USA Wrestling Escalera becomes fir...

Escalera becomes first Kentucky finalist, returning champs Amos, Ragusin cruise in topsy-turvy Cadet semis

By Richard Immel, USA Wrestling | July 16, 2017, 5:29 p.m. (ET)

Photo: 106-pound finalist Zeke Escalera (Kentucky) fends off a shot from Cullan Schriever (Iowa) in the Cadet Nationals freestyle semifinals. Photo by John Sachs,

Video: Cadet Freestyle Nationals Interviews

FARGO, N.D. – The field has been whittled down to 34 contenders still in the hunt for a freestyle title at the 2017 U.S. Marines Corps Cadet Nationals.

For the first time in tournament history, Kentucky will see a finalist grace the raised platform inside the Fargodome for Cadet freestyle. 106-pounder Zeke Escalera downed defending champion Cullan Schriever of Iowa in Sunday’s semifinals, 9-7, to make Kentucky history. He will battle Matthew Ramos, one of six finalists for Illinois, in the championship bout.

A leader of the Illinois finalist brigade, Dylan Ragusin secured a place in the 106-pound finals with an 18-8 technical fall over Richard Figueroa II of California in tonight’s semifinals. His finals foe is 2016 Cadet World Team member Andrew Chambal of Michigan.

“Fargo is such a tough tournament, such a tough competition, that there’s really no such thing as an easy match. You can’t take a match off because that’s when big names go down…very few people can come out on top and win a Fargo title, so I’m just excited for tomorrow, and excited to be in the finals again,” Ragusin said.

Ragusin was the Cadet Greco-Roman champion in Fargo last summer, and finished in third place during freestyle. He will represent the U.S. at the Cadet World Championships in Greco-Roman in September.

Making a repeat appearance in the Cadet Nationals finals is West Virginia standout Braxton Amos, who won both styles at this event last year. Amos defeated Jacob Kaminski of Illinois, 10-0, in the 220-pound semifinals. The final hurdle for Amos will be another Illinois foe, Luke Luffman.

“I’m just going out there and trying to have fun,” Amos said. “I’ve been out of the sport for 10 months, 12 months. It’s my first tournament back, trying to have fun. I mean, whatever happens, happens, I guess.”

Six athletes who picked up Folkstyle Nationals titles in March have positioned themselves one win away from topping the second leg of the USA Wrestling Triple Crown. These wrestlers include Chance Lamer of Oregon at 88 pounds, Noah Surtin of Illinois at 113 pounds, Alex Facundo of Michigan at 145 pounds, Michael Weber of Montana at 145 pounds, Aaron Gandara of Arizona at 152 pounds and Ashton Sharp of Missouri at 195 pounds.

Sharp, a Cadet World Team member in Greco-Roman, is one of three finalists from Missouri. Joshua Saunders at 126 pounds and Devin Winston at 182 pounds will also represent The Show-Me State on the grand stage.

South Dakota heavyweight Nash Hutmacher will seek to join 1990 champion Lincoln McIlravy as the state’s only champions in Cadet freestyle. He will take on Ohio’s Louden Haga in the 285-pound finals.

Similarly, the state of Montana boasts only one Cadet freestyle champion in history, Eric Dunmire in 1993, but has a chance to add to its tally with Weber making the finals. The Montana native will challenge fellow triple crown hopeful Facundo for the top spot at 145 pounds.

Illinois’ dominance of six finalists and a looming team title has been well documented. Joining Ramos, Ragusin, Luffman and Surtin as Illinois finalists are Abe Assad at 170 pounds and Fidel Mayora at 138 pounds. The most champions one state has garnered in a single year is five, a record Illinois can break tomorrow.

Double Cadet Pan American champion Carson Manville and Ryan Sokol gave Minnesota two finalists. Manville will battle Aidan Medora of Wisconsin in the 132-pound finals, while Sokol stands opposite Dominick Serrano of Colorado at 120 pounds.

Georgia placed two wrestlers in the Cadet freestyle finals for the first time in state history with Nick Masters qualifying at 113 pounds and David Key doing the same at 160 pounds. Masters will face Illinois’ Surtin, and Key will go up against New Jersey’s Robert Kanniard.

Other athletes qualifying for the Cadet freestyle finals are Drake Ayala of Iowa at 88 pounds, Jett Strickenberger of Colorado at 94 pounds, Carter Young of Oklahoma at 94 pounds, Ryan Franco of California at 126 pounds, Kevon Davenport of Michigan at 138 pounds, Carter Starocci of Pennsylvania at 152 pounds, Albert Ferrari of Texas at 170 pounds, Jacob Logan of New York at 182 pounds and Matthew Cover of Ohio at 195 pounds.

All told, 21 different states will be represented in tomorrow’s finals set for 1:30 p.m. (CT). Every match from Fargo will be live streamed on Complete brackets can be found on Flowrestling’s FloArena platform.

At Fargo, N.D.

Finals Matchups
88 lbs. – Chance Lamer (Oregon) vs. Drake Ayala (Iowa)
94 lbs. – Jett Strickenberger (Colorado) vs. Carter Young (Oklahoma)
100 lbs. – Andrew Chambal (Michigan) vs. Dylan Ragusin (Illinois)
106 lbs. – Zeke Escalera (Kentucky) vs. Matthew Ramos (Illinois)
113 lbs. – Nick Masters (Georgia) vs. Noah Surtin (Illinois)
120 lbs. – Ryan Sokol (Minnesota) vs. Dominick Serrano (Colorado)
126 lbs. – Joshua Saunders (Missouri) vs. Ryan Franco (California)
132 lbs. – Carson Manville (Minnesota) vs. Aidan Medora (Wisconsin)
138 lbs. – Kevon Davenport (Michigan) vs. Fidel Mayora (Illinois)
145 lbs. – Alex Facundo (Michigan) vs. Michael Weber (Montana)
152 lbs. – Aaron Gandara (Arizona) vs. Carter Starocci (Pennsylvania)
160 lbs. – David Key (Georgia) vs. Robert Kanniard (New Jersey)
170 lbs. – Albert Ferrari (Texas) vs. Abe Assad (Illinois)
182 lbs. – Devin Winston (Missouri) vs. Jacob Logan (New York)
195 lbs. – Matthew Cover (Ohio) vs. Ashton Sharp (Missouri)
220 lbs. – Braxton Amos (West Virginia) vs. Luke Luffman (Illinois)
285 lbs. – Nash Hutmacher (South Dakota) vs. Louden Haga (Ohio)

Semifinal Results
88 pounds
Chance Lamer (Oregon) tech. fall Brandon O`Brien (Iowa), 12-0
Drake Ayala (Iowa) tech. fall Tommy Curran (Illinois), 10-0

94 pounds
Jett Strickenberger (Colorado) dec.. Cooper Flynn (Tennessee) , 8-6
Carter Young (Oklahoma) tech. fall Jordan Titus (New York), 17-7

100 pounds
Andrew Chambal (Michigan) dec. Paxton Creese (Minnesota), 4-3
Dylan Ragusin (Illinois) tech. fall Richard Figueroa II (California), 18-8

106 pounds
Zeke Escalera (Kentucky)  dec. Cullan Schriever (Iowa), 9-7
Matthew Ramos (Illinois) fall Aizayah Yacapin (Washington), 2:36

113 pounds
Nick Masters (Georgia) dec. Joshua Ogunsanya (Illinois), 7-5
Noah Surtin (Illinois) tech. fall Dylan Shawver (Ohio), 14-4

120 pounds
Ryan Sokol (Minnesota) tech. fall Trevor Mastrogiovanni (New Jersey), 20-7
Dominick Serrano (Colorado) dec. Michael Burnett (Ohio), 6-4

126 pounds 
Joshua Saunders (Missouri) tech. fall Gabriel Hixenbaugh (Alabama), 10-0
Ryan Franco (California) tech. fall Gus Sutton (Ohio), 10-0

132 pounds
Carson Manville (Minnesota) tech. fall Alexander Mosconi (Indiana), 16-3
Aidan Medora (Wisconsin) tech. fall Frankie Tal-Shahar (Florida), 12-1

138 pounds
Kevon Davenport (Michigan) dec. Padraic Gallagher (Ohio), 3-0
Fidel Mayora (Illinois) dec. Cade Devos (Iowa), 10-1

145 pounds
Alex Facundo (Michigan) dec. Jace Luchau (California), 8-4
Michael Weber (Montana) dec. Drew Eller (Georgia) , 11-3

152 pounds
Aaron Gandara (Arizona) dec. Nevan Snodgrass (Ohio), 7-6
Carter Starocci (Pennsylvania) dec. Joshua Otto (Wisconsin), 8-2

160 pounds
David Key (Georgia) dec. David Ferrante (Illinois), 9-8
Robert Kanniard (New Jersey) tech. fall Clayton Fielden (Indiana), 16-6

170 pounds
Albert Ferrari (Texas) dec. Gerrit Nijenhuis (Pennsylvania), 8-3
Abe Assad (Illinois) tech. fall Talon Borror (Oklahoma), 12-1

182 pounds
Devin Winston (Missouri) tech. fall Grant Parrish (Minnesota), 10-0
Jacob Logan (New York) dec. Jonathon Fagen (Idaho), 8-0

195 pounds
Matthew Cover (Ohio) dec. Santos Cantu (Oregon), 4-2
Ashton Sharp (Missouri) tech. fall Peter Christensen (Illinois), 17-7

220 pounds
Braxton Amos (West Virginia) tech. fall Jacob Kaminski (Illinois), 10-0
Luke Luffman (Illinois) dec. Victor Jaquez Jr. (California), 10-8

285 pounds
Nash Hutmacher (South Dakota) tech. fall Eli Pokorney (Indiana), 11-0
Louden Haga (Ohio) dec. Chase Dockter (North Dakota), 11-2