USA Greco

U23 World Team Trials Preview: 80 to 130 KG

barrett stanghill, 85 kg, u23 world team trials
Barrett Stanghill -- Photo: Sam Janicky

The lightest four weight classes to be contested this weekend at the first-ever U23 Greco-Roman World Team Trials in Rochester, Minnesota shone a light on why the US program believes it is well-stocked for the future. But if you liked what you saw there, then you should positively love what’s available in the next group.

A reigning World Champion is now present in one of the weight classes and the next three after that offer up some of the most talked-about talent in the country. As in the earlier preview, there are several World Team members and a few Fargo Junior National champs, as well as medal winners from various relevant overseas tournaments. That last nugget of information may be the most important — this event is about not only seeing who survives to make the team, but also, to select collection of athletes who have experience against foreign opponents and understand what it takes to win on the highest level. The US program is still in a bit of a rebuilding phase, but after this summer, it’s starting to become time to play for keeps. The bar has been raised and many are looking at the U23 squad as a way to keep the momentum going.


Note: This list may be updated to include late entrants.

80 kg

All conversations regarding this weight will deservedly begin and end with 2017 Junior World Champion Kamal Bey (Sunkist, world no. 18), who even before he claimed gold, was well-recognized as one of the most talented Greco-Roman combatants in the country. Bey won his title in the Junior 74 kilogram class and has spent the majority of his time either there or at Senior 75. He did go up to 84 for the Austrian Open last March (which he won) and then the next weekend in Croatia (where he took third at the Senior Zagreb Open). Bey is constant energy and as most know, loves to put on a show. But he is also becoming a student of the sport and adding more creative and sophisticated attacks to his arsenal. That of course means he will remain a looming problem for everyone here and surely, they all realize that.

2017 Fargo Junior National champ Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC/FLWC) might have lost to Bey a couple of times (at Fargo, in fact — in 2015 and ’16), but he also got himself some meaningful mat time overseas this past year and has grown considerably in how he sets up his attacks and hand-fights into position. He’s at Cornell now, too, and that RTC in Ithaca is pretty stacked. Another potential contender comes in the form of Tommy Brackett (TN), who is a high school senior but like Berreyesa, has done well at Fargo (they were in the same weight class in ’16) and has taken advantage of trips across the Atlantic, as well. Brackett also competed at the 2016 US Senior Nationals and acquitted himself well there with a sixth-place finish. Minnesota’s Carter Nielsen is now at NMU and given the toughness and talent he showed on the age-group level, might very well make things even more interesting should he advance.

85 kg

Originally, it was thought that 85 would be where two-time NCAA Division I champ Dean was to make his return, but alas, a neat match-up between he and Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm) will have to wait. Stanghill, formerly of Northern Michigan University, really got going last year in his first full year with the Storm. He checked in with a bronze at the Bill Farrell, had a rough Schultz, a rough Hungarian Grand Prix, but then nearly made the National Team at April’s Trials, where he fell to Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP) in the quarters and once again (controversially) in the match for third. After that, he grabbed a University National title and then went over to Serbia for the Gedza. He didn’t make the podium over there, but looked plenty healthy at this weight. And that’s the kicker — Stanghill went up for the Universities and Serbia, so this is where he will remain going forward. It also means 85 kilos in the US has one more powerful body in what is already an extremely crowded field.

Wyatt Koelling (MO RTC), he of the 2017 Junior World Team, will very likely be in the hunt. His age-group prowess aside, Koelling is a steady worker who clearly demonstrates the markings of a successful full-time competitor when his college days are over. He’s just so tough to knock off his spot and his scoring transitions against the right kind of opponent are executed seamlessly. Minnesota Storm’s Rich Carlson and Marine Vaughan Monreal-Berner are going to be overlooked by most because they are both still developing their Greco-feel, but that could be a mistake considering the training environments they’re coming from. Stanghill is the name here, and that makes sense. He’s excellent. Just make sure you zero in on the others, too. There is going to be a lot of high-intensity fighting in this group you won’t want to miss out on.

98 kg

Gabe Dean (NYAC) is the marquee candidate here due to his sparkling collegiate credentials and a silver medal from the Pan Ams two years ago, but it just might be premature to think of him as the no-doubt-about-it favorite at 98. There is no argument that Dean is an incredibly talented all-around wrestler with very good hand-fighting skills, and he looked like a natural Greco guy during his brief foray in this style. The question you have to ask is if a summer’s worth of full-time training is enough to carry him through, especially when athletes like Blake Smith (NMU-OTS) and Haydn Maley (Unattached) are present. Smith defeated Maley two matches to one in the best-of-three Junior World Team Trials this year (both wrestlers won their bouts via fall, incidentally). Maley then went on to crush his way through the Junior Pan Ams before picking up his second Fargo title, and Smith lost two bouts to none in the postponed wrestle-off versus G’Angelo Hancock.

Smith is still raw, but he is a true full-timer at Northern Michigan. Maley is now at Stanford, but he has two Junior National titles. Dean is Dean, and chances are he’s simply too self-aware and polished to step in quicksand. He knows how to perform in huge events, after all. How about someone like Marine Trent Osnes? Osnes doesn’t get a ton of attention, mostly because he hasn’t exactly lit it up just yet. But he’s a large 98 capable of grinding down foes if the action keeps a steady pace, and that can be an issue for fast-starters in a tournament setting like this one where attrition matters. Northern’s Spencer Wilson is also progressing and depending on where he stands in the bracket, could ruin someone else’s day.

130 kg

2016 Junior World bronze medalist and uber-gifted G’Angelo Hancock is moving up to heavyweight for the U23 World Team Trials since his size right now dictates as such. Hancock could potentially be groomed to continue on at 130 if only because his freaky combination of size, athleticism, and strength is too pronounced to eventually become victimized by constantly dropping down while his body is still growing. Whatever the case is, it’s likely not what most of the contenders here were expecting when they started eyeballing this event. And naturally, with Hancock now in the picture, he instantly becomes the man to beat at this weight, as if that need be said. However, there could adjustments for him to make when he tangles with some of the heftier grinders who are populating the bracket.

Michael Rogers (NYAC) was a Junior World Team member in 2016 and before that, one of the best high school prospects in the country. Nick Boykin (Sunkist) is looked at as a big part of the Greco youth movement in the US and has seen rapid development out at the OTC. Eric Fader (Marines) possesses the most experience by far on the Senior level with the exception of Hancock, and he’s another huge dude who is completely unafraid to grab-and-throw. Hancock still stands head and shoulders above everyone here when we’re talking about overall skill and credentials, but it will be interesting to see who is going to try and make him carry their weight in the ties in effort to wear him down. It just sounds like too tough of a task and it probably is. When you consider the variables, be it Hancock getting jobbed at the Junior Worlds or how motivated he looked chasing down the top guy on the planet in Paris, this kid might be stepping out there on Saturday with a point to prove, making him all the more dangerous than he already was.

2017 U23 Greco-Roman World Team Trials Schedule

Saturday, October 7th — 66 kg, 75 kg, 85 kg, 98 kg
Sunday, October 8th — 59 kg, 71 kg, 80 kg, 130 kg

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