The 2023 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament concluded on Saturday to fill in the second half of the Final X card that is scheduled for June 10 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
To further serve the ongoing (and misguided) love affair the American wrestling culture has with tournament seeds, below is a brief breakdown of how pre-determined bracket placement unfolded at the Trials.
- Top seeds won five weight categories (55, 60, 72, 77, and 130 kg).
- Second seeds won three weight categories (67, 87, and 97 kg).
- Only one third seed prevailed (63 kg — Xavier Johnson) and the lowest-seeded athlete to triumph in Springs was Ryan Epps (Army/WCAP), who entered as the #6 seed at 82 kg.
When Final X does get underway in just a few weeks, there will be five pairings that are either a) rematches of the ’23 US Open final, b) familiar domestic rivalries, or c) both.
Rematches from the ’23 Open Final at Final X
55 kg: Brady Koontz (TMWC/Dubuque RTC) vs. Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) — Koontz won via VSU
60 kg: Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP) vs. Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) — Roberts won 7-6
72 kg: Justus Scott (Army/WCAP) vs. Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) — Scott won 6-4
77 kg: Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP) vs. Aliaksandr Kikinou (Poway) — Bey won via VSU
130 kg: Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist) vs. Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen) — Schultz won via VSU
For all of the publicity Schultz and Coon generate, and for good reason, their shared history is a mere radar blip compared to what Roberts and Hafizov have had between each other over the past five years. Coon and Schultz first met at Final X: Lincoln in ’19, again in the Olympic Team Trials finals, and then last month in the Open. Coon swept Schultz in their first two series, Schultz toppled Coon in lopsided fashion last month, and at the end of it all there are only five official matches featuring the two heavyweight stars of which to speak. Meanwhile…
Roberts and Hafizov have clashed in three winner-take-all series (best-of-three Trials finals), the ’22 Bill Farrell Memorial final, and in the ’23 National final. That is 11 matches, which from a domestic perspective is quite a lot in this era.
Inside the Numbers
- Roberts currently has the edge in wins (7-4).
- Out of their 11 matches, only two have ended via stoppage and Roberts was responsible for both (Match 2 from ’18 WTT, 10-2; Match 3 from ’21 WTT, 9-0).
- Five of their matches have ended with a one-point differential (Roberts is 4-1 in these bouts).
- Only one of their bouts thus far has ended via criteria (Hafizov, Match 1 ’21 WTT, 3-3).
- They have thus far compiled 63:23 of total match time.
2023 World Team Trials Poll
There is no Outstanding Wrestler award given out at Trials tournaments — but if such an honor were to have been presented to one of the winners from Saturday, who do you think deserved it?
Coming this week is an in-depth interview with ’05 World bronze and USA Greco-Roman General Manager Justin Ruiz. Derived from a conversation recorded last week (prior to the Trials), Ruiz addresses key concerns facing the program, what he witnessed upon moving into his role, some of the ideas he has in mind going forward, and how his involvement fits him both personally and professionally. This is the piece for which everyone has been waiting — and certainly the most important release from our platform so far this year.
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