USA Greco

Perez, Carlson, & Attao Grab 3rd at Nationals; More New Qualifiers for Olympic Trials

robert perez iii, 2023 us nationals
Robert Perez III vs. Patrick Smith

FORT WORTH, TX — Not all of the most consequential consolation bouts scheduled for Saturday morning took place, but plenty of them did. The primary objective on the table for the majority of those who did compete this morning was simple — to qualify for April’s Olympic Team Trials. To that end, the mission was a success for  13 of the best Greco-Roman wrestlers in America.

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

Day 2 of the 2023 US Nationals began at 10:00am local time from the Fort Worth Convention Center in Fort Worth, TX (11:00am ET) and is streaming live on FLOWrestling.

Northern Michigan’s Max Black advanced through his side of the 60 kg bracket on Friday to face three-time National Champion Hayden Tuma (NYAC), who himself had accomplished precisely the very same thing after defeating two-time World rep Sammy Jones (Sunkist/CTT). With their advancement to what was essentially a challenge tournament final (as Ildar Hafizov was sitting out due to enjoying a bye to this evening’s final round), both Tuma and Black secured spots in the Olympic Trials. Tuma won the bout over Black, thus setting up the match with Hafizov for tonight. However, Tuma is not competing this evening, which gives Hafizov the outright National title as well as the opportunity to represent the USA at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier in February.

Elsewhere in the bracket, Jones and top-seed Randon Miranda (NYAC, who had fallen to Black in the semifinal on Friday) have likewise decided to take a pass on wrestling in the consolation bracket today. This development means that both Dylan Gregerson (Minnesota Storm) and Taylor LaMont (Minnesota Storm) are now qualified for the Trials, as well, as LaMont was to face Jones and Gregerson, Miranda. For bookkeeping purposes, LaMont defaulted to his longtime friend and training partner Gregerson in the bout for 3rd/4th, while Miranda and Jones combined for the rare double forfeit in the 5th/6th match.

At 67 kg, hyper-talented Robert Perez III (Sunkist) decisioned four-time World Team member Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) following an intense, hard-fought bout in one of the division’s consolation semifinals. In the other, David Stepanyan (NYAC/NTS) defeated former Northern teammate Duncan Nelson (OTC). Thanks to their victories in this round, Perez and Stepanyan both qualified for April — but the pair did not meet to decide third-place due to Stepanyan forfeiting the contest.

To Whom Belongs the Glory graphic

77 kg was a similar story. Aliaksandr Kikiniou (NYAC) — who was on the wrong end of a tight decision against Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS) on Friday — got past a very solid Aydin Rix-McElhinney (Northern Colorado WC) in their consolation semifinal — and on the opposite side of the bracket, Danny Braunagel (IRTC) received a forfeit from ’18 World Team member RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC). Hence, Braunagel and Kikiniou both qualified for the OTT, as did Rix-McElhinney, for he would have had Perkins in the 5th/6th match but Perkins was by then out of the tournament.

87 kg

The most competitive weight category in the country? They had some matches.

Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm) and ’19 World rep/’20 Olympian/recent Military World bronze John Stefanowicz (Navy WC) battled it out to see who would go onto the bronze bout, and it was Carlson who prevailed in a points-happy contest 8-0. Stefanowicz, he was of course already qualified, but for Carlson it was a major victory. A consistent top-tier domestic competitor for the better part of a decade, Carlson had to bypass several selection seasons, including for ’20 Tokyo. And after earning the win against Stefanowicz, Carlson turned back reigning World Team member Zac Braunagel (IRTC) to stamp down third place.

Another positive in this bracket was the re-emergence of Terrence Zaleski (Marines), who had not competed since the ’21 Nationals. Zaleski was one of the All-Marine Team’s most explosive wrestlers but had thought his career might be finished following the (ridiculous) dissolution of the AMWT. Despite having not trained for this event, Zaleski persevered through a run of matches and qualified for the OTT after Stefanowicz declined to enter the match for 5th/6th.

97 kg

Perhaps David Tate Orndorff (TMWC) has just required a little adjustment to 97, because he wrestled superbly this morning. Orndorff, a US Open runner-up in ’19 at heavyweight, defeated National Team member Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm) in the consolation semis, this after downing Mac Kukowski (Minnesota Storm) in his previous bout.

Two-time National champ “Big” Nick Boykin (Sunkist) and “Muscle” Mike Altomer (Curby 3-Style) delivered the match of the session, with both wrestlers hunting for attacks and multi-point scores. Altomer had a moment with a bombing throw, but Boykin rose to the occasion and eventually came away with the 15-6 VSU late in the second period. Boykin forfeited to Orndorff, with the latter taking third. But Altomer had to DuLaney with which to deal for 5th/6th, and, after another tough but exciting bout, it was Altomer who got the nod 13-10 as well as the final qualifying spot available from this tournament at 97.

130 kg

’22 Junior World bronze Aden Attao (Beaver Dam RTC) will be at the Olympic Team Trials, though the manner in which he cemented his spot was, through no fault of his own, troubling. Attao was in on a body attack against West Cathcart (NYAC) and upon landing, Cathcart’s knee popped and the match was over. On the opposite side of the consolation bracket, Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm) defeated the returning Michael Rogers (TMWC/NLWC) and was defeated by Attao (6-3) for bronze. Rogers also moves into the OTT after Cathcart forfeiting due to injury.

2023 US Nationals

December 15-16 — Fort Worth, TX


60 kg: Dylan Gregerson (Minnesota Storm) def. Taylor LaMont (Minnesota Storm) via forfeit
67 kg: Robert Perez III (Sunkist) def. David Stepanyan (NYAC/NTS) via forfeit
77 kg: Danny Braunagel (IRTC) def. Aliaksandr Kikiniou (NYAC) via forfeit
87 kg: Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm) def. Zac Braunagel (IRTC) 8-5
97 kg: David Tate Orndorff (TMWC) def. Nick Boykin (Sunkist) via forfeit
130 kg: Aden Attao (Beaver Dam RTC) def. Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm) 6-3

New 2024 Olympic Trials Qualifiers

60 kg

Max Black (NMU/NTS)
Dylan Gregerson (Minnesota Storm)
Taylor LaMont (Minnesota Storm)
Hayden Tuma (NYAC)

67 kg

Robert Perez III (Sunkist)

77 kg

Danny Braunagel (IRTC)
Aliaksandr Kikiniou (NYAC)
Aydin Rix-McElhinney (Northern Colorado WC)

87 kg

Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm)
Mahmoud Sebie (FL)
Terrence Zaleski (Marines)

97 kg

Mike Altomer (Curby 3-Style)
Nick Boykin (Sunkist)
David Tate Orndorff (TMWC)

130 kg

Aden Attao (Beaver Dam RTC)
Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm)
Michael Rogers (TMWC/NLWC)

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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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