USA Greco

Team USA Wins Inaugural U23 Pan-American Championships

justus scott, 2024 u23 pan-american championships
Justus Scott -- Photo: UWW

Four golds, three silvers, and one bronze translated to an expression of dominance for the United States at the first-ever U23 Pan-American Championships on Friday in Rionegro, Colombia. The US compiled 194 total points in the standings, 39 more than second-place Venezuela, to take the inaugural team title on a day which saw several of the nation’s top young Senior performers slug it out against an ever-improving field of continental Greco-Roman athletes.

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’23 US Open champ and returning U23 World Team member Justus Scott (72 kg, Army/WCAP) was only briefly tested in the tournament. After dismantling Julio Tavar Guzamana (VEN) via technical fall in the quarterfinal, a moment of concern arose in the next round. Oscar Barrios Rochez (HON) had ambled behind Scott and attempted to execute a lift off the boundary — way off the boundary. The execution of the hold had Scott land off of the mat and onto the platform. It was a hard crash, but the American required just a minute to recover. Once action resumed, Scott began to figure out Rochez’s tactics and soon started to gain traction in the ties. Composure played a key role, and Rochez’s conditioning had also become a factor. Scott took firm command in the second period following a body attack that ended with Rochez in a precarious position. Scott was seeking exposure but sensed an opportunity to halt the conflict by way of pin. He adjusted himself from on top of his foe and held on to collect the fall that put him in the finals.

The infliction of seizing pain is how Scott captured gold. Operating against Colombian Nilson Sinisterra Angulo, Scott received the first-period passivity/par terre chance and went to work on an elbow-to-elbow gutwrench that could not be defended. Sinisterra Angulo writhed and grimaced as the lock coerced him to expose four times in succession, and Scott had earned the title along with his third stoppage victory of the tournament.

Matthew 20 Graphic v2

Friday’s gold for Scott was actually his second from a continental event. Shortly after winning the US Open in ’23, the native Nevadan triumphed at the Senior Pan-Am Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Lewis, Abdon, & Miley

Scott was joined by three other USA gold medalists on Friday — Hunter Lewis (67 kg, Wolfpack WC), Brendon Abdon (77 kg, Arkansas RTC), and Keith Miley (130 kg, Arkansas RTC).

Lewis — a Cadet World Team member in ’18 and long an age-group star for the US — entered action in Colombia himself already holding significant Pan-Am experience. He had earned continental golds on both the Cadet and Junior levels (’18 and ’19, respectively) in addition to a silver (’17). He is, of course, even sharper at this stage of his career, and his assertive, athletic brand of offense proved overwhelming for his antagonists on Friday. To that end, Lewis decked Luis Medina Reyes (VEN) in the opening round before going over Alonso Parra Garcia (COL) via 13-0 VSU, a match that was highlighted by a string of blitzing scores on his part.

In the finals against Marco Fernandez Cubas (PER), Lewis stuck to a methodical approach as he chipped inside for position early in the bout. He was able to clamp a front headlock on Cubas towards the boundary and swim behind for a takedown. The official ordered a stand-up, and Lewis looked for two-on-one’s and angled entries as Cubas backed off with no consequence from the referee. A headlock from Lewis broke the tension and provided him with a 6-0 lead. Shortly thereafter, Lewis again found position with a head-arm over the top of Cubas, who in despair reached for the body. It was of no use. Lewis easily spun behind for two points to ice the proceedings at 8-0.

Most of the tournament’s brackets were pooled, which allowed for several Americans the opportunity to compete in four matches. Abdon was one of them. Despite being bereft of prior international experience, Abdon looked quite comfortable transitioning to multi-point attacks at the expense of his foes, particularly in his first two bouts. Abdon sought to pour it on versus Lautaro Seghesso (ARG) and instead of a VSU, earned a fall. A similar situation enveloped for him in Round 2, as tough Rau Unzueta Torres (MEX) gamely tried to answer Abdon back on the feet, but he, too, would eventually succumb to the assertive offensive measures the American had brought to bear, and the recent U23 Trials winner secured his second straight pin.

A better test arrived in the bracket’s semifinal. Against Darfel Parada Camacaro (VEN), Abdon bit down for a 4-1 decision, thus earning a ticket to the gold-medal match.

A return to the previously-established protocol was presented by Abdon in the final opposed by Ryan Castillo of Peru. After executing what was a smooth duck-under to body attack that scored four points, Abdon proceeded to rake Castillo with a pair of gutwrenches to force a halt to the contest with the score at 10-1.

Two pins and one VSU were logged by Miley who, like his teammate Abdon, was also new to Pan-Am competition. Miley started off with a pin over Luis Luna (VEN) before being awarded a forfeit in the second round. He then notched another pin, this time against Kevin Morales Potosi (COL). With gold on the line, Miley steamrolled Antonio Ramos (PUR) en-route to a 10-0 VSU. An overall very impressive performance.

Melalashvili, Beauparthuy, & Altomer

All three of the silver medalists from the US required bouncing back from previous losses as each of their weight classes involved pooled brackets.

Former Georgian athlete Beka Melalashvili (82 kg, NYAC) had arrived in Colombia already dealing with adversity in the form of a broken rib. What is a painful and problematic injury for any person is especially more difficult with which to contend in Greco-Roman wrestling. No worse for wear did Melalashvili appear in Round 1, for he had laid waste to Yulian Perciado Obregon (COL) in a lopsided affair that ended in his favor 13-4. Round 2 brought with it more distinctive challenge. Daniel Bello Vega (VEN) scored early against Melalashvili with a bodylock and generated consistent pressure in the trenches that resulted in him holding a 5-0 advantage in the second period. Melalashvili responded with a land-on-top four to close within a point, but Bello Vega hung on just the same to prevail 5-4.

Whatever discomfort Melalashvili had experienced failed to be evident in the subsequent rounds which had lied before him. A crisp victory by way of technical superiority over Diego Macias Torres (MEX) put him within reach of silver. Melalashvili went on to clinch the runner-up slot by pounding out the scores once again when he exposed Jose Romeo Sanchez (PUR) several times with 10-0 as the final margin.

Altomer, known in the US as “Muscle Mike”, hit a snag in Round 1. He had drawn Venezuelan Juan Diaz Blanco, who is a promising upper-weight prospect for the Pan-Am landscape in his own right. Diaz Blanco decisioned Altomer 7-1, though the match was closer than the score perhaps indicated. Nevertheless, Altomer had to win out in order to grab silver, which is exactly what he did. First, he got past Max Madrid DeLeon (PAN) via fall; in his last match of the event, Altomer’s vaunted headlock did not stay in his pocket very long. Very soon after the whistle, he whammed Ricardo Gomez (ARG) with the hold to pick up four, though Gomez did reverse position to snare a point back to make the score 4-1. A reset, and right away Altomer was in on a high dive that he used to finish a straight-ahead bodylock. Gomez was close to being pinned immediately following impact and Altomer settled in position from top to collect the fall. Altomer had won Pan-Am golds twice at the U20 level previously (’22, ’23), making his earning of silver on Friday his third medal from the event.

Sullivan with Bronze; Couch & Gurule

A strong, focused effort was required for Billy Sullivan (55 kg, Army/WCAP) to defeat Cristopher Verastegui Aguilar (COL) in his first bout of the day. Sullivan’s motion on the feet coupled by his lock on the mat helped keep Aguilar at bay in what became a 7-1 decision win. A more pronounced offensive expression was made by Sullivan in Round 2. Jose Perez Estrada (MEX) was game, but Sullivan’s work from top par terre was equal parts efficient and unstoppable as he strung together a series of turns for a 9-0 VSU.

The semifinal pitted Sullivan against Abel Sanchez Juarez (PER), and Sanchez Juarez found a crease from par terre top with his gutwrench that allowed him to score, surprisingly, the points necessary to hand the talented US rep an 8-0 loss. Sullivan scraped off the defeat in fine fashion, however. In the bronze-medal match, the ’19 Fargo champ and ’21 U20 World Teamer closed out his time in Rionegro by decimating Esteban Morales Mayancha (ECU) 8-0. The bronze for Sullivan is his second from a Pan-Am tournament after also placing 3rd as a Junior in ’19.

Joseph Couch (60 kg, West Point WC) found himself in position to medal thanks to a win-via-fall over Abel Hidalgo Berrios (PAN) in Round 1. Couch — who was yet another American making his international debut — dropped his next two matches to officially finish in 6th place.

’22 U20 World Team member Jonathan Gurule (63 kg, NYAC/NTS) was on the wrong side of two technical falls. Gurule — who went up to 63 kg for the U23 Trials last month after originally establishing himself at 60 — was downed by experienced competitor and Pan-Am Games bronze Jeremy Peralta Gonzalez (ECU) and Hector Sanchez Zapata (MEX), respectively.


  • Sullivan, Gurule, Scott, Melalashvili, Beauparthuy, and Miley each won the U23 World Team Trials last month in Geneva, Ohio.
  • Team USA finished with a combined record of 25-9.
  • Of the US’ 25 victories, 22 were stoppages (12 TF, 10 pins).

2024 U23 Pan-American Championships

June 21 — Rionegro, COL


55 kg: Billy Sullivan (Army/WCAP) — BRONZE
WON Cristopher Verastegui Aguilar (COL) 7-1
WON Jose Perez Estrada (MEX) 9-0, TF
LOSS Abel Sanchez Juarez (PER) 8-0, TF
WON Esteban Morales Mayancha (ECU) 8-0, TF

60 kg: Joseph Couch (West Point WC) — 5th
WON Abel Hidalgo Berrios (PAN) via fall
LOSS Ronaldo Sanchez Ramirez (COL) 8-1 
LOSS Yonaiker Martinez Cravo (VEN) 9-0, TF

63 kg: Jonathan Gurule (NYAC/NTS) — 6th
LOSS Jeremy Peralta Gonzalez (ECU) 11-0, TF
LOSS Hector Sanchez Zapata (MEX) 9-0, TF

67 kg: Hunter Lewis (Wolfpack WC) — GOLD
WON Luis Medina Reyes (VEN) via fall
WON Alonso Parra Garcia (COL) 13-0, TF
WON Marco Fernandez Cubas (PER) 8-0, TF

72 kg: Justus Scott (Army/WCAP) — GOLD
WON Julio Tavar Guzamana (VEN) 10-2, TF
WON Oscar Barrios Rochez (HON) via fall
WON Nilson Sinisterra Angulo (COL) 9-0, TF

77 kg: Brendon Abdon (Arkansas RTC) — GOLD
WON Lautaro Seghesso (ARG) via fall
WON Raul Unzueta Torres (MEX) via fall
WON Darfel Parada Camacaro (VEN) 4-1
WON Ryan Castillo (PER) 10-1, TF

82 kg: Beka Melalashvili (NYAC) — SILVER
WON Yulian Pericado Obregon (COL) 13-4, TF
LOSS Daniel Bello Vega (VEN) 5-4
WON Diego Macias Torres (MEX) 8-0, TF
WON Jose Romeo Sanchez (PUR) 10-0, TF

87 kg: Tyson Beauparthuy (CO) — SILVER
LOSS Carlos Salazar Gomez (MEX) 5-1
LOSS Brian Ruiz Marin (VEN) 9-0, TF
WON Eduardo Vega Garcia (PAN) 8-0, TF
WON Brandon Calle Perez (COL) via fall

97 kg: Mike Altomer (Curby 3-Style) — SILVER
LOSS Juan Diaz Blanco (VEN) 7-1
WON Max Madrid DeLeon (PAN) via fall
WON Ricardo Gomez (ARG) via fall

130 kg: Keith Miley (Arkansas RTC) — GOLD
WON Luis Talavara Luna (VEN) via fall
WON Juan Cantillo Torres (PAN) via forfeit
WON Kevin Morales Potosi (COL) via fall
WON Antonio Ramos (PUR) 10-0, TF

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