When United World Wrestling announced last year that it was going to up the ante for age-group competition by adding a U15 World Championships, the United States Greco-Roman program’s collective eyes lit up. The way they saw it, UWW’s news meant two things: 1) there would be a fresh mechanism available to attract more youths to Greco at an earlier age; and 2) while a big performance on the World level for an American U15 squad might not be a lock, the chances are high due to the amount of well-coached talent the country has at its disposal in the younger age brackets.
After what transpired yesterday at the Papillion Landing Field House in Nebraska, that second item mentioned appears to be right on the money.
A full day of big throws and a healthy number of crazy scores gave way to a slate of 2019 U15 National finals responsible for producing the American Team that will compete later this year at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Those not in attendance were able to check out the action live on FLOWrestling.
To the surprise of perhaps no one, athletes who came from training environments that feature superb coaching in the international styles acquitted themselves particularly well. PINnacle Wrestling School in Minnesota, helmed in part by US legend and Olympic/World silver Brandon Paulson, had itself four finalists and two champions; Izzy Style Wrestling, the well-known club in Illinois, put two champs and three overall finalists in the mix; Legends of Gold, one of the US’ only full-time Olympic style academies, put forth a new World Teamer; and MWC, the home club run by multi-time US World coach Zach Dominguez, also got on the board with a U15 World Team Trials champ.
The scoring frenzy in the finals started immediately. Out of Wisconsin, Adam Valencia (AWA, 38 kg) demonstrated a sharp offensive attack opposite Elias Navida (Poway Elite). In Match 1, he used a front headlock and a series of turns to emerge 8-0 — and it was a near-repeat in the second finals bout. Valencia captured a takedown early and followed with a pair of turns before sealing his spot at the Worlds with another takedown.
At 44 kilograms, Zach Silvis (PINnacle) and Kael Lauridsen (NE Boyz) engaged in a competitive affair to open up their best-of-three, a match that Silvis won, and it looked like it was going in that direction for Match 2. Lauridsen had jetted out to a 5-0 advantage in the first period, but just before the buzzer, Silvis entered the argument thanks to a four-point throw. In the second, Silvis pummeled to double underhooks and twisted Lauridsen to the mat, eventually nabbing the fall.
Only two finals series went to a third and decisive contest. And in both cases, the champ won the two bouts on the back-end.
Elijah Paulson (48 kg, PINnacle) jumped on top of Joel Adams (LOG) right away, and literally, when he wrapped the body for four early in Match 1. Two more points were added on when Adams, who was trying to fight off his back, got called for a leg foul. Paulson clinched the bout shortly into the second with a takedown. Adams stormed back in Match 2. First, he banged a four-point headlock; he then tacked on a takedown. In the closing period, Adams landed on top of a Paulson throw attempt to even the series.
Match 3 saw Adams seize control in the first minute via takedown and gut. Paulson looked close on a pair of occasions to finding a scoring hold that would even the playing field, but the big score never came. Adams briskly got around back on a scramble in the second period, thus ending the match and giving Legends of Gold its first-ever U15 World Team member.
Fitting because they went on last, but Andrew Blackburn-Forst (85 kg, Colt) and Nathan Wemstrom (Izzy Style) combined for one of the most entertaining finals series of the event. They went back-and-forth in Match 1 slugfest that Wemstrom ran away with late thanks to a twisting bodylock that resulted in a fall. But Blackburn-Forst would be heard from again, and loudly. In Match 2, he snared a trap-arm bodylock and rolled Wemstrom over and to his back for a first-period pin. In the deciding bout, a headlock at the edge from Blackburn-Forst opened the scoring — and then he went right back to the trap-arm bodylock that yielded success in the previous match, sailing to a 10-0 series-clinching triumph.
62 kilos offered a wrestler who is not only coached by an elite-level instructor, but also boasts prior relevant experience against foreigners. From Ivan Ivanov’s Suples Training Center in Boise, Jaden Skellenger was lights out throughout the tournament and just as much so in the finals. Skellenger battled Jake Jones (LVWC), who himself enjoyed a furious run to the final, and swept the series with both bouts ending 8-0. The Idaho product uncorked a tight arm spin to ice Match 1, and put away Match 2 with a takedown and string of guts. Both of Skellenger’s victories in the finals were achieved in the first period.
Criteria didn’t figure to play a role too often in the U15 Nationals, and to be sure, it wasn’t a deciding factor but for one bout. MWC’s Tyler Antoniak (68 kg) was behind Thor Michaelson (NWVC) 6-5 with mere seconds remaining in Match 1 when he was able to coax a step-out that turned the tide. No such drama availed itself in the second finals bout, as Antoniak took a 5-0 peck-away lead into the second frame before collecting three more points, the last of which was, coincidentally, a step-out, to earn his place at the table in Budapest.
2019 U15 Greco-Roman Nationals
April 12th — Papillion, Nebraska
Aden Valencia (AWA) def. Elias Navida (Poway Elite) two matches to none
Match 1: Valencia def. Navida 8-0
Match 2: Valencia def. Navida 8-0
Paul Kelley (Sunkist Kids) def. Caleb Thoennes (PINnacle) two matches to none
Match 1: Kelley def. Thoennes via fall
Match 2: Kelley def. Thoennes 13-4, TF
Zach Silvis (PINnacle) def. Kael Lauridesen (NE Boyz) two matches to none
Match 1: Silvis def. Lauridsen 7-4
Match 2: Silvis def. Lauridsen via fall
Joel Adams (LOG) def. Elijah Paulson (PINnacle ) two matches to one
Match 1: Paulson def. Adams 8-0, TF
Match 2: Adams def. Paulson 8-0, TF
Match 3: Adams def. Paulson 7-0
Ethan Stiles (Izzy Style) def. Q’veli Quintanilla (INWTC) two matches to none
Match 1: Stiles def. Quintanilla 9-0, TF
Match 2: Stiles def. Quintanilla 8-0, TF
Jayden Colon (Izzy Style) over Brock Bobzien (Poway Elite) two matches to none
Match 1: Colon def. Bobzien 11-0, TF
Match 2: Colon def. Bobzien 13-4, TF
Jadon Skellenger (Suples) def. Jack Jones (LVWC) two matches to none
Match 1: Skellenger def. Jones 8-0, TF
Match 2: Skellenger def. Jones 8-0, TF
Tyler Antoniak (MWC) def. Thor Michaelson (NWWC) two matches to none
Match 1: Antoniak def. Michaelson 6-6 (criteria)
Match 2: Antoniak def. Michaelson 8-0, TF
Gavin Nelson (PiNnacle ) def. Bradley Gillum (Hurricane WC) two matches to none
Match 1: Nelson def. Gillum 9-2
Match 1: Nelson def. Gillum 8-6
Andrew Blackburn-Forst (Colt) def. Nathan Wemstrom (Izzy Style) two matches to one
Match 1: Wemstrom def. Blackburn-Forst via fall
Match 2: Blackburn-Forst def. Wemstrom via fall
Match 3: Blackburn-Forst def. Wemstrom 10-0, TF
2019 US U15 World Team
38 kg: Adam Valencia (AWA)
41 kg: Paul Kelley (Sunkist)
44 kg: Zach Silvis (PINnacle)
48 kg: Joel Adams (LOG)
52 kg: Ethan Stiles (Izzy)
57 kg: Jayden Colon (Izzy)
62 kg: Jaden Skellenger (Suples)
68 kg: Tyler Antoniak (MWC)
75 kg: Gavin Nelson (PINnacle)
85 kg: Andrew Blackburn-Forst (Colt)
38 kg: Luke Lilledahl (Bull Trained/XTreme RTC)
41 kg: Ayson Rice (LOG)
44 kg: Alexander Marre (Izzy Style)
48 kg: Greyson Clark (Combat)
52 kg: Pierson Manville (PINnacle)
57 kg: Payton Brooks (JET Wrestling)
62 kg: Joe Gonzalez (Florida Jets)
68 kg: Ryder Rogotzke (East Ridge)
75 kg: Enzo Morlacci Young Guns)
85 kg:Gabe Edwards (MWC)