Freestyle WTT Challenge Tournament previews for 92 kg men and 68 kg women

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | May 14, 2018, 7:15 p.m. (ET)

For 10 straight days, TheMat.com will post two previews each day for the Freestyle World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, set for Rochester, Minn., May 18-20. One of the previews will be in men’s freestyle, with the other in women’s freestyle.

This is a closed tournament, in which the athletes in the field must have qualified, based upon approved Team Selection Procedures in each style. The winners of each of the 20 weight classes advance to one of the three Final X series events in June.

In weight classes in which there was a 2017 World medalist, the 2018 U.S. Open champion advances directly to the best-of-three Championships Series in Rochester. In the weight classes without a 2017 World medalist, the U.S. Open champion has advanced directly to Final X and nobody sits out to the finals series in Rochester.

Today, we provide previews in men’s freestyle at 92 kg and women’s freestyle at 68 kg.

MEN’S FREESTYLE 92 KG

As a weight class without a World medalist, U.S. Open champion J’den Cox advanced directly to Final X, and nobody gets to sit out in Rochester. Cox is a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World bronze medalist at 86 kg. Since he moved up to 92 kg, he had to win the U.S. Open in order to advance to Final X. It was his first U.S. Open title. Cox defeated Hayden Zillmer in the U.S. Open finals in a tight 2-0 match.

Zillmer earned spots on both the Greco-Roman and men’s freestyle National Teams in 2017, finishing second in Greco and third in freestyle. A past All-American for North Dakota State, Zillmer trains in Minneapolis, Minn., with the Minnesota Storm, which is one of the most successful Greco clubs in the country that is also producing great freestylers.

Zillmer has been actively competing and bringing home medals in both styles over the past year.

There is another athlete in the field that competes in both Greco and freestyle, Enock Francois, who took third at the U.S. Open in freestyle and was a Greco National Team member for the 2017-18 season. Francois qualified for the World Team Trials after putting up a third-place finish at the U.S. Open.

Qualifying through international medal-winning performances are Nick Heflin and Kenny Courts. Heflin won the Dave Schultz Memorial International last November, while Courts was the highest U.S. placer at the 2018 Bill Farrell International with a silver medal.

Both Heflin and Courts are past All-Americans for Ohio State. Courts surprised many at the Bill Farrell, wrestling freestyle for the first time since the 2013 University Nationals, where he took fourth.

Heflin has been successful on the Senior freestyle level, he is a 2017 National Team member and finished third at the 2017 U.S. Open. In 2018, he took fifth at the prestigious Ivan Yarygin Memorial tournament.

Taking fourth at the U.S. Open was Deron Winn, who is training both wrestling and MMA in California. Just this weekend, he improved to 4-0 in his professional fighting career.

Before taking a short break from freestyle competition, Winn snagged international medals at events like Pan American Championships, Dave Schultz Memorial International, Bill Farrell International and Outstanding Ukrainian Memorial. During his college days, Winn was a two-time junior college national champion for Meramec.

Finishing fifth, sixth and seventh at the Open were Nikko Reyes, Timmy McCall and Cody Walters, respectively.

Reyes and McCall have been regulars on the freestyle scene recently, while Walters is a lesser known name.

The 2018 NCAA champion at 197 pounds, Mike Macchiavello of NC State, is eligible to compete this weekend. Macchiavello does not have a history of wrestling freestyle; however, he did recently announce that he joined the Wolfpack Regional Training Center to continue his training.

The winner of this weight advances to Final X at Lehigh on June 23 to face U.S. Open champion J’den Cox of Titan Mercury WC for the World Team spot.

Men’s Freestyle 92 kg

Challenge Tournament entries

Nov. 17 Dave Schultz Memorial champion – Nick Heflin, Norman, Okla. (Titan Mercury WC)

2018 NCAA champion – Mike Macchiavello, Monroe, N.C. (NC State)

2018 Bill Farrell Memorial silver medalist – Kenny Courts, College Park, Md. (Titan Mercury WC)

2018 U.S. Open runner-up – Hayden Zillmer, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)

2018 U.S. Open third place – Enock Francois. Ithaca, N.Y. (New York AC/FLWC)

2018 U.S. Open fourth place – Deron Winn, Ames, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC)

2018 U.S. Open fifth place – Nikko Reyes, Fresno, Calif. (Valley RTC)

2018 U.S. Open sixth place – Timmy McCall, Raleigh, N.C. (Titan Mercury WC)

2018 U.S. Open seventh place - Cody Walters, Lattimore, N.C. (Bulldog Elite WC)
Note: Winner in Rochester advances to Final X at Lehigh on June 23 to face U.S. Open champ J’den Cox (Titan Mercury WC)

WOMEN’S FREESTYLE 68 KG

As a weight class without a World medalist, U.S. Open champion Tamyra Mensah advanced directly to Final X, and nobody gets to sit out in Rochester. Mensah, who just won her first U.S. Open title, is a 2016 Olympic Team Trials champion and a 2017 World Team member. In the Open finals, Stock defeated Randyll Beltz with a 10-0 tech fall in the second period.

Beltz is a two-time National Team member, who has been a solid force on the scene for the last few years. She was third at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials and has four-top-three finishes at the Senior U.S. Open. Beltz, who recently joined the Army WCAP program, owns several international medals with her most recent coming at the Dave Schultz Memorial International in November, where she won bronze.

As the U23 World Team Trials champion, Alexandria Glaude is expected to enter the tournament. The WCWA All-American for McKendree most recently took the No. 3 spot on the podium at the U.S. Open last month, returning to action after a hand surgery that kept her out of the collegiate season. In 2017, Glaude made the Junior World Team and took ninth at the World Championships.

Taking fourth and fifth at the U.S. Open were WCWA All-Americans Yvonne Galindo of Oklahoma City University and Jasmine Bailey of McKendree.

Another college star in the field is Emmanuel’s Kayla Marano, who qualified by way of a silver-medal performance at the 2018 Bill Farrell International. Marano, a 2015 Cadet World bronze medalist, wrestled at the US Open at 65 kg, where she finished sixth, but most recently competed at 68 kg at the Junior World Team Trials last weekend, where she took second to Kilty.

The winner of this weight advances to Final X in Lincoln, Neb., on June 9 to face U.S. Open champion Tamyra Stock of Titan Mercury WC for the World Team spot.

Women’s Freestyle 68 kg

Challenge Tournament entries

2018 U23 National champion – Alexandria Glaude, W. Sacramento, Calif. (Titan Mercury WC)

2018 Bill Farrell Memorial silver medalist – Kayla Marano, Franklin Springs, Ga. (LWC)

2018 U.S. Open runner-up – Randyll Beltz, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Army WCAP)

2018 U.S. Open fourth place – Yvonne Galindo, El Paso, Texas (Aries Wrestling Club),

2018 U.S. Open fifth place – Jasmine Bailey, Lebanon, Ill. (McKendree Bearcat WC) 

Note: Winner in Rochester advances to Final X in Lincoln on June 9, to face U.S. Open champion Tamyra Stock (Titan Mercury WC)