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The Big Ten Fan's Guide to Final X and the Junior World Team Trials

Thomas Gilman and Vito Arujau at the 2020 Olympic Team Trials (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)


We get it, spring is a busy time for most people, with school ending, graduation, prom, wedding season and families taking off on vacations. Understandably, the casual college fan may not be able to keep up with all of the wrestling that's gone on the past couple of months. But with the U.S. Open and the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament behind us and Final X and U20 and U23 World Team Trials ahead, here's a quick recap of the highlights Big Ten wrestling fans should know about what's happened so far and what to keep an eye on in June.

Upcoming events:

Final X Stillwater: June 3 - Stillwater, Oklahoma
U20 and U23 World Team Trials: June 3-5 - Geneva, Ohio
Final X New York: June 8 - New York, New York
True Third National Team Wrestle-Off : June 8 - New York, New York

Big Ten will be well-represented at Final X

Plenty of former Big Ten stars - and a couple current wrestlers - will be in action at Final X Stillwater on June 3 and Final X New York on June 8. Headlining those lineups will be the likes of Jordan Burroughs (Nebraska/Big 12 at the time), David Taylor (Penn State), Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) and Thomas Gilman (Iowa), who all earned their byes to the final by the virtue of earning medals at the most recent World or Olympic championships in men's freestyle.

Joining them, in both freestyle and Greco-Roman, will be former Penn State stars Jason Nolf and Zain Retherford, former Ohio State All-American Kollin Moore and current Buckeye Brady Koontz, former Wisconsin wrestlers Seth Gross and Jesse Thielke and current Badger Braxton Amos, former Indiana All-American Nate Jackson, former Minnesota wrestler Pat Smith, Tanner Farmer, who played football for Nebraska, and Spencer Woods, who wrestled as a redshirt for Maryland before transferring.

All will be wrestling for the chance to represent the U.S. at the Senior World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, Sept. 10-18.

The 97 kg men's freestyle championship will feature an all-Buckeye matchup between Moore (2020) and 2016 Olympic champ Snyder (2018) in Stillwater. Snyder earned silver medals at both the 2021 World Championships and 2020 Olympics to earn his Final X berth. Moore shut out former N.C. State wrestler Mike Macchiavello (10-0, 6-0) to win the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament on May 22.

Snyder won the last matchup between the pair (10-0, 5-1), taking the first two bouts in a best-of-three series to make the 2020 Olympic team. This time, Moore is hoping for a different result.

"He's been a huge part of my success as a wrestler but at some time it's like, alright, I'm tired of being the little brother," Moore told reporters when asked about Snyder after his World Team Trials win. "So, hopefully, this time is different, I think it will be. But he's not going to take me lightly, I know Kyle. He's going to come out there and try to kill me and I've got to do the same."

A few other former Big Ten wrestlers will be looking to avenge previous losses. Nolf will be taking on World gold medalist and Olympic bronze medalist Kyle Dake at 74 kg in New York. Dake rolled to an 11-0 technical superiority win over Nolf when they last met at the Olympic Trials last year. Retherford earned close wins over Doug Zapf (4-1) and Alec Pantaleo (5-2) to win World Team Trials. The two-time Hodge Trophy winner will be up against a familiar face in former Oklahoma State star Jordan Oliver. The pair have wrestled several close matches against each other, with Oliver owning a 4-2 advantage.

Gross will also be taking on a familiar opponent in rising Oklahoma State senior and reigning World silver medalist Daton Fix, who cruised to an 11-0 tech over Gross in the 2021 World Team Trials. Gilman will also face a familiar opponent, rising Cornell junior Vito Arujau. Gilman has three wins over Arujau, including two in the best-of-three final to make the 2020 Olympic team.

The two current Big Ten wrestlers competing at Final X - Amos and Koontz - are both in Greco-Roman.

Amos, a rising sophomore, went 2-0 to reach the 97 kg championship at World Team Trials, where he swept Hayden Mayley (9-1, 11-2) in the best-of-three series. He'll face G'Angelo Hancock, who represented the U.S. at the 2020 Summer Olympics and won a bronze medal at the 2021 World Championships in Oslo, Norway, in New York.

Coming off a first-place finish at the Pan American Championships in Mexico on May 5, Koontz, who's headed into his redshirt senior season this fall, went 2-0 in the 55 kg at World Team Trials. He'll face four-time U.S. National Team member Max Nowry at Stillwater.


The future of the Big Ten is bright

The up-and-coming stars of the Big Ten made their names known at the U20 Freestyle Nationals in Las Vegas on April 30. More than half of the 10 winners in men's freestyle are current or future Big Ten wrestlers. Penn State redshirt freshman Alex Facundo highlighted the group, out-scoring his opponents 74-5 to be named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.

Facundo shut out five of his seven opponents, surrendering just five points in the tournament. He beat Vincent Zerban, a four-time USAW Cadet/Junior All-American and NHSCA National Champion, to win the 74 kg title. Facundo went 11-3 wrestling unattached this year for the Nittany Lions.

He told the media after his final match that he struggled with finding himself in his first season at Penn State, but that he feels like this tournament got him back on track.

"Toward the Southern Scuffle time, I was kind of lost, I didn't know where I was mentally," he said. "But after talking to Jason (Nolf) and Bo (Nickal), and those guys and Aaron (Brooks), he told me, 'Don't go away from what you've done to get here, because what you've done to get here works. Keep on building on top of that.' I really think I've found myself in this tournament again and I'm able to continue to be as dominant as I was."

Also winning were future Golden Gopher Troy Spratley (57 kg), Maryland freshman Jaxon Smith, future Hawkeye Ben Kueter, and future Buckeyes Nic Bouzakis and Nicholas Feldman.

The winners earn byes to the finals at the U20 and U23 World Team Trials in Geneva, Ohio, June 3-5. The winners there will represent the U.S. at the U20 World Championships Aug. 15-21 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Spratley also had an impressive tournament, highlighted by a first-round win (12-2) over Penn State's Robert Howard, a three-time Cadet World Team member. For his part, Howard went on to win eight straight matches to finish third. Spratley, meanwhile, gave up just four points in the tournament, winning the final, 9-0, over Ohio State's Andre Gonzales.

Smith also faced off against a fellow Big Ten wrestler in the finals, beating Nebraska freshman Silas Allred, 12-1, for the title. Smith went 10-0, 11-0 and 11-1 to reach the finals. Kueter, who plans to both wrestle and play football for the Hawkeyes, had two 10-0 wins to make the finals, where he beat future Tarheel Noah Pettigrew, 4-3.

Feldman also dominated his way through the tournament, going 12-0, 10-0 and 10-0 until the semifinals, where he earned a 2-1 win over Juan Mora. He found his offense again in the finals, rolling to a 10-0 technical superiority in just under a minute.

Bouzakis put together five wins to reach the finals at 61 kg, where he met promising Bucknell freshman Dylan Chappell, a three-time PIAA runner-up who went 20-6 his freshman season. The match didn't last long, as Bouzakis ended the match, 12-2, in 2:07.

Incoming Rutgers freshman Brian Soldano had a strong third-place performance, beating a pair of Big Ten opponents in Penn State's Lucas Cochran and Michigan's Jaden Bullock.

Another future Buckeye, Jesse Mendez, who's joining the roster this fall, took on the senior
U.S. Open freestyle bracket, going 6-1 to place third. He went 1-2 at the Senior-level World Team Trials.

Current Big Ten wrestlers also get in plenty of work this spring

While future and former stars may have dominated the headlines this spring, current Big Ten wrestlers - in addition to Amos and Koontz - were also in the mix.

Fresh off his second NCAA title, Penn State sophomore Carter Starocci finished third at the Senior World Team Trials and will wrestle former Nittany Lion Vincenzo Joseph for true third and National Team status on June 8.

Starocci's loss came to former Lock Haven wrestler Chance Marsteller, who went on to win the bracket and will face Jordan Burroughs at Final X. Starocci was up by one with 30 seconds to go, but a late takedown gave Marsteller the 5-4 victory. Starocci went on to win three straight, over Brayden Thompson, Alex Dieringer and David McFadden.

Rising Purdue sophomore Matt Ramos also competed at the World Team Trials on the Senior level, placing fourth at 57 kg. He went 2-2, with losses to Jakob Camacho (11-7) and Zane Richards (6-5). Ramos had won the U.S. Open at 57 kg a few weeks earlier in order to secure the No. 1 seed at the Senior World Team Trials Challenge Tournament.

"It's an amazing tournament," Ramos told reporters after his U.S. Open win in April. "Thanks to Purdue wrestling, they helped me - with my partners and my coaches - achieve this goal and we're going to do a lot more in the future."

While he fell short of making the Senior World Team, Ramos plans to compete at the U20 & U23 World Team Trials.

Michigan State sophomore Peyton Omania placed third at 67 kg in Greco-Roman, while redshirt senior Cameron Caffey was fourth at 92 kg in freestyle. Ohio State's Sammy Sasso also had a fourth-place finish, at 70 kg in men's freestyle.

Ohio State's Tate Orndorff made the Greco-Roman National Team by placing third at 130 kg. While Orndorff's Buckeye teammate Nicholas Boykin came up short of joining him on the Greco-Roman National Team, placing fourth at 97 kg, his spring hasn't been without some hardware. The rising junior won the 97 kg Greco-Roman title at the Bill Farrell Memorial International Open at the beginning of April and earned bronze at the Pan American Championships.

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ban basketball (1) about 3 weeks ago
Can the picture capture Gilburg's only go-to any better than the continuous punches to the side of the head. Absolute 121 pound punk.