USA Junior Freestyle Team seeks to repeat championship run at Junior World Championships in Slovakia

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Sept. 11, 2018, 1:46 p.m. (ET)

Photo: Daton Fix and Gable Steveson after winning 2017 Junior World titles in Finland. Photo by Richard Immel. 

The United States is sending a strong men’s freestyle lineup to the 2018 Junior World Championships in Trnava, Slovakia, Sept. 17-23. The squad looks to repeat the 2017 Junior Men’s Freestyle Team’s championship run, which was clinched over Russia.

Leading the Junior freestyle squad are 2017 Junior World champions Daton Fix of Oklahoma at 57 kg and Gable Steveson of Minnesota at 125 kg, who were critical to last year’s team championship, which was the first since 1984.

Fix won a World title at 57 kg after a dominant tournament in Tampere, Finland, for his first World gold. Prior to that, Fix had claimed Junior bronze in 2016 and Cadet bronze in 2015. In 2014, Fix competed in the Youth Olympic Games, where he earned silver.

Earlier this summer, Fix went through the Senior World Team Trials process. He took second to two-time World Team member Tony Ramos at the U.S. Open, but bounced back at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament one month later, defeating Ramos in two matches, 4-1 and 10-3, to earn a spot in Final X.

Fix finished the process as No. 2 on the National Team ladder, falling to 2017 World silver medalist Thomas Gilman in two matches at Final X in Lincoln in June.

Because he was a past Junior World Team member, placed top-three at the 2018 U.S. Open and competed in Final X, Fix was granted a special wrestle-off for the 57 kg Junior World spot.

To clinch his third-straight bid to the Junior World Championships, Fix defeated World Team Trials champion Brandon Courtney, 11-0 and 10-0, in the wrestle-off that was featured during the USMC Cadet and Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D., in July.

The 2018 Junior Worlds will mark the sixth time Fix has represented the U.S. at an age-group World Championships. He wrestled at Cadet Worlds in 2014 and 2015, Junior Worlds in 2016 and 2017 and U23 Worlds in 2017.

When he returns to the U.S., Fix will begin his redshirt freshman season at Oklahoma State.

Steveson is seeking his fourth-consecutive age-group World title in as many attempts. Steveson, a freshman at Minnesota, claimed Cadet World championships in 2015 and 2016. In 2017, he forwent his final season of Cadet eligibility and bumped up to the Junior level to win the Junior crown at 120 kg as a 17-year-old.

His poise and maturity in the gold-medal bout crucial in determining the team race as Russia had made it close, going into the event’s final bout. Steveson took out Iran’s Naeiim Hassanzadeh, 5-1, to seal the title for USA.

This summer, he continued to show that he is a young phenom as he took fourth at the U.S. Open, facing several accomplished and veteran athletes and followed that performance up with a third-place finish at the Senior World Team Trials Challenge Tournament. That same weekend, he also won the Junior World Team Trials.

Another World champion in the mix is 79 kg representative Aaron Brooks, who won gold at the Cadet World Championships last summer in Athens, Greece. Brooks, who was an alternate in 2017, competed in the event after No. 1 Travis Wittlake went down with an injury in the weeks prior.

A product of Hagerstown, Md., Brooks currently trains at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., under highly accomplished athlete and coach Kevin Jackson.

Brooks is a three-time Fargo champion and a 2018 UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals champion.

Four other wrestlers will return to the World stage as USA representatives, including Jacob Warner at 92 kg, Domonick Demas at 65 kg, Joshua Saunders at 61 kg and Brady Berge at 70 kg.

All four will make their Junior debuts for the U.S. men’s freestyle team next week in Trnava.

Warner, a redshirt freshman for Iowa, competed at the 2016 Cadet World Championships in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he won a World bronze medal.

University of Oklahoma sophomore Dom Demas heads to his fourth World Championships, after top-10 finishes at the 2014 and 2015 Cadet World Championships and a trip to the 2017 Junior World Championships. All of his previous World experiences were Greco-Roman competitions.

This summer Demas took second at the Junior Greco World Team Trials and the U23 Freestyle World Team Trials.

At 61 kg, Joshua Saunders, a product of St. Louis, Mo., travels to his second World Championships of the summer, after a top-10 performance in July at the Cadet World Championships in Zagreb, Croatia.

Saunders finished third at the UWW Junior Freestyle Nationals and went on to take third at the Junior World Team Trials.

When Junior Trials champion Austin Gomez pulled out of the tournament due to injury, Saunders was named the replacement.

2015 Cadet World Team member and Penn State wrestler Brady Berge returns to the World stage, competing for the United States at 70 kg. Berge finished second at UWW Junior Nationals, before defeating eventual 2018 Junior Pan American champion Austin O’Connor, two matches to one, in the finals of the Junior World Team Trials in May.

Making their international debuts next week Mekhi Lewis at 74 kg, Lou Deprez at 86 kg and Zach Elam at 97 kg.

Lewis is a redshirt freshman at Virginia Tech, who took fifth at the UWW Junior Nationals before storming through the 74 kg bracket at the Junior Trials to win a spot on the Junior World Team.

Elam was the Junior Trials runner-up, taking second to 2017 Cadet World champion Daniel Kerkvliet. Just earlier this week, Elam, a true freshman at Mizzou, was named to the 2018 Junior World Team, after Kerkvliet suffered an injury that is keeping him from Worlds.

Rounding out the team is Deprez, a Binghamton wrestler who won both the Trials and UWW Junior Nationals.

The 2018 Junior World Championships are set for Sept. 17-23 in Trnava, Slovakia. The freestyle portion of the competition will take place Sept. 21-23. Fans can watch the tournament live on Trackwrestling.com and keep up with @USAWrestling on Twitter for live updates.

2018 JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
at Trnava, Slovakia, Sept. 17-23

Schedule

Monday, Sept. 17
10:30 a.m. – Qualification rounds (Greco-Roman 55 kg, 63 kg, 77 kg, 87 kg, 130 kg)
6 p.m. – Semifinals (Greco-Roman 55 kg, 63 kg, 77 kg, 87 kg, 130 kg)

Tuesday, Sept. 18
10:30 a.m. – Qualification rounds (Greco-Roman 60 kg, 67 kg, 72 kg, 82 kg, 97 kg)
10:30 a.m. – Repechage (Greco-Roman 55 kg, 63 kg, 77 kg, 87 kg, 130 kg)
4:45 p.m.  – Opening ceremonies
5:15 p.m. – Semifinals (Greco-Roman 60 kg, 67 kg, 72 kg, 82 kg, 97 kg)
6 p.m. – Finals (Greco-Roman 55 kg, 63 kg, 77 kg, 87 kg, 130 kg)

Wednesday, Sept. 19
10:30 a.m. – Qualification rounds (women’s FS 50 kg, 55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg, 76 kg)
10:30 a.m. – Repechage (Greco-Roman 60 kg, 67 kg, 72 kg, 82 kg, 97 kg)
5:15 p.m. – Semifinals (women’s FS 50 kg, 55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg, 76 kg)
6 p.m. – Finals (Greco-Roman 60 kg, 67 kg, 72 kg, 82 kg, 97 kg)

Thursday, Sept. 20
10:30 a.m. – Qualification rounds (women’s FS 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 72 kg)
10:30 a.m. – Repechage (women’s FS 50 kg, 55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg, 76 kg)
5:15 p.m. – Semifinals (women’s FS 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 72 kg)
6 p.m. – Finals (women’s FS 50 kg, 55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg, 76 kg)

Friday, Sept. 21
10:30 a.m. – Qualification rounds (men’s FS 57 kg, 65 kg, 70 kg, 79 kg, 97 kg)
10:30 a.m. – Repechage (women’s FS 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 72 kg)
5:15 p.m. – Semifinals (men’s FS 57 kg, 65 kg, 70 kg, 79 kg, 97 kg)
6 p.m. – Finals (women’s FS 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 72 kg)

Saturday, Sept. 22
10:30 a.m. – Qualification rounds (men’s FS 61 kg, 74 kg, 86 kg, 92 kg, 125 kg)
10:30 a.m. – Repechage (men’s FS 57 kg, 65 kg, 70 kg, 79 kg, 97 kg)
5:15 p.m. – Semifinals (men’s FS 61 kg, 74 kg, 86 kg, 92 kg, 125 kg)
6 p.m. – Finals (men’s FS 57 kg, 65 kg, 70 kg, 79 kg, 97 kg)

Sunday, Sept. 23
4 p.m. – Repechage (men’s FS 61 kg, 74 kg, 86 kg, 92 kg, 125 kg)
6 p.m. - Finals(men’s FS 61 kg, 74 kg, 86 kg, 92 kg, 125 kg)

U.S. men’s freestyle roster
57 kg: Daton Fix (Sand Springs, Okla./Titan Mercury WC/Cowboy RTC)
61 kg: Joshua Saunders (St. Louis, Mo./Titan Mercury WC)
65 kg: Domonick Demas (Dublin, Ohio/OKRTC)
70 kg: Brady Berge (Mantorville, Pa./Nittany Lion WC)
74 kg: Mekhi Lewis (Somerset, N.J./Southeast RTC)
79 kg: Aaron Brooks (Hagerstown, Md./USOTC)
86 kg: Lou Deprez (Hilton, N.Y./Bearcat WC)
92 kg: Jacob Warner (Washington, Ill./Hawkeye WC)
97 kg: Zach Elam (Kansas City, Mo./Team Central WC)
125 kg: Gable Steveson (Apple Valley, Minn./Minnesota Storm)

U.S. National Freestyle Development coach – Kevin Jackson, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Coach – Teague Moore, Washington, D.C.
Coach – Rob Eiter, Haddonfield, N.J.

Medical – Dr. Steve Broman, Fort Collins, Colo.
Medical – Becky Ball, Lakewood, Colo.
Medical – David Curby, Lagrange, Ill.

Referee – Tim Pierson, Virginia Beach, Va.
Referee – Bill Harper, Drexel, Mo.
Referee – Danny Blackshear, Oklahoma City, Okla.

USA Wrestling communications – Taylor Miller, Colorado Springs, Colo.