Final X: Lincoln men's freestyle championship series preview

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | June 11, 2019, 6:22 p.m. (ET)

Photo of Daton Fix by Richard Immel.

Final X: Lincoln boasts an exciting card of men’s freestyle matches, set for 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 15.

Of the 10 men’s freestyle athletes at the event, five wrestlers combine for 15 Senior World/Olympic medals, including eight gold medals, three silver and four bronzes.

Two other wrestlers have won age-group World medals, combining for two gold, two silver and two bronze.

Senior World medalists in the field include five-time World and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs at 74 kg, three-time World and Olympic champion Kyle Snyder at 97 kg, two-time World medalist James Green at 70 kg, 2017 World silver medalist Thomas Gilman at 57 kg and 2018 World bronze medalist Joe Colon at 61 kg.

The first session of Final X, which will feature exciting Greco-Roman and women’s freestyle matches will begin at 12 p.m. CT at the Bob Devaney Center on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, followed by session two, which has all three styles, at 6 p.m.

Fans can watch live on Flowrestling.org. Tickets are still available at finalx.tv.

Session two: 6 p.m.

Bout four: Men’s FS 61 kg – World bronze medalist Joe Colon (Fresno, Calif./Titan Mercury WC/Valley RTC) vs. World Team Trials champion Tyler Graff (Piscataway, N.J./Titan Mercury WC)

This might be one of the most intriguing matchups of the night as we have never seen it before in freestyle.

Joe Colon returns to Final X for the second year in a row. Last year, he lost in three matches to Nahshon Garrett for the World Team spot, but he was called to duty shortly before the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, when Garrett suffered a season-ending injury.

In Budapest, Colon surprised many, advancing to the World semifinals, where he fell to the eventual World champion Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez of Cuba. Colon moved onto the bronze-medal match and defeated Mohammadbagher Yakhkeshifor of Iran, 13-2, his first World medal.

Since then, Colon has wrestled in three major events, winning the 2019 Pan American Championships (and avenging his loss to Rodriguez), taking fifth at the Dan Kolov International and eighth at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix.

Finishing fourth at the 2019 U.S. Open, Graff was an underdog story that came through the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in a weight that included U.S. Open champion Cody Brewer and Open runner-up Nico Megaludis.

En route to his Trials Challenge championship, Graff defeated Megaludis in the challenge bracket finals before taking down Brewer in the best-of-three finals.

As an age-group athlete, Graff was a two-time Junior World team member, wrestling at Worlds in 2007 and 2008.

Both Graff and Colon are capable of putting tons of points on the board, so it will be exciting to see who comes out on top in this matchup to represent the United States.

Past Senior World Teams
Colon – 2017 Senior Worlds (bronze at 61 kg)
Graff – none

Past age-group World Teams
Colon – none
Graff – 2008 Junior Worlds (13th at 60 kg), 2007 Junior Worlds (16th at 55kg)

Bout five: 97 kg Men’s FS – World silver medalist Kyle Snyder (Columbus, Ohio/Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) vs. World Team Trials champion Kyven Gadson (Ames, Iowa/Sunkist Kids/Cyclone RTC)

This weekend will mark the third-consecutive year that Kyle Snyder and Kyven Gadson have met up to wrestle for the Senior World Team spot at 97 kg.

In 2017, Snyder dominated the series with a pair of tech falls, but last year Gadson showed his improvement by holding the three-time World and Olympic champ to only a pair of decisions at Final X.

Since last year, Gadson has spent more time training at the United States Olympic Training Center with 2018 World champion J’den Cox. It should be interesting to see the how Gadson fares against Snyder this time around.

Snyder, who owned the 97 kg weight class internationally form 2015-2017, fell short in last year’s World Championships, finishing with silver, still an impressive feat. In the gold-medal bout, Russia’s Abdulrashid Sadulaev, a World and Olympic champion at 86 kg, pinned Captain America in the first period to take the gold. It was a rematch of the 2017 World finals, where Snyder got the edge over Sadulaev.

Gadson boasts a pin over Snyder in the 2015 NCAA finals, but it has been all Snyder since then.

Past Senior World Teams
Snyder – 2018 Senior Worlds (silver at 97 kg), 2017 Senior Worlds (gold at 97 kg), 2016 Olympics (gold at 97 kg), 2015 Senior Worlds (gold at 97 kg)
Gadson – none

Past age-group World Teams
Snyder – 2014 Junior Worlds (bronze at 96 kg), 2013 Junior Worlds (gold at 96 kg)
Gadson – none

Recent head-to-head matchups
June 2018 – Final X: Lincoln match one: Snyder dec. Gadson, 9-0
June 2018 – Final X: Lincoln match two: Snyder dec. Gadson, 10-2
June 2017 – World Team Trials finals match one: Snyder TF Gadson, 10-0
June 2017 – World Team Trials finals match two: Snyder TF Gadson, 13-2

Bout six: 70 kg Men’s FS – U.S. Open champion Ryan Deakin (Broomfield, Colo./Titan Mercury WC/Chicago RTC) vs. World Team Trials champion James Green (Lincoln, Neb./Sunkist Kids)

Ryan Deakin was not who many expected to be opposite of James Green in Final X.

Winning the 2019 U.S. Open as the 10th seed, Deakin snagged the first spot at 70 kg. His best Senior-level performance, Deakin defeated the Nos. 7, 2, 6 and 1 seeds, respectively, to claim the Open crown. In the finals, Deakin knocked off two-time World medalist and four-time returning World Team member Green.

In the finals match, Deakin, a junior at Northwestern, scored a takedown with only one second left on the clock to stun Green, 8-6.

This weekend, they’ll go up against each other for the World Team spot.

Deakin is a proven wrestler and is beginning to make his mark on the Senior level. In 2017, he represented the United States at the Junior World Championships, where he brought home a silver medal in one of the world’s toughest tournaments.

Green, who has been on every World team since 2015, holds a significant advantage this weekend as he gets to compete in front of his home crowd in Lincoln, Neb., where he competed collegiately and has been training ever since.

You can bet that Green is on a mission to hold onto his World Team spot and do it in front of his fans.

Past Senior World Teams
Green – 2018 Senior Worlds (13th at 70 kg), 2017 Senior Worlds (silver at 70 kg), 2016 Senior Worlds (7th at 70 kg), 2015 Senior Worlds (bronze at 70 kg)
Deakin – none

Past age-group World Teams
Green – 2014 University Worlds (silver at 70 kg), 2013 University World Games (12th at 66 kg)
Deakin – 2017 Junior Worlds (silver at 66 kg)

Recent head-to-head matchups
April 2019 – U.S. Open finals: Deakin dec. Green, 8-6

Bout seven: 57 kg Men’s FS – U.S. Open champion Daton Fix (Sand Springs, Okla./Titan Mercury WC/Cowboy RTC) vs. World Team Trials champion Thomas Gilman (Iowa City, Iowa/Titan Mercury/Hawkeye WC)

Quite possibly the most anticipated matchup of Final X, Daton Fix and Thomas Gilman will face off at 57 kg for the World Team spot.

We’ve seen this matchup three times, twice at 2018 Final X and once at the 2019 U.S. Open. Gilman holds a 2-1 lead in the series, sweeping the Cowboy at 2018 Final X. But Fix has taken the most recent matchup.

The Final X matches were tight with Gilman taking two decisions, 6-3 and 2-1. In April, Fix showed major improvements, turning the result in his favor, 8-4, to secure a bid to Final X. Gilman earned a spot in Final X after dominating the field at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in May.

Whoever emerges from this weight will represent the U.S. well as both Fix and Gilman have experienced much international success.

Gilman is a 2017 Senior World silver medalist and also owns a bronze medal from the 2014 Junior Worlds.

Fix is a 2017 Junior World champion with two Junior World bronzes (2016, 2018), a 2015 Cadet World bronze and a 2014 Youth Olympic Games silver.

With Nebraska being close to Iowa and Oklahoma, we can expect big entourages for both wrestlers. Among them are Mark and Chris Perry, brothers who will be on opposing sides this weekend. Mark coaches Gilman, while Chris works closely with Fix.

Past Senior World Teams
Gilman – 2018 Senior Worlds (5th at 57 kg), 2017 Senior Worlds (silver at 57 kg)
Fix – none

Past age-group World Teams
Gilman – 2014 Junior Worlds (bronze at 55 kg), 2013 Junior Worlds (8th at 55 kg), 2011 Cadet Worlds (10th at 54 kg)
Fix – 2018 Junior Worlds (bronze at 57 kg), 2017 Junior Worlds (gold at 55 kg), 2017 U23 Worlds (19th at 57 kg), 2016 Junior Worlds (bronze at 55 kg), 2015 Cadet Worlds (bronze at 54 kg), 2014 Youth Olympic Games (silver at 54 kg), 2014 Cadets Worlds (10th at 54 kg)

Recent head-to-head matchups
April 2019 – U.S. Open finals: Fix dec. Gilman, 8-4
June 2018 – Final X match one: Gilman dec. Fix, 6-3
June 2018 – Final X match two: Gilman dec. Fix, 2-1

Bout eight: 74 kg Men’s FS – World bronze medalist Jordan Burroughs (Lincoln, Neb./Sunkist Kids) vs. World Team Trials champion Isaiah Martinez (Champaign, Ill./Titan Mercury WC/Illini WC)

While Jordan Burroughs dominated the Final X series last year, he said he thinks we will see a stronger version of Isaiah Martinez this time around, which makes this matchup more captivating.

Burroughs has presided over the 74 kg weight class in the U.S. and World since 2011, winning four World titles, an Olympic gold and two World bronzes. It seems likely that he will also take the spot for the 2019 World Team; however, don’t count Martinez out.

After a full year of focusing just on freestyle, Martinez has sharpened his skill set and staked his claim as one of the best 74 kg wrestlers in the country. Since falling short in Final X last year, Martinez has been getting some crucial international experience, winning a bronze medal at the Alexander Medved Prizes and taking 10th at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix. Martinez also represented the U.S. at the Freestyle World Cup, helping the squad to a third-place finish.

Burroughs barely has a hand full of losses overall in his Senior career and even fewer against Americans. The last time he lost to an American was in the 2017 World Team Trials in the best-of-three finals, where Kyle Dake won the first bout on criteria. Burroughs went on to win the next two and secure the World Team spot.

Should he make the team, Burroughs seeks to become the first American in any style to win five World titles. (The case is the same for women’s freestyler at 76 kg Adeline Gray.)

Like Green, Burroughs, a former Husker wrestler, has the advantage of competing in front of his home crowd.

Past Senior World Teams
Burroughs – 2018 Senior Worlds (bronze at 74 kg), 2017 Senior Worlds (gold at 74 kg), 2016 Olympics (9th at 74 kg), 2015 Senior Worlds (gold at 74 kg), 2014 Senior Worlds (bronze at 74 kg), 2013 Senior Worlds (gold at 74 kg), 2012 Olympics (gold at 74 kg), 2011 Senior Worlds (gold at 74 kg)
Martinez – none

Past age-group World Teams
Burroughs – 2008 Junior Worlds (10th at 66 kg)
Martinez – 2017 U23 Worlds (5th at 74 kg)

Recent head-to-head matchups
June 2018 – Final X match one: Burroughs dec. Martinez, 4-1
June 2018 – Final X match two: Burroughs TF Martinez, 11-1