Photo: Austin Gomez blocks a Vito Arujau throw to score four in the 60 kg challenge bracket finals. Photo by Mark Lundy.
LINCOLN, Neb. – An action-packed Friday morning at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Neb., led to setting the best-of-three finals for the 2017 UWW Junior Freestyle World Team Trials.
The winners of this afternoon’s challenge brackets advanced to the best-of-three finals, set for 5 p.m. Friday, where they will be met by the 2017 UWW Junior Nationals champions at each weight.
In one of the most exciting finals of session one, 2016 Cadet World silver medalist Vitali Arujau met up with Fargo champ and 2013 Cadet World team member Austin Gomez in the challenge bracket finals at 60 kg/132 lbs. The crowd was rowdy as the two put on a show.
Arujau went up early, leading 7-4 after the first period. Halfway through the second, Gomez hit a big four-pointer to take the lead and put Arujau to his back. From then on, Gomez put on a takedown clinic, scoring three more before the end of the bout for a 14-7 win.
“I just trust my training,” Gomez said. “This is all it is. I trust my motor, and I trust that if I am behind, I can score anytime I want. Vito wrestles in spurts. You are not going to win a wrestling match if you wrestle in spurts around me. You have to wrestle the full six minutes.”
Gomez, an incoming freshman for Iowa State, is on a roll today, earning two technical falls en route to the challenge bracket finals. Tonight, he is set to face 2017 UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals champion and five-time Fargo champion Mitch McKee in the best-of-three finals series.
“McKee is the man right now,” Gomez said. “I have to take him down to be the man. Everyone was talking it would be McKee against Arujau, After I had surgery, I knew it was not. It’s going to be Austin Gomez verses Mitchell McKee. Everyone was down on me, but I came here and proved them wrong. I need two more matches to make that World Team.”
At 74 kg/163 lbs., we’ll see two Big 10 representatives go at it. Alex Marinelli of Iowa came through the challenge bracket after taking out Wolfpack Wrestling Club’s Hayden Hidlay in the finals with a solid 6-0 win.
In tonight’s finals, Marinelli will face 2016 Junior World champion and 2017 NCAA champion for Penn State Mark Hall of the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, who is on a mission to make his third and final Junior World Team.
Hall and Marinelli met in the finals of the UWW Junior Nationals in Las Vegas in April, with Hall recording a 10-0 tech fall.
“The challenge in the finals is going to be taking him down, getting to both legs,” Marinelli said. “He has good trick knees, but I am going to be ready for that. I have been training with Terry and Tom (Brands), and they have been teaching me minute things. I am going to be ready for that match.”
At 55 kg/121 lbs., Brandon Courtney cruised to the best-of-three finals, dominating Liam Cronin in the challenge tourney finals with a quick 10-0 tech fall. On the day, he grabbed a 12-2 tech fall in the quarterfinals over Derek Spann and a 7-5 grind-out against Alex Thomsen in the semis.
Awaiting him in the finals is another Junior World medalist, Daton Fix, who won bronze in 2016. Fix’s flawless performance at the UWW Junior championships landed him a spot in tonight’s finals. He looks to make his second Junior World Team.
The 120 kg/264 lbs. finals will pit 2016 Cadet World Team member against 2016 Junior World Team member. Two-time Cadet World champion Gable Steveson, who won UWW Nationals, will face challenge bracket winner Jordan Wood, who represented the U.S. at the Junior World Championships in Macon, France, last year.
Wood tallied wins over Youssif Hemida and Carter Isley to earn the spot in tonight’s finals.
Coming through the challenge bracket, 2016 Junior Greco-Roman World Team member Nick Reenan of Wolfpack WC will look to dethrone two-time Junior freestyle World Team member Zahid Valencia.
Reenan had a stellar first session, earning all four wins by tech fall for another shot at Valencia, who he lost to in the UWW Junior Nationals finals, 10-0.
Kollin Moore dominated the 96 kg/211 lbs. challenge bracket this afternoon, winning all three of his matches by tech fall and surrendering only three points. In the finals, he took out Cadet World bronze medalist Jacob Warner, 11-1.
Moore, the 2016 Junior World Team member at 96 kg, will look to defend his crown against 2017 UWW Junior Nationals champion Andrew Marsden of the Cowboy Wrestling Club.
At 66 kg/145 lbs., Patricio Lugo escaped Brady Berge in the finals, 8-6, after suffering an ankle injury during the match. With just five seconds left, Berge notched a takedown and went straight to a leg lace but was not able to score before the clock hit zero.
“I was confident,” Lugo said. “I didn’t care who was in my weight class. I don’t even look at the bracket too much. I just focus on who is in front of me and take one match at a time.”
After winning the challenge bracket in a loaded weight class, Lugo will go head-to-head with UWW national champion Ryan Deakin.
In his only match of the day, Cevion Severado defeated Cody Phippen in the 50 kg/110 lbs. challenge final, 8-2. Waiting for him in the final is Malik Heinselman, a two-time Cadet World Team member and the 2017 UWW Junior national champion.
2017 JUNIOR FREESTYLE WORLD TEAM TRIALS
at Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln, Neb.
Best-of-three finals matchups
50 kg/110 lbs. – Malik Heinselman (Olympian WC) vs. Cevion Severado (Xtreme RTC)
55 kg/121 lbs. – Daton Fix (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Brandon Courtney (Sunkist Kids)
60 kg/132 lbs. – Mitchell McKee (Minnesota Storm) vs. Austin Gomez (Gomez Wrestling Academy)
66 kg/145 lbs. – Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) vs. Patricio Lugo (Gladiator WC)
74 kg/163 lbs. – Mark Hall (Nittany Lion WC) vs. Alex Marinelli (Univ. of Iowa)
84 kg/185 lbs. – Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) vs. Nick Reenan (Wolfpack WC)
96 kg/211 lbs. – Andrew Marsden (Cowboy WC) vs. Kollin Moore (Titan Mercury WC)
120 kg/264 lbs. – Gable Steveson (Minnesota Storm) vs. Jordan Wood (Lehigh Valley WC)
Challenge bracket tournament finals results
50 kg/110 lbs. – Cevion Severado (Xtreme RTC) dec. Cody Phippen (Legacy WC), 8-2
55 kg/121 lbs. – Brandon Courtney (Sunkist Kids) tech. fall Liam Cronin (Hoosier WC), 10-0
60 kg/132 lbs. – Austin Gomez (Gomez Wrestling Academy) dec. Vitali Arujau (Vougar Honor Wrestling), 14-7
66 kg/145 lbs. – Patricio Lugo (Gladiator WC) dec. Brady Berge (Pinnacle WC), 8-6
74 kg/163 lbs. – Alex Marinelli (Univ. of Iowa) dec. Hayden Hidlay (Wolfpack WC), 6-0
84 kg/185 lbs. – Nick Reenan (Wolfpack WC) TF Jaron Smith (Terrapin WC), 12-2
96 kg/211 lbs. – Kollin Moore (Titan Mercury WC) TF Jacob Warner (OPRFS/WN), 11-1
120 kg/264 lbs. – Jordan Wood (Lehigh Valley WC) dec. Carter Isley (Panther WC RTC), 3-1