Earlier on Monday, USA Wrestling released the “seeds” for this week’s US Open, which can be found below.
2023 US Open Greco-Roman Seeds
** – Returning US World Team member
* – Current US National Team member
1. *Brady Koontz (TMWC/Dubuque RTC)
2. *Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP)
3. Drew West (IL)
4. Camden Russell (MWC)
5. Jacob Cochran (Army/WCAP)
6. Billy Sullivan (Army/WCAP)
1. **Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP)
2. *Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP)
3. *Randon Miranda (Unattached)
4. *Mason Hartshorn (West Coast Greco RTC)
5. Phillip Moomey (Spartan Combat RTC)
6. Dylan Koontz (TMWC/Dubuque RTC)
7. Max Black (NYAC/NTS)
1. **Sammy Jones (Sunkist/Colorado Top Team)
2. Mike Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP)
3. Hayden Tuma (Suples)
4. Xavier Johnson (Army/WCAP)
5. Aidan Nutter (NYAC/NTS)
6. Dylan Gregerson (UVRTC)
7. Corbin Nirschl (MWC)
8. Logan Savvy (NYAC)
1. **Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP)
2. *Alston Nutter (Sunkist)
3. **Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP)
4. Robert Perez III (Sunkist)
5. Lenny Merkin (NYAC)
6. David Stepanyan (NYAC/NTS)
7. Hunter Lewis (NC)
8. Jessy Williams (Spartan Combat RTC)
9. Chayse La Joie (CARTC)
1. *Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm)
2. *Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP)
3. *Noah Wachsmuth (OTC)
4. Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP)
5. Jamel Johnson (Marines)
6. Justus Scott (Army/WCAP)
7. Richard Fedalen (NYRTC)
8. Dominic Damon (NMU/NTS)
9. Bobby Yamashita (Navy)
1. **Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP)
2. *Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS)
3. RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC)
4. Jesse Porter (NYAC)
5. Burke Paddock (NYAC)
6. Aliaksandr Kikiniou (CA)
7. Danny Braunagel (IRTC)
1. **Ben Provisor (NYAC/GVRTC)
2. **Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP)
3. *Tommy Brackett (Unattached)
4. Tyler Cunningham (MWC)
5. Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC)
6. Kendrick Sanders (NYAC/NTS)
7. Fritz Schierl (Minnesota Storm)
8. Mike Altomer (NMU/NTS)
1. **Alan Vera (NYAC)
2. *Timothy Young (Army/WCAP)
3. John Stefanowicz (Navy-Marine Corps RTC)
4. Richard Carlson (Minnesota Storm)
5. Zac Braunagel (IRTC)
6. Austin Craig (Navy)
7. Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm)
1. Joe Rau (TMWC/IRTC)
2. Nick Boykin (Sunkist)
3. *Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm)
4. George Sikes (NYAC/NTS)
5. Robert Barbour (CO)
1. **Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist)
2. *Tanner Farmer (NYAC/IRTC)
3. Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen)
4. Courtney Freeman (Marines)
5. Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm)
6. Rulon Gardner (Rulon Gardner Gold Medal Gym)
7. Luke Luffman (IRTC)
8. Kaleb Reeves (Eastern Iowa WC)
9. Tom Foote (NYAC)
There has been a string of surprising entries into the US Open, led most recently by Rulon Gardner, who registered on Sunday. Last year, Gardner — ’00 Olympic Champion, ’01 World champ, and ’04 Olympic bronze — had publicly touted his desire to pursue the opportunity to make a third Olympic Team. He has not competed in a sanctioned match since earning bronze in Athens, with an exhibition this past winter against former Army heavyweight Jacob Mitchell serving as a de-facto progress report relative to his training. At 51 years of age, there is likely doubt surrounding his chances to pose a serious challenge to the likes of Cohlton Schultz, Adam Coon, or Tanner Farmer. But he has not forgotten how to wrestle; and given his well-documented history of mental toughness on the field of play, dismissing his candidacy could be a mistake.
Two-time World Team member Joe Rau (TMWC/IRTC) returning to Greco has provided a morale boost to fans and fellow athletes alike. That Rau has decided to saunter back onto the scene at 97 kilograms is also a nice wrinkle. The Illinois native had previously spent time at 98 kilograms (’15-’16) before heading down to 87. Rau’s time at 98, albeit brief, did not include same-day weigh-ins. He had made 87 without experiencing much in the way of difficulty while maintaining a large frame for the weight category. With weight not at all a serious issue coming into this week, Rau should be healthy and viable through the tournament, and his #1 seed speaks to his competitive reputation.
Also on Sunday, Barrett Stanghill (87 kg, Minnesota Storm) threw his name into the hat. A popular, heated competitor over the course of his career, Stanghill began keeping a low profile on the heels of the ’20 Olympic Trials. Now married and the founder of a custom home building company in Montana, wrestling has not been his chief priority. But it never left him, either. Stanghill might not be in a full-time training environment or have a host of partners from whom to choose, yet it is probable that he will have a few strong moments inside of the South Point Hotel Arena.
Multi-time National champ Kendrick Sanders (82 kg, NYAC/NTS) zipping in under the radar on the registration list deservedly opened some eyeballs. Similar to Stanghill, Sanders spends the majority of his time these days working, and trains only sporadically. How much of a difference might that make? Possibly not too much. Sanders, so long as he is physically in-tune, is capable of putting up points faster than anyone else in the 82 bracket.
Will 67 Stand Above the Rest Again?
Last season, 67 kilograms was the most action-packed and dynamic weight category in the United States. At all three domestic tournaments.
This year does not figure to be any different, even with ’21 World Team member/’19 Junior World bronze Peyton Omania (NYAC/CYC) sitting out of the Open. Aside from returning World Teamer Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) and his runner-up from Final X Alston Nutter still in the fold are ’16 Olympian Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP), Lenny Merkin (NYAC), Robert Perez III (Sunkist), and David Stepanyan (NYAC/NTS). Thielke, whose bounce-back in ’22 ended with a victory over Sammy Jones (Sunkist/Colorado Top Team) for the 63 kg crown at Final X, recently decided to climb up to 67 after trouncing the field at Armed Forces.
Merkin — as described in the FLOWrestling version of our preview — is for the first time in his career practicing every single day in a high-level environment. Previously, Brooklyn boy Merkin would have to piece together his training between numerous locations in the NY metropolitan area. He depended on various National camps and the like to fill in the gaps. Merkin still performed consistently well in spite of his makeshift operations, but it is reasonable to expect an elevated degree of sharpness from him in Vegas.
Meanwhile, Perez is the most intriguing of the bunch. The still-U20-eligible competitor is in a unique spot in that he has looked better against elite foreign Seniors than he has when opposed by domestic counterparts. Perez has faced ’22 World Champion Sebastian Nad (SRB), ’17 World silver Mateusz Bernatek (POL), and ’20 European Championships gold Morten Thoresen (NOR) over the past two seasons. Although he did not win any of those matches, he was in each one of them. He has also benefited from training with athletes of this ilk recently — and when you take into account his stalking style and high pace, it is easy to anticipate that he should make a definitive mark on how this bracket plays out.
2023 US Open Schedule
FLOWrestling will carry the broadcast live in the US (subscription required).
All times PT.
Wednesday, April 26
10:00am-2:00pm — Preliminary rounds, quarterfinals, & consolations
4:00pm-6:30pm — Semifinals, consolation rounds continued
Thursday, April 27
10:00am-12:30pm — Consolation rounds continued
4:00pm-6:00pm — Finals & medal rounds
Listen to “5PM053: Northern Michigan assistant Parker Betts and USMC Captain Jamel Johnson” on Spreaker.
Listen to “5PM52: Two-Time Olympian Jim Gruenwald” on Spreaker.
Listen to “5PM51: Lining up with Tanner Farmer” on Spreaker.
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