Junior World team features four repeats and Cadet World champ

Updated: June 9, 2017

Photo: Daton Fix (bottom) easily dominated Brandon Courtney at 55 kilograms for his second Junior World team berth. (photo by Tim Tushla)

June 9, 2017

By Mike Finn

LINCOLN, Neb. — American wrestling fans will show up in the Devaney Center Saturday to see what eight men’s freestyle stars will represent the United States at this summer’s UWW World Championships by winning the Senior-level World Team Trials.

But before that happens, many of those same fans got a chance to see an even brighter future of United States wrestling in men’s freestyle at the Junior World Team Trials on the campus of the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Friday (June 9).

Eight young men earned their spots on the US team that will compete in the Junior Worlds, Aug. 1-6, in Tampere, Finland, and many did so in impressive fashion … as 12 of the 17 championship matches ended in technical falls.

One reason for that domination is that four of the eight members of the 2017 team also wrestled in last year’s Junior Worlds and all are coming off impressive college or high school seasons in folkstyle

That includes:

  • Junior World gold medalist Mark Hall at 74 kilograms — the former six-time Minnesota state champ from Apple Valley High qualified for his third World team. The 2014 Cadet World champ also won an NCAA championship as a true freshman for Penn State this past March;
  • Junior World bronze medalist Daton Fix at 55 kilograms — the future Oklahoma State wrestler who also claimed a Cadet World bronze medal in 2015, also won his fourth state of Oklahoma state title this past winter for Sand Springs High and earned WIN’s Junior Hodge Trophy;
  • Zahid Valencia at 84 kilograms — after finishing seventh in last year’s Junior Worlds, the native of California finished third nationally in the NCAAs this past winter as a redshirt freshman at Arizona State;
  • Kollin Moore at 96 kilograms — similar to Valencia, Moore — who finished 12th in last year’s Junior Worlds — also finished third as a redshirt freshman at Ohio State in NCAA action.

The only 2016 Junior World team member, who reached the best 2-of-3 Championship finals but failed to repeat was Jordan Wood, who lost to two-time Cadet World champion Gable Steveson at 120 kilograms.

All five of these wrestlers advanced to the 2017 Junior Worlds by scoring technical falls in nearly all of their two matches.

These wrestlers are also so talented that many believe they could also compete on the Senior level.

Mark Hall used this double overbook to put Alex Marinelli on his back and eventually defeated the current Iowa wrestler for his third World Team. (Tim Tushla photo)

“I have three years to wrestle in Junior level, I have the rest of my life to wrestle on the Senior level,” said Hall, who overcame a stinger — when he landed on his head in scoring the final points of his 10-0 technical fall over Alex Marinelli in the first match — to also beat the current Iowa Hawkeye wrestler, 8-3, in the second bout.

This was a rematch of their championship bout at the UWW Junior Open, which took place in Las Vegas in April … as was Valencia’s 11-0 and 12-1 tech falls over Nick Reenan and Steveson’s 10-0 and 13-2 techs against Wood.

Gable Steveson (left) of Apple Valley High School and two-time Cadet World champ qualified for his first Junior World by beating Jordan Wood for the 120-kilogram championship. (Tim Tushla photo)

Meanwhile, Fix easily defeated Brandon Courtney 12-0 and 15-4 and Moore defeated Andrew Marsden 13-0 and 20-8.

Rounding out the young American team are two Colorado natives Malik Heinselman (a three-time Cadet World team member) at 50 kilograms and Ryan Deakin at 66 kilograms and Minnesota native Mitch McKee, a two-time Cadet World team member, who was the only champion who was pushed to three matches before edging Austin Gomez for the 60-kilogram Worlds berth.

Overall, these eight wrestlers have competed in a combined 22 World Championships at either the Cadet or Junior level.

The following are highlights of the championship matches, which wrapped up Friday night.

50 kg/110 lbs. – Malik Heinselman (Olympian WC) defeated. Cevion Severado (Xtreme RTC), two bouts to none

Match 1 — Heinselman dec. Severado, 7-4 — Heinselman trailed 4-2 before he turned a single-leg takedown into a leglace with five seconds left in the first period, before adding a pushout early in the second frame.

Match 2 — Heinselman won by TF over Severado, 10-0 — Heinselman got the early lead in match two in the first period of two takedowns to lead 4-0 at the break; he ended the match at the 1:28 mark in the second period off a takedown and high gut.

55 kg/121 lbs. – Daton Fix (Titan Mercury WC) defeated Brandon Courtney (Sunkist Kids), 2 bouts to none

Match 1 — Fix won by TF over Courtney, 12-0 — Fix ended the match when he scored a second four-point move. The first four-pointer came with 1:09 left in the first.

Match 2 — Fix won by TF over Courtney, 15-4 — Courtney threw Fix for four on the edge to tie the match at 4-4 at the 1:39 mark of the first period; but it was all Fix the rest of the match. Fix led 6-4 at the break, and then rolled up three takedowns and exposure point as the two went off the edge of the mat for one of the takedowns in the dominant win.

60 kg/132 lbs. – Mitchell McKee (Minnesota Storm) defeated Austin Gomez (Gomez Wrestling Academy), two bouts to one

Match 1 — McKee won by TF over Gomez, 10-0 — McKee scored eight of his points off a front headlock, the first four in the first 15 seconds for a takedown then used the counter move for a pair on two-point tilts with about a minute left in the first period.

Match 2 — Gomez dec. McKee, 11-8 — In one of the better matches of the night, Gomez took the early lead off a takedown and never trailed the whole match. Gomez opened up an 8-3 lead at the break by getting two, two-point exposures in the first period and held off the late-charging McKee in the wild third period with several exchanges of points.

Match 3 — McKee dec. Gomez, 7-5 — The UWW Junior World Team Trials finals ended on a dramatic note as McKee won the rubber match of the three-bout series; McKee took the lead early in the match but was thrown for five to trail 5-2. With a little over 90 seconds left in the match, Gomez was warned for passivity a second time and was unable to score after being put on the shot clock, giving McKee a 6-5 lead. Trying to score in the waning seconds of the bout, Gomez nearly had a takedown with about nine seconds to go, but McKee was able to keep his lock securely around Gomez’s waist. Gomez’s corner challenged the call at the end of the bout, but was denied.

66 kg/145 lbs. – Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) defeated Patricio Lugo (Gladiator WC), two bouts to none

Match 1 — Deakin dec. Lugo, 9-2 — After surrendering a quick takedown to Lugo, Deakin fought back with a reversal and takedown to lead 3-2 at the intermission, then added three more takedowns in the second period.

Match 2 — Deakin won by TF over Lugo, 10-0 — Deakin got five takedowns in a little over five minutes against Lugo to put match two away in his second straight win in the best-of-three series.

74 kg/163 lbs. – Mark Hall (Nittany Lion WC) defeated Alex Marinelli (Univ. of Iowa), two bouts to none

Match 1 — Hall won by TF over Marinelli, 10-0— Hall ended the bout when he countered a decent single attempt by Marinelli and quickly lifted the Hawkeye with a power double to his back. Hall scored his first six points off a pair of front headlocks in the first 2:19.

Match 2 — Hall dec. Marinelli, 8-3 — Hall used an overhook to take a quick 4-1 – and nearly pinned the Hawkeye – before he added another at the 2:19 mark of the second period with a quick transition to a leglace for an 8-1 lead. Marinelli did get a takedown with under a minute left in the match and appeared to be coming on strong, but the seasoned Hall made his third straight World team with the convincing win.

84 kg/185 lbs. – Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) defeated Nick Reenan (Wolfpack WC), two bouts to none

Match 1 — Valencia won by TF over Reenan, 11-0 – Valencia’s fourth takedown early in the second period quickly turned into a leglace for the Arizona State star’s final points.

Match 2 — Valencia won by TF over Reenan, 12-1 — Valencia put four quick takedowns and two used two gutwrenches for exposures to put Reenan away quickly in the first-period tech fall.

96 kg/211 lbs. – Kollin Moore (Titan Mercury WC) defeated Andrew Marsden (Cowboy WC), two bouts to none

Match 1 — Moore won by TF over Marsden, 13-2 — The Ohio State All-American scored five takedowns against the Oklahoma State wrestler, the final coming with 15 seconds left in the first period. Moore led 6-0 before giving up a takedown to Marsden.

Match 2 — Moore won by TF over Marsden, 20-8 — Moore and Marsden traded four-point throws in the first minute of the match, but it was all Moore after that. Moore’s relentless double-leg takedowns and a couple exposure points blew open the match with the Buckeye eventually ending it at the 1:03 mark with a four-point takedown with exposure.

120 kg/264 lbs. – Gable Steveson (Minnesota Storm) defeated Jordan Wood (Lehigh Valley WC), two bouts to none

Match 1 — Steveson won by TF over Wood, 10-0 — The two-time Cadet World champ ended the bout with 1:19 left in the first when he scored his fourth takedown – off a duck-under – then scored final points off a gut wrench.

Match 2 — Steveson won by TF over Wood, 13-2 — Steveson put the tech fall on the board 27 seconds into the second period when he threw Wood from the front headlock position for four points for 13-0 lead. After review, Wood was given two points as he exposed Steveson in the scramble, but the 10-point tech fall still stood to end the match.

The following are results from the Challenge tournament, which was held earlier in the day, and sent the winner to the best of 3 Championship finals against the winner of the UWW Junior Freestyle Open, which took place in April.

50 kg/110 lbs. – Cevion Severado (Xtreme RTC) dec. Cody Phippen (Legacy WC), 8-2

55 kg/121 lbs. – Brandon Courtney (Sunkist Kids) tech. fall Liam Cronin (Hoosier WC), 10-0

60 kg/132 lbs. – Austin Gomez (Gomez Wrestling Academy) dec. Vitali Arujau (Vougar Honor Wrestling), 14-7

66 kg/145 lbs. – Patricio Lugo (Gladiator WC) dec. Brady Berge (Pinnacle WC), 8-6

74 kg/163 lbs. – Alex Marinelli (Univ. of Iowa) dec. Hayden Hidlay (Wolfpack WC), 6-0

84 kg/185 lbs. – Nick Reenan (Wolfpack WC) TF Jaron Smith (Terrapin WC), 12-2

96 kg/211 lbs. – Kollin Moore (Titan Mercury WC) TF Jacob Warner (OPRFS/WN), 11-1

120 kg/264 lbs. –  Jordan Wood (Lehigh Valley WC) dec. Carter Isley (Panther WC RTC), 3-1