USA Wrestling #FreestyleFriday: A ...

#FreestyleFriday: A look at tomorrow’s Nittany Lion WC dual

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Sept. 18, 2020, 4:28 p.m. (ET)

Photo: Alex Dieringer (left) and Bo Nickal.

Saturday night, the Nittany Lion Wrestling Lion is hosting a dual against the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club at 8 p.m. ET live on Rokfin.

A $9.99/month subscription is required to watch the event. Subscribe here!

It’s not just NLWC and CKWC athletes that will be competing, the night will showcase athletes from other clubs as well. The 13-bout card features 11 men’s freestyle matches and two women’s freestyle matches.

Below is a quick look at each athlete competing in match order:

74 kg/163 lbs. – Rick Durso vs. Malik Amine (CKWC/San Marino)

Kicking off the card is Rick Durso vs. Malik Amine.

Durso was a 2014 All-American for Franklin & Marshall, while Amine was a two-time NCAA qualifier for Michigan.

Now, Amine competes for San Marino, wrestling at two European Championships and the 2018 World Championships.

125 kg/275 lbs. – Nick Nevills (NLWC) vs. Jordan Wood (Lehigh Valley RTC)

Both of these athletes were impressive during their college careers. Nevills is a two-time All-American heavyweight for Penn State (2017, 18), while Wood was a 2019 All-American for Lehigh.

As an age-group athlete, Wood made a Cadet and Junior World Team. In 2014, he earned a silver medal at the Cadet World Championships. He was 11th at the 2016 Junior Worlds.

Nevills most recent freestyle result was a fourth-place finish at the Senior Nationals in December. He was also fourth at the Bill Farrell International in November.

62 kg/136 lbs. – Jennifer Page (NLWC) vs. Desiree Zavala (Wayland Baptist)

Though the last few years have brought many obstacles for her in the form of injuries, Jennifer Page is a tough wrestler with a great resume, including a 2013 Junior World bronze medal and a 2015 Pan Am gold medal. A multi-time National Team member, Page has been more active in the last year, competing domestically and abroad. Her most recent result was a fifth-place finish at the 2019 Senior Nationals in December.

Desiree Zavala claimed her first National Team bid last year at 62 kg. Heading into her senior year, Zavala is a student-athlete at Wayland Baptist University, which she transferred to last year. Prior to transferring to WBU, Zavala was a WCWA All-American for Southern Oregon and Grays Harbor. Last spring, she snagged a runner-up finish at the Senior U.S. Open.   

196 lbs. – Jaime Espinal (NLWC/Puerto Rico) vs. Domenic Abounader (CKWC/Lebanon)

While both of these athletes train in the United States, they compete for other countries.

Espinal has been on the scene for quite some time as he is a 2012 Olympic silver medalist for Puerto Rico. He has competed in nine World Championships and two Olympic Games, dating back to 2007. His most notable results recently include a silver medal at the 2019 Pan Am Championships and an appearance at the 2019 World Championships.

Born and raised in the USA, Abounader has been competing for Lebanon since 2018. In his debut for Lebanon, Abounader finished with a silver medal at the 2018 Asian Games. He then went on to wrestle in the 2018 World Championships as well. In college, Abounader was a four-year starter for Michigan, collecting All-America honors in 2018.

157 lbs. – Zain Retherford (NLWC) vs. Alec Pantaleo (CKWC)

A three-time NCAA champion for Penn State, Retherford has represented the USA at the 2017 and 2019 Senior World Championships. Though he didn’t medal in either appearance, Retherford has proven himself to be one of the best 65 kg wrestlers in the country on more than one occasion. He has been an impressive freestyle wrestler since his youth days, winning a Cadet World gold medal in 2012.

Pantaleo was a three-time All-American for Michigan, wrapping up his collegiate career in 2019. Like Retherford, Pantaleo has represented the United States at the World Championships, competing in the 2016 Junior Worlds and 2019 U23 Worlds. He registered top-10 finishes in both showings. Pantaleo’s last competition was the 2019 Senior Nationals in December, where he wrestled at 74 kg.

While they wrestled each other a few times in college, this will be their first meeting at the Senior freestyle level.

79 kg/174 lbs. – Jason Nolf (NLWC) vs. David McFadden (Pennsylvania RTC)

Nolf is a two-time National Team member, who earned the title of one of the most dominant college wrestlers in history as a three-time NCAA champ for Penn State. Nolf made his international debut in November with a silver medal at the Bill Farrell International. He improved on that, winning a gold medal at the 2020 Pan American Championships earlier this year.

Three-time All-American McFadden recently finished his college career, where he competed for Virginia Tech. He then made the move to Philadelphia to continue his training with the Pennsylvania RTC. McFadden had his first international competition at the 2018 U23 World Championships, where he took seventh in the world. Most recently, he wrestled at Wrestling Underground, defeating Tommy Gantt.

77 kg/170 lbs. – Vincenzo Joseph (NLWC) vs. Dan Vallimont (Pennsylvania RTC)

Vincenzo Joseph is a two-time NCAA champion and three-time NCAA finalist for Penn State, who is new to the Senior freestyle scene. His most recent freestyle competition was the Bill Farrell International, where he won several matches before injury forfeiting out.

Vallimont, who was a two-time AA for Penn State in the late 2000s, is a seasoned freestyle wrestler, who now trains at the Pennsylvania RTC in Philly. Over the years, Vallimont has earned several international medals, including two silver medals at the Dave Schultz Memorial International. 

125 kg/275 lbs. – Greg Kerkvliet (NLWC) vs. Youssif Hemida (CKWC)

This match will be a battle of World medalists.

Kerkvliet, who began his college career last season, is a 2017 Cadet World champ, a 2018 Cadet World silver medalist and a fifth-place finisher at the 2019 U23 World Championships. He picked up the 2017 gold medal in his international debut.

Similarly, Hemida landed a spot on the World podium in his first international tournament as well, winning silver at the 2018 U23 World Championships. Wrapping up his college career in 2019, Hemida was a two-time All-American for Maryland.

77 kg/170 lbs. – Bekzod Abdurakhmonov (NLWC/Uzbekistan) vs. Logan Massa (CKWC)

For U.S. fans, Abdurakhmonov is most infamous for ending Jordan Burroughs’ 2016 Olympic run. Since then, Burroughs has avenged the loss. A vet wrestler for Uzbekistan, Abdurakhmonov is a two-time World bronze medalist, earning his hardware in 2014 and 2018. He also competed in the US for college, earning All-America honors for Clarion in 2012. Additionally, he has won several other tournaments over the years. His most recent competition was 2019 World Championships, where he took 11th.

Massa, an All-American for Michigan, has been on the rise in his freestyle career. Last NCAA season, Massa elected to take an Olympic redshirt year to focus fully on freestyle. It proved to be paying off when Massa turned in an exceptional performance en route to a gold-medal performance at the 2019 Senior Nationals in December. He also earned an international medal in October.

62 kg/136 lbs. – Jane Valencia (NLWC/Mexico) vs. Julia Salata (Team Tornado WC)

Jane Valencia, who trains out of the Nittany Lion room, represents Mexico. In March, she became the first female wrestler from Mexico to qualify for the Olympics with a gold-medal finish at the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier. She’s competed in four Senior World Championships and also owns a gold medal from the 2015 Pan Am Games.

A multiple-time National Team member, Julia Salata has been a threat on the Senior national level for years and has represented the United States at multiple international tournaments, including the Pan American Championships in 2013, 2014 and 2019, where she won two bronzes and a gold, respectively. She was also a two-time Junior World team member. Salata trains out of Bristol, Tennessee, at King College, where she is an assistant coach for the women’s wrestling program.

59 kg/130 lbs. – Thomas Gilman (NLWC) vs. Darian Cruz (Lehigh Valley RTC)

Gilman, who recently moved to State College after several years at the University of Iowa, will compete for the first time as a NLWC wrestler tomorrow. Gilman is a 2017 Senior World medalist and went on to represent the U.S. at the 2018 Worlds, where he took fifth. He has won his last two international tournaments, including a gold medal at the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier event in March to qualify the U.S. for the Olympic Games at 57 kg. He also scored gold at the Matteo Pellicone International in January, which served as a UWW Ranking Series event.

Cruz is a 2017 NCAA champion for Lehigh, who beat Gilman in dramatic fashion in the NCAA semifinals. Last spring, Cruz earned his way on to his first Senior National Team as the No. 3 wrestler in the country, just behind No. 2 Gilman. Since then, he has been active on the international scene and most recently won a bronze medal at the 2020 Pan American Championships in Canada.

Gilman and Cruz last met in the 2019 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament finals, where Gilman won the series in two-straight matches.

99 kg/218 lbs. – Kyle Snyder (NLWC) vs. Mike Macchiavello (Wolfpack RTC)

The penultimate match of the night brings some serious star power.

Joining the NLWC in January, Snyder is a 2016 Olympic champion, two-time World champion (2015, 2017) and owns two other World medals, including silver in 2018 and bronze in 2019. He also owns three NCAA titles, wrestling for Ohio States. Snyder’s last international competition was the Pan American Championships in March, where he won gold.

A 2018 NCAA champion for North Carolina State, Macchiavello made his first Senior National Team last year at 92 kg. He has competed internationally five times since then, collecting three top-five finishes, including a silver medal at the Bill Farrell International and bronze medal at the Dan Kolov International.

Snyder and Macchiavello last met in the Bill Farrell finals, where Snyder came away with a 10-0 victory.

190 lbs. – Bo Nickal (NLWC) vs. Alex Dieringer (CKWC)

The night’s main event will pit some of the world’s best wrestlers against each other in Bo Nickal and Alex Dieringer.

A three-time NCAA champion for Penn State, Nickal put himself on several countries’ radars last fall, when he eased his way to a gold medal at the U23 World Championships in Hungary. He also put the USA on alert as he took World champion and Olympic medalist J’den Cox to two close matches in the Final X series for the 92 kg Senior World Team spot.

Dieringer is also a three-time NCAA champion, competing for Oklahoma State. This summer, he moved out to Michigan to continue his training at the Cliff Keen WC. A four-time National Team member, Dieringer has been stuck behind legends like Jordan Burroughs and Kyle Dake on the National Team ladder, keeping him from a World Championship bid. However, he has proven himself to the world, collecting a top-three finish in every single international tournament he’s competed in since 2013. He also owns a silver medal from the 2013 Junior World Championships.

Tomorrow will be the first time Nickal and Dieringer will wrestle.