World medalists Hall, Fix and Steveson lead U.S. freestyle team into Junior Worlds in Finland

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | July 25, 2017, 1:25 p.m. (ET)

The United States’ Junior Freestyle World Team is one filled with gold-medal hopefuls at this year’s Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland, Aug. 1-6.

Leading the way is defending Junior World champion Mark Hall (Apple Valley, Minn./Nittany Lion WC) and 2016 Junior World bronze medalist Daton Fix (Sand Springs, Okla./Titan Mercury WC).

Entering his third Junior Worlds, Hall looks to cap off his Junior-level career with another World title. He put together a spectacular tournament at the 2016 Junior World Championships in Macon, France, which ended with a 10-0 technical fall against Iran’s Ahmad Bazrighaleh in the finals. Next week, he hopes to defend his 74 kg/163 lbs. title.

In addition to his Junior World gold, Hall also boasts a Cadet World title from 2014. Overall, he has competed in three age-group Worlds, winning two World titles and finishing ninth in 2015. Hall was the 2017 NCAA champion at 174 pounds for Penn State as a true freshman.

Slated to compete at 55 kg/121 lbs., Fix has a plethora of international experience, with this being his fourth age-group World Championships and second-consecutive Junior Worlds. In 2014 and 2015, he competed for the U.S. Cadet World Team and he won his first World medal, a bronze, in 2015.

Last year, his transition from Cadet to Junior proved to be a smooth one. Although he lost his first match to eventual silver medalist Khasankhusein Badrudinov of Russia, Fix battled back, winning three matches to secure a Junior World medal.

Gable Steveson (Apple Valley, Minn./Minnesota Storm) hopes to have a similar transition as he competes in his first Junior World Championships this summer. At 17 years old, Steveson still has a year of Cadet eligibility, yet decided to take on the Junior level.

As a two-time Cadet World champion, Steveson brings more experience and success to the U.S. squad. At last year’s Cadet World Championships, he tore through the bracket, giving up only two points throughout the entire tournament. In the finals, he beat Russia’s Adam Beterbiev, 5-1.

Besides Hall and Fix, there are two other returning Junior World Team members in Zahid Valencia (Bellflower, Calif./Sunkist Kids) and Kollin Moore (Burbank, Ohio/Titan Mercury WC).

Valencia is a three-time Junior World Team member and seeks his first World medal. In his two Junior Worlds appearances, Valencia lost in the quarterfinals but went on to notch two top-10 finishes, including finishing 10th in 2015 and improving to seventh in the world in 2016. He’ll wrestle at 84 kg/185 lbs. in Finland.

Wrestling at 96 kg/211 lbs., Moore enters his second World Championships at any level. Last year at Junior Worlds, he took 12th, falling to eventual bronze medalist Znaur Kotciev of Russia in the opening round.

Moore was the only Junior World Team member that had to come through the Junior World Team Trials challenge bracket. He beat out UWW Junior Nationals champion Andrew Marsden in the best-of-three championship series in Lincoln, Neb., in early-June.

Both Valencia (Arizona State) and Moore (Ohio State) finished third in their respective weight classes at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Mo., in March.

Joining Steveson in coming up from the Cadet level is Colorado native Malik Heinselman (Castle Rock, Colo./Olympian WC), who wrestled for USA in the 2015 Cadet World Championships in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the 2016 Cadet World Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia. Heinselman takes over at the U.S. representative at 50 kg/110 lbs. The last two years, the spot was held by Spencer Lee, a two-time Junior World champion and a 2014 Cadet World champion.

At 60 kg/132 lbs., 2012 Cadet World Team member Mitchell McKee (Hanover, Minn./Minnesota Storm) will get his first shot at a Junior World Championships. Finishing second at the Junior World Team Trials in 2015 and 2016, McKee defeated Austin Gomez in three bouts in the World Team Trials finals to make the 2017 squad.

McKee, a four-time Fargo champion, was an NCAA qualifier for the University of Minnesota last season.

Ryan Deakin (Broomfield, Colo./Northwestern) will represent the United States at 66 kg/145 lbs. It will be his first World tournament. Deakin, a student at Northwestern, is the 2017 UWW Junior Freestyle national champ and won the 2016 Junior Greco-Roman national championship in Fargo, N.D.

Team USA looks to improve on its 2016 performance, which produced two gold medals and a bronze with a fifth-place team finish.

The freestyle portion of the Junior World Championships will take place Aug. 1-2 at the Tampere Exhibition and Sport Center.

Up first for the U.S. are Heinselman (50 kg), McKee (60 kg), Hall (74 kg) and Moore (96 kg) on Monday, Aug. 1, followed by Fix (55 kg), Deakin (66 kg), Valencia (86 kg) and Steveson (120 kg) on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

The preliminary rounds begin at 10 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) both days, with the medal matches beginning at 6:30 p.m. local time (11:30 a.m. ET) on Monday and 6 p.m. (11 a.m. ET) on Tuesday.

Fans can find live streams and brackets on Trackwrestling.com.

2017 UWW JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
at Tampere, Finland, Aug. 1-6

Schedule
Tuesday, Aug. 1
Freestyle – 55 kg, 66 kg, 84 kg, 120 kg
10 a.m. – Qualification rounds and repechage
6 p.m. – Opening ceremonies
6:30 p.m. – Medal matches

Wednesday, Aug. 2
Freestyle – 50 kg, 61 kg, 74 kg, 96 kg
10 a.m. – Qualification rounds and repechage
6 p.m. – Medal matches

Thursday, Aug. 3
Women’s freestyle – 44 kg, 51 kg, 59 kg, 67 kg
10 a.m. – Qualification rounds and repechage
6 p.m. – Medal matches

Friday, Aug. 4
Women’s freestyle – 48 kg, 55 kg, 63 kg, 72 kg
10 a.m. – Qualification rounds and repechage
6 p.m. – Medal matches

Saturday, Aug. 5
Greco-Roman – 50 kg, 60 kg, 74 kg, 96 kg
10 a.m. – Qualification rounds and repechage
6 p.m. – Medal matches

Sunday, Aug. 6
Freestyle – 55 kg, 66 kg, 84 kg, 120 kg
10 a.m. – Qualification rounds and repechage
6 p.m. – Medal matches

U.S. Junior Freestyle roster
50 kg/110 lbs. – Malik Heinselman, Castle Rock, Colo. (Olympian WC)
55 kg/121 lbs. – Daton Fix, Sand Springs, Okla. (Titan Mercury WC)
60 kg/132 lbs. – Mitchell McKee, Hanover, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)
66 kg/145 lbs. – Ryan Deakin, Broomfield, Colo. (Northwestern)
74 kg/163 lbs. – Mark Hall, Apple Valley, Minn. (Nittany Lion WC)
84 kg/185 lbs. – Zahid Valencia, Bellflower, Calif. (Arizona State)
96 kg/211 lbs. – Kollin Moore, Burbank, Ohio (Titan Mercury WC)
120 kg/264 lbs. – Gable Steveson, Apple Valley, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)

U.S. Freestyle National Assistant Coach: Kevin Jackson, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Coach: Zack Esposito, Stillwater, Okla.
Coach: Andrew Howe, Evanston, Ill.
Coach: Chris Pendleton, Tempe, Ariz.
Coach: Dustin Schlatter, Minneapolis, Minn.

Referee: Casey Goessl, Osceola, Wisc.
Referee: Umberto Fasolino, Cutchogue, N.Y.
Referee: Sam Julian,
Schuylkill Haven, PA

Medical: Dave Grossman

Medical: Dr. Jeremy Frank, Parkland, Fla.