UPDATE: Burroughs, Cox, Retherford win three-match battles during exciting finals at U.S. World Team Trials

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | June 11, 2017, 12:15 a.m. (ET)
Jordan Burroughs celebrates after beating Kyle Dake in their third match to win at 74 kg at the 2017 U.S. Freestyle World Team Trials. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

LINCOLN, Neb. – Three of the eight Championship Series at the 2017 U.S. Freestyle World Team Trials went the full three matches, making for some amazing drama on the raised center mat in the Bob Devaney Center on Saturday night.

They saved the best match for last, as 2012 Olympic champion and three-time World champion Jordan Burroughs (Lincoln, Neb./Sunkist Kids/Nebraska WTC) battled in the third match of his 74 kg/163 lbs. against rival Kyle Dake (Ithaca, N.Y./Titan Mercury WC/Finger Lakes WC) in front of a hometown crowd of Nebraska Cornhusker fans.

The first match went to Dake, 6-3, Burroughs’ first loss on U.S. soil in Senior-level freestyle going back to 2011. But Burroughs battled back to win the second match, 8-4. It all came down to bout three.

Right off the bat, Burroughs scored a takedown followed by a gut wrench turn to take a 4-0 lead. There was pandemonium in the arena. In the second period, Dake tried to push the action but Burroughs was up to the task. On a scramble on the edge, Burroughs got another points on a stepout. When a Dake challenge was denied, the lead was 6-0. Dake forced two late stepouts but it was not enough, and Burroughs had one of the most joyous celebrations in his career.

“I’m just tough. I’m tough, man. I sacrifice too much. I work too hard. I spend too much time away from my family to be beat. After leaving Rio de Janeiro with no medal, I promised myself I’d never let man make me feel like that again. I’m here as a champ, and I’m going to Paris, baby,” he told the crowd in his post-match interview with Shane Sparks.

In bout one, Dake scored a takedown, then used a big four-point counter throw to lead 6-1 in the first period. A Burroughs takedown late in the opening period closed it to 6-3. Burroughs forced three stepouts, with the last coming with seconds left to tie it at 6-6. Dake won on criteria, with the highest scoring move. It was Burrough’s first loss on U.S. soil during his career, which began in 2011.

Bout two was determined in the second period. Dake led 3-0 in the first period with a takedown and a stepout. But Burroughs got his offense going, getting a point on a shot clock, then four big points on a takedown and an exposure for a 5-3 lead. Dake scored what was called a takedown with 23 seconds left, but Burroughs challenged. Officials gave Dake a pushout instead, making it 5-4 for Burroughs, who blocked a crotch lift and won the match 8-4.

Burroughs has now made seven straight World and Olympic teams for the United States, and has earned a chance to attempt to win his fifth career World medal.

“I’m excited about it. We have an amazing young team. I don’t even want to be the leader anymore. It’s Kyle Snyder’s time. He’s done a ton for this program, and it’s time for him to take the reigns as a champion and as the face of USA Wrestling. I’m just going to come on board, and I’ll be happy,” he said.

In another instant classic, after also losing the first match of the series, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox (Columbia, Mo./Titan Mercury WC/Missouri WF) came back to win the last two matches to defeat 2017 U.S. Open champion David Taylor (State College, Pa./Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC) at 86 kg/189 lbs.

What made Cox’s win so compelling was how he injured his leg badly early in the third match, and was able to overcome the pain and still find a way to beat Taylor in the rubber match, 6-2. Cox had a strong first period, with a pushout and a takedown to lead 3-0 at the break.

Right off the whistle in period two, Taylor shot in on Cox and drove him out of bounds, and Cox went down in great pain. After assistance from coaches and the trainer, Cox went to the center to continue, leading 3-2. When Cox went out of bounds, the score was tied 3-3. Somehow, with Taylor pressing the action, the lame Cox forced a stepout to take a 4-3 lead. And then Taylor went out of bounds again on a scramble, and Cox led 5-3. In great pain, he countered Taylor’s final attacks and won the match. He was carried off the mat by coaches, and even chose to do his interviews with the press.

“It just hurt really bad, and I was waiting to see how it was. They said it was up to me. I wanted this. This was something I shot for. This is my goal. It’s either give up your dream or go fight for what you want. That was the choice,” said Cox.

Taylor had the edge in bout one, looking strong in the second period on the way to a 9-3 win. Taylor led 2-1 after the first period, powered by a takedown. In the second, Taylor opened it up with a four-point takedown, plus an additional point on a failed protest. A late Cox takedown did not help close the big gap.

In bout two, the first period ended 2-2, and it was Cox who scored a second period takedown and went on to tie the series with a 4-3 win.

Taylor was Cox’s workout partner at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and the wrestlers have great respect for each other.

“We’re going to thrive and make each other better. He’s a great competitor, a tough competitor. He really forced me to make some adjustments. He definitely pushed me, and that’s more of a reason for him to be a partner of mine for Worlds. I just look to thrive and get better,” Cox said about Taylor.

Making his first Senior World Team in a memorable battle, two-time Penn State NCAA champion Zain Retherford (Benton, Pa./Nittany Lion WC) beat his former workout partner and coach 2016 Olympian and 2017 U.S. Open champion Frank Molinaro (Blacksburg, Va./Titan Mercury WC) in three matches at 65 kg/143 lbs.

In deciding match three, Molinaro scored first on a counter takedown to lead 2-0. There was a key exchange later in the first period, when Retherford scored a takedown, and then received two points and a caution against Molinaro for fleeing the hold to lead 4-2. In the second period, Retherford forced a stepout to lead 5-2, and another exchange where each scored two points made it 7-4. The student beat his former teacher in a fierce battle.

“We learned a lot from each other, but this past year we didn’t really wrestle each other that much because I think we both knew this would happen eventually. I’ve just come up short so many times and in the finals, too. That first match I won [against Frank] was the first match I’ve won in a finals. It’s a great feeling,” said Retherford.

Molinaro survived a war in bout one, beating Retherford 7-6 with a takedown on the edge with seven seconds left. Molinaro scored two first period takedowns and led 4-1 at the break. Retherford quickly came back early in the second period with a takedown and a pushout to tie it at 4-4. Retherford scored another takedown with 43 seconds left to lead 6-4, setting up Molinaro’s last second score to tie it at 6-6 with criteria. Retherford’s challenge was denied, giving Molinaro the final point in the 7-6 win.

The second match was close early on, as Retherford led 1-0 at the break after Molinaro could not score on the shot clock. In the second period, Retherford scored two takedowns and a pushout and won by a 6-0 margin.

“I took a step back. Even during this season, I was putting too much pressure on myself. I had to make some small adjustments and be free. I just had to focus on what’s important to me and that’s just having fun wrestling. It’s fun to win, but at the end of the day, I want my heart to show,” said Retherford.

Champions at the World Team Trials have earned a spot on the 2017 U.S. Senior World Team, which will compete in Paris, France, August 21-26.

2016 Olympic champion and 2015 World champion Kyle Snyder (Columbus, Ohio/Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) beat a rival from college, 2015 NCAA champion Kyven Gadson (Ames, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) in two straight matches, both by technical falls at 97 kg/213 lbs.

Snyder controlled the action in a 10-0 first period technical fall in bout one over Gadson. He scored a stepout, then a takedown and gutwrench to lead 5-0. Add in another stepout and two more takedowns and Snyder finished it at the 2:38 mark. In bout two, Snyder opened it up again, although Gadson was able to score this time, and it ended

2016 World champion Logan Stieber (Columbus, Ohio/Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) survived a sluggish first match, beating 2017 U.S. Open champion Kendric Maple (W. Lafayette, Ind./Titan Mercury WC) in two straight matches.

In the first match, Stieber scored a spin behind takedown with six seconds left to win 8-7. It was the only time in the entire match that Stieber led. Maple scored three straight takedowns to lead 6-0 early in the bout, but two Stieber takedowns late in the first period had it 6-4 at the break. Maple responded with another takedown for an 8-4 lead. Stieber clawed back with a low single takedown and a pushout to close it to 8-7, setting up Stieber’s dramatic winning takedown at the end.

Bout two was all Stieber, who scored two takedowns and two gut wrenches to lead 8-0 at the break. A second period takedown made it a 10-0 technical fall for Stieber. He will attend his second straight World Championships, looking to defend his World title.

The Nebraska fans were able to celebrate another local champion, as 2015 World bronze medalist James Green (Lincoln, Neb./Titan Mercury WC/Nebraska WTC) made his third straight World Team in a two-match sweep over 2014 World Team member Jimmy Kennedy (Ann Arbor, Mich./New York AC/Cliff Keen WC) at 70 kg/154 lbs. Green won the first match, 6-0 and closed it out with an 8-5 win in bout two.

In his post-match interview with Shane Sparks in the arena, Green twice yelled out “Go Big Red”, with the crowd roaring back “Go Big Red” in response.

Two other champions made their first Senior World Teams, Thomas Gilman (Iowa City, Iowa/Hawkeye WC) at 57 kg/125.5 lbs. and Nick Gwiazdowski (Raleigh, N.C./Titan Mercury WC/Wolfpack WC) at 125 kg/275 lbs.

Gilman made the most memorable run to make the team, with a No. 8 seed in Saturday morning’s Challenge Tournament. After winning four times in the morning, Gilman drew his former teammate and workout partner at the University of Iowa in the Championship Series, two-time World Team member Tony Ramos (Chapel Hill, N.C./Sunkist Kids) in the finals.

Gilman won a tight 4-3 decision in match one. Each athlete forced a stepout, to knot the score at 1-1. Gilman had a takedown, then quickly also forced Ramos out of bounds for a 4-1 lead. Ramos responded with a leg attack takedown to close it to 4-3, but could not score at the end. The second match ended up being an even stronger Gilman effort, coming out with a 7-2 victory and the sweep. Gilman broke a 2-2 tie in the second period with a takedown and two pushouts, plus a point from a failed challenge. Gilman was a 2014 Junior World bronze medalist in freestyle.

2017 U.S. Open champion and two-time NCAA champion Nick Gwiazdowski (Raleigh, N.C./Titan Mercury WC/Wolfpack WC) defeated Challenge Tournament winner and past Junior World champion Dom Bradley (Ames, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) in two straight matches at 125 kg/275 lbs.

Gwiazdowski won the first match 5-1. He scored a first period pushout, then added a takedown and gutwrench in the second period to lead 5-0. Bradley forced Gwiazdowski out of bounds late in the bout for his only point.

In the second bout, the bout was tied 1-1 going into the final 20 seconds of the second period. Bradley got a pushout to lead 2-1 with 14 seconds left, but Gwiazdowski powered back to get a pushout of his own with just three seconds left, to make it 2-2 with criteria. Bradley challenged, but it was denied, with the bout going to Gwiazdowski, 3-2.

This team will be led by two Olympic champions (Snyder, Burroughs), an Olympic bronze medalist (Cox), three past World champions (Burroughs, Snyder, Stieber) and a World bronze medalist (Green). The other three athletes are on their first World Team (Gilman, Retherford, Gwiazdowski).

U.S. FREESTYLE WORLD TEAM TRIALS
At Lincoln, Neb., June 10

Championship Series Best-of-Three Finals


57 kg/125.5 lbs. –Thomas Gilman, Iowa City, Iowa (Hawkeye WC) dec. Tony Ramos, Chapel Hill, N.C. (Sunkist Kids WC/Tarheel RTC), two matches to none
Bout One – Gilman dec. Ramos, 4-3
Bout Two – Gilman dec. Ramos, 7-2

61 kg/134 lbs. – Logan Stieber, Columbus, Ohio (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) dec. Kendric Maple, West Lafayette, Ind. (Titan Mercury WC/Boilermaker RTC), two matches to none
Bout One - Stieber dec. Maple, 9-8
Bout Two – Stieber tech. fall Maple, 10-0

65 kg/143 lbs.– Zain Retherford, Benton, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC) dec. Frank Molinaro, Blacksburg, Va. (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC), two matches to one
Bout One – Molinaro dec. Retherford, 7-6
Bout Two – Retherford dec. Molinaro, 6-0
Bout Three - Retherford dec. Molinaro, 7-4

70 kg/154 lbs.– James Green, Lincoln, Neb. (Titan Mercury WC/Nebraska WTC) dec. Jimmy Kennedy, Ann Arbor, Mich. (New York AC/Cliff Keen WC), two matches to none
Bout One – Green dec. Kennedy, 6-0
Bout Two – Green dec. Kennedy, 8-5

74 kg/163 lbs.– Jordan Burroughs, Lincoln, Neb. (Sunkist Kids/Nebraska WTC) dec. Kyle Dake, Ithaca, N.Y. (Titan Mercury WC/Finger Lakes RTC), two bouts to one
Bout One – Dake dec. Burroughs, 6-6
Bout Two – Burroughs dec. Dake, 8-4
Bout Three – Burroughs dec. Dake, 5-3

86 kg/189 lbs. – J’den Cox, Columbia, Mo. (Titan Mercury WC/Missouri WF) dec. David Taylor, State College, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC), two bouts to one
Bout One – Taylor dec. Cox, 9-3
Bout Two – Cox dec. Taylor, 4-3
Bout Three – Cox dec. Taylor, 6-2

97 kg/213 lbs.– Kyle Snyder, Woodbine, Md. (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) dec. Kyven Gadson, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids), two matches to none
Bout One – Snyder tech. fall Gadson, 10-0, 2:38
Bout Two – Snyder tech. fall Gadson, 13-2

125 kg/275 lbs.– Nick Gwiazdowski, Raleigh, N.C. (Titan Mercury WC/Wolfpack RTC) dec. Dom Bradley, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids), two matches to none
Bout One – Gwiazdowski dec. Bradley, 5-0
Bout Two – Gwiazdowski dec. Bradley, 3-1

Challenge Tournament results

57 kg/125.5 lbs.
1st – Thomas Gilman, Iowa City, Iowa (Hawkeye WC) dec. Nathan Tomasello, Parma, Ohio (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC), 6-2
3rd - Tyler Graff, New Brunswick, N.J. (Titan Mercury WC) tech. fall Frank Perrelli, Charlottesville, Va. (Titan Mercury WC/Cavalier RTC), 10-0 2:31

61 kg/134 lbs.
1st - Kendric Maple, West Lafayette, Ind. (Titan Mercury WC/Boilermaker RTC) dec. Brandon Wright, Indianapolis, Ind. (RNO/IPWA), 10-4
3rd - Cody Brewer, Evanston, Ill. (Titan Mercury WC/Chicago RTC) pin Chris Dardanes, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC), 0:39

65 kg/143 lbs.
1st - Zain Retherford, Benton, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC) tech. fall B.J. Futrell, Philadelphia, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC/Pennsylvania RTC), 10-0, 3:50
3rd. - Nick Dardanes, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) dec. Evan Henderson, Chapel Hill, N.C. (Titan Mercury WC), 4-3

70 kg/154 lbs.
1st- Jimmy Kennedy, Ann Arbor, Mich. (New York AC/Cliff Keen WC) dec. Nazar Kulchytskyy, Madison, Wis. (Titan Mercury WC), 7-0
3rd - Jason Nolf, Yatesboro, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC) dec. Chase Pami, Philadelphia, Pa. (Sunkist Kids/Pennsylvania RTC), 8-0

74 kg/163 lbs.
1st - Kyle Dake, Ithaca, N.Y. (Titan Mercury WC/Finger Lakes RTC) dec. Alex Dieringer, Stillwater, Okla. (Titan Mercury WC), 2-1
3rd - Isaiah Martinez, Leemore, Calif. (Illinois RTC) dec. Chance Marsteller, New Park, Pa. (Dark Knights), 9-6

86 kg/189 lbs.
1st- David Taylor, State College, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC) dec. Nick Heflin, Bordentown, N.J. (Princeton WC), 13-9
3rd - Richard Perry, Philadelphia, Pa. (New York AC/Pennsylvania RTC) pin Austin Trotman (TMWC), 4:59

97 kg/213 lbs.
1st- Kyven Gadson, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids) tech. fall Micah Burak, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Titan Mercury WC/OTC), 10-0, 3:53
3rd - Hayden Zillmer, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Nathan Burak, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC), 3-3

125 kg/275 lbs.
1st- Dom Bradley, Ames, Iowa (Sunkist Kids) dec. Tony Nelson, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm), 8-1
3rd - Bobby Telford, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) dec. Nathan Butler, Leavenworth, Kan. (Stanford-California RTC), 7-0

True Third Place for National Team

57 kg/125.5 lbs. - Nathan Tomasello, Parma, Ohio (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) dec. Tyler Graff, New Brunswick, N.J. (Titan Mercury WC), 8-2
61 kg/134 lbs. - Brandon Wright, Indianapolis, Ind. (RNO/IPWA) tech. fall Cody Brewer, Evanston, Ill. (Titan Mercury WC/Chicago RTC), 14-4 2:21
65 kg/145.5 lbs. - B.J. Futrell, Philadelphia, Pa. (Titan Mercury WC/Pennsylvania RTC) dec. Nick Dardanes, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC), 8-2
74 kg/163 lbs. - Alex Dieringer, Stillwater, Okla. (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Isaiah Martinez, Leemore, Calif. (Illinois RTC), 4-2
97 kg/213 lbs. - Hayden Zillmer, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Micah Burak, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Titan Mercury WC/OTC), 2-1
125 kg/275 lbs. - Tony Nelson, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Bobby Telford, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC), 4-1