We are only days away from Thor Masters 2023, which starts this coming Friday (mid-morning ET) and concludes on Saturday. The first and more comprehensive preview covering the entire scope of international entrants was just released. In this space will be a concise drill-down focusing solely on the American delegation with a special spotlight on those for whom this event carries particular significance.
USA Thor Masters 2023 Overview
Upon its official arrival on the calendar for ’23, it was originally anticipated that if there were to be a US contingent, it would be a small one. A National Team-level camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs will barely overlap the post-Thor Masters camp, thus rendering an automatic scheduling conflict for some. In addition, the trip to Denmark is, of course, a “find your own funding” excursion. Nothing new for the US program, naturally, which meshes well with the first point mentioned. There is more to the situation than just these two reasons as to why the expectation had been a limited American presence, if any, but this pair of factors stands as the most prominent.
Instead of a mere handful of US athletes, there are 15 registered for the event. A healthy number, indeed. In ’19, the USA program entered 19 competitors — and ’23’s size puts it in a tie for second with ’17’s roster.”Wildman Sam” Sammy Jones (63 kg, Sunkist/CTT) is the only holdover on this year’s tour to have also competed at Thor Masters ’17.
Others on the ’23 squad who hold prior Thor experience followed by their year(s) and placing are:
Logan Savvy (60 kg, NYAC) — ’22; 4th place
Jesse Porter (77 kg, NYAC) — ’18, 9th place; ’19 ; 9th place
Dominic Damon (67 kg, NMU/NTS) — ’19, 11th place; ’21, 5th place
Lenny Merkin (67 kg, NYAC) — ’20, 16th place
’21 World Team member and ’20 Olympic Trials champ Porter’s Thor Masters record is deceiving. Though he finished 9th twice, his individual match record from the tournament is 4-4. It should come as no surprise that all four of his victories were of the VSU variety.
With only five wrestlers having prior Thor time-on-target, simple math indicates that the remaining ten are “new” to what the spectacle has to offer. Though even that is misleading. For instance, ’19 Junior World bronze Alston Nutter (67 kg, Sunkist) may not have participated in Thor Masters just yet — but he has obviously competed overseas plenty of times, has a lot of experience against Scandinavians, and even stayed with tournament organizer Thor Hyllegaard in Denmark as part of a trip he took with Benji Peak (72 kg, Sunkist) back in the fall of ’17. Nutter certainly holds a comfort level in this type of environment.
The rest bring about a different degree of interest given that this will be their introduction to Thor Masters. Even when considering someone like Rich Carlson (87 kg, Minnesota Storm), who — like Jones, Merkin, Nutter, Porter, and Fritz Schierl (82 kg, Minnesota Storm) — has been around on the Senior level for a while. Therefore, we will categorize the remaining first-timers (excluding Nutter) according to these two parameters: “curiosity” and “development”. Curiosity, because fans and observers should watch this segment of competitors closely to see what it looks like when they are matched up against foreigners; the developmental component refers to those who skew younger and might be able to use Thor as a springboard towards their overall progression in the short-term.
Robert Perez III (67 kg, Sunkist) — Between two age-group World tournaments and other overseas endeavors (such a Zagreb ’22, for example), Perez is not exactly new to this scene. However, he is so skilled and has improved so fast that there is heavy anticipation to check out that of which he is currently capable.
Fritz Schierl (82 kg, Minnesota Storm) — Schierl is a very strong and well-trained athlete with a style that is pleasing to watch. But — his career has been limited to domestic competition. It would be nice to get a sampling of what he can do when opposed by someone not from the USA.
Rich Carlson (87 kg, Minnesota Storm) — Whether by accident or through uncanny, inadvertent osmosis, Carlson, for whatever reason, is beholden to a style that already drips with a slight Scandinavian tone. So long as he remains upright, he will be hard for opponents to deal with this weekend.
Christian DuLaney (97 kg, Minnesota Storm) — Similar to Schierl, this event for DuLaney is an opportunity to gain a sense of the foreign landscape while providing those of us in observance with an idea of how he will operate against the fluidity foreigners tend to bring. Plus, with DuLaney having committed to 97, this trip as a whole could help set himself up in a big way for selection season.
Max Black (60 kg, NYAC/NTS) — Reportedly came home from the ’22 U20 World Championships even more focused on his future aspirations. Black has tangled with international antagonists before, but has not yet encountered this type of tournament at this level. Good moments in Nykobing Falster should inject more confidence into an already confident athlete.
Mitch Brown (60 kg, Air Force) — There is no question that Brown is a tough wrestler who has a good motor as well as hard-to-miss strength and physicality. But he is also in the midst of trying to acquire tools, thus positioning Thor Masters (and the camp) as just the workshop he needs to keep making gains.
Aaron Dobbs (72 kg, NMU/NTS) — Dobbs signing up for this trek should demonstrate how serious he is about taking the next step in his still-very-young career. Although not a total neophyte internationally, Dobbs requires as many foreign looks as he can get; and since those have come at a premium both this season and last, Thor ’23 was an extremely smart move for him.
Lukas Poloncic (87 kg, Minnesota Storm) — Yes, Poloncic is a member of the nation’s flagship Greco-Roman team, which just so happens to boast the best room in the country in and around his weight category. But as he further immerses himself in this discipline, Poloncic grabbing a change of scenery for the better part of two weeks will fortify the foundational underpinnings he has collected since joining the Storm.
Tom Foote (130 kg, NYAC) — Heavyweight in the US has some gaps in need of filling. Foote seizing the initiative and jumping at this chance to potentially take a sizable leap in his understanding and skill-set could turn out to be quite the impactful decision.
Thor Masters 2023
March 24-25 — Nykobing Falster, DEN
TEAM USA ROSTER
Max Black (NYAC/NTS) — ’22 Junior World Team, ’22 US Open runner-up
Mitchell Brown (Air Force)
Logan Savvy (NYAC)
Sammy Jones (Sunkist/CTT) — 2X World Team, ’22 Pan-Am Championships gold, 2X US National Champion
Dominic Damon (NMU/NTS) — ’21 Junior World Team
Lenny Merkin (NYAC) — ’19 U23 World Team
Alston Nutter (Sunkist) — ’19 Junior World bronze, ’22 Final X runner-up
Robert Perez III (Sunkist) — ’22 Junior World Team, ’19 Cadet World Team
Aaron Dobbs (NMU/NTS)
Jesse Porter (NYAC) — ’21 World Team, ’20 Olympic Trials Champion
Fritz Schierl (Minnesota Storm) — ’21 National Team
Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm) — ’21 National Team
Lukas Poloncic (Minnesota Storm)
Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm)
Tom Foote (NYAC)
THOR MASTERS 2023 SCHEDULE & STREAMING INFO
All times local (+5 hours ET)
Friday, March 24
3:00pm-8:00pm — Preliminary rounds
Saturday, March 25
10:00am-3:30pm — Preliminary rounds
3:30pm-4:00pm — Bronze medal rounds
4:30pm-6:00pm — Finals
Fans can watch Thor Masters 2023 live via this link.
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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