USA Greco

Perez, Sullivan, Gurule, Scott, & Voelker Win U23 Nationals/World Trials

robert perez, 2024 usa u23 world team trials, 67 kg
Robert Perez III -- Photo: UWW

Since its inception as an officially-recognized age division in 2017, U23 has been a difficult puzzle for the United States program to solve. It is, essentially, the Senior level. With most nations developing younger than at any other time previously, and therefore producing Senior World medalists at consistently younger ages, U23 is seen more as alternate branding for top-tier Greco-Roman athletes instead of as an age-group subset full of promising international prospects. This is why there have been several instances in which wrestlers have, in the same year, achieved medals at Senior Worlds but later fell short of replicating that sort of success at U23 World events.

not all roads lead to gold, parent edition, jim gruenwald

The US program has not failed to bring high-quality rosters to the U23 World Championships dating back to the first edition of the tournament some seven years ago. But struggles in this environment have persisted, even as America has ever-so-slightly improved from a developmental standpoint. One ponders if it is just a matter of Team USA selecting a U23 World roster featuring athletes who are all equally up to the task at the right time in their respective individual career progressions.

Following Friday’s U23 Nationals and World Trials finals, that is indeed the hope, if not expectation, based primarily on the profiles of those who emerged victorious and simultaneously boast significant competitive reputations in this discipline.

Matthew 20 Graphic v2

The finals of the 2024 USA U23 Nationals and World Team Trials began at 4:00pm local time on Friday from the SPIRE Academy in Geneva, Ohio and streamed live on FLOWrestling.

Just as on the same day the U20 Trials saw a group of athletes with relevant prior World-level experience earn roster spots, so too did the U23 portion of the proceedings bear fruit by selecting five wrestlers who have competed in the sport’s biggest showcase.

Robert Perez III (67 kg, NYAC) is the leader of the pack in this regard. Perez — who was a Senior National champ and Final X runner-up in ’23 — set sail as a U17 World Team member in ’19, as a U20 representative in ’22, and last year suited up for the U23 Worlds due to his status as a National Team member. Due to that procedural stipulation, Perez did not need to compete in the ’23 U23 Nationals. That was not the case this time around. The Olympic Training Center resident athlete defeated James Dalrymple (RTC South), Caleb Andrews (Arkansas RTC), and Trey Dillow (MO Central WC), respectively, to make the best-of-three finals opposite Hunter Lewis (Wolfpack RTC). Lewis himself was a Cadet World rep in ’18 and was a runner-up at last season’s U23 Nationals.

Lewis was certainly a worthy opponent for Perez but it was not his day. Although he did not score in bunches, Perez strung together the points required to end Match 1 prematurely via technical fall late in the second period. Scoring was scarce in Match 2, as Perez used top par terre in the opening period to crank a gutwrench for a 3-0 lead. He added another point in the second frame to make the score 4-0, and Lewis was kept off the board through the remainder. Perez, who has been a full-time Greco-Roman athlete since prior to the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympic quad, qualified for his fourth age-group World Championships tournament with the series victory.

Gurule in at 63

Northern Michigan University’s Jonathan Gurule, two-time U23 World Team member Phillip Moomey (Spartan Combat RTC), and Paxton Creese (Minnesota Storm) all had one thing in common entering Friday: they had moved up in weight. The triumvirate had competed at 60 kilograms this past season (and prior, as well) but 63 kg was where they wound up in Geneva. This was not by accident, nor was it the result of a desire to bypass weight management. It was because Max Black (NMU/NTS) has confirmed that he will occupy the 60 kg roster spot on the U23 World Team, a distinction he earned by making the US Senior National Team at the Olympic Trials in April.

Of course, the three extra kilos afforded to Gurule, Moomey, and Creese were likely welcomed, and the three young, skilled competitors most assuredly looked the part as they advanced to the semifinal round. Moomey had gotten past Jordan Zigo (Cincinnati RTC) and Derek Benardino (Rochester RTC) to set up a meeting with another one of NMU’s tough lightweights, Diego Romero. Moomey prevailed in that contest 5-0, and stood a series away from making his third-straight U23 Team.

On the bottom side of the bracket, Gurule had dealt with teammate Ryu Brown and Jesse Lemon (Cougar WC), which put him against Creese in the semifinal. It had barnburner potential. Creese had downed Moomey close at the US Nationals in December, and Moomey and Gurule had gone back-and-forth a season ago. Using “match-up math”, the anticipation was a volley of scoring from both parties.

One reason why that did not happen is because Gurule’s biggest strength is par terre, a position from which he exacts both patience and explosiveness. Creese was put down, Gurule acquired his lock, and the byproduct was a booming suplex for five. The match ended in the second period when Gurule, up 6-0, caused Creese to go off balance near the edge. Gurule pursued a front headlock as Creese attempted to scramble. Eventually, the NMU wrestler settled behind for two points, thus ending the match via technical superiority.

The result gave way to a rematch of the ’23 U23 National/Trials finals pitting Moomey against Gurule.

Moomey got off to a hot start in Match 1 as Gurule whiffed on a headlock try and surrendered a takedown. Not wishing to squander the position, Moomey followed with a gutwrench and soon owned a 4-0 lead. This was, in effect, the match. Gurule did come up with three points in the second period, but the four from Moomey in the first held up till the end.

Match 2 reflected a mirror image almost of how Moomey scored in Match 1 — with the exception that it was Gurule who benefited. Moomey had attempted his own headlock, and Gurule hung back to cover before rolling a gutwrench for two more. It was 4-1 for NMU in the second period. Moomey was dinged for passive to expand Gurule’s margin by a tick. The final score was 5-1, thus setting the stage for a third-and-decisive battle.

Tension. The circumstances were easily understood by both. In ’23, Gurule had taken a match from Moomey at the April Open before Moomey got revenge in the U23 Trial finals five weeks later. Their chips were once again stacked in the middle of the table with the pot accompanied by a trip to the World Championships.

They jockeyed for position with measured aggression and neither were willing to yield ground or unfurl a flashy attempt just for the sake of doing so. The action hadn’t bogged down, but it was also not leading to workable attempts. Moomey was picked to hit the deck for the first passivity, allowing for Gurule an opportunity to lean on his prowess from top par terre. The whistle blew and the NMU athlete quickly dug in for a lock. He had the hold and, after an adjustment on his right side, switched direction and gutted Moomey to the left. There was no further scoring in the period and Gurule walked into the break up 3-0.

Less than a minute into the second frame, Gurule was able to pummel into a bodylock position. Moomey nearly wriggled free, but his antagonist required only a minor change in posture and finished the attempt to gain two more points. After a reset, Moomey, now trailing 5-0, began hunting for handles whenever he could sense them becoming availed; however, Gurule knew better than to operate with complacency. He still urged forward whilst seeking underhooks and an exchange near the boundary provided him with a step-out point. Moomey gestured that it should have instead been called a push, but his overture was ignored by the referee.

Throughout the race to the finish, it was Gurule who occupied the driver’s seat. Underhooks, mainly from his left, represented his most effective tactic. Moomey tried flinging and fighting into different positions in hopes of somehow turning the tide. It would not happen. The last whistle sounded, eventually, and Gurule had by force taken the 63 kg spot on the U23 World Team, along with having earned his second World Championships appearance since joining NMU in the fall of ’21.

Sullivan & Scott

Billy Sullivan (55 kg) and Justus Scott (72 kg) are often mentioned in the same sentences. Both are from Nevada. They are close friends, current roommates, teammates as part of Army’s World Class Athletes Program, and they together also made the ’21 U20 World roster. That was a first-time experience for both of them.

And now they are doing it again.

But on Friday, one had it easier than the other.

Sullivan was lights-out from start to finish in Geneva. Doing business in the 55 kg class, he was right at home and physically-domineering in each match. All three of his victories in the challenge bracket were recorded via VSU. Though the same can be said for Davian Guanajuato (Southern Illinois RTC), who on the bottom side of the chart was equally destructive.

Nevertheless, Sullivan was undaunted as they squared off to begin their best-of-three — even after Guanajuato did an otherwise impressive job of controlling the ties early en-route to a step-out. But Sullivan remained patient, and not long following the reset did he strike. He had swum to a bodylock position and executed the maneuver for four points. A gutwrench came next, and in the process Guanajuato was penalized for a legs caution. They restarted from par terre with Sullivan ahead 8-1. One more rotation of a gutwrench and Match 1 had become a memory.

Sullivan broke the ice in Match 2 with a tight arm spin that garnered four. Guanajuato scrambled to safety and proceeded to chip back in the ties to ward off Sullivan’s penchant for multi-point attempts. In this regard, he was operating effectively, even if windows to score were difficult to discern. When the second period came, Sullivan turned up the pressure and received the bout’s first passivity/par terre chance. He opted for a gut and scored two; next, Sullivan whammed a lift that yielded four points (plus two more from a leg foul on Guanajuato) and so went the series. Sullivan was a Fargo National champ in ’19 and as mentioned a U20 World Team member in ’21. That same year, he also earned silver at Thor Masters in Denmark.

Sullivan had clinched in two straight. Scott was a different story. He was involved in a series with another top young American athlete, Noah Wachsmuth (NYAC). It was Wachsmuth who Scott had defeated back in the ’21 U20 Trial finals, and the careers of both gentlemen have taken off since their initial meetup. Wachsmuth made consecutive Senior National Teams (’22 and ’23) while Scott won the US Open last year before finishing runner-up to Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) at Final X: Newark. It was an attractive finals match-up for observers on Friday as well as, perhaps, the most highly-anticipated series in general.

And Match 1 really could not have went much worse for Scott. Wachsmuth has weaponized his par terre game to where it has become one of the more prominent and reliable positions for any athlete in the country. When Scott was put down in the first period, Wachsmuth snared his opponent’s left arm, trapped the appendage, and rolled three guts to take a 7-0 lead. Back standing, and, soon enough, Wachsmuth had attempted an arm throw. Scott’s legs became entangled with Wachsmuth’s upon execution and the former was cited for a leg foul. Two more points were distributed to Wacshmuth and, after a challenge from the Army corner, he had taken the opening round of the series by way of 9-0 technical fall.

The first sign of encouragement for Scott in Match 2 occurred early when Wachsmuth had again received the opening par terre chance. He had sought his lock and darted up to lift, but Scott stayed pasted. A reset, and then Wachsmuth flashed an arm throw. This time, Scott was ready and yanked back to grab four points. Wachsmuth did reverse, and had locked a trap-arm gut on Scott’s right side, but the action had inched close to the boundary and so the officials ordered another restart.

It was 5-2 for Scott late in the second period and Wachsmuth remained fitfully engaged. The physicality of the bout — a trait for which Scott is particularly recognized — had increased, and one would gather that part of it was due to the obvious uptick in urgency on Wachsmuth’s part. An occupational hazard found in the sport, and most commonly in high-leverage scenarios, is head contact. Wachmuth inadvertently laid his head into Scott’s with time a factor and was penalized for two points. The updated score became 7-2, and Scott had done his job. He had come back to compel what would become only the second Match 3 of the Greco-Roman competition in Geneva, with Gurule/Moomey being the first.

Although there was an interest and desire in witnessing a tight and tough Match 3 between Scott and Wachsmuth, one did not materalize. Scott took the initiative by zipping an arm spin. Wachsmuth went to counter, but Scott kept the arm and swooped behind for takedown points before following with a gutwrench. After the sequence was completed, Wachsmuth held his left shoulder. He was clearly in agony. Training staff from the tournament rendered aid, but the match was over in conjunction with the series. Scott had prevailed on account of an injury default from Wachsmuth. The situation was not lost on Scott afterwards, as the Army athlete exhibited class when approached for soundbites.

“I didn’t want to win the match like that,” he told USA Wrestling. “I wanted the rest of the match to be wrestled-out. Noah is an amazing opponent and I have a lot of respect for him. We’ve been going back-and-forth for a while now. He pushes me. I hope I push him to be better.”

Melelashvili’s US Debut; Voelker Over Altomer

One competitor upon whom the eyes of many rested was Beka Melelashvili. Originally from Georgia, Melelashvili was in a bronze-medal match at the ’22 U23 Worlds and his experience coming from a region of the globe where Greco-Roman is much more celebrated accompanied his entrance into this event. To be sure, Melelashvili got out of the gate strong with defeats of Jasiah Queen (PRTC) and Isfandiyor Jumaboyev (Anthracite Elite) before downing NMU’s Pat Curran in the semifinal. Melelashvili’s run had set up a three-match finals series with recent U20 World Teamer Adrian Artsisheuskiy (NYAC), but Artsisheuskiy defaulted due to injury, which automatically provided Melelashvili with the 82 kg spot on this year’s U23 roster.

A big-time battle unfolded at 97 kilograms featuring two promising performers — Mike Altomer (NYAC/Curby 3-Style) and Wyatt Voelker (Panther WC RTC). Altomer, dubbed “Muscle Mike”, made both the U20 and U23 World Teams last year and Voelker — who competes for the University of Northern Iowa — came in 5th at the U20 Worlds. Both were up in weight compared to a season ago, and as to how their clash might shake out was on the minds of many.

In Match 1, par terre helped Voelker make an early impact. Altomer was deemed passive and Voelker was able to rotate a pair of lefty guts to go up 5-0. Later in the period, and with Voelker bearing down on him, Altomer executed a perfectly-timed arm throw to climb within a point.

Altomer then had a chance to do more damage. Voelker was put down in the second period, which saw Altomer take the lead on criteria. But from top PT, he could not gather his lock, which paved the way for Voelker to reach his feet unscathed. Shortly after the reset, Voelker pressured forth on an exchange, causing Altomer to go out of bounds. It was one point for the step-out, and one more from a fleeing caution. Voelker had regained the advantage on the scoreboard, 7-5, and it was by that same score he would triumph in the first round of the series.

Bereft of dramatics was Match 2. Not long into the bout, Altomer attempted a headlock that Voelker countered for a takedown. He did not let the position go to waste. He hastily found his clamp around Altomer and ran a succession of guts to accumulate the points required for a victory by technical superiority.

Burks, Garvin, & Miley

’18 Cadet World Team member Jakason Burks (60 kg, MWC) does not always wrestle Greco-Roman. But when he does, he generates a nuclear brand of offense.

It was not like that the entire time for the Nebraskan. Burks was tested nicely by stout competitor Cooper Shore (Buies Creek WC) and exposure in the first period is how Burks eeked past Eli Griffin (West Coast RTC) in the next round. Burks did begin his day with a VSU at the expense of Hayden Flaherty (Arkansas RTC) — and he ended his time in the tournament much the same way. In the best-of-three final, Burks won by technical fall against Josh Kyle (Wyoming Wrestling RTC) in two straight bouts to take the National crown.

At 77 kg, Stanford’s Hunter Garvin (IA) breezed through most of his matches in the challenge bracket until running into Justin McCunn (Viking) in the semifinal. Garvin decisioned McCunn 7-2 to punch his ticket to the finals. Once there, he defeated Brendan Abdon (Arkansas RTC) in two straight bouts. Abdon actually had a lead throughout most of Match 1 until Garvin responded with a reverse lift in the second period. Garvin eventually crashed a bodylock late in the contest to drum up four more and the win was recorded via fall.

Match 2 had its similarities insofar that Abdon jutted out in front 2-0 in the first period, and the points went both ways through most of the proceedings. The line of demarcation was in the type of points. Garvin attacked the body for takedown points twice, the second of which was followed by a gutwrench. Abdon was indeed a game opponent, but it was Garvin who walked away the 8-4 winner and as the champion of the weight category.

Beauparthy & Miley

Tyson Beauparthy (87 kg, CO), a student at Doane University, was one of the tournament’s most impressive competitors. Beauparthy had been recognized previously due to his earning of a World bronze medal in beach wrestling, but he also demonstrated a solid knack for Greco-Roman as he made his way through the bracket. He did so without being seeded, as well.

But an experienced and skilled Mac Kukowski (Minnesota Storm) was also in the mix. Kukowski — who at one time attended Northern Michigan University — has maintained a steady presence in Greco despite simultaneously beginning an MMA career. He likewise shined throughout the day, and then some. Kukowski defeated each of his three opponents in the challenge bracket not only in the first period, he did so without even making it into the third minute of a match. It doesn’t get more one-sided than that.

Beauparthy was game and engaged for the threats Kukowski posed, it would seem, and he surprised his foe early in Match 1 by capitalizing on par terre to score two more from a gutwrench. Ahead 3-0, Beauparthy dug back inside, but Kukowski had become more aggressive in his methods. An attempt at a throw fell apart for him, and Beauparthy scored a land-on-top four to expand his lead to 7-0. There was no further scoring in the bout and Kukowski was staring at a 1-0 deficit heading into Match 2.

Attacks require timing. And Kukowski’s timing against Beauparthy was off. The Minnesota Storm representative opened the second round hunting for points, and twice Beauparthy adjusted to grab counter points. He had built a 4-0 lead as the first period was drawing to a close and tacked on another two when he spun behind Kukowski at the buzzer.

A prolonged break between periods then ensued as the training staff had checked on Kukowski, who had landed hard on the preceding takedown from Beauparthy. The match would proceed, whether or not Kukowski was compromised. Down 6-0, he was going to have to get on his horse in order to force a Match 3. Beauparthy did not allow that happen. Soon into the second period, Beauparthy was leveraging a right underhook and threw it by to engineer one last takedown. With the score at 8-0, he had both defeated his bracket’s most hardened Greco athlete and put himself, potentially, in position to take the mat at the U23 Worlds come October.

An argument can be made that the series at 130 kg between winner Keith Miley (Arkansas RTC) and Bruce Wagers (OH) was the most chaotic and entertaining, even if it only lasted less than two full matches.

Right from the whistle, Miley whammed a headlock and had Wagers close to being pinned, but Wagers had his say by locking around Miley — from bottom — and he converted a reversal for exposure points. Then as time became a factor in the first period, Wagers went for a bodylock, received correct hold points, and Miley reversed with exposure. The score was 6-4 for Miley heading into the second period.

More offense was coming.

Wagers went for another throw just as the second stanza got underway, but Miley landed on top and received two points. 8-4. Miley tried bodying Wagers again, and got it, but was nabbed for a leg foul to give Wagers a point. A takedown and turn for Miley made it 12-5, but then Wagers reversed again and it was 12-6. Less than a minute hung on the clock when Miley scored a step-out. 13-6. After the next reset, Miley executed a four-point bodylock to put a bow around a frenetic Match 1 victory.

In the “why waste anymore time?” department, Wagers, with nary a hint of hesitation, greeted Miley in Match 2 with an arm throw that scored two — and when they returned standing, he netted four additional points from a front headlock. The heavyweights were off to the races yet again. The sluggers actually managed to exhaust a full :30 before the next score arrived. That came from Miley, who went back to the headlock and torqued Wagers down to trim his margin to 6-4. Not long after, Wagers got caught in a bad position from his knees, and with his right arm trapped against his opponent. Miley pounced and Wagers was quickly coerced to his back. The series was over, for as fun and yet abbreviated as it might have been. Miley held Wagers in place to record the fall and enthusiastically celebrated his first U23 National title before participating in the post-match histrionics.

U23 Nationals/WTT Notes

  • Two series went to a third-and-decisive match (Gurule/Moomey, 63 kg; Scott/Wachsmuth, 72 kg).
  • Eight of the 18 finals matches contested were stoppages (six VSU, two falls).
  • Perez and Scott were the only ’23 U23 World Team members to make the Team in ’24.
  • As reported, Max Black (NMU/NTS) has confirmed that he will accept the 60 kg for the US at the U23 World Championships. This is because Black is a current Senior National Team member. Those on the US National Team who are U23-eligible currently do not have to compete in U23 Trials tournaments. Olympian Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS) is eligible to take the spot at 87 kg due to this procedure. The same is true for Aden Attao (Beaver Dam RTC), who like Black placed 3rd at the Olympic Trials in April.
  • The ’24 U23 World Championships begin on October 21 in Tirana, Albania.

2024 U23 Nationals/WTT

May 31 — Geneva, OH


55 kg

Billy Sullivan (Army/WCAP) def. Davian Guanajuato (Southern Illinois RTC) 2 matches to 0

Match 1: Sullivan def. Guanajuato 10-1, TF
Match 2:
Sullivan def. Guanajuato 13-0, TF

60 kg

Jonathan Gurule (NYAC/NTS) def. Phillip Moomey (Spartan Combat RTC) 2 matches to 1

Match 1: Moomey def. Gurule 4-3
Match 2: Gurule def. Moomey 5-1
Match 3: Gurule def. Moomey 6-0

67 kg

Robert Perez III (NYAC) def. Hunter Lewis (Wolfpack RTC) 2 matches to 0

Match 1: Perez III def. Lewis 9-0, TF
Match 2: Perez III def. Lewis 4-0

72 kg

Justus Scott (Army/WCAP) def. Noah Wachsmuth (NYAC) 2 matches to 1

Match 1: Wachsmuth def. Scott 9-0, TF
Match 2: Scott def. Wachsmuth 7-2
Match 3: Scott def. Wachsmuth via injury default

77 kg

Hunter Garvin (IA) def. Brendan Abdon (Arkansas RTC) 2 matches to 0

Match 1: Garvin def. Abdon via fall
Match 2: Garvin def. Abdon 8-4

82 kg

Beka Melelashvili (NYAC) def. Adrian Artsisheuskyi (NYAC) 2 matches to 0

Match 1: Melelashvili def. Artsisheuskyi via injury default
Match 2: Melelashvili def. Artsisheuskyi via injury default

87 kg

Tyson Beauparthy (CO) def. Mac Kukowski (Minnesota Storm) 2 matches to 0

Match 1: Beauparthy def. Kukowski 7-0
Match 2: Beauparthy def. Kukowski 8-0, TF

97 kg

Wyatt Voelker (Panther WC RTC) def. Mike Altomer (NYAC/Curby 3-Style) 2 matches to 0

Match 1: Voelker def. Altomer 7-5
Match 2: Voelker def. Altomer 8-0, TF

130 kg

Keith Miley (Arkansas RTC) def. Bruce Wagers (OH) 2 matches to 0

Match 1: Miley def. Wagers 17-8, TF
Match 2: Miley def. Wagers via fall

five point move podcast, latest episodes banner

Listen to “5PM57: Kamal Bey and David Stepanyan” on Spreaker.

Listen to “5PM56: Rich Carlson and Spencer Woods” on Spreaker.

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

iTunes | Stitcher | Spreaker | Google Play Music

Notice: Trying to get property 'term_id' of non-object in /home/fivepointwp/webapps/fivepointwp/wp-content/themes/flex-mag/functions.php on line 999

Recent Popular

To Top