USA Greco

VOTE: 2023 ‘Athlete of the Year’, ‘OIP’, & ‘Impact Performer’

2023 Athlete of the Year

Voting is now open for Five Point Move‘s year-end awards — Athlete of the Year, Outstanding Individual Performance, and Impact Performer. Below find the procedural explanations for each award along with their accompanying polls.

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There are two voting tiers for Athlete of the Year:
— The fan vote is used to determine the top-5 candidates by midnight (ET) on December 30.
— Once the voting deadline has been reached, the 5PM AOTY Voting Committee will then select the winner from the top-5 candidates who emerged from the fan vote.
— The 2023 5PM Athlete of the Year will be named on January 3.


Joe Betterman — Multi-time US National Team; 2007 World Team member; Colorado USA Wrestling Chairman
Jim Gruenwald — Two-time US Olympian; three-time World Team; two-time Pan Am Championships gold; head coach, Wheaton College
Sam Hazewinkel — 2012 Olympian; ’18 World Team; ’08 University World Champion; multi-time US National Team
Jim Martinez — 1984 Olympic bronze; ’85 World bronze
Max Nowry — 3X US World Team; 4X National Champion; ’12 University World Champion; 4X Pan-Am Championships gold
Paul Tellgren — Former US National Team member; 5PM Contributor
Joe Uccellini — New York State Greco-Roman/freestyle developmental head coach; founder of Curby 3-Style Wrestling


Qualifying factors responsible for determining the 2023 Athlete of the Year candidates are as follows:

  • US Senior World/Olympic Team.
  • US Senior National Champion.
  • US Senior World/Olympic Trials Champion.
  • Junior/U23 World medalist.

2023 5PM AOTY Candidates

55 kg

Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) — US World Team Trials Champion, Pan-Am Championships gold, US National runner-up, Final X runner-up
Brady Koontz (TMWC/Dubuque RTC) — World Team, US National Champion

60 kg

Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) — US World Team, Pan-Am Games gold, Grand Prix of Germany silver, US Nationals/OTT Qualifier Champion
Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP) — US National Champion, Pan-Am Championships gold, Final X runner-up, Military World bronze

63 kg

Xavier Johnson (Army/WCAP) — US World Team
Hayden Tuma (NYAC) — US National Champion, Final X runner-up, US Nationals/OTT runner-up

67 kg

Robert Perez III (Sunkist) — US National Champion, Final X runner-up, U23 World Team
Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) — US World Team, Military World bronze, US Nationals/OTT Qualifier Champion

72 kg

Justus Scott (Army/WCAP) — US National Champion, Pan-Am Championships gold, U23 World Team, Bill Farrell Memorial silver
Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) — US World Team

77 kg

Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP) — US World Team, US National Champion, Pan-Am Games gold, Hungarian Grand Prix silver, US Nationals/OTT Qualifier Champion
Aliaksandr Kikiniou (NYAC) — US World Team Trials Champion, National runner-up

82 kg

Ryan Epps (Army/WCAP) — US World Team Trials Champion, Bill Farrell Memorial silver
Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) — US World Team, US National Champion, Pan-Am Championships gold, Nationals/OTT Qualifier Champion

87 kg

Zac Braunagel (IRTC) — US World Team
Alan Vera (NYAC) — US National Champion, Nationals/OTT Qualifier Champion

97 kg

Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm) — US World Team Trials Champion
Joe Rau (TMWC) — US World Team, US National Champion, Pan-Am Championships gold, Bill Farrell Memorial gold, Nationals/OTT Qualifier runner-up

130 kg

Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen WC) — US World Team Trials Champion, Bill Farrell Memorial gold, Nationals/OTT Qualifier runner-up
Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist) — US World Team, US National Champion, Pan-Am Games silver, Nationals/OTT Qualifier Champion


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2023 Impact Performer

The acknowledgement of 5PM’s Impact Performer is based upon a single factor: international (or overseas) medals. The winner of Impact Performer is decided entirely by fan vote. Voting begins today (December 27) and ends on Saturday, December 30.

Our selection process for the list of candidates centers around the following two qualifying factors:

  • An athlete had to have earned gold from at least one international event and placed in a minimum of two.
  • Senior events only.

Impact Performer Candidates

Ildar Hafizov (60 kg, Army/WCAP) — Pan-Am Games gold, Grand Prix of Germany silver
Dalton Roberts (60 kg, Army/WCAP) — Pan-Am Championships gold, Military World bronze
Justus Scott (72 kg, Army/WCAP) — Pan-Am Championships gold, Bill Farrell Memorial silver
Kamal Bey (77 kg, Army/WCAP) — Pan-Am Championships gold, Pan-Am Games gold, Hungarian Grand Prix silver
Courtney Freeman (130 kg, Marines) — Grand Prix of Spain gold, Bill Farrell Memorial silver

Impact Performer VOTE

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2023 5PM Impact Performer

To Whom Belongs the Glory graphic


Outstanding Individual Performance isolates the efforts of one Greco-Roman athlete at a single tournament or event. Candidates are determined according to subjective but relevant contextual parameters. Like Impact Performer, OIP is decided entirely by fan vote. Voting begins today and runs until midnight on Saturday, December 30.

Qualifying Factors

  • Highlighted performance represented a breakthrough or milestone achievement for the athlete or;
  • A signature win over a foreign or domestic opponent was included, or;
  • Athlete overcame perceived odds or adversity.
  • Athlete had to have placed at said event.
  • Senior events only.

Outstanding Individual Performance is decided entirely by fan vote. Voting is available from now until 12:00am on January 4. Note: for the purposes of the 5PM style guide, American domestic event placings are numerical (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.) and international tournament placings are delineated via medal color (gold, silver, bronze).

2023 OIP Candidates

Brady Koontz (55 kg, TMWC/Dubuque RTC) — Final X: Newark
In a way, Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) plays a role in Koontz’s inclusion. Duffield — a U23 World Team member in ’18 and overall terrifically-skilled wrestler — had previously struggled against Koontz over the course of a handful of matches entering this season; and Koontz added one more victory to his total at Duffield’s expense in the US Open final. To some observers, given the duo’s history, a Koontz series win with the World Team spot up for grabs was a foregone conclusion — that is until Duffield exploded in Match 1 at Final X: Newark and turned that narrative from pen to pencil. Koontz took Match 2, thus setting the stage for a third-and-decisive bout. It was back-and-forth throughout, with Koontz having gained an early lead only to watch it slip away as Duffield converted, what was then considered, a critical takedown with the second period ebbing towards conclusion. Having to muster some offense of any description, Koontz latched onto a front headlock and executed a four-point score that delivered to him a 7-3 advantage that he would not relinquish. A great series it was. But for Koontz, there was an extra touch. He had fallen to Max Nowry in three separate World Team Trials/Final X series (’19, ’21, and ’22). This was his first time enjoying the spotlight that accompanies making a Senior World Team, and that his triumph came attached to an outstanding effort on the part of his opponent added to the achievement.

Robert Perez III (67 kg, Sunkist) — US Open, 1st
Unique it had been for a while whenever Perez’s name was mentioned. Challenging, even. Because, outsiders simply didn’t get it. Prior to the spring of ’23, Perez had won enough on the age-group level domestically to have escaped anonymity — but when it came to Senior competition, his best performances amounted to a few tight losses against top foreign opponents. Legitimate Greco fans were tipping their caps to Perez in between endorsing the promise residing in his bones; but since he had not emerged at or near the apex of a US Senior tournament, so much of his good work kept disappearing into an echo chamber. Again, casuals require education. Ultimately, Perez was kind enough to give them one. In the “what more do you need to see?” department, he persevered through one tough match after another to make the US Open final with decision victories over Nick Leonetti (NMU/NTS) and Justin Benjamin (Izzy Style) getting him started in the right direction. A VSU at the expense of Lenny Merkin (NYAC) came next, and then Perez defeated both ’22 U17 World champ Joel Adams (TBW) and ’16 Olympian/uber-decorated Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP) in consecutive matches to collect his first Senior “stop sign”, which, at last, fully introduced him to the general American wrestling public.

David Stepanyan (67 kg, NYAC/NTS) — US Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier, 4th
Stepanyan had jacked up his arm/shoulder in New York and so it was questionable how he might be able to, in a short turnaround time, contend and/or make a run in the Nationals four weeks later. Everyone in the country understood how deep the 67 field was going to be in Fort Worth. It was not a mystery; and with Stepanyan having just come off of an injury, regardless if it were severe or not, it was natural to ponder how significant his candidacy in the tournament actually was. He sure had an answer. Stepanyan, a ’21 WTT finalist, defeated teammate Max Schierl and Duncan Nelson to make the quarterfinal, where he then wound up getting past Smith in a hard-fought decision thanks in large part to four-point “Hermann” in the first period. That was a domestic signature win, and in the semifinal Stepanyan nearly clipped eventual runner-up Peyton Omania (NYAC) but fell 7-5. The backside of the bracket brought forth another win over Nelson, which for Stepanyan meant that a trip to the Olympic Trials was secured. Despite having forfeited to Perez in the 3rd/4th match — which would have been marked as a disappointment given how common forfeits were recorded at the event — it was understandable in this case. Stepanyan, as he always does, bit down and tried his hardest to deliver his best effort possible even when compromised. And it was the type of effort that deserves to be acknowledged.

Justus Scott (72 kg, Army/WCAP) — US Open, 1st
Comprehension of the complete context and circumstances should not be necessary because the achievement certainly speaks for itself — but here’s a refresher for the uninitiated. Although Scott was a U20 World Team member two years ago, the ’23 US Open was his first Senior-level tournament (correction: Scott also won the ’21 WTT Last Chance Qualifier — but that event was sparsely-attended). And he was the 6th seed. Right away, he had to get through Nick Tarpley (NYAC) before decisioning ’21 U23 World rep Nate Moore; then it was National Team member Noah Wachsmuth (NYAC); in the semifinal awaited returning National Champion Britton Holmes; and in the final, Scott jumped out in front of multi-time Senior World Teamer Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) and held on to earn both the victory as well as the US Open crown. Each of Scott’s four opponents presented a serious test and he passed them all. That it was also his full-on introduction to the Senior circuit makes what he managed to accomplish in the April Open all the more remarkable. Certainly one of the most memorable showings of the year for a US athlete.

Kamal Bey (77 kg, Army/WCAP) — Hungarian Grand Prix, silver
United World Wrestling’s slate of ranking events in ’23 were all well-attended, and the one in Hungary was indeed a highly-populated World-level competition. Each of Bey’s opponents was a skilled, well-traveled Senior — or when it comes to Zoltan Levai (HUN) and Sanan Suleymanov (AZE), a recent World medalist. The first contestant of the day was Mohammad Naghousi (IRI), who earned a World gold at U20 in ’19. Not an easy match, but Bey held firm and took a 5-3 decision. He then got past Oldrich Varga (CZE) 7-3 and beat the brakes off of Georgian Sanchino Davitaia. In the semifinal, Bey garnered one of his best Senior wins to-date by outlasting ’22 World silver Levai, with a crucial reversal-to-exposure late in the second period escorting the American to a 7-3 decision. Suleymanov prevailed 4-1 in the final, and the brunt of Suleymanov’s offense came from step-outs and a passivity point. It was a wild ride. Bey and the US delegation only had a few days to rest and reset on the heels of Final X before heading over to Hungary, and the 77 kg US champ was doing his best to keep a proper frame of mind as the World Team training phase was getting underway. How he responded, and against a string of top-caliber antagonists, was a highlight for the US program in ’23.

Danny Braunagel (77 kg, IRTC) — US Nationals/Olympic Trials Qualifier, 3rd
The third and final candidate on this list who got into the OTT by virtue of last week’s Nationals, Braunagel’s performance in Fort Worth was, objectively, one of the strongest outside of those who finished first. And it is objective, not subjective, due to the quality of his opposition. Braunagel earned wins over Quinlan Nelson (IL), National Team member Wachsmuth, ’22 U23 World rep Ty Cunningham (NYAC/MWC), and Riley Briggs (NMU/NTS). His only loss was to Aliaksandr Kikiniou (NYAC); and although the lighter of the two Braunagels should not be construed as a Greco neophyte, he had not, until recently, pursued the style with the same fervency as his twin, Zac. It is not necessarily some enormous shock to the system that Danny Braunagel qualified for the Olympic Trials; but the road to do so was rough, he rose to the occasion, and will thus going forward be seen in a different light by the the athletes in this weight class who had previously established themselves.

Ryan Epps (82 kg, Army/WCAP) — US World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, 1st
Here was the timeline: after Epps finished second to Cunningham at the Bill Farrell Memorial in New York, it was not long before he found himself at Basic Training and subsequently AIT, for he had joined the US Army in order to become part of that branch’s high-profile World Class Athletes Program; Epps was barely back in time for the US Open and was not appropriately primed to enter that competition. Not that a mere three weeks more delivered to him a drastic difference, but it was a little more space to prepare accordingly. Then Epps indeed suited up for the Trials — and had to survive a tremendously-tight test courtesy of ’21 U23 World Team member Tommy Brackett (NYAC); ’18 Junior World silver Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC/Northern Colorado WC) was next; and to cap the whole thing off, Epps decisioned two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (NYAC), which provided the Minnesotan with his first Senior tournament title as well as a ticket to Final X: Rutgers opposite Woods. Epps, coming off of a six-month pause from competition, won the Trials Challenge tournament and faced the best available in his bracket to do it. When you read it back a couple of times, the feat becomes even more impressive.

Courtney Freeman (130 kg, Marines) — US Nationals/Olympic Team Trials Qualifier, 3rd
Freeman placed eighth at the US Open. Eighth. Now, the big man had finished fourth at the same tournament the year prior — and in general, Freeman had steadily improved since coming onto the scene in ’21. But eighth? It was surprising, and that is not to slight either Daryl Aiello (Dubuque RTC) or Luke Luffman (IRTC) — both of whom vanquished Freeman with the former having done so twice in that event. Fast-forward to the fall, and Freeman found himself in the Bill Farrell Memorial final opposite Coon, which meant qualification for the Olympic Trials. This after obviously falling short of getting into the World Trials six months prior. Just two weeks ago, he one-upped that performance in New York by summiting his side of the heavyweight bracket at the Nationals. Freeman raced through the trio of Timothy Eubanks (NMU/NTS), Donovan King (Olivet WC), and Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm) to make the challenge tournament final. Coon once again got the win, but Freeman was not short on offense and the pair combined for 22 points, a rarity for the heavyweight division. Both athletes deserve a round of applause for that match, but it was Freeman’s rapid improvement and clear ability to score points why it was entertaining. More importantly, the Nationals helped propel the Marine representative onto the main stage heading into April’s Olympic Team selection tournament, and to not tip the cap to that accomplishment would be irresponsible and lacking of awareness.


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2023 Outstanding Individual Performance

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Listen to “5PM55: Recapping Final X with Dennis Hall with words from Koontz, Braunagel and Hafizov” on Spreaker.

Listen to “5PM54: WCAP’s Ryan Epps and a Final X Greco-Roman Preview” on Spreaker.

Listen to “5PM53: Northern Michigan assistant Parker Betts and USMC Captain Jamel Johnson” on Spreaker.

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