Fargo Day 4 preview (7/16): Nickal v Woodley U23 series, Junior freestyle finals and start of Junior Women’s event

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | July 15, 2019, 10:15 p.m. (ET)
There will be a great variety of action for wrestling fans who are in Fargo on Tuesday, or tuning in with the FloWrestling broadcast. You can see a high-level college-age wrestlers going for a spot on the U23 World Team. You can see the nation’s best Junior men’s freestyle stars going for USA Wrestling national champion stop signs. Or you can check out the start of the Junior women’s freestyle nationals including many athletes with extensive national and international achievements.


Every few years, USA Wrestling has to bring a Special Wrestle-off to Fargo to determine a spot on a U.S. team. This has included Olympic Team wrestle-offs and World Team wrestle-offs. This time, there are two spots on the U23 World Team up for grabs, as a pair of Final X runners-up accepted their right to challenge the winner of the U23 Trials.

The first is in freestyle, as U23 World Team Trials champion Jake Woodley (Pittsburgh, Pa./OKRTC) and 2019 Final X runner-up Bo Nickal (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC) at 92 kg will be held on Tuesday, July 16 in Fargo, N.D. at 1:00 p.m. during the Junior freestyle finals. Nickal, a three-time NCAA champion and 2019 Dan Hodge Trophy winner for Penn State, lost to J’den Cox in Final X: Rutgers. Woodley competes for Oklahoma. This series is a best-of-three, which means fans in Fargo, and those watching online, will get at least two great bouts.

WHAT FINISHES: Junior Nationals freestyle finals features talented stars going for the gold

The Junior Freestyle National finals are set for 1:00 p.m., with 19 athletes in the FloWrestling National Rankings on the gold-medal card. That is impressive since the graduating seniors are no longer included in this ranking. Four of these athletes are No. 1 ranked: Joshua Saunders of Missouri (at 138 in Fargo, Patrick Kennedy of Minnesota (at 170 in Fargo), Dustin Plott of Oklahoma (at 182 in Fargo) and Braxton Amos of West Virginia (at 220 in Fargo).

Four wrestlers are eligible for the coveted Junior Triple Crown after the tough quarterfinal and semifinal rounds at the USMC Junior Freestyle Nationals on Monday. Seeking to win the second leg of the Triple Crown after taking folkstyle titles in April are Brandon O’Byle of Iowa (100), Blake West of Minnesota (106), Drake Ayala of Iowa (113) and Ridge Lovett of Idaho (138).

The team race is looking like returning champion Illinois can take the trophy again, with five in the finals and eight others competing in the other medal matches. They stand 12 points ahead of Ohio, with four in the finals and five in the other medal rounds. There are no Illinois vs. Ohio gold-medal bouts

Junior Freestyle Nationals Finals Pairings
100 - Daniel Sheen (Illinois) vs. Brandon O'Brien (Iowa)
106 - Andre Gonzales (California) vs. Blake West (Minnesota)
113 - Nico Provo (Connecticut) vs. Drake Ayala (Iowa)
120 - Jakason Burks (Nebraska) vs. Anthony Molton (Illinois)
126 - Angelo Rini (Ohio) vs. Ethen Miller (Missouri)
132 - Michael Burnett (Ohio) vs. Dominick Serrano (Colorado)
138 - Joshua Saunders (Missouri) vs. Ridge Lovett (Idaho)
145 - Anthony Echemendia (Arizona) vs. Victor Voinovich (Ohio)
152 - Jace Luchau (California) vs. John Martin Best (West Virginia)
160 - Cade Devos (Iowa) vs. Padraic Gallagher (Ohio)
170 - Gerrit Nijenhuis (Pennsylvania) vs. Patrick Kennedy (Minnesota)
182 - Abe Assad (Illinois) vs. Dustin Plott (Oklahoma)
195 - Cole Urbas (Pennsylvania) vs. Jonovan Smith (California)
220 - Braxton Amos (West Virginia) vs. Dorian Crosby (Pennsylvania)
285 - Luke Luffman (Illinois) vs. Aydin Guttridge (Illinois)

WHAT’S NEW: The Junior National women’s freestyle gets started with growing field of talent

The size and depth of the Junior women’s freestyle national event in Fargo continues to impress, as more teams are bringing more athletes with more skill and experience. With that said, don’t be surprised if a number of the winners in this division are athletes you have watched win big titles before.

2018 Junior National women’s champions who will compete are Emily Shilson of Minnesota (106), Xochitl Mota-Pettis of Texas (127), Tristan Kelly of Colorado (164) and Gabrielle Holloway of Texas (225). Mota-Pettis, Kelly and Holloway return at the same weight, while Shilson is moving up from 100 pounds.

2018 Junior National women’s runners-up eligible in the field include Sage Mortimer of Utah (100), Caitlyn Walker of Pennsylvania (106), Phoenix Dubose of Washington (117), Louisa Schwab of Illinois (132), Aine Drury of California (138), Jerzie Estrada of Colorado (144) and Jaycee Foeller of Missouri (180). They all return at the same weight class except for Schwab, who has moved up from 127 pounds.

2019 16U National champions from Sunday night who have entered the Junior tournament include Mortimer, Faith Cole of Missouri (106), Amani Jones of Georgia (112), Jennifer Soto of California (117), Nonnie Justice of Missouri (132), Hannah Ricioli of California (152), Kennedy Blades of Illinois (164), Brianna Staebler of Wisconsin (180) and Olivia Brown of Oklahoma (200)

There are nine of the 2018 16U champions entered in the field, including Mortimer, Blades, Kelly, Foeller and Brown, plus Ally Fitzgerald of New York (122), Adriana Dorado-Marin of Colorado (117), Mia Macaluso of New York (127) and Jahnea Miguel of Hawaii (138).

Shilson has the most impressive resume, with a Cadet World title and a Youth Olympic Games title from last summer, to go with literally dozens of USA Wrestling national titles over the years going back to her days in the youth program. This is Shilson’s last Fargo, as she heads off to college at Augsburg soon after this event ends. This could be a memorable finale for one of the most successful youth careers in USA Wrestling history.

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon - Junior Women: Session I - Preliminaries and Consolations
1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. - Junior Freestyle: Session VI - Finals, Medal Matches & Awards
1:00 p.m. – conclusion - U23 92 kg men’s freestyle Final X series – Nickal vs. Woodley, Fargo, N.D., 1 pm CT
4:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. - Junior Women Freestyle: Session II - 1/8 Championship, Quarterfinals and Consolations