Jordan Burroughs at Final X NYC in 2022 (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Last weekend, the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament was held and determined the last 17 wrestlers to qualify for Final X. Established in 2018, Final X has become a hallmark of the domestic international season. As its name suggests, Final X is the last step in qualification for our Senior world team members.
Each edition of Final X has a bit of a different twist. The initial Final X did not include Greco-Roman and took place on the campus of three different schools, in three consecutive weeks. 2019 added Greco and cut down on sites to two. After Covid and the Olympic Trials interrupted 2021, the event returned last year. For the first time, Final X was held at two different venues, but in the same week. It also ventured off-campus for the first time, going to Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater, a few days after Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena.
There are a few new wrinkles to Final X 2023. For the first time, Final X will take place at one site on one day. There will be three mats; one for each style. In addition, Newark's Prudential Center is the first full-sized arena to host the event. Last year's Hulu Theater has a capacity of between 2-5k based on the event. The Prudential Center has room for 16,000 fans in its hockey configuration. Hopefully, its proximity to a handful of great wrestling states will result in a large amount of those seats being filled.
Since we know who's wrestling in Final X, it's a good time to look back at some of the trends that have emerged from the first three iterations of the event, along with some new ones that we can find based on the 60 participants for 2023.
These are the only wrestlers to appear in every edition of Final X. This will be the fourth incarnation of Final X for men's and women's freestyle, while only the third for Greco-Roman.
Men's Freestyle: Thomas Gilman, Kyle Dake, Jordan Burroughs, J'den Cox, Kyle Snyder, Nick Gwiazdowski
Women's Freestyle: Sarah Hildebrandt, Jacarra Winchester, Kayla Miracle, Mallory Velte, Forrest Molinari
Greco-Roman: Brady Koontz, Ildar Hafizov, Pat Smith, Kamal Bey, Cohlton Schultz
Kyle Dake, Jordan Burroughs, Sarah Hildebrandt, and Jacarra Winchester all have the opportunity to win their fourth Final X series in 2023. J'den Cox and Kyle Snyder do as well; however, they'll square off against each other at 97 kg.
J'den Cox, Sarah Hildebrandt, Jacarra Winchester, and Forrest Molinari will all be wrestling a fourth different opponent in four different Final X's.
Conversely, Jordan Burroughs has only had two opponents (Chance Marsteller and Isaiah Martinez) during four Final X appearances.
There have been 18 Final X Series' that went three matches. 9 of those came in 2022.
Nine of the three-match series have seen the winner lose the first bout.
For the third consecutive Final X, Ildar Hafizov will wrestle an Army WCAP teammate. He'll wrestle Dalton Roberts for a second consecutive year after wrestling Leslie Fuenffinger in 2019.
Aside from yet another chapter in the Hafizov/Roberts dynasty, the only other Greco series that is a rematch from a past year is at 130 kg with Cohlton Schultz and Adam Coon. The two met back in 2019 and Coon won in two straight matches.
Nick Lee and Aaron Brooks will be the fifth and sixth Penn State alums who have qualified for Final X since its inception joining, Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, David Taylor, and Bo Nickal.
Final X Newark will feature four Penn State alums and four Cornell alums. There will be an all-Cornell match at 61 kg MFS (Vito Arujau and Nahshon Garrett) and an all-Penn State match at 86 kg MFS (David Taylor and Aaron Brooks).
That has happened twice with Ohio State grads as Kyle Snyder and Kollin Moore wrestled at 97 kg last year and Logan Stieber and Joey McKenna battled at 65 kg in 2018.
Eight of the 20 men's freestyle contestants in Final X train out of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club. Two will be going head-to-head with Taylor/Brooks and Kyle Dake versus Jason Nolf. On the women's freestyle side, Jennifer Page also trains out of the NLWC.
Nahshon Garrett will have an opportunity to make and wrestle in his first World Championship event in this edition of Final X, despite winning in his only previous appearance. Garrett defeated Joe Colon in 2018, but had to pull out of the World Championship process due to injury. Colon replaced him and came away with a bronze medal. Prior to the 2022 World Championships, he was the only wrestler to win a Final X series, yet not compete at world's. That changed last year as G'Angelo Hancock, Jesse Thielke, and Ben Provisor all did not wrestle at world's after winning Final X.
Most of the men's freestyle participants were extremely highly ranked recruits coming out of high school. The biggest disparity between recruiting rankings in this year's matchups comes at 92 kg. Zahid Valencia was considered the top recruit in the high school Class of 2015, while his opponent Mike Macchiavello was largely unknown coming to NC State as a walk-on.
Jordan Burroughs, Kayla Miracle, Mallory Velte, and Forrest Molinari are all tied for the most individual Final X matches since the format was introduced. Each has wrestled in eight matches during their previous three appearances.
The meeting between J'den Cox and Kyle Snyder at 97 kg in men's freestyle is the only match between past Senior world medalists among all three styles.
Zahid Valencia has now qualified for Final X at three different weights (92 kg, 86/2022, 79/2018). That hasn't been done before in men's freestyle or Greco-Roman. Jenna Burkert did it in women's freestyle (55/2022, 57/2019, 59/2018).
Nebraska alums are now 5-0 in Final X series' (Jordan Burroughs 3-0 and James Green 2-0). Could Tyler Berger carry on this trend at 70 kg in MFS?
There is at least one Army WCAP wrestler in each of the first seven Greco-Roman weights. Eight total.
Three wrestlers changed weights from the US Open to the World Team Trials and ended up qualifying for Final X. Zahid Valencia, Jennifer Page and Emma Bruntil.
Our women's freestyle matches are bookended by a pair of bouts with significant age disparities. 50 kg features high school junior Audrey Jimenez against Sarah Hildebrandt. Jimenez was a U17 world team member last year, while Hildebrandt made the Junior (U20) team in 2013. At 76 kg, Adeline Gray made her first Senior World team (2009) a few weeks after Kennedy Blades' sixth birthday.
Men's freestyle has seven first-time Final X participants. Women's freestyle has 10. Greco-Roman has 8.
Just because women's freestyle has the most first-time Final X qualifiers, doesn't mean they are inexperienced in big situations. Three of those 10 first-time participants have Cadet/Junior world titles to their name (Katie Gomez, Macey Kilty, Kennedy Blades).
Both men's heavyweight matches feature a big man that attended Michigan (Mason Parris and Adam Coon).
Additionally, both men's heavyweight matches feature competitors that are highly decorated on the age-group level. Both Parris and Gable Steveson were Junior world champions, while Coon and Schultz were Cadet world champions (Coon's was in freestyle).
California has always been a powerhouse for women's wrestling. That's evident here as seven of the ten matches feature at least one woman from California. The 53 kg contest between Dom Parrish and Katie Gomez pits a pair of California natives against each other.
The most dominant wrestler in the history of Final X? Try Sarah Hildebrandt. She is the only wrestler that has participated in all three previous Final X's and has yet to surrender a single point.
2018 vs. Haley Augello: 6-0, 8-0
2019 vs. Katherine Shai: 3-0, 8-0
2022 vs. Alyssa Lampe: 10-0, 10-0
The only wrestler with more than one fall during their Final X "career" is Adeline Gray. She pinned Korinahe Bullock in match two in 2018 and Precious Bell in their first bout in 2019.