Roberts, much older & wiser, meets Hafizov again in Final X
Photo: Dalton Roberts (left) beat Ildar Hafizov at the 2023 U.S. Open...
WIN’s May 25 Preview of Final X: MFS 65k, GR 63k, WFS 55k
These are three of the top storylines from WIN’s third installment of previews for the 2022 Final X matches that will take place June 3 in Stillwater, Okla., and June 8 in New York City.
WIN Magazine will provide a comprehensive look at both the Challenge Tournament and Final X in the next issue of WIN, which will be printed June 16. Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe to WIN.
The 30 wrestlers — 10 each in men’s freestyle, women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman — who eventually win the Final X bouts will be our U.S. World Team for the 2022 UWW World Championships, Sept. 10-18, Belgrade, Serbia.
The following is also a schedule of when the Final X previews will take place. Action begins at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater with Round 1 matches at 2 p.m. (CDT) and Round 2 at 7 p.m., Round 3 bouts, if necessary, will follow after the completion of Round 2. The Final X in NYC will take place in the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. Round 1 matches begin at 2 p.m. EDT and Round 2 at 6 p.m.
(Please note that 14 World Team Trials Challenge Tourney winners had to win Best-of-3 finals in Coralville, Iowa, before meeting a 2021 World medalist at Final X. The other 16 weights feature wrestlers who only had to win a Challenge semifinal to earn a spot in Final X, in weights where there was no returning World medalist.)
Wednesday, May 25
MFS – 65k: Yianni Diakomihalis (Spartan) vs Evan Henderson (Ohio RTC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
This is the weight class that the United States failed to qualify in last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Diakomihalis, 23, is a three-time NCAA champ for Cornell (who hopes to become Division I wrestling’s fifth four-time champ next season), and has won two Cadet World championships in 2015 and ’16. He made a Senior World Team last fall after he finished second in the 2019 Final X and fourth in the 2020 Olympic Trials.
The native of Rochester, N.Y., did not place in last year’s Worlds, where he split two matches (teching Colin Realbuto of Italy and losing by decision to Vazgen Tevanyan of Armenia). At the recent World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in Coralville, he needed just three minutes to record a pair of technical falls over Luke Pletcher and Ian Parker.
Henderson, 29, was perhaps the biggest surprise winner at the Challenge tourney, where as a No. 8 seed, the native of Johnstown, Pa., upset top-seed and U.S. Open champ Kendric Maple, 5-2, in a quarterfinal match. Then the former North Carolina All-American rallied from a 10-2 deficit to beat the No. 4 seed, Penn State’s two-time NCAA champ Nick Lee, 12-11, to reach his first Final X.
“To some people, I may be a surprise,” said Henderson, who now trains at the Ohio Regional Training Center in Columbus with the likes of coach Logan Stieber, the former four-time NCAA champ and World competitor. “I think our camp knew I was going to do this. It’s hard to battle back, but I look at it more like you have a gas tank full at the beginning of the period and regardless how much (energy) you use in the first period, I’m putting the (pedal) down to the floor and I’m going to use the rest of the gas tank. And when there is nothing left, I’m going to keep going.”
GR – 63k: Sam Jones (NYAC) vs. Jesse Thielke (Army WCAP) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
Jones, 28, is shooting to make his second World Team after the native of Folsom, La., lost his only bout in last year’s Worlds in Norway. Failing to medal meant he had to compete at the Challenge Tournament where he pinned Ty Lydic and David Stepanian. Before he reached this level, Jones trained at the Northern Michigan Olympic Training Center and reached the finals of the 2018 and ’19 Senior Nationals.
Thielke, 29, has re-emerged in this sport after the native of Germantown, Wisc., qualified to compete in both the 2016 Olympics and 2018 World Championships. In Rio, Thielke split a pair of matches. Two years later at the Worlds in Budapest, Hungary, he lost his only match and then was critical of the teams’ training methods after he was eliminated.
Fast forward to 2022, Thielke qualified for Final X after also tallying a pair of pins. Since we last saw him at this level, he got married, overcame an injury and joined the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program in 2020. He also said he has matured since 2018.
“I enlisted just before COVID hit and the process took about two years before coming back (to competition),” Thielke said. “I was a young immature man (in 2018). Now I’m married and grown up. There is a big difference. Everyone (with Army WCAP) has helped me. First of all, there is the leadership for giving me this opportunity with all of our coaches and my training partners. It takes everyone for me to be here and do what I do.”
WFS – 55k: Jenna Burkert (US Army WCAP) vs. Jacarra Winchester (TMWC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
Burkert, 29, provided quite an emotional roller-coaster ride for her fans last summer. She lost a tough third rubber match to Helen Maroulis at the Olympic Trials at 57 kilos, shortly after the death of her mother … but came back to qualify for her third World Team, this time at 55 kilos (after the native of Rocky Point, N.Y., wrestled in the 2018 at 59 kilos and 2019 Worlds at 57 kilos). Once she got to the 2021 Worlds in Norway, Burkert won two of three bouts to claim her first medal (bronze), which also earned her a spot in the Final X.
Winchester, 29, had no trouble getting through the Challenge tournament, dominating two foes, to send her to Stillwater, where she will face Burkert in a rematch of last year’s World Team Trials, where she lost two of three bouts, one month after the native of San Lorenzo, Calif., competed in the Tokyo Olympics. Winchester certainly has an impressive international resume, including a World championship in 2019, one year after she finished fifth in the 2018 Worlds. She also nearly medaled at last summer’s Olympics, where she split four matches at 53 kilos, losing on criteria to eventual gold medalist Pang Qianyu (China) and a bronze-medal bout to Vanesa Kaladzinskaya (Belarus).
“Winning a World championship in 2019 is the past to me,” said Winchester. “I live by the mantra of being the best version of yourself. No matter what I do, I have to learn to improve. I reflect (on the 2021 series with Burkert) a lot. I’m excited it has pushed me through this the whole way. I did not follow her at the Worlds. That may sound selfish, but I don’t have time to look at other people’s careers. That’s not going to help me be the best version of myself.”
Click on Previous Dates to preview those weight classes.
MFS – 57k: Thomas Gilman (Nittany Lion WC) vs. Vito Arujau (Spartan) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater, Okla.
GR – 55k: Max Nowry (Army WCAP) vs. Brady Koontz (Ohio RTC) at Final X (June 3) in Stillwater, Okla.
WFS – 50k: Sarah Hildebrandt (NYAC) vs. Alyssa Lampe Sunkist Kids WC at June 8 Final X in New York City
MFS – 61k: Daton Fix (Cowboy RTC) vs. Seth Gross (Sunkist Kids WC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater, Okla.
GR – 60k: Dalton Roberts (Army WCAP) vs. Ildar Hafizov (Army WCAP) at June 8 Final X in New York City
WFS – 53k: Felicity Taylor (Bearcat WC) vs. Dominique Parrish (Sunkist Kids WC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
Thursday, May 26
MFS – 70k: Zain Retherford (NLWC) vs. Jordan Oliver (Sunkist Kids WC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
GR – 67k: Alejandro Sancho (Army WCAP) vs. Alston Nutter (Sunkist Kids WC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
WFS – 57k: Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Alex Hedrick (USOP/TMWC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
Friday, May 27
MFS – 74k: Kyle Dake (Spartan) vs. Jason Nolf (NLWC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
GR – 72k: Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) vs. Benji Peak (Sunkist Kids WC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
WFS – 59k: Lexie Basham (Spartan) vs. Abigail Nette (Army WCAP) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
Saturday, May 28
MFS – 79k: Jordan Burroughs (Penn RTC) vs. Chance Marstellar in June 8 Final X in New York City
GR – 77k: Britton Holmes (Army WCAP) vs. Kamal Bey (Army WCAP) at June 8 Final X in New York City
WFS – 62k: Kayla Miracle (Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Jennifer Rogers (NLWC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
Monday, May 30
MFS – 86k: David Taylor (NLWC) vs. Zahid Valencia at June 8 Final X in New York City
GR – 82k: Ben Provisor (NYAC) vs. Spencer Woods (Army WCAP) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
WFS – 65: Forrest Molinari (Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Mallory Velte (BDRT) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
Tuesday, May 31
MFS – 92k: J’den Cox (TMWC) vs. Nathan Jackson (NYAC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
GR – 87k: Alan Vera (NYAC) vs. Timothy Young (Illinois) at June 8 Final X in New York City
WFS – 68k: Tamyra Mensah Stock (TMWC) vs. Sienna Ramirez (Southern Oregon) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
Wednesday, June 1
MFS – 97k: Kyle Snyder (NLWC) vs. Kollin Moore (Ohio RTC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
GR – 97k: G’Angelo Hancock vs. Braxton Amos (Wisconsin RTC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
WRS – 72k: Skyler Grote (NYAC) vs. Amit Elor (NYC/TMWC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
Thursday, June 2
MFS – 125k: Hayden Zillmer (Gopher WC/RTC) vs. Nick Gwiazdowski (Spartan/TMWC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
GR – 130k: Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Tanner Farmer (NYAC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
WFS – 76k: Dymond Guilford (USOP/TMWC) vs. Yelena Makoyed (Card/TMWC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater