Five World team members held off Session II challenges at Final X Rutgers

Updated: June 9, 2019

Photo: J’den Cox (top) pushed back on a shot attempt by Bo Nickal and eventually swept both matches at 92 kilos Saturday night at Final X Rutgers. (Justin Hoch photo)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — World champion J’den Cox and World medalist Nick Gwiazdowski were among five of seven wrestlers competing Saturday night in the second Session of Final X Rutgers qualified for a second straight World Championships by holding off challenges from top college wrestlers.

Cox, a three-time World/Olympic medalist, shut out Bo Nickal, the former three-time NCAA champion and 2019 Hodge Trophy winner from Penn State, 4-2 and 5-0 to claim the 92-kilogram weight class.

Gwiazdowski, a two-time World bronze medalist, defeated Gable Steveson, the 19-year-old three-time Cadet/Junior World champion from Minnesota, in a pair of criteria victories to claim the 125-pound weight class.

WIN Magazine will provide comprehensive coverage and analysis of both Final X locations in next issue, which will be mailed June 27. Click here to subscribe to WIN Magazine or call 888-305-0606.

Other 2018 World team members, who earned another shot at international honors in 2019 were a trio of women’s freestyle wrestlers, including World bronze medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock, who beat Alexandria Glaude for the 68-kilogram weight class; as well as Whitney Conder and Forrest Molinari. Conder swept two bouts over Victoria Anthony at 50 kilos, while Molinari needed three matches to defeat Maya Nelson at 65 kilograms.

A video challenge by the corner of Zain Retherford (trout) gave the former two-time Hodge Trophy winner a controversial win over Yianni Diakomihalis at 65 kilos in men’s freestyle. (Justin Hoch photo)

In other matches, Zain Retherford, the former three-time NCAA champ and two-time Hodge Trophy winner from Penn State, held off Yianni Diakomihalis, the two-time NCAA champ from Cornell, to win the 65-kilo weight class. It marked a second World Team appearance by Retherford, who also qualified for the 2017 World Team.

The only upset Saturday night came in the only Greco-Roman bout as Pat Smith of the Minnesota Storm needed three matches to beat Kamal Bey, the 2018 World Team member, at 77 kilos.

This completed a day in which USA wrestling determined 14 of the 30 wrestlers who will compete in the 2019 UWW World Championships, Sept. 14-22 in Nur-Sultan, Kazahkstan.

The following are results from matches that were held earlier in the day at the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC).

Click here to review story on Session I of Final X Rutgers.


55k — Max Nowry (US Army WCAP) def. Brady Koontz (Ohio RTC), two matches to none (3-0, 11-5)

67k — Ellis Coleman (US Army WCAP) def. Jamel Johnson (US Marines), two matches to none (9-1, 6-0)

82k — John Stefanowicz (US Marines) def. Kendrick Sanders (NYAC), two matches none (8-5, 3-2)

87k — Joe Rau (Titan Mercury WC/Chicago RTC) def. Ben Provisor (Nittany Lion WC), two matches to none (2-1, 5-1)

Women’s Freestyle

57k — Jenna Burkert (US Army WCAP) def. Becka Leathers (Titan Mercury WC), two matches to none (4-2, 5-0)

72k — Victoria Francis (Titan Mercury WC) def. Alyvia Fiske (Titan Mercury WC), two matches to none (7-2, fall)

There were supposed to be two other meetings at Rutgers, but World champs Kyle Dake and David Taylor were forced to miss the event at 79- and 86-kilograms because of injuries. Dake asked for a postponement of his meeting with Alex Dieringer, while Taylor announced that he will not be able to wrestler and ceded the Worlds spot to Pat Downey.

There will be 15 additional matches in all three styles a week from now at Final X Lincoln (Neb.).

The following are Session II highlights of Final X Rutgers:

Women’s Freestyle

50k – Whitney Conder (US Army WCAP) def. Victoria Anthony (Sunkist Kids WC), two matches to none

Match 1 —  Conder won 7-4 — Conder jumped on top 4-0 when she caught Anthony in bear hug and a four-point takedown to her back … and an additional point when Anthony’s corner lost a challenge. Conder also showed plenty of good defense, including when she broke a single-leg attack by Anthony for a takedown of her own, which led to a 7-2 lead. Anthony’s points came from two takedowns in the second period.

Match 2 — Conder won by fall — Anthony struck first with a takedown nine seconds into the match. Down 2-0, Condor took Anthony down straight to her back and got the fall not long after at the 1:24 mark for her spot on the U.S women’s freestyle team.

65k – Forrest Molinari (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) def. Maya Nelson (Titan Mercury WC), two matches to one

Match 1 — Nelson won 5-3 — The native of Denver scored a pair of single legs near the edge of the match to lead 4-0 at intermission then held on to beat the U.S. Open champion. Molinari fought back with a second period takedown before exchanging addition points; one for Molinari when Nelson lost a challenge and a caution vs. Molinari.

Match 2 — Molinari won by TF 12-2 — Nelson scored first on a step-out about a minute into the match. Molinari responded with a takedown and turn with about 45 seconds left in the first for a 4-1 lead. In the closing seconds of the first, Molinari put four more points on the board with a takedown and turn on the edge to take an 8-1 lead into the break.

21 seconds into the second period, Nelson forced a step-out on a flurry on the edge, 8-2. At the 1:45 mark of the second, Molinari went up by eight 10-2 defending a Nelson shot for a takedown of her own. Molinari ended the match at the 1:11 mark with a takedown the technical superiority 12-2 win.

Match 3 — Molinari won 4-1 — 1:59 step-out forced by Molinari against Nelson with a single leg, 1-0; 17 seconds later, Nelson used a double for a step-out of her own to tie the match. At the 1:55 mark of the second period, Molinari was awarded exposure points off a wild scramble, which could have gone either way, Nelson nearly having the takedown. Nelson’s corner challenged the exposure call, but the call was upheld giving Molinari the 4-1 lead for the lost challenge. Molinari hung on for the 4-1 win despite a couple deep shots by Nelson late in the match.

68k – Tamyra Mensah-Stock (Titan Mercury WC) def. Alexandria Glaude (Titan Mercury WC), two matches to none

Match 1 — Mensah-Stock pinned Glaude, 4:50 — The World  bronze medalist led 6-0 midway through the second period — off a third takedown — and quickly used a bar arm to put Glaude on her back for the fall.

Match 2 — Mensah-Stock won by TF 10-0 — Mensah-Stock used a slick back-trip from a single to get the takedown and exposure for a 4-0 lead at the 1:50 mark. Mensah-Stock went up 5-0 on a step-out with about a minute to go in the first, then added another step-out with 17 seconds left in the first, 6-0. Mensah-Stock added a takedown on a go-behind only :28 into the second period for an 8-0 lead; then used a go-behind at the 1:08 mark to for the 10-0 technical superiority.


77k – Pat Smith (Minnesota Storm def. Kamal Bey (Sunkist Kids WC) two matches to one

Match 1 — Bey won by TF 11-2 — Bey trailed 2-0 in the first two minutes of the first period before he exploded for seven points in the frame; first on a takedown, then five more on a high-amplitude throw after he countered a headlock by Smith. Bey ended the bout in the first minute of the second period when he tallied a takedown and stepout against Smith. Bey was awarded one more point when Smith’s corner lost a video challenge after the final stepout.

Match 2 — Smith won 2-1 — Smith scored first after a passivity was called on Bey at the 1:55 mark in the first stanza. Bey did respond quickly with a reversal after getting put down into the par-terre position to make the match 1-1. At the 2:39 mark, Smith forced a step-out on Bey, 2-1. Smith stayed in extremely good position and forced a third match after holding off the pursuing Bey in the last minute of the match.

Match 3 – Smith won 6-3 — Bey came out with a step-out and takedown for a 3-0 lead in a physical firs 50 seconds of the match. Smith responded quickly with a takedown of his own on the edge, 3-2. Smith drove Bey off the mat for a four-pointer at the 2:17 mark to take the 6-3 lead.

Men’s Freestyle

65k- Zain Retherford (Nittany Lion WC) def. Yianni Diakomihalis  (Titan Mercury WC/Finger Lakes WC) two matches to none

Match 1 — Retherford won 10-4 — The former Penn State national champion gave up the opening takedown before rallying with four takedowns and an effective leg lace. The final two takedowns came after he countered a pair of shots by the two-time NCAA champ from Cornell after Diakomihalis used a duck-under to cut the margin to 6-4 with 1:25 left.

Match 2 — Retherford won 6-6 criteria — Right off the opening whistle, Retherford hit a high-crotch for four, but Diakomihalis countered for two sets of exposures in the same scramble to tie the match at 4-4. :57 mark of the first, Diakomihalis took the lead off a takedown, 6-4. With 40 seconds left in the match, Retherford got in deep on a double and got exposure but Diakomihalis temporarily got exposure points of his own defending the shot, 8-6. But Retherford’s corner protested the call, and no exposure points for Diakomihalis were awarded and gave Retherford the 6-6 criteria win.

92k – J’den Cox (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Bo Nickal (Nittany Lion WC), two matches to none

Match 1 — Cox won 4-2 — In the battle of former three-time NCAA champs, the 2018 World champ prevailed on a pair of second-period takedowns; the first coming off a long scramble by the former Nittany Lion. Nickal’s points came off a stepout and a lost video challenge by Cox.

Match 2 — Cox won 5-0 — Cox scored first point on an inactivity call against Nickal in the first. 39 seconds into the second period, Cox chased down Nickal on a low single going off the mat for a 3-0 lead. With a minute left, Cox countered a Nickal takedown attempt for his second takedown of the match and a 5-0 lead.

125k – Nick Gwiazdowski (Titan Mercury WC/Wolfpack RTC) def. Gable Steveson (Minnesota RTC), two matches to none

Match 1 — Gwiazdowski won 4-4 criteria — The World bronze medalist held off the former Cadet and Junior World champ by using a pair of takedowns to hold criteria against the Minnesota freshman, who tallied two stepouts and a takedown. Gwiz’s final takedown came with 1:01 left in the bout.

Match 2 — Gwiazdowski won 3-3 criteria — Steveson forced a step-out 27 seconds into the match for a 1-0 lead. 30 seconds into the second period, Gwiazdowski countered a Steveson shot for a takedown of his own and a 2-1 lead. Steveson got a two-point exposure countering a Gwiazdowski at the 1:13 mark to take a 3-2 lead, but Gwiazdowski added a takedown to the match and won 3-3 on criteria based on last point scored.