Zain Retherford defeated Yianni Diakomihalis in two matches at 65 kg. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers are Warriors
PISCATAWAY, N.J. – All three styles were represented in an exciting evening session at Final X: Rutgers, as seven more U.S. Senior World Team members were determined on Saturday night.
One of the most exciting series occurred at 65 kg in men’s freestyle, as 2017 World Team member Zain Retherford (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC) stopped 2019 U.S. Open champion Yianni Diakomihalis (Rochester, N.Y./Titan Mercury WC) in two straight matches. It was a turn-around from the U.S. Open finals, when Diakomihalis beat Retherford in the finals.
In the first match, Retherford won a number of positions and came on strong in the second period to secure a 10-4 victory.
The second match ended with some controversy. In a series of moves late in the match, officials gave Diakomihalis an 8-6 victory, which would have forced a third bout. The Retherford corner challenged the call, and when officials reviewed the video tape, the score was changed to 6-6. Retherford won the match by criteria, giving him a two-match sweep.
“Before the World Team Trials, I had a moment where I realized how grateful I was to be here. When I was six, I saw Coach Cael (Sanderson) on a Wheaties box, and I thought that was the coolest thing that he’s winning the Olympics. That’s what I wanted to do, and I know my six-year-old self would be really happy at this point, so that was my mindset,” said Retherford.
Both athletes are past Cadet World champions, with the younger Diakomihalis winning in 2016 and 2017, and Retherford claiming his in 2012. Retherford was a three-time NCAA champion for Penn State, while Diakomihalis has won two NCAA titles for Cornell in his first two college seasons.
There was only one Greco-Roman series on Saturday night, and it went the full three bouts, with 2017 World Team member Pat Smith (Minneapolis, Minn./Minnesota Storm) stopping 2018 World Team member and 2017 Junior World champion Kamal Bey (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids), two matches to one.
Bey came out strong with some big scores on the way to an 11-2 technical fall. Smith changed the pace of the second bout and emerged with a 2-1 victory to force a deciding third bout.
In the final match of the evening, Smith grabbed the momentum and took the lead, emerging with a 6-3 victory. Smith made the move up to 77 kg this year, and challenged Bey, who was seventh at the 2018 World Championships at the weight class.
“I think what’s special is that there isn’t anything special. It's years of discipline and hard work, and this is just where the work starts. I made the team, but now it’s time to qualify the weight. It’s the biggest year in the quad, and we’re making it happen. The work starts when we get back,” said Smith.
Of the three women’s freestyle series, one of the most intense went the full three bouts, as 2018 World Team member Forrest Molinari (Iowa City, Iowa/Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) stopped 2017 Junior World champion Maya Nelson (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids), two matches to one.
Nelson came out strong in the first match, taking the lead and emerging with a 5-3 win. Molinari rebounded by opening up her offense in the second match, and secured a 12-2 technical fall
In the deciding third match, Molinari took control and was able to win the key positions, winning 4-1 and securing a second straight World Team berth.
“I feel like I’ve always worked hard, and that’s gotten me where I am. But after training at Iowa, the environment in that room, you can’t get that anywhere else. It’s so different, and it’s been so good for me. It’s really pushed me to new levels in my wrestling, new levels in my intensity, new levels in my cardio and my mental game especially,” said Molinari.
Making a fourth-straight World or Olympic team was 2018 World champion and three-time medalist J’den Cox (Colorado Springs, Colo./Titan Mercury WC/OTC), who beat Bo Nickal (Allen, Texas/Nittany Lion WC) in two straight matches.
Cox came out with a 4-2 victory in match one to set the tone for the series. In the deciding second match, Cox scored on two takedowns and shut down Nickal for a 5-0 win. Cox was a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World bronze medalist before claiming his World title last year.
Nickal won his third NCAA title for Penn State this year, and won the Dan Hodge Trophy. He also added titles at the U.S. Open, and then the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament to punch his ticket to Final X.
Making a fifth Senior World Team was Whitney Conder (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP), who beat two-time Senior World Team member Victoria Anthony (Tempe, Ariz./Sunkist Kids) in two straight matches. It was a rematch of Final X in 2018, as well as the 2019 U.S. Open finals, both won by Conder.
Conder continued to establish her ability to defeat Anthony, securing a 7-4 win in bout one. She came back even stronger in match two, securing a first-period pin at 1:57 to close out the series.
Conder became the fourth Army WCAP athlete to earn spots on the 2019 U.S. Senior World Team, with three teammates earning spots in the morning session. Joining her on the women’s freestyle team is Jenna Burkert at 57 kg. Two Army Greco-Roman wrestlers also won Saturday morning, Max Nowry at 55 kg and Ellis Coleman at 67 kg.
Going to a third straight Senior Worlds are two-time World bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski (Raleigh, N.C./Titan Mercury WC/Wolfpack RTC) at 125 kg/275 lbs. in men’s freestyle and 2018 World bronze medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock (Colorado Springs, Colo./Titan Mercury WC/OTC) at 68 kg/149.75 lbs. in women’s freestyle.
Gwiazdowski won a very competitive two-match sweep over college star Gable Steveson (Apple Valley, Minn./Minnesota Storm), winning both matches by criteria. Steveson, who owns three age-group World titles (two as a Cadet and one as a Junior), pushed Gwiazdowski in both matches. However, the first match ended 4-4 and the second finished 3-3, with Gwiazdowski having the criteria edge both times.
Mensah-Stock swept her series easily over 2018 U23 World bronze medalist Alexandria Glaude (W. Sacramento, Calif./Titan Mercury WC). Mensah-Stock had a big lead when she powered Glaude to her back in the first match and secured a pin in 4:50. In the second match, Mensah-Stock continued her strong offense to secure a 10-0 technical fall.
One other athlete qualified for the 2019 Senior World Team, when Patrick Downey (Cranbury, N.J./Titan Mercury WC/NJRTC) weighed in at 86 kg. Downey’s opponent for Final X, 2018 World champion David Taylor, was injured and could not compete, and did not request an extension to his finals series. It will be Downey’s first Senior World Team.
Six other U.S. World Team members were determined in the 12:00 noon session, four in Greco-Roman and two in women’s freestyle.
The total attendance combined for the two sessions was 5,345, with 3,811 during the night session and 1,534 in the noon session.
Next Saturday, Final X: Lincoln will be held at the Devaney Center at the University of Nebraska, and 15 weight classes will be contested, five in each style.
FINAL X: RUTGERS
At Piscataway, N.J., June 8
Session Two results
65 kg – Zain Retherford (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC) dec. Yianni Diakomihalis (Rochester, N.Y./Titan Mercury WC/Finger Lakes RTC), 2 matches to 0
Bout one – Retherford dec. Diakomihalis, 10-4
Bout two – Retherford dec. Diakomihalis, 6-6
92 kg –J’den Cox (Colorado Springs, Colo./Titan Mercury WC/OTC) vs. Bo Nickal (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC), two matches to none
Bout one – Cox dec. Nickal, 4-2
Bout two – Cox dec. Nickal, 5-0
125 kg –Nick Gwiazdowski (Raleigh, N.C./Titan Mercury WC/Wolfpack RTC) dec. Gable Steveson (Apple Valley, Minn./Minnesota RTC), 2 matches to 0
Bout One – Gwiazdowski dec. Steveson, 4-4
Bout Two – Gwiazdowski dec. Steveson, 3-3
50 kg –Whitney Conder (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Victoria Anthony (Tempe, Ariz./Sunkist Kids), 2 matches to none
Bout One – Conder dec. Anthony, 7-4
Bout Two – Conder pin Anthony, 1:57
65 kg - Forrest Molinari (Iowa City, Iowa/Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) dec. Maya Nelson (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids/OTC), two matches to one
Bout One –Nelson dec. Molinari, 5-3
Bout Two – Molinari tech. fall Nelson, 12-2
Bout Three – Molinari dec. Nelson, 4-1
68 kg –Tamyra Mensah-Stock (Colorado Springs, Colo./Titan Mercury WC/OTC) dec. Alexandria Glaude (W. Sacramento, Calif./Titan Mercury WC/McKendree Bearcat WC), two matches to none
Bout one – Mensah-Stock pin Glaude, 4:50
Bout two – Mensah-Stock tech. fall Glaude, 10-0
77 kg – Pat Smith (Minneapolis, Minn./Minnesota Storm) dec. Kamal Bey (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids/OTC), two matches to one.
Bout One – Bey tech. fall Smith. 11-2
Bout Two – Smith dec. Bey, 2-1
Bout Three – Smith dec. Bey, 6-3
Session One - results
55 kg – Max Nowry (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Brady Koontz (Plover, Wis./Ohio RTC), 2 matches to 0
Bout one – Nowry dec. Koontz, 3-0
Bout two – Nowry dec. Koontz, 11-5
67 kg – Ellis Coleman (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Jamel Johnson (Camp LeJeune, N.C./U.S. Marine Corps), 2 matches to 0
Bout one – Coleman tech. fall Johnson, 9-1
Bout two – Coleman dec. Johnson, 6-0
82 kg –John Stefanowicz (Camp LeJeune, N.C./U.S. Marine Corps) dec. Kendrick Sanders (Marquette, Mich./New York AC), 2 matches to 0
Bout one – Stefanowicz dec. Sanders, 8-5
Bout two – Stefanowicz dec. Sanders, 3-2
87 kg - Joe Rau (Chicago, Ill./Titan Mercury WC/Chicago RTC) dec. Ben Provisor (State College, Pa./New York AC/Nittany Lion WC). 2 matches to 0
Bout one – Rau dec. Provisor, 2-1
Bout two – Rau dec. Provisor, 5-1
57 kg –Jenna Burkert (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Becka Leathers (Chapel Hill, N.C./Titan Mercury WC/Tarheel RTC)
Bout one – Burkert dec. Leathers, 4-2
Bout two – Burkert dec. Leathers, 5-0
72 kg - Victoria Francis (Litchfield, Ill./Titan Mercury WC) dec. Alyvia Fiske (Napa, Calif./Titan Mercury WC) , 2 matches to 0
Bout one – Francis dec. Fiske, 7-2
Bout two – Francis pin Fiske, 3:30