Northern Michigan

NMU 2017-18: Big Moments, Big Wins, & Big Prospects

Jesse Porter -- Photo: Sam Janicki

In a way, the season for many of the athletes representing Northern Michigan University’s Olympic Training Site is still ongoing. If a competitive year is measured, essentially, from one World Championships to the next, then nine eight NMU Greco-Roman wrestlers have some work left to do. That’s not even counting other events accessible throughout the summer, as the country’s preeminent collegiate Greco program will surely see some of its charges hop over to Fargo and wherever else.

Advice: ignore the convolution. In the US, we tend to observe the conclusion of the Senior World Team Trials as the officially-unofficial dropping of a season’s curtain. You remember the Senior Trials, right? The enormously important spectacle that took place just a couple of weeks ago where Dalton Roberts (60 kg) became the first NMU Greco athlete since 2010 to make the highest-tiered World Team? And where Dalton Duffield (55 kg) and Randon Miranda (60 kg) punched their respective tickets onto the Senior National Team for the first time ever? Together with Sammy Jones (63 kg) and Travis Rice (63 kg), these six young men demonstrated that while NMU might still be considered a “feeder” program, it is also extremely close to once again serving as the United States’ most consistent source of World-caliber competitors.

But the names mentioned above are mere contributors to what was an outstanding 2017-18 story for NMU. Plenty of other athletes provided their fair share of moments worth paying attention to — and just as critically — displayed signs of significant growth which suggest a whole lot more success will soon be on its way.

NMU Greco-Roman Results — 2017-18

Quick note regarding the 5PM Style Guide — For US Trials tournament results, ‘Runner-up’ has replaced ‘Silver’; most placewinners are capped at 4th or 5th. 

Eduardo Campbell Cup (PAN) — 10/1/17 (SR)
GOLD: Austin Morrow (66 kg), Khymba Johnson (85 kg)
SILVER: Corey Fitzgerald (75 kg)
BRONZE: Chris Rodgers (66 kg), George Sikes (85 kg)

The Campbell Cup in Panama has become an annual season-opening event for NMU athletes and whomever makes the trip is expected to perform well. However, 2017’s edition of the tournament was noteworthy because it was the first time in almost a year where Morrow was able to compete at full capacity. Morrow dominated the 66-kilogram field by a combined score of 44-1 with five tech falls and one pin en-route to his third Campbell Cup gold.

U23 World Team Trials (USA) — 10/9/18 (SR)
CHAMP: Dalton Roberts (59 kg), Alex Sancho (66 kg), Jesse Porter (75 kg), Blake Smith (98 kg)
RUNNER-UP: Randon Miranda (59 kg), Colin Schubert (71 kg), Anthony Riopelle (98 kg)
BRONZE: Britton Holmes (66 kg), Curt Calovecchi (75 kg), Carter Nielsen (80 kg)
4TH: Kyndall Rutz (59 kg), Travis Rice (66 kg), Logan Kass (71 kg)

Everyone knew that Northern was going to put on an extraordinarily strong showing at the inaugural U23 Trials, so when half of the World Team wound up coming from Marquette, no one was at all surprised. Smith, who has since left NMU for the Olympic Training Center, defeated arm-throw-expert Riopelle to win his second Trials tourney of the year, and Roberts turned back Miranda in two gritty bouts that almost stole the show. Sancho’s victory was not a surprise, but his series sweep of former University World Teamer Sahid Kargbo (Patriot Elite) was exciting. The real star was Porter, who found himself behind Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC/FLWC) in the waning seconds of both of their finals matches and managed to come up with huge scores to sew up his first appearance at World-level event.

Jesse Porter, 2017 U23 World Team Trials win over Jon Jay Chavez

Porter wailed consecutive high-amplitude correct throws to steal Match 1 from Jon Jay Chavez in their best-of-three series at last year’s U23 World Team Trials. Although his offense differed in Match 2, Porter repeated the script as he stormed back with time running out in the second period. (Photo: Mark Lundy)

Bear Cup (DEN) — 10/15/17 (JR)
GOLD: Alston Nutter (69 kg)
BRONZE: Benji Peak (63 kg)

Nutter’s first overseas gold was one of dominance. He wasn’t even seriously tested at the Bear Cup. On the flipside, there was Peak, making his competitive debut as an official NMU athlete. In the bronze-medal match, Peak was down by three to Lauri Karjalainen (FIN) with :05 remaining when he popped in on a high dive and bounded up to nail a four-point headlock at the buzzer. We called it one of the “Top 10 Matches of the Year” because of how breathtaking it all was.

Klippan Cup (SWE) — 10/28/17 (SR)
GOLD: Randon Miranda (59 kg)
BRONZE: Benji Peak (59 kg)

This was the tournament that started a hot streak for Miranda that never really cooled off. Including his win at the Klippan Cup, Miranda appeared in six straight international finals. Peak’s second bronze in a row got some notice, as well, thanks in large part to his utter destruction of Christoffer Svensson (SWE), who had previously gave Miranda a little bit of a problem.

Dave Schultz Memorial (USA) — 11/1/17 (SR)
BRONZE: Kyndall Rutz (55 kg)
5TH/6TH: Travis Rice (67 kg)

Given that a mighty percentage of NMU athletes were in Sweden when the Schultz rolled around, participation was rather slim. Rutz competed in the round-robin 55-kilogram bracket, which should have been seen as a bigger deal than it was made out to be considering the weight class hadn’t been available on the Senior level for a few years. The fall 2017 running of the Dave Schultz Memorial also marked the last time Rice competed at 67 kilos, as the U23 World Team member committed to 63 shortly thereafter.

USA — 8 Team Skåne Brottning — 7 (SWE) — 11/1/17 (Cadet & JR)

Out of all of the highlights for NMU this past season, the Team USA triumph over Sweden’s Team Skåne Brottning has to be one of the biggest. The dual meet win — which to be fair also saw contributions from wrestlers outside of the OTS — represented the first of its kind for a US age-group squad against their Swedish counterparts in Swedish territory. Erik Spence (63 kg), Mason Hartshorn (63 kg), Britton Holmes (67 kg), Miranda, and George Sikes (87 kg) all chipped in with victories.

Malar Cupen (SWE) — 11/5/17 (JR & SR)
GOLD: Randon Miranda (59 kg), Benji Peak (63 kg)
SILVER: Carter Nielsen (80 kg)
BRONZE: Spencer Wilson (98 kg)

Miranda’s onslaught continued the very next week as he and Peak both lit up the scoreboard (the pair put up over 100 points combined) to help lead Team USA to its victory at the Malar Cupen. To his credit, Nielsen competed with an edge throughout the day as he rang up his first overseas medal. His lone defeat came at the hands of Raibek Bisultanov (FIN), who just won the U23 Euros a month ago. Wilson, best known for tech’ing out two-time NCAA Division I champ Gabe Dean at the U23 Trials, joined the delegation in Sweden and checked in with a hard-fought bronze.

Jouri Lavrikov Memorial (RUS) — 12/4/17 (SR)
GOLD: Dalton Roberts (60 kg)
SILVER: Randon Miranda (60 kg)
5TH: George Sikes (87 kg)

For the second time in two months, Roberts defeated Miranda in a tournament final. Sikes was the only other NMU’er to pick up multiple wins on the day, and the event as a whole was extremely difficult to keep track of. Even now, over six months later, we still don’t have exact scores from this event. Of course, the training camp in St. Petersburg served as the main attraction for the American participants, and it also led up to the last competition of the calendar year the next week in Finland.

Haavisto Cup (FIN) — 12/11/17 (SR)
GOLD: Randon Miranda (59 kg)

Miranda was called upon to fight it out in order to sew up his third international gold in four tries, but this was important for another reason: while Miranda did wind up dropping down to 55 for Thor Masters and the US Open, his performance at the Haavisto Cup cemented the idea that if he were to stay put at 59/60 kilos, he’d be able to keep his head above water.

Thor Masters Invitational (DEN) — 2/24/18 (SR)
SILVER: Randon Miranda (55 kg)

Once again, Miranda seized top billing after making the Thor Masters final, where he was subsequently ousted by Ilia Tsaruyk (ISR) 7-0. But before that match the Californian was impressive, notching three wins on Day 1, including a fun-filled 6-3 decision over Helary Mägisalu (EST, world no. 9). Porter wound up 9th, although his placing was not indicative of how well he actually wrestled. Porter started off by breezily tech’ing out Paulius Galkinas (LTU) and later on absolutely obliterated Oldrich Varga (CZE), ultimately closing out his Thor Masters ledger at 2-2.

Austrian Open (AUT) — 3/3/18 (JR)
GOLD: Benji Peak (60 kg, NMU/OTS), Riley Briggs (67 kg, NMU/OTS)
SILVER: Mason Hartshorn (60 kg, NMU/OTS), Alston Nutter (63 kg, NMU/OTS)
BRONZE: John Massey (55 kg, NMU/OTS)

Peak’s second gold of the season was not a giant shocker, but it did prove that what people were seeing was certainly not a fluke. Briggs coming through with a tournament win in Austria was the story. A stout-but-still-developing competitor, Briggs steadily improved during the course of the year, and given how important this annual tour is to NMU and the nation as a whole, his performance had no choice but to stand out the most.

Bill Farrell Memorial (USA) — 3/30/18 (SR)
GOLD: Randon Miranda (60 kg)
SILVER: Dalton Roberts (60 kg), Jesse Porter (77 kg)
BRONZE: Mason Hartshorn (60 kg), Kendrick Sanders (77 kg)

Miranda came up big against Roberts in the Bill Farrell final, which sprinkled more bread crumbs on the ground regarding his future. For his part, Roberts used this loss as motivation for the Senior Open, and that pattern would repeat itself one more time this season. Sanders met up with 2017 World Champion Kamal Bey (Sunkist) in a highly-anticipated semifinal and actually had Bey on the ropes sporadically before it all slipped away in the second period. Porter then received yet another shot at taking out his primary domestic rival, even opening up with a stunning throw to begin their finals contest. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t last and Bey rang up his second-straight Farrell title.

Junior Nationals (USA) — 4/25/18 (JR)
GOLD: Alston Nutter (63 kg)
RUNNER-UP: Benji Peak (60 kg), Tommy Brackett (82 kg), Anthony Riopelle (97 kg)
BRONZE: Riley Briggs (67 kg)
5TH: Britton Holmes (67 kg), Josh Anderson (77 kg), Spencer Woods (82 kg), Keaton Fanning (87 kg)

One of Nutter’s most immediate, short-term goals when he joined up at NMU was to become a Junior World Team member and he took the first step in Las Vegas as he trounced his way to victory. Given that the US went (back) to a two-stage Trials process that sees the National champ earn a bye to the World Team Trials best-of-three finals, what happened in Vegas didn’t really stay…in Vegas. Peak dropped a tough final to two-time Cadet World Teamer Malik Johnson (Unattached) and Anderson fell to eventual winner Anthony Mantanona in the semis. Incoming freshman Brackett stepped on his own foot opposite Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC/FLWC) in a caution-filled 5-0 decision loss.

US Open (USA) — 4/28/18 (SR)
GOLD: Dalton Roberts (60 kg)
RUNNER-UP: Sammy Jones (63 kg)
BRONZE: Randon Miranda (55 kg)
4TH: Kyndall Rutz (55 kg), Austin Morrow (67 kg)
5TH: Travis Rice (63 kg), Anthonie Linares (67 kg), Logan Kass (72 kg), Jesse Porter (77 kg), Khymba Johnson (87 kg)

A rough-and-tumble semifinal win over Taylor LaMont (Sunkist) followed by a topsy-turvy decision against Mike Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP) resulted in Roberts earning his first Senior National title, a win made all the more significant given the breadth of talent available in this weight class and the fact that it provided Roberts with a bye to the Trial finals. Jones, perhaps Northern’s most dynamic all-around competitor, took a big step by making the National final, and he hung in there pretty well with Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) and it was one crucial mistake that likely cost him the match. Rice pounded out one of the most adrenalizing wins of his young career when he edged Hayden Tuma in the quarters. The most vital development for NMU at this event, with Roberts being the exception, might have been Morrow, who was lights out for most of the tournament before missing out in the bronze match.

Junior Greco World Duals (USA) — 5/14/18 (JR)
GOLD: Mason Hartshorn (63 kg)
BRONZE: Riley Briggs (70 kg), Spencer Woods (86 .5 kg)

A product of California’s CYC (the same program that introduced the world to the likes of Robby SmithLucas SheridanPeyton Omania, among others), Hartshorn jetted back to his home turf and knocked out his first win at the prestigious Junior World Duals. Teammates Briggs and Woods came along for the ride, where the three athletes piled up almost 30 matches combined along with an intensive training camp.

U23 World Team Trials (USA) — 6/1/18 (SR)
CHAMP: Dalton Duffield (55 kg), Randon Miranda (60 kg), Travis Rice (63 kg), Logan Kass (72 kg), Jesse Porter (77 kg), Carter Nielsen (82 kg), George Sikes (87 kg)
RUNNER-UP: Dalton Roberts (60 kg), Roy Nash (97 kg)
BRONZE: Britton Holmes (67 kg)
4TH: Erik Spence (63 kg), Spencer Woods (82 kg)
5TH: Tommy Brackett (82 kg)

What will the US U23 World Team Trials be remembered most for? Was it two-time Fargo champ Duffield announcing his presence on the full-time circuit? Miranda coming back in the last seconds of Match 3 against Roberts? Nielsen’s first Trials tournament win? You could go in any number of directions, but it’s difficult to mess with what Rice managed to pull off. In both of his best-of-three series matches with Xavier Johnson (Marines), Rice overcame two six-point deficits to emerge victorious, with his series-clinching win coming via tech with little time left on the clock. So was it memorable? No, it is unforgettable.

Travis Rice, 63 kg, 2018 U23 World Team Trials

Rice just after defeating Xavier Johnson in the U23 World Team Trials best-of-three final at 63 kilograms. (Photo: Sam Janicki)

World Team Trials (USA) — 6/8/18 (JR)
CHAMP: Benji Peak (60 kg), Alston Nutter (63 kg)
RUNNER-UP: Josh Anderson (77 kg)
CHAL. TOUR. CHAMP: Benji Peak (60 kg), Josh Anderson (77 kg), Tommy Brackett (82 kg)
CHAL. TOUR. RUNNER-UP: Mason Hartshorn (63 kg), Britton Holmes (67 kg), George Sikes (87 kg), Anthony Riopelle (97 kg)
BRONZE: Delon Kanari (60 kg), Riley Briggs (67 kg), Spencer Woods (82 kg)

Peak and Nutter, Nutter and Peak. It has been difficult to mention one without the other, and it will likely stay that way for a very long time. The Wisconsin duo went back-to-back in Indianapolis with Peak scoring revenge on National champ Johnson and Nutter blitzing past Dylan Gregerson (UVRTC). Both athletes won their respective series in two straight. Anderson fought to the bitter end against Mantanona, and Brackett held up his end of the bargain to give Berreyesa the rematch everyone anticipated.

USA — 14 Sweden — 5 (USA) — 6/13/18 (Cadet & JR)

It was all tech’s and pins three weeks ago at the Superior Camp with American age-groupers running away with the dual meet victory. Nutter, Erik Spence, and Hartshorn were among the NMU athletes to grab wins but the night belonged to their teammate Reese Dalton (71 kg), who dropped a 7-4 decision to Oscar Holmén (SWE) in his first bout. But in the rematch, Dalton more than turned the tables, he turned Holmén onto his head with a mighty headlock that resulted in a crowd-pleasing fall.

World Team Trials (USA) — 6/22/18 (SR)
CHAMP: Dalton Roberts (60 kg)
CHAL. TOUR. RUNNER-UP: Dalton Duffield (55 kg)
BRONZE: Randon Miranda (60 kg), Travis Rice (63 kg), Jesse Porter (77 kg)
4TH: Kyndall Rutz (55 kg), Colin Schubert (72 kg), Roy Nash (97 kg)

If you’re going to be the man, then you should have to beat the man, which is what Roberts accomplished two weeks ago in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The 21-year-old, appearing in his third US Trials final of the season, fell to returning World Teamer Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) 4-3 in Match 1, regrouped, and then pounded out a 10-2 tech and a 4-3 decision to put a Northern Michigan competitor on the Senior squad for the first time in eight years. Duffield impressed once again, falling only to his coach/eventual Trials champ Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist), and Miranda wowed some folks with his win over Fuenffinger for true third. Nash, a U23 Trials finalist who reignited his Greco career just this past year, finished fourth.

Numbers only:

  • Northern Michigan athletes accounted for 12 international gold medals (including the Bill Farrell Memorial). Individually, it breaks down like this — Miranda (4), Peak (2), and four others tied with one apiece — Hartshorn, Morrow, Nutter, and Johnson.
  • In total, NMU wrestlers earned 32 international medals overall (counting the Farrell, Dave Schultz Memorial, and Junior Greco World Duals).
  • NMU was represented by 19 athletes at the Senior World Team Trials.

2018 NMU/OTS US World Team members

63 kg: Alston Nutter

55 kg: Dalton Duffield
60 kg: Randon Miranda
72 kg: Logan Kass
77 kg: Jesse Porter
82 kg: Carter Nielsen
87 kg: George Sikes

60 kg: Dalton Roberts

Listen to “5PM17: Williams Baptist Greco coach Jonathan Drendel and past World Teamer Cheney Haight” on Spreaker.

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