USA Wrestling announced last week that two athletes who competed at this year’s Final X Series — Brady Koontz (55 kg, TMWC/Ohio RTC) and Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist) — will receive “special” wrestle-offs against the winners of their respective weight classes from the U23 World Team Trials, which were held earlier this month in Akron, Ohio.
The U23 Trials champ at 55 kilos was Liam Cronin (IN), who swept 2017 Junior World silver Cevion Severado (MO) in the best-of-three final. Cronin is a former age-group competitor who is now enrolled at the University of Indiana but had spent time training this past spring at Northern Michigan prior to Akron.
Schultz will be taking on David Tate Orndorff (NYAC/UVRTC) in a rematch of last year’s U23 best-of-three series. Schultz defeated Orndorff in two straight matches in June of 2018 to secure his spot, but that wasn’t the end of Orndorff’s story. Three weeks after those Trials, the Utah Valley heavyweight earned National Team honors at the Senior Trials in Oklahoma. This past April, Orndorff was also a runner-up to Jacob Mitchell (Army/WCAP) at the US Open before winning the U23 tournament.
According to USA Wrestling, the U23 Trials procedures dictate that “if a U23 age eligible athlete qualifies for Final X at the Senior level, they do not have to participate in the U23 World Team Trials and can request a wrestle-off against the U23 World Team Trials champion at a date after Final X.”
The statement also goes on to add that “if there are two age eligible athletes at the weight class for Final X, the Final X champion will be the eligible athlete for the U23 wrestle-off. If the Final X champion declines the wrestle-off, the runner-up at Final X will receive the option for the wrestle-off.” In either case, athletes were to submit formal requests for wrestle-offs to US National Team head coach Matt Lindland by “end of day” on June 22.
Koontz and Schultz both came up short at Final X. For Koontz, it was a two-match series loss to Max Nowry (Army/WCAP, world no. 12) in New Jersey; Schultz fell to 2018 World silver Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen, world no. 2) in Nebraska. Kamal Bey (77 kg, Sunkist, world no. 5), who was on the inaugural U23 Team in 2017 and was defeated by Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) at Final X: Rutgers, had been eligible to request a wrestle-off against Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS) but declined to do so.
One athlete who was also eligible to sit out in Akron but chose not to is G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist, world no. 3). Hancock, 21, had placed second at the Sassari City International tournament in Italy the week prior to the U23 Trials but made it back to the US in time to earn his third-straight spot on the U23 World Team. Two weeks later, Hancock got past Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) at Final X: Lincoln to cement his third consecutive appearance at the Senior Worlds.
The date and location of the wrestle-offs for Koontz/Cronin and Schultz/Orndorff have yet to be announced. Speculation has suggested that the 2019 Cadet and Junior Nationals held in Fargo, North Dakota next month will serve as the site for both the Greco-Roman and freestyle U23 wrestle-offs, but that has not been confirmed.
Robby Smith Tosses First Pitch at Cubs Game
2016 Olympian Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC/Chicago RTC) was given the honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Chicago Cubs’ game versus the New York Mets yesterday at Wrigley Field in observance of “Olympic Day”. Smith was selected by the Midwest Chapter of Olympians and Paralympians to get the ball. Cubs hurler Kyle Ryan received the pitch. It is inconclusive as to whether or not the pitch was over the plate judging by the only camera angle currently available.
Superior Camp at NMU Begins Today
The 2019 Superior International Camp got underway this morning inside the Superior Dome on the campus of Northern Michigan University. A sizable delegation of Swedish athletes are once again in the mix, although this year things are a little different: for the first time, females are participating. That’s because Sweden brought over a group of women’s freestyle wrestlers, prompting involvement from US women to also make the trip up to Marquette.
As is usually the case, a dual between American and Swedish athletes is expected to take place later this week (purportedly Wednesday). When that information is confirmed, we will update accordingly.