The United States was expected to win the U20 Pan-Ams, especially with Cuba sitting out the tournament. What did come as a pleasant surprise was a one-sided drubbing of the field that included six gold medalists out of ten weight categories — and ten medalists overall.
Just as importantly, the event provided several members of this year’s US Junior World Team with a proper slate of warm-up matches before flying overseas next month.
The 2022 U20 Pan-American Championships took place on Friday in Oaxtepec, Mexico and aired live on FLOWrestling.
Super-prospect Haiden Drury (63 kg, UVRTC) put together one of his strongest international showings to date by starching four of his five antagonists, punctuating an outstanding effort with a VSU over Antonio Ruiz Mora (ECU) in the final. Drury was on the attack all day long and aggressively pursued relevant attempts that often led to chain scores. Against Ruiz Mora, the same approach was on full display, though that didn’t stop the officials from giving Ecuador the first crack from top par terre. Drury defended without a problem before returning on-the-feet to coax a pair step-out points. One more thwarting off the line along with a takedown late in the period put Drury ahead 5-1 entering the break.
After another step-out that was upgraded via caution meant the end was indeed near. And then, another step-out. Ruiz Mora, clearly fatigued due to Drury’s reliance upon constant motion, was unable to maintain stance integrity. On the next reset, the American roped an arm drag and proceeded to yet again engage Ruiz Mora’s body towards the boundary. An extra oomph on the attack sealed the deal, thus giving one of the US roster’s most talented lightweights a Pan-Ams gold that he will pocket heading into the homestretch of the World Championships training block.
At 72 kilograms, Richard Fedalen (Warhawks) was similarly unstoppable. Back-to-back technical falls at the expense of Dario Cubas Castillo (PER) and Franco Gonzalez Palma (CHI), respectively, had Fedalen in the driver’s seat in what was a pooled bracket. Following a 7-0 shutdown of Elsi Martinez Ordonez of Mexico in Round 3, Fedalen found himself in the semifinal opposite Manuel Brown (PAN). This is when he did his best work.
After Brown caught a run on a crisp arm throw try, Fedalen was quick to defend and cover for the takedown. From top, he then wrapped elbow-deep for two guts and a 6-0 advantage. Brown chipped for a step-out point later in the frame to slightly narrow the gap, but that was his last salvo. With a minute remaining prior to intermission, Fedalen sagged for a takedown-gut combo that iced the contest at 10-1.
In the gold-medal final, Ordonez was once again standing across the circle. It was a near repeat of their bout from earlier in the day in terms of output. Fedalen, decidedly more physical than his adversary, capitalized positionally and tactically to walk away the 5-0 winner.
Team USA went unblemished from 82 kilograms through heavyweight.
Michael Altomer (West Point WC) required only two wins to earn his title. First came a land-on-top pin against Christian Medina Nunez (MEX) late in the first period. It had appeared that Altomer might be in for a dogfight, but when the opportunity to pounce arose, he didn’t miss it. For gold, Altomer brutalized Colombian Juan Cardoza Ibata to the tune of an 8-0 VSU.
The Americans think they might have something special in Oregon State’s Kodiak Stephens (87 kg, Beaver Dam), which makes sense considering his performances over the past two seasons of Greco competition. Stephens, whose skill-set keeps expanding, does not win based solely on technical prowess and/or conditioning. Both attributes are vital, but it is his refusal to compromise in heated moments why he is now a two-time Junior World Team member.
As was the anticipation, Stephens brutalized his first two adversaries on Friday. Neither Jose Jourdan Calderon (PUR) or Ricardo Gomez (ALG) were able to meet the kinetic brand of intensity Stephens brings to bear, although Gomez put up a fight in the ties and tried to test the body on occasion. In fact, it was that very strategy which introduced his undoing. With Stephens enjoying a 4-0 lead as time ticked away in the first period, Gomez urged for the bodylock position. Patience was the key. Gomez adjusted to set and went to arch; when he did, Stephens was ready to react with a re-throw that immediately netted four. Gomez would not see daylight again, and the fall was called.
Round 3 (aka the final in the round-robin bracket) was different. In Carlos Salazar Gomez (MEX), Stephens was facing a sufficiently experienced competitor who had blitzed past Calderon (but had fallen to Gomez from ARG).
It was a tense match.
There was also weirdness.
In the first period, Salazar Gomez arched for a throw that saw Stephens adjust for a clear land-on-top at the edge. The official on the mat scored two points for USA; but MEX challenged and, confusingly, the sequence was changed to a 1-0 lead for Salazar. Down by that same margin in the second, Stephens feverishly worked for entries, as he was the unquestioned aggressor. Passivity rang, on Salazar Gomez. Nothing was doing from top PT, but the passivity point was just enough to carry Stephens to victory via criteria.
Plympton & Attao
Two matches for Robert Plympton (97 kg, OR). Two expressions of efficient violence.
Staring down a game Jean Nazareno (ECU) in Round 1, Plympton surged ahead 7-3 and was hastily looking for avenues for more scores. He forced the issue and it paid off. A snug bodylock was the call. Plympton wrapped Nazareno and hipped his lock to garner a throw-to-pin that arrived just :18 from the break. His hands were a little more full when going for gold. Plympton and Juan Herrera De La Rosa (MEX) were mired in a pummel-fest for most of the first period, with the American holding a 3-2 lead. Following an exchange, Plympton off-balanced De La Rosa, who tried to improvise in the midst of the scramble by yanking an arm throw; Plympton responded by trapping De La Rosa’s own arm and sitting back to snare the pin in conjunction with earning the top spot at 97.
Aden Attao (130 kg, Suples) was on the hook for a single opportunity to wrestle at the Pan-Ams — but he made it count. Round 1 pitted the Idahoan against Luis De La Rosa Arteaga (MEX), which translated to an 8-0 tech win for Attao. Brazil’s Andre Do Amaral Viana was a scratch from the three-man bracket.
Two Bronze & Two Silver
The top of the US lineup was responsible for two bronze medals. Jakason Burks (55 kg, MWC) went 2-2 on the day with both of his wins coming via VSU. NMU’s Max Black (60 kg, NYAC/NTS, 5PM #5) was felled in the quarterfinal by eventual champ Ronaldo Sanchez Ramirez (COL) but rebounded in style in the bronze round by torching Victor Camarena Ascencio (MEX) 11-0.
Robert Perez III (67 kg, Sunkist), one of the US program’s brightest young stars, reached the final on the strength of two victories but was cut short for gold Nestor Almanza Truyol (CHI) 5-5. At 77 kilos was a stout performance for Manuel Gaitan (Temecula Valley HS). Gaitan notched three straight VSU’s to make the final, an eye-opening achievement in his first international start. Guilherme Barros de Arruda Porto (BRA) caught fire with the title on the line and prevailed 11-1, but that did little to tarnish Gaitan’s impressive slate of matches.
- Team USA won the 2022 U20 Pan-American Championships with a whopping 220 points, easily overcoming second-place Mexico (165 points) and Ecuador (165 pts).
- Six athletes who won the U20 World Team Trials last month competed in Mexico: Black, Drury, Perez, Fedalen, Stephens, and Attao.
- Last year, the US roster for the Junior Pan-Ams (of which Fedalen was part, the only returning athlete) won the tournament with seven medalists (three golds and four silvers). In ’22, the entire squad reached the podium.
- Greco-Roman at the ’22 U20 Worlds begins on August 19 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
2022 U20 Pan-American Championships
July 8 — Oaxtepec, MEX
TEAM USA FULL RESULTS
55 kg: Jakason Burks (MWC) — BRONZE
WON Esteban Morales Mayancha (ECU) 8-0, TF
WON Yan Landim Ribeiro (BRA) 9-0, TF
LOSS Hernan Almendra (ARG) 9-1, TF
LOSS Marco Garcia Alvarez (MEX) 15-6, TF
60 kg: Max Black (NYAC/NTS) — BRONZE
LOSS Ronaldo Sanchez Ramirez (COL) 9-1, TF
WON Victor Camarena Ascencio (MEX) 11-0, TF
63 kg: Haiden Drury (UVRTC) — GOLD
WON Alexis Vargas Ramirez (MEX) 10-1
WON Antonio Ruiz Mora (ECU) 9-1
WON Wilfredo Lopez (PAN) via inj. def.
WON Marco Fernandez Cubas (PER) via fall
WON Antonio Ruiz Mora (ECU) 9-0, TF
67 kg: Robert Perez (Sunkist) — SILVER
WON Piero Cruces Panaifo (PER) 7-1
WON Uvaldo Camacho Diaz (MEX) 9-0, TF
LOSS Nestor Almanza Truyol (CHI) 5-5 (criteria)
72 kg: Richard Fedalen (Warhawks) — GOLD
WON Dario Cubas Castillo (PER) 10-2, TF
WON Franco Gonzalez Palma (CHI) 8-0, TF
WON Manuel Brown (PAN) 10-1, TF
WON Elsi Martinez Ordonez (MEX) 5-0
77 kg: Manuel Gaitan (Temecula Valley HS) — SILVER
WON Ricardo Montero Zuniga (ECU) 9-0, TF
WON Erick Martinez Mateo (PUR) 8-0, TF
WON Diego Macias Torres (MEX) 10-2, TF
LOSS Guilherme Barros de Arruda Porto (BRA) 11-1, TF
82 kg: Michael Altomer (West Point WC) — GOLD
WON Christian Medina Nunez (MEX) via fall
WON Juan Cardozo Ibata (COL) via fall
87 kg: Kodiak Stephens (Beaver Dam RTC) — GOLD
WON Jose Jourdan Calderon (PUR) 8-0, TF
WON Ricardo Gomez (ARG) via fall
WON Carlos Salazar Gomez (MEX) 1-1 (criteria)
97 kg: Robert Plympton (OR) — GOLD
WON Jean Paul Nazareno (ECU) via fall
WON Juan Herrera de la Rosa (MEX) 5-2
130 kg: Aden Attao (Suples) — GOLD
WON Luis de la Rosa Arteaga (MEX) 9-0, TF
WON Andre Do Amaral Viana (BRA) via forfeit
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