The Army’s World Class Athletes Program had two of their star wrestlers depart early from the event due to injury and it was still not enough to halt what is becoming a buzzsaw team performance.
The semifinal round on Day 1 of the 2022 US Open began at 4:00pm local time from the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas and aired live on FLOWrestling.
Seven of the ten weight categories for tomorrow’s slate of finals will feature at least one Army/WCAP representative. At 55 kilograms, both participants belong to Fort Carson as three-time National champ Max Nowry downed Camden Russell (MWC) and ’19 runner-up Dalton Duffield disposed of Jacob Cochran (NMU/NTS). The black-and-gold parade kicked off earlier on Saturday with Army racking up 14 victories through the quarterfinals, which easily set the table for their stomping of the field in the proceeding round.
’20 US Olympian Ildar Hafizov kept the line moving by jumping on a game Dylan Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC) in unrelenting fashion. Hafizov caught Koontz on his back amid a scramble and followed with his patented high-gut lift and a pair of turns to ice the bout in the first period via VSU. Another Olympian, one Mr. Jesse Thielke from the class of Rio ’16, continued the momentum in his take-out of young Nick Leonetti (NMU/NTS). Ahead 5-0 entering the second, Thielke submarined up from a Leonetti front headlock and zoomed to the body, receiving four; he then clamped a deep gutwrench to force the stoppage.
One of the semifinals to which most were looking forward transpired at 67 kilograms between ’20 Olympian Alex Sancho and ’19 Junior World bronze Alston Nutter (Sunkist/NTS). Their history is not a lengthy document, but it has early on favored Sancho with Nutter coming up just short.
That was the case again on Saturday. Sancho torqued an arm attempt in the first, causing an off-balanced Nutter to surrender a takedown. Later in the period, another exchange put Sancho in the driver’s seat as he countered a blitzing Nutter for two more points before cranking a gut. 6-0 read the scoreboard at intermission, but it was not such a daunting deficit, apparently, in Nutter’s eyes.
Needing only one sizable score to make a definitive impact, Nutter found the task of gaining clearance to Sancho’s body a difficult proposition. Passivity would offer the most significant opportunity for offense, and it arrived midway through the period. From top, Nutter was able to wrangle a lift that brought with it four points. More importantly, the action put him behind by only a single tick. He did not lack urgency, Nutter, as he poured inside and level-changed in attack mode. Sancho’s defense was too robust to penetrate, however, and in the end he had sealed his fourth trip to the National finals.
Holmes, Woods, & Sheridan
Britton Holmes (77 kg) was involved in the type of brutish battle he tends to prefer opposite uber-prospect Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS). The appropriate term is “no quarter”, since neither athlete was willing to give an inch. Holmes — sometimes a brawler, sometimes a technician, but always physical — was stymied through most of the first period when it came to cracking open workable tie-ups; but that was due in large part to Jacobson’s purposeful pressure and stance integrity. He just wouldn’t be knocked off his spot.
Passivity rang, as it often does, with Holmes the beneficiary. Nothing was doing in par terre, so they returned standing for more in-fighting. Jacobson started the second period with requisite zeal and, before too long, it was his chance from top. Holmes defended for another reset. The tension was building. Jacobson held criteria, though that did not seem a safe bet. Back to jousting they were, with Jacobson roping an arm spin attempt only to come loose with Holmes covering. At first glance, it looked like a slip. But, Army challenged. A customary response. The sequence was reviewed, and Holmes was not credited for a takedown but instead saw one point tallied to Jacobson’s margin.
Shortly thereafter, Holmes’ steady diligence paid off. He had managed to sneak in double underhooks and drive; as he did, Jacobson reciprocated by trying to lock double overs. The outcome was Holmes pushing forth and landing on top of Jacobson to garner four points, which provided the difference in the 5-2 decision.
At 82 kilos, it was a meeting between two ’21 Trials runner-ups, Spencer Woods and Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm). Woods blasted a high dive for his first pair of points. Several minutes of blood time were then exhausted for Epps, who had his nose cracked after a clash of heads earlier in the match. Wrestling was restarted eventually, and Woods used counter-pressure over the top for a snap-spin combo along with a 4-0 advantage. Soon into the second period, Epps dipped levels on a beautiful duck-under — but Woods counter-scored big time with double overhooks for the match-ending points.
The equalizer known as Luke Sheridan‘s headlock made four appearances on Saturday. And all four times, the technique resulted in devastation for his opponents. During the morning/preliminary session, Sheridan headlocked and pinned both Kash Anderson(Colorado Mesa WC) and Ben Gould (Colorado State Pueblo RTC) inside of :60. In the semifinal, Guy Patron joined the list of victims after being waterfalled twice by Sheridan, who advanced on the heels of a crisp but memorable VSU.
Merkin Over Omania
The US officials do not call passivity either enough, or correctly — but when it came to Peyton Omania (NYAC/CYC) versus Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC), they should not be blamed for staying out of it.
Ten isolated scores helped Merkin (the eventual victor) and ’21 World Teamer Omania combine for 15 points. They were not trading four’s and five’s, but they were certainly trying. Merkin fired off double-overs and a front headlock to race ahead 4-0 in the first period, which capped the scoring until the second. That was when the complexion of the bout changed. Omania began to answer back at an increasing rate in the ties, though Merkin did notch a step-out point to bloat his lead to 5-0.
Omania commandeered his own double over’s to get on the board, and quickly regrouped for a throw attempt at the edge that garnered a step-out. Merkin’s corner challenged, the call was upheld, and Omania’s deficit had been trimmed to 5-3.
Following Merkin coaxing one more step-out, Omania achieved double underhooks that he leveraged for a throw-by. The score was 6-5 with just over a minute remaining and it seemed as though more offense was on the way. With :28 on the clock, Merkin absorbed an inadvertent knock to the dome and kept his wits about him long enough to explode with a double overhook toss. Good for two points, the score momentarily settled at 8-5. After the reset, Omania was back in gear to put Merkin off the edge yet again. Back and forth it was from the third minute to the sixth, but the verdict is owned by Merkin, who will be one of six first-time finalists on Sunday.
Provisor, Khymba, & Schultz
Two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (82 kg, NYAC) will be gunning for his fifth Senior “stop sign” Sunday afternoon after defeating ’21 U23 World Team member Tommy Brackett (Gator) 7-1. Par terre is how “Big Ben” made it happen. Brackett was dinged, and Provisor took advantage by raking a trio of gutwrenches.
Khymba Johnson (97 kg, NYAC) is back in a National final for the first time in over five years thanks to a patient, disciplined approach against former Junior/U23 World Teamer Chad Porter (Sunkist). There was an absence of overreaches and overreactions. Rather, Johnson simply took what was given to him. In the first period, that was a step-out and passivity point; in the second, Porter whiffed on a headlock attempt, and Johnson sat back and covered for two. There was no further scoring, putting the NMU alumnus in the finals via 4-0 decision.
Untouched thus far is Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist), who downed familiar foe David Tate Orndorff (TMWC/Ohio RTC) 8-0. Schultz bodied and turned Orndorff in the first period, and scored a takedown-gut combo in the second to log the VSU in the books. Schultz had defeated Orndorff as well in the ’18 U23 World Team Trials best-of-three, the same year that saw Orndorff burst onto the circuit and make the US National Team.
NMU Strength in Vegas
Four athletes from Northern Michigan University’s National Training Site are in the 2022 US Open finals. Max Black (60 kg) punched his ticket by actually prevailing in the quarterfinal over ’20 champ Alex Thomsen (Sunkist/NWTC). Black was next scheduled to face ’21 World Team member Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP) — but as mentioned, Roberts was forced to withdraw from the event due to injury. National Team member Benji Peak (72 kg) — a National Champion in ’20 — launched a pair of fives in defeating Eddie Smith (Pickaxe). Peak has been credited with three fives at the US Open entering Sunday’s final round.
Aidan Nutter (63 kg) continues his impressive first year as a full-timer. In the semifinal, Nutter bit down for a tough 2-1 decision over Corbin Nirschl (MWC). At 87, George Sikes kept one step ahead of Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm) and triumphed 5-2. Sikes executed a dynamic arm throw in the first period that brought in the haul of points necessary to secure his finals berth.
In addition to Black, Nutter, Peak, and Sikes, there are eight other ’22 finalists who either graduated from NMU or spent a relevant amount of time at the school: Nowry, Duffield, Sancho, Holmes, Woods, Provisor, Johnson, and Cathcart.
2022 US Open Finals Pairings
Finals tentatively scheduled for 5:00pm PT on FLOWrestling.
55 kg: Max Nowry(Army/WCAP) vs. Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP)
60 kg: Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) vs. Max Black (NYAC/NTS)
63 kg: Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP) vs. Aidan Nutter (NYAC/NTS)
67 kg: Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) vs. Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC)
72 kg: Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS) vs. Pete Ogunsanya (West Point WC)
77 kg: Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm) vs. Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP)
82 kg: Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) vs. Ben Provisor (NYAC)
87 kg: Alan Vera (NYAC) vs. George Sikes (NYAC/NTS)
97 kg: Luke Sheridan (Army/WCAP) vs. Khymba Johnson (NYAC)
130 kg: Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist) vs. West Cathcart (NYAC/IRTC)
2022 US Open Semifinal Results
Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) def. Camden Russell (MWC) 10-0, TF
Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) def. Jacob Cochran (NMU/NTS) 12-2, TF
Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) vs. Dylan Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC) 8-0, TF
Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP) vs. Nick Leonetti (NMU/NTS) 11-0, TF
Aidan Nutter (NYAC/NTS) def. Corbin Nirschl (MWC) 2-1
Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC) def. Peyton Omania (NYAC/CYC) 8-7
Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) def. Alston Nutter (Sunkist/NTS) 6-5
Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS) def. Eddie Smith (Pickaxe) 12-0, TF
Pete Ogunsanya (West Point WC) def. Ryan Wheeler (Colorado Mesa WC) 10-1, TF
Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP) def. Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS) 5-2
Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) def. Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm) 8-0, TF
Ben Provisor (NYAC) def. Tommy Brackett (Gator) 7-1
Alan Vera (NYAC) def. Timothy Young (IL) via fall
George Sikes (NYAC/NTS) def. Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm) 5-2
Luke Sheridan (Army/WCAP) vs. Guy Patron (Dubuque WC) 8-0, TF
Khymba Johnson (NYAC) vs. Chad Porter (Sunkist) 4-0
Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist) def. David Tate Orndorff (TMWC/ORTC) 8-0, TF
West Cathcart (NYAC/IRTC) def. Courtney Freeman (Marines) 7-1
Sunday, May 1 — Senior Greco-Roman US Open Schedule
10:00am-1:00pm — Consolation semifinals
5:00pm-7:00pm — Medal rounds and finals
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