A changing of the guard took place at the 2016 Olympic Trials when Jesse Thielke (NYAC) defeated the longtime king of the thrown throne Spenser Mango (Army/WCAP) in the semifinals before running roughshod over Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) in the best-of-three finals. However, Thielke is currently out of action and still on the mend following surgery, allowing a closer look at some of the other top dogs at 59 kilos who will be fighting it out until he gets back.
US Nationals Preview – 59 kg
Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) A high ankle sprain limited Mango at the NYAC Open, eventually forcing him out of the tournament and causing the 25-year old to miss this year’s Golden Grand Prix. But if he is good to go there is little question Mango will be contending for a title, which would be his first. In short, Mango possesses virtually the same physical gifts as his now-legendary older brother (if not more). He just needs the chance to put it all together and that time is coming. An absolute match-up nightmare for almost everyone. Especially at 100%.
Sammy Jones (NYAC-OTS) 2014 University World bronze medalist Jones just got done competing at the World Wrestling Clubs Cup in Budapest and while his record at the event was hardly anything to write home about (1-4), he needs as many of those events as he could possibly get his hands on. The tools are almost all there. Jones (like many) lacks some of the refinement necessary to take that next step up on the big stage even though he doesn’t display any glaring physical deficiencies. He can fight and he can lift. That’s the base you need.
Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP) Tuma came down to 59 for the Farrell and boy, did he fit right in. He was clean, he was aggressive and best of all, he delivered with a silver medal after going toe-to-toe with Japan’s Shota Tanokura. Some are reluctant to see Tuma as a super-dangerous threat to the Thielke’s and Mango’s of the world, but that’s nonsense. If making scratch 59 is not a problem for him, then the problems for everyone else are likely just beginning.
Justin LaValle (Minnesota Storm) LaValle is closer than you might think. There is no one more resilient and because he is surrounded by one of the best training environments in the country, LaValle is constantly on the uptick. He defeated Mango at the NYAC in the first-round and even though an injury may have played a role in that affair, he went on to have a strong day otherwise. Eventually, LaValle should turn into one of “the names” at 59 but if that is going to happen, weekends like the one coming up are can’t-miss opportunities.
Dalton Roberts (NMU-OTS) A busy bee. Roberts has gotten in a lot of matches this year with seemingly just as many overseas as domestically. (Maybe not, but you get the picture.) He’s also a two-time Junior World Team member who won the University Trials in June, and recently took silver at the traditionally tough Malarcupen in Sweden. You know this guy– he’s a pressure fighter. Forward, forward, darting setups, punchy counters. Once he fully blossoms physically at 59 and begins tossing people all over the place, there will be panic.
Isaiah Varona (NMU-OTS) Filthy, flashy speed is Varona’s biggest weapon. It’d be nice if he could put it on display more often. Quickness is hard to teach but decisiveness is even harder. When Varona has been confident, he’s moving, toying around with ties and then…whoosh, he’s in on the body. Against top-level Seniors though, that hasn’t come easy. Maybe he needs to be challenged more and if so, Saturday should help him out with that. Look for him to try and send a message early on.
Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) Nowry, the once smallish 55’er, has become one of the mainstays at the sport’s lowest weight class in this country. It took Nowry a minute to fully grow into 55 but once he did, he became a top contender, culminating with an appearance in the 2012 Olympic Trials finals. 59 kilos hasn’t been quite as kind as 55 was, though he certainly doesn’t lack for the power or skill necessary to compete. The US needs Nowry as a top guy again. Assuming he’s healthy and motivated, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be.
Dennis Hall (World Gold) Clocking in at 45 years old, Hall is double the age of what is likely the majority of athletes in this weight class. That doesn’t seem to bother him one bit. Why would it? Hall believes he has healed his body and is in better shape than he was over a decade ago, when he retired following making his third Olympic team. He might feel great, but whether or not that translates competitively remains to be seen. The kind of heat Hall brought at his peak speaks for itself. If he’s got anything close to that left, this might get interesting quickly.
Zach Sanders (Minnesota Storm) A sick talented all-around wrestler, Sanders was a star for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and advanced to the national stage in freestyle, which included a University World silver medal and an upset fall over Angel Escobedo at the 2014 Open. As to what Sanders brings to the table in a Senior Greco Roman event is up in the air. He’s clearly demonstrated that he is an incredible wrestler given his previous accomplishments, so he is worth mentioning here. Plus, Sanders is with Storm and that’s never a bad thing. Wildcard.
Randon Miranda (NMU-OTS) The truth is, Miranda has some ole’ fashioned warrior blood in him and good thing, too, because as he negotiates the ladder domestically, he is going to need to draw from it to keep progressing. The California native made his first Junior World Team this past spring and won a match in dominant fashion at the World Championships. He is starting to accumulate the intangibles that are necessary and if his body can catch up with all of that, the future could be a bright one.