USA Greco

US OPEN SEMIFINALS SET: Benj & Cathcart Dominant Upon Return; Army’s Ninjas Surging

benji peak, 2022 us open
Benji Peak -- Photo: Sam Janicki

One of the talking points leading up to the 2022 US Open was the return of several top Senior athletes. Be it injury-influenced or time away from competition due to different, more personal reasons, it had become hard to discuss the country’s grandest tournament without mentioning who might be coming back, and how they might perform.

After the morning session on Day 1, all interested parties have their answer.

The first day of action at the 2022 US Open began at 10:00am local time from the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas and is being broadcast live on FLOWrestling.

not all roads lead to gold, jim gruenwald

The buzz thus far belongs to National Team member Benji Peak (72 kg, Sunkist/NTS) and West Cathcart (130 kg, NYAC/IRTC), both of whom had been dormant for quite a while due to injury rehab before Saturday. “Mr. Fantastic” Peak defeated Lino Gomez (TX) thanks to a pair of lifts to get going in the round-of-16 — and then proceeded to usher ’21 Pan-Am gold Jamel Johnson (Marines) to an early exit, as well, with a five mostly responsible for that VSU. In his semifinal, Peak, who is recovered from a major shoulder tear suffered in October, will square off against Eddie Smith (Pickaxe).

Cathcart had not competed since the ’20 Olympic Trials prior to mowing down reigning National champ Malcolm Allen (LOG) in the quarterfinal. Cathcart scored on a step-out, takedown, and gut; later, he adjusted for a land-on-top four at the edge to walk away the winner. In order to secure his second National final appearance, the Illinois native will have to get past Courtney Freeman (Marines), who was second at the Bill Farrell Memorial earlier this month.

Peak and Cathcart, they’re covered. Also in the mix for the first time in a long time were the aforementioned Johnson (who up until last weekend was on a Marine assignment in Norway and did not train for this event) and multi-time World Team member Joe Betterman (72 kg, Betterman Elite). Betterman’s first match dating back to the ’15 Open came opposite Ratbek Erkinbekov (Menlo WC), which he secured with a pair of guts that resulted in a 9-0 tech. The quarterfinal round against Smith was an interesting one for Betterman. He had taken a 1-0 passive lead into the second period — and was subsequently dinged twice himself. The decision went to Smith, who as described above will tangle with Peak later this evening.

Elsewhere

Two more impressive athletes at 72 will bang heads in the semis — Ryan Wheeler (Colorado Mesa WC) and Pete Ogunsanya (West Point WC). Neither have made discernible waves at Senior just yet but that figures to change. Wheeler bolted out of the gate by overwhelming established up-and-comer Noah Wachsmuth, starting that blitz off with a bomb. Next up was Bobby Yamashita (Navy) — who had previously edged Farrell runner-up Orlando Ponce (Minnesota Storm) — and, again, Wheeler wanted to test gravity’s perceived limitations, choosing back-to-back reverse lifts that each yielded four. Ogunsanya had his own bright spot: a 6-1 decision at the expense of Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP) that naturally caught many off-guard. One round later, Ogunsanya plugged away at Brody Olson (NMU/NTS, who earlier recorded an encouraging victory against Logan Hatch) to the tune of a 9-0 technical fall.

Two Army Stars Injured

Two-time World Team member Dalton Roberts (60 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #1) and ’17 Junior World Champion Kamal Bey (77 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #3) both won matches on Saturday, and both have injury defaulted out of the competition. Roberts had downed Phillip Moomey (TMWC/Spartan RTC) in a raucous bout which saw scores come flying in nearly each and every minute of their time together. The 13-12 triumph was Roberts, but he will not suit back up for the semifinal — which means that Max Black (NMU/NTS) is automatically in. Black generated a lot of noise in his own right, anyway. A clutch gutwrench and solid gas tank aided the age-grouper in defeating ’20 National champ Alex Thomsen (Sunkist/NWTC) in the quarters.

Bey did what he does, which is put on a show whilst doing the leg work to collect wins. The electrifying four-time champ was firmly in command throughout, turning back Justin McCunn (Vikings WC) and Terrance Parks (NY), respectively. But that will be it for Bey, who was supposed to greet Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm) in the semifinal.

Still, the Ninja Squad…

Max Nowry (55 kg), Jesse Thielke (60 kg), and ’20 Olympians Ildar Hafizov (60 kg) and Alex Sancho (60 kg) are all in their brackets’ semifinals. Nowry, hunting for crown #4, will face ’19 Fargo champ Camden Russell (MWC); Hafizov clashes with Dylan Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC); Thielke sees Nick Leonetti (NMU/NTS); and Sancho will go another round with ’19 Junior World bronze Alston Nutter (Sunkist/NTS).

82 kg

The late registration of one Ben Provisor (NYAC) threw the bracket off course and, funnily enough, rendered the two-time Olympian essentially seedless on Saturday. Provisor was originally not going to compete since he made the Pan-Am Team in Iowa — but a passport issue altered the scope. “Big Ben” advanced to the semifinal following wins over Ben Lee (IA), Cole Pence (NMU/NTS), and Ty Cunningham (MWC). Against Cunningham, Provisor was in for a fitful challenge from start to finish and escaped with a 2-1 nod.

Provisor’s foe will be ’21 U23 World Teamer Tommy Brackett (Gator) — who has been in fine form heading into tonight. Down early to Jake Hendricks (PARTC), Brackett repeatedly wedged underhooks to put Hendricks on his heels. A caution was thrown in, also, and the end result was a grinding 9-4 win that was followed by Brackett running the string on Khalil Abdushshakur (Morris Fitness WC).

On the top side of 82, “The Alaskan Assassin” Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) is 2-0 on the day (two VSU’s) and is set to do battle with fellow ’21 World Team Trials runner-up Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm). Woods, his two victories were one-sided affairs. Epps was called upon to stick it out against Jake Fisher (Curby 3-Style). Back-and-forth they went, with Fisher uncorking a nice arm throw that seemed to shift momentum. Except, Epps kept working, and eventually scored a takedown-turn sequence that kept the margin in his favor. As far as fan interest goes, Woods/Epps should be one semifinal that is widely embraced by the audience.

97 kg

Two whammer headlocks, two wins, and Luke Sheridan (Army/WCAP) is in the National semifinal. Sheridan — absent from match time since September — fired off his go-to opposite Kash Anderson (Colorado Mesa WC) and Ben Gould (Colorado State Pueblo RTC) with both falls coming inside of the first minute. A steeper hill it might be in the semi, as Guy Patron (Dubuque WC) advanced after catching Farrell runner-up Christian Rouleau (Minnesota Storm).

2022 US Open Semifinal Match-Ups

7:00pm ET on FLOWrestling

55 kg

Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) vs. Camden Russell (MWC)
Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) vs. Jacob Cochran (NMU/NTS)

60 kg

Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) vs. Dylan Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC)

63 kg

Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP) vs. Nick Leonetti (NMU/NTS)
Corbin Nirschl (MWC) vs. Aidan Nutter (NYAC/NTS)

67 kg

Peyton Omania (NYAC/CYC) vs. Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC)
Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) vs. Alston Nutter (Sunkist/NTS)

72 kg

Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS) vs. Eddie Smith (Pickaxe)
Ryan Wheeler (Colorado Mesa WC) vs. Pete Ogunsanya (West Point WC)

77 kg

Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP) vs. Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS)

82 kg

Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) vs. Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm)
Tommy Brackett (Gator) vs. Ben Provisor (NYAC)

87 kg

Alan Vera (NYAC) vs. Timothy Young (IL)
George Sikes (NYAC/NTS) vs. Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm)

97 kg

Luke Sheridan (Army/WCAP) vs. Guy Patron (Dubuque WC)
Khymba Johnson (NYAC) vs. Chad Porter (Sunkist)

130 kg

Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist) vs. David Tate Orndorff (TMWC/ORTC)
West Cathcart (NYAC/IRTC) vs. Courtney Freeman (Marines)

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