(L-R) Jordan Burroughs competes against Chance Marsteller in the men’s freestyle 79 kg. match at the Beat the Streets Final X on June 8, 2022 in New York City.
NEW YORK — Some of the biggest names in American wrestling lived up to the billing at the second installment of the Final X on Wednesday. Five days after 15 grapplers secured spots at the fall’s world championships at the first Final X in Oklahoma, 14 more joined them following an action-packed night of wrestling in New York City.
Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater played host to best-of-three showdowns in the three Olympic disciplines: men’s and women’s freestyle, and Greco-Roman. The favorites prevailed 2-0 in 13 of the match-ups, with just three of the wrestle-offs extending to three bouts.
The U.S. roster for the world championships taking place Sept. 10-18 in Belgrade, Serbia, still has one spot to fill, but already the powerhouse team includes seven of the nine Americans who won Olympic medals in Tokyo.
Jordan Burroughs provided much of the excitement in New York. Wrestling at 79 kg., the five-time world and 2012 Olympic champion won a tough first bout 4-0 against Chance Marsteller. Marstetler grinded out a 2-2 win on criteria in the highly physical second bout, which left both athletes bloodied and wearing head bandages.
Burroughs used strategy and experience to win the third bout 5-0. Forcing Marstetler into two step-outs and a two-point takedown on Marstetler helped the Sicklerville, New Jersey, native qualify for his 11th Olympic or world championships team.
“One of the things you realize when you first start this journey is, you are naïve to the challenges you will face,” Burroughs, 33, said, reflecting on his failure to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“I rattled off 69 straight victories, three straight world championships, I never realized there would be a low period, there would be years where I didn’t make a team,” he added. “You start to readjust your goals, your values and your perspective; you start to gain the realization this is a very difficult journey. … At this point in my career, I have a new zeal to go into the wrestling room and perform. I have a great team, I have a great family and all those things are motivating for me.”
The event’s big upset came when Minnesota native Hayden Zillmer, 29, defeated two-time world medalist Nick Gwiazdowski in the freestyle 125 kg. event, winning the tiebreaking third bout 5-5 on criteria with a flurry of offense in the last minute.
Other match-ups went more to form. Reigning Olympic champion David Taylor (freestyle 86 kg.) lived up to his “Magic Man” nickname as he defeated Zahid Valencia 10-0 in their second bout, which included two spectacular four-point takedowns.
At age 31, the St. Paris, Ohio, native shows no signs of slowing down and is a strong bet for a second world title in Serbia. He also wants another trip to the Games.
“(After winning gold), you take some time off, and you feel, what is next?” Taylor said. “I realized I really love wrestling, and (I thought), ‘Let’s do that again in Paris 2024.’ It’s an addictive feeling, to have your hand raised, and you get hungry for more.”
Two-time Olympic medalist Helen Maroulis looked untouchable in her 57 kg. match-up against two-time California State champion Alexandra Hedrick, winning both bouts 10-0.