Berge gets revenge against O'Connor, eight others to receive bid to the Junior World Championships

By Kala Ibarra, USA Wrestling | May 19, 2018, 7:29 p.m. (ET)

Image:Brady Berg (Nittany Lion WC) works a leg lace on Austin O'Connor (Sunkist Kids WC) in the best-of-three series, in Rochester, Minn.

Rochester, Minn.- After a session of incredible wrestling, the 2018 Junior Freestyle World Team is set and ready for Worlds October 17-23, in Trnava, Slovakia.

The most exciting series of the night occurred at 70 kg with Austin O’Connor (Sunkist Kids WC) and 2015 Cadet World Team member Brady Berge (Nittany Lion WC). Berge and O’Connor met at this year’s Marine Corps U.S. Open in Las Vegas, Nev., where O’Connor took the victory on criteria, 2-2. Berge went into today’s series ready for revenge.

The first bout of the series went back and forth and ended with Berge coming out on top, 7-4, claiming his revenge on O’Connor. However, O’Connor did not let Berge by in the second bout. O’Connor came in with an early second-period tech, not allowing Berge to score any points.

The third bout of the series started with O’Connor scoring the first points of the match. It wasn’t until the second period that Berge claimed a quick takedown and exposure to take the lead. He scored again to secure his 6-2 victory and the 70 kg Junior World Team spot. This is his first Junior World Team.

“It was the last match in the series and a big turning point for me. Especially after taking a tough loss in the second match,” Berge said. “There were little things that I needed to change [after facing O’Connor at the US Open]. They weren’t things for just him but just in my wrestling in general.”

Making his fourth age-group World Team is three-time age-group World Champion Gable Steveson (Minnesota Storm). He is the only returning member from the 2017 Junior World Team to make the 2018 World Team. Steveson teched his way through the tournament to secure his spot at 125 kg.

We not only saw Steveson in today’s Junior Freestyle World Team Trials best-of-three series, but we also saw him wrestling his way through the Senior Men’s Freestyle WTT Challenge tournament. He will take on Tony Nelson of Minnesota Storm tonight at 6 p.m. CT in the Senior Men’s Freestyle WTT Challenge finals.

“Man strength,” Steveson said when asked about the difference between the divisions. “Going up against Seniors and wrestling guys like (Dom) Bradley, and I’m going to wrestle Tony Nelson [tonight], They’re in their late-20s and I’m 17. They have a whole 10 years on me, so really man strength is what they have on me.”

2017 Greco-Roman Junior World Team member Dominick Demas (OKRTC) will join the Junior Freestyle World Team this year at 65 kg, after defeating Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado WC) two matches to one.

This year’s Junior World Team contains two 2017 Cadet World Team members.

2017 Cadet World champion Daniel Kerkvliet (TMWC/Pinnacle) made his first Junior World Team at 97 kg. Kerkvliet won this year’s UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals at the U.S. Open to receive a bye to the best-of-three series in this weekend's tournament, where he faced Zach Elam (Team Central WC). Kerkvliet is currently 16 years old and is still Cadet eligible.

Joining the team at 79 kg is 2017 Cadet World champion Aaron Brooks (TMWC). Brooks received a bye to the best-of-three series after beating Michael Labriola in the 2018 UWW Junior Nationals finals. The two met again in the best-of-three series, where Brooks continued his dominance claiming two techs against Labriola.

Making his second overall and first age-group World Team since 2013 is Austin Gomez (Cyclone RTC) at 61 kg. Receiving a bye to the finals, Gomez battled against 2016 Cadet World silver medalist Vitali Arujau in the best-of-three series, securing his spot in two matches.

Not competing in this weekend's tournament was 2018 Junior World Champion Daton Fix (Titan Mercury WC). Fix is competing in the Senior Men’s Freestyle WTT Challenge tournament. He is eligible to request for a wrestle off against Brandon Courtney (Arizona State) at 57 kg.

At Rochester, Minn., June 19
Championship Series Best-of-Three Finals

57kg/125.5 lbs.- Brandon Courtney (Arizona State) def Malik Heinselman (Titan Mercury), two matches to none
Bout One: Courtney tech. fall Heinselman, 10-0
Bout Two: Courtney tech. fall heinselman, 11-0

Third: Joey Melendez (Izzy Style) tech. fall Aaron Cashman (Pinnacle (MN)), 10-0

61 kg/134 lbs.- Austin Gomez- (Cyclone RTC) def Vitali Arujau (New York AC), two matches to none
Bout One: Gomez dec Arujau, 11-8
Bout Two: Gomez tech. fall Arujau, 15-4

Third: Joshua Saunders (TMWC) tech. fall Nick Farro (Lehigh University), 10-0

65 kg/143 lbs.- Dominick Demas (OKRTC) def Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado WC), two matches to one
Bout One: Alirez tech. fall Demas,12-2
Bout Two: Demas dec Alirez, 9-3
Bout Three: Demas dec. Alirez, 8-2

Third: Jarod Verkleeren (Nittany Lion WC) dec.Sammy Sasso (Dark Knights WC), 15-4

70 kg/154 lbs.- Brady Berge (Nittany Lion WC) def. Austin O’Connor (Tar Heel WC), two matches to one
Bout One: Berge dec. O’Connor, 7-4
Bout Two: O’Connor tech. fall Berge, 10-0
Bout Three: Berge dec. O’Connor, 6-2

Third: Jacori Teemer (Sunkist Kids WC) criteria Brock Mauller (Eierman Elite), 6-6

74 kg/163 lbs.- Mehki Lewis (SERTC-VT) def Jeremiah Moody (University of Iowa), two matches to none
Bout One: Lewis tech. fall Moody, 12-1
Bout Two: Lewis tech. fall Moody, 10-0

Third: Travis Wittlake Jr. (Team Bucs Oregon) tech. fall Hayden Hastings (Wyoming Wrestling RTC), 12-2

79 kg/174 lbs.- Michael Labriola (Sunkist Kids) def Aaron Brooks (Titan Mercury/EAP), two matches to none
Bout One: Brooks dec. Labriola, 14-10
Bout Two: Brooks dec. Labriola, 2-2

Third: Trent Hidlay (Mifflin County) dec Beau Breske (Sunkist Kids WC), 6-2

86 kg/189 lbs.- Lou DePrez (BWC) def. Kordell Norfleet (Sunkist Kids), two matches to none
Bout One: DePrez dec. Norfleet, 6-2
Bout Two: Deprez dec. Norfleet, 6-0

Third: Jelani Embree (Michigan RTC) dec Owen Webster (Minnesota Storm), 6-2

92 kg/203 lbs.- Jacob Warner (University of Iowa) def John Borst (SERTC-VT), two matches to none
Bout One: Warner tech. fall Borst, 10-0
Bout Two: Warner tech. fall Borst, 11-0

Third: Lucas Chesterton (Chicago RTC) tech. fall Jacob Raschka (Missouri Wrestling RTC), 12-2

97 kg/213 lbs.- Daniel Kerkvliet (Pinnacle) def. Zach Elam (Team Central WC), two matches to none
Bout One: Kerkvliet tech. fall Elam, 10-0
Bout Two: Kerkvliet tech. fall Elam, 11-0

Third: Jake Boyd (Oklahoma RTC) dec Cale Davidson (Wyoming Wrestling RTC), 6-5

125 kg/275 lbs.- Gable Steveson (Minnesota Storm) def Gannon Gremmel (Cyclone RTC), two matches to none
Bout One: Steveson tech. fall Gremmel, 10-0
Bout Two: Steveson tech. fall Gremmel, 10-0

Third: Trent Hillger (University of Wisconsin) tech. fall Robert Winters (University of Northern Colorado-Unattached), 10-0.