.
61 kilograms: Seth Gross dec. Zane Richards, 11-3
Richards won a wild early scramble to score the opening takedown again Gross, who was coming off a win over world silver medalist Thomas Gilman. Richards added a pushout to lead 3-0. Gross came back with a counter for a takedown and turned Richards to his back to lead 4-3. Gross followed with a pushout off his leg attack for a 5-3 edge at the break. Gross is a master in these scrambles and scored a takedown to lead 7-3 midway through the second period. Gross added another TD to lead 9-3 with a minute to go. He countered another shot to lead 11-3 late. Gross wins after scoring the final 11 points of the match. Impressive performance by a guy who is a legitimate threat to make the Olympic Team.
143 pounds: Ethan Lizak tech. Matt McDonough, 10-0
This was an interesting matchup with McDonough, a two-time NCAA champion, returning to competition against a past NCAA finalist. Lizak took charge early with a takedown and a series of turns to win by a quick 10-0 technical superiority. Lizak has always been very strong in the top position and it showed in this match.
Joey McKenna turns Nahshon Garrett with a gut wrench (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)
65 kilograms: Joey McKenna tech. Nahshon Garrett, 12-2
This also promised to be an entertaining bout featuring two excellent freestyle competitors. McKenna opened with a slick leg attack, collecting four early points. Garrett came back to expose McKenna for two points. McKenna extended his lead to 6-2 with a leg attack and takedown early in the second period. McKenna followed with a textbook single-leg shot and turn to lead 10-2. McKenna added another TD to earn a surprising 12-2 win over a very tough opponent.
51 kilograms: Erin Golston dec. Emily Shilson, 8-5
Golston powered in on a leg attack for an early takedown before transitioning right into a pair of leg laces to lead 6-1. She followed with a double-leg takedown and was up 8-1 at the break. Shilson added a pair of late takedowns on two superb shots, but Golston held her off 8-5.
152 pounds: James Green dec. Pat Lugo, 3-2
This looked to be another intriguing matchup involving a proven veteran and a guy trying to make his mark on the Senior level. Green struck first with a double-leg takedown a minute into the match. He added a pushout early in the second period to lead 3-0. Lugo drew within 3-1 in the final minute before Green was put on the shot clock. Lugo scored a pushout with 30 seconds left, but Green held him off to prevail 3-2.
J'den Cox defeated Hayden Zillmer in his return to competition (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)
97 kilograms: J'den Cox dec. Hayden Zillmer, 6-2
Cox made his much-anticipated return while bumping up to 97 kilos. Zillmer struck first, scoring a point on the shot clock. Cox trailed 1-0 after the opening period before picking up the pace in the final period. Cox fired in on a single and finished for a takedown to lead 2-1 early in the second period. He followed with a gut-wrench to lead 4-1 with just over two minutes left. Cox exploded in on a late shot for a slick takedown near the edge to lead 6-1. Zillmer added a late pushout, but Cox prevailed 6-2 with a solid performance in his first bout in 10 months.
Tamyra Mensah-Stock and Adeline Gray embrace after their match (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)
76 kilograms: Tamyra Mensah-Stock dec. Adeline Gray, 4-0
Mensah scored a takedown and exposure with an aggressive attack to take a surprising 4-0 lead in the first period. Trailing 4-0 at the break, Gray came out strong with a number of shots but Mensah continued to fight her off. Lethal in the top position, Gray was never able to have that opportunity in this match. Impressive showing by Mensah with a 4-0 victory. Her defense and her positioning were excellent. The good news for Team USA is both of these wrestlers likely will be wrestling in the Olympic Games this year.
This was, as expected, another excellent night of wrestling. It was unfortunate we missed out on Burroughs vs. Taylor, but that match hopefully will be happening in a few days. Seth Gross looked really impressive again. It was great to see J'den Cox back wrestling again and it was awesome to have two outstanding women battling in the main event. Mensah looked really good -- she continues to improve and progress. It was fun to watch.
Craig Sesker has written about wrestling for more than three decades. He's covered three Olympic Games, written 10 books and is a two-time national wrestling writer of the year.