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By Rob Sherrill
Make no mistake. The talent pool for American wrestling is getting younger … and deeper.
No American wrestler has ever won two FILA Junior World championships. But Kyle Snyder (96 kg) of Colorado Springs, Colo., is back for another try after sweeping Nathan Rotert, 13-2, 5-0 in the best-of-three freestyle finals in Madison, Wis.
A record seven wrestlers, still of high school age, earned spots on the two U.S. teams, though they’re still at the bottom of the age group. And that doesn’t even include the other reigning American Junior World champion, Sam Stoll of Kasson (Minn.) K.-Mantorville, who didn’t even make the squad after falling in two matches to University of Michigan freshman Adam Coon.
Coon, forced to sit on the sidelines last year after losing twice to Stoll in the same round, scored a 5-0 decision and a pin, and advanced to the U.S. team in both styles. Since the Junior World Championships in the two styles are a month apart – the freestyle meet takes place Aug. 5-10 in Zagreb, Croatia, and the Greco-Roman meet Sept. 8-14 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan – Coon will be able to compete on both U.S. teams, leaving Stoll without the opportunity to repeat.
Four of the seven advanced to the freestyle team, including sophomore phenom Aaron Pico (66 kg). In a matchup of former FILA Cadet World champions, the Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco sophomore turned back Penn State freshman All-American Zain Retherford, 3-0 and 5-1. Junior Anthony Valencia (74 kg), who also attends St. John Bosco, scored back-to-back 10-0 technical falls over Isaiah Martinez in an all-California best-of-three.
An all-Illinois final at 50 kg saw state champion Jabari Moody of Olympia Fields Rich Central score back-to-back technical falls over state placewinner Kirk Johansen of Carol Stream Glenbard North. Joey McKenna (60 kg) of Blairstown Township (N.J.) Blair Academy, another former FILA Cadet World team member, also advanced to the team.
Jon Jay Chavez (74 kg) of Boise (Idaho) Centennial, the FILA Cadet World bronze medalist last year, survived an opening loss to Barrett Stanghill to win two straight matches, the last by injury default, to earn his first FILA Junior World team berth. He was joined on the Greco-Roman team by two-time Kansas champion Josiah Seaton (50 kg) of Bonner Springs (Kan.) and three-time Nebraska champion Dante Rodriguez (60 kg) of Kearney.
Sure looks like the future is bright.