Fix, Miracle and Graff take down World medalists, Burroughs and Martinez go three matches at Final X Lincoln

By Roger Moore, special to themat.com | June 15, 2019, 11:20 p.m. (ET)

Photo: Kayla Miracle celebrates a Final X win. Photo by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.

LINCOLN, Neb. – Daton Fix, a man of few words, screamed “this is my weight, this is my weight,” following a violent 18 minutes of wrestling Saturday night. The 21-year-old was one of three, joining Kayla Miracle and Tyler Graff, to take down returning World medalists in the final session of Final X: Lincoln.

Fix (Sand Springs, Okla./Titan Mercury WC/Cowboy RTC), an NCAA runner-up in March, grinded through three very physical matches with 2017 World silver medalist Thomas Gilman (Iowa City/Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) for the 57 kg spot in men’s freestyle. The opener saw Fix dominate, 9-1, only to see the former Hawkeye battle back in the second bout, scoring a late takedown to win, 3-2. The final bout, with hands like jackhammers, the two squared off and went to the final minute where Gilman tied things at 3-3 only to see Fix respond with another Houdini-like counter and a 5-3 lead. A video review kept things the same and the Oklahoma State sophomore-to-be won 6-3 and heads to Kazakhstan. It was as entertaining, and violent.

“I was prepared for a war,” Fix said. “The second match I didn’t make him wrestle, didn’t create enough action. The third match all I wanted to do was create action, find ways to score. I wanted it bad.

“I put myself in those positions every day in the room; I’m stingy. I don’t like to give up points. My dream was to be a four-time NCAA champion and I had that taken from me. I’ve made big strides since NCAAs. If I’m going to beat the best guys in the world I have to get to their legs and score points.”

Miracle (Iowa City/Sunkist Kids/Hawkeye WC) won four WCWA national titles for Campbellsville and three U.S. Open golds. But she had never made a Senior-level World Team. That changed Saturday as Miracle dominated 2018 World bronze medalist Mallory Velte (Sacramento, Calif./Titan Mercury WC) at 62 kg. A sweet fireman’s carry opened the first bout, a 12-2 technical fall, then a methodical 4-0 win gave Miracle the U.S. spot over an opponent who beat her in Final X 2018. Miracle beat Velte in the 2018 U.S. Open final.

“It’s about damn time,” said Miracle, a 23-year-old originally from Indiana who trains in Iowa. “We live for this two out of three, but I wanted to make it two and make a statement in this rivalry. Last year’s Final X, you are so close to making a team, making that next step of being a World medalist, of being an Olympic champion. To make our team you have to beat a World bronze medalist, that’s how great our country is, so last year, losing, that was a dagger.”

Freestyle matches can end in a hurry. Tyler Graff (Princeton, N.J./Titan Mercury WC/NJRTC) laced up Joe Colon’s legs, and ended the best-of-three at 61 kg in a flash in a decisive third match. Colon (Fresno, Calif./Titan Mercury WC/Valley RTC) won an energetic, action-packed opening match, but saw Graff, at 30, rebound with two-straight dominant victories to earn his first World Team spot. Colon won a bronze medal at the 2018 World Championships. Graff just about hung up the shoes not long ago. But he still believed.

I’ve been repeating to myself ‘Tyler Graff, World Team member. Tyler Graff, World champion,’” said Graff. “But there have been many years where that didn’t happen. I’m grateful for the coaches and everybody who kept me going and never let me give up. My wife was always there for me, even back to my college days. It was tough, but it was well worth it.”

They certainly were not the only highlights of the night as nine wrestlers earned spots for the 2019 World Championships in Kazakhstan this September. The best-of-three series determined six weights earlier in the day. Saturday night’s session rounded out the team, joining Final X: Rutgers’ results last Saturday.

They call them “Main Events” for a reason. And of the three that required a third and decisive bout, two of them, in men’s freestyle at 57 and 74 kg, were billed as such.

Jordan Burroughs (Lincoln, Neb./Sunkist Kids/Nebraska WTC), the self-proclaimed “old man,” did not look a bit over 20 during an impressive evening against Isaiah Martinez at 74 kg. The 2012 Olympic champion and four-time World champion looked in trouble in the opener until, in the blink-of-an-eye, he finished a beautiful shot for 3-3 lead. With just under 25 seconds remaining, a video review showed a step-out for Martinez. Then, somehow, someway, in an are-you-kidding-me-moment, Burroughs found another takedown in the final seconds for a 5-4 victory. The second period of the first match was, hands-down, the best three minutes of the day. Martinez (Champaign, Ill./Titan Mercury WC/Illinois RTC) had to be thinking how can I beat this guy after the earlier match. He showed he still believed in the second match, scoring a takedown and turn for a 5-2 lead; Burroughs, ever resilient, scored a takedown to close the gap, but, with both exhausted, the buzzer sounded and a third match was needed. The final match was not close as, in front of the home crowd, Burroughs finished off Martinez, 7-1.

“It’s always going to be tough. I could see it in Isaiah’s eyes. I could see it how he talked throughout the season and the improvements he made. Last summer at the beginning he couldn’t even touch my legs,” Martinez said. “That was pure heart. Anyone who watched that could see it. Just butting heads, hand fighting. That’s his M.O. He’s the tough guy, but I’m pretty tough too.”

Burroughs addressed his long list of challengers on Friday, some of collegiate wrestling’s top stars over the last decade. Martinez, a four-time NCAA finalist and two-time champion for Illinois, just added his name to that list again.

At 53 kg in women’s freestyle, 2018 World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt (Colorado Springs/New York AC/OTC) scored a late first-period takedown in a 3-0 win in the opener; the second match was no contest, 8-0, to earn the spot over 31-year-old Katherine Shai (Denver/Titan Mercury WC).

Four-time World champion Adeline Gray (Denver/New York AC) was physically dominant in a two-match sweep of Precious Bell (Lancaster, Calif./Titan Mercury WC) at 76 kg. A pin at the 1:57 mark won the first bout, a quick technical fall in the second ended the night for women’s freestyle.

If Burroughs has been the face of U.S. freestyle for the last decade, Kyle Snyder (Columbus, Ohio/Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) might just be that man for the next 10 or 15 years. The 2016 Olympic gold medalist and two-time World champion punched his ticket yet again with a decisive sweep of Kyven Gadson (Ames, Iowa/Sunkist Kids/Cyclone WC) at 97 kg. Two lightning-quick low-level attacks led to a 4-0 lead after three minutes and a scoreless second period gave Snyder the 1-0 lead in the best-of-three. The second bout saw a similar opening minute with the former Ohio State Buckeye taking a quick 6-0 lead thanks to a takedown and two turns. The powerful Snyder finished things off, 12-1, with one last crushing gut-wrench.

“God has all the power and I’m just here to work as hard as I can,” said Snyder, who will take that power to Kazakhstan in search of a rematch with the mighty “Russian Tank,” Abdulrashid Sadulaev, who bested the American in the 2018 World Championship gold medal bout.

Another World medalist, James Green (Lincoln, Neb./Sunkist Kids/Nebraska RTC), just a day after his wife gave birth to a daughter, will also return to another World Championship. Green, a two-time medalist, needed just 18 seconds in the opener to finish off a technical fall, then won a very competitive 4-3 match, scoring a late takedown to beat Ryan Deakin (Broomfield, Colo./Titan Mercury WC/Chicago RTC) at 70 kg.

One Greco-Roman series was contested Saturday night with 2018 World silver medalist Adam Coon (Ann Arbor, Mich./New York AC/Cliff Keen WC) taking care of 18-year-old and 2017 Cadet World champion Cohlton Schultz (Parker, Colo./Sunkist Kids/EAP). Schultz beat 2016 Olympian Robby Smith at the World Team Trials, but had no answers for the former Wolverine. Things went downhill for Schultz after a failed head-lock in the first bout; the second match, a 5-1 win, was equally dominant.

2019 FINAL X: LINCOLN
at Bob Devaney Center (Lincoln, Neb.), June 15

Men’s freestyle

57 kg: Daton Fix (Sand Springs, Okla./Titan Mercury WC/Cowboy RTC) df. Thomas Gilman (Iowa City, Iowa/Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC), 2 matches to 1
Round 1 – Fix dec. Gilman, 9-1
Round 2 – Gilman dec. Fix, 3-2
Round 3 – Fix dec. Gilman, 6-3

61 kg: Tyler Graff (Princeton, N.J./Titan Mercury WC/NJRTC) df. Joe Colon (Fresno, Calif./Titan Mercury WC/Valley RTC), 2 matches to 1
Round 1 – Colon dec. Graff, 6-4
Round 2 – Graff dec. Graff, 9-2
Round 3 – Graff TF Colon, 12-2

70 kg: James Green (Lincoln, Neb./Sunkist Kids/NWTC) df. Ryan Deakin (Broomfield, Colo./Titan Mercury WC/Chicago RTC), 2 matches to 0
Round 1 – Green TF Deakin, 10-0
Round 2 – Green dec. Deakin. 4-3

74 kg: Jordan Burroughs (Lincoln, Neb./Sunkist Kids/NWTC) df. Isaiah Martinez (Champaign, Ill./Titan Mercury WC/Illini RTC), 2 matches to 1
Round 1 – Burroughs dec. Martinez, 5-4
Round 2 – Martinez dec. Burroughs, 5-5
Round 3 – Burroughs dec. Martinez, 7-1

97 kg: Kyle Snyder (Columbus, Ohio/Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) df. Kyven Gadson (Ames, Iowa/Sunkist Kids/Cyclone RTC), 2 matches to 0
Round 1 – Snyder dec. Gadson, 4-0
Round 2 – Snyder TF Gadson, 12-1

Women’s freestyle

53 kg: Sarah Hildebrandt (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC/OTC) df. Katherine Shai (Denver, Colo./Titan Mercury WC), 2 matches to 0
Round 1 – Hildebrandt dec. Shai, 3-0
Round 2 – Hildebrandt dec. Shai, 8-0

62 kg: Kayla Miracle (Iowa City, Iowa/Sunkist Kids/Hawkeye WC) df. Mallory Velte (Sacramento, Calif./Titan Mercury WC), 2 matches to 0
Round 1 – Miracle TF Velte, 12-2
Round 2 – Miracle dec. Velte, 5-4

76 kg: Adeline Gray (Denver, Colo./New York AC) df. Precious Bell (Lancaster, Calif./Titan Mercury WC), 2 matches to 0
Round 1 – Gray df. Bell, fall 1:57
Round 2 – Gray TF Bell, 10-0

Greco-Roman

130 kg: Adam Coon (Ann Arbor, Mich./New York AC/Cliff Keen WC) df. Cohlton Schultz (Parker, Colo./Sunkist Kids), 2 matches to 0
Round 1 – Coon TF Schultz, 8-0
Round 2 – Coon dec. Schultz, 5-1