#1 Ranked Gabe Arnold after winning the 170 lb 16U freestyle title (Photo courtesy of Josh Conklin; JoshConklinPhotos.com)
It took a total team effort for Team Pennsylvania to claim their third straight 16U Men's Freestyle national championship. Despite not finishing with a champion for the first time since 2016, Pennsylvania put 21 wrestlers on the podium, including four in the finals. In total, nine Pennsylvania wrestlers finished in the top four of their respective weights.
New Jersey led the way with three national champions, Anthony Knox (106), Leo Deluca (113), and Lou Cerchio (NJ). Arizona, Minnesota, and Ohio were the only other states with multiple champions. One of Arizona's two champions, Kyler Larkin (126), was named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestling. Larkin became a crowd favorite after pulling a stunning upset of #2 Mason Gibson (PA) in the semifinals. He completed his title run by downing two-time Minnesota runner-up Landon Robideau for a crown. Larkin's Valiant Prep teammate Adrian Meza (120) won Arizona's other title by shutting out Aden Valencia (CA), 3-0.
The first of two titles for Ohio took place in the opening match of the finals when Javaan Yarbrough outscored Haakon Peterson (WI) 10-4. Ohio was bound to get a win at 182 as both finalists call the state home. Camden McDanel got the best of Luke Vanadia in a back-and-forth contest that featured plenty of action.
Scoring continued to be prevalent in the next bout as Max McEnelly (MN) hung on against Sonny Sasso (PA), 11-8. A key sequence in the match initially gave four points only to McEnelly. After a review, it was deemed that Sasso should get a pair of points for exposure, while McEnelly added another for exposure. Sasso pushed the pace, but couldn't close the gap and had to settle for second place. Minnesota's second title came at 132 lbs, where Zach Hanson won a battle of attrition with Christopher Coates (MO), 2-1. All three points in the match were awarded via shot clock violations.
After the freestyle competition, two 16U wrestlers were still in the running for the Triple Crown, Mack Mauger (ID) and Koy Hopke (WI). Mauger jumped out to an 8-0 lead over Cadell Lee (VA) in the first round and was held in check during the second period. Four out of Hopke's five bouts ended via technical superiority or fall. He needed only 1:28 to dispatch Jake Walker (IA) in the finals.
One USAW Folkstyle National champion, Pierson Manville (PA), was prevented from continuing towards the Triple Crown. He was beaten 4-2 by Connecticut's William Henckel in the championship bout. The last time Connecticut had a 16U national champion (Anthony Valles - 2005) was before Henckel was born.
The only top-ranked wrestler in the field, Gabe Arnold (GA), lived up to his billing and captured a national title. He was pushed by #13 Cody Merrill (CA) and battled to a 3-1 victory.
One of the most exciting bouts of the finals took place at 138 lbs as Joel Adams (NE) needed exposure points in the closing seconds to claim an 8-7 win over Tyler Kasak (PA). Kasak got in on an attack against Adams as the clock expired, but it was ultimately too late. Two matches later, Zack Ryder (NY) and KJ Evans (OK) put 19 points on the board in a contest that would go in favor of Ryder. Despite Evans putting seven points up in the second, it was Ryder who held on.
Two of the most dominating tournaments were put together by Seth Mendoza (IL) at 100 lbs and Navarro Schunke (SD) at 285 lbs. Mendoza won 7-0 in the finals and rolled to four techs throughout the tournament. Schunke also had four. He became just the third South Dakota native to win a 16U national title in freestyle.
Full Finals Results Below:
88 lbs - Javaan Yarbrough (OH) over Haakon Peterson (WI) 10-4
94 lbs - Mack Mauger (ID) over Cadell (Lee (VA) 8-3
100 lbs - Seth Mendoza (IL) over Christian Castillo (AZ) 7-0
106 lbs - Anthony Knox (NJ) over Sam Herring (PA) 18-6
113 lbs - Leo Deluca (NJ) over Brock Mantanona (CA) 10-0
120 lbs - Adrian Meza (AZ) over Aden Valencia (CA) 3-0
126 lbs - Kyler Larkin (AZ) over Landon Robideau (MN) 3-1
132 lbs - Zach Hanson (MN) over Christopher Coates (MO) 2-1
138 lbs - Joel Adams (NE) over Tyler Kasak (PA) 7-6
145 lbs - William Henckel (CT) over Pierson Manville (PA) 4-2
152 lbs - Zack Ryder (NY) over KJ Evans (OK) 10-9
160 lbs - Lou Cerchio (NJ) over Daschle Lamer (OR) 8-4
170 lbs - Gabe Arnold (GA) over Cody Merrill (CA) 3-1
182 lbs - Camden McDanel (OH) over Luke Vanadia (OH) 9-6
195 lbs - Max McEnelly (MN) over Sonny Sasso (PA) 11-8
220 lbs - Koy Hopke (WI) over Jacob Walker (IA) 10-0
285 lbs - Navarro Schunke (SD) over Will Sather (MN) 11-0