Roberts, much older & wiser, meets Hafizov again in Final X
Photo: Dalton Roberts (left) beat Ildar Hafizov at the 2023 U.S. Open...
These are three storylines from WIN’s fourth 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.)
Thursday, May 26
MFS – 70k: Zain Retherford (NLWC) vs. Jordan Oliver (Sunkist Kids WC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
These two met in last year’s World Team Trials, where Oliver won 2-2 criteria, but lost to eventual Trials champ James Green. After that loss, Oliver medically forfeited while Retherford came back to claim third place at the Trials. Both moved up to 70 kilos this year.
Retherford, 27, is the former three-time NCAA champ (2016-18) and two-time Dan Hodge Trophy (2017-18) from Penn State, who also qualified for two World Championships: going 1-1 in 2017 and 0-1 in 2019. Retherford remained at 65 kilos for the 2020 Olympic Trials (last year) and settled for second after losing to Joey McKenna in the semifinals.
Oliver, 32, meanwhile won both championship matches against McKenna in the Olympic Trials, but failed to qualify the 65-pound weight class for the United States. The native of Easton, Pa., who won two NCAA championships (2011 and ’13) for Oklahoma State (site of his Final X bout), had also reached the 2015 World Team finals (losing to Brent Metcalf) and then lost to Aaron Pico in the 2016 Olympic Trials.
Oliver, who defeated Ryan Deakin in the WTT Challenge tourney semifinals to earn a Final X spot, talking about changing weights.
“It doesn’t matter the weight class. It doesn’t matter the opponent,” said Oliver, who trailed Deakin 3-2 before scoring five points in the final 34 seconds of their Challenge bout. “When I’m looking for scores, I’m pretty good, but I’m still figuring it out (at 70 kilos). (Quickness from competing at a lighter weight) helps but coming from a lighter weight, these guys are bigger. The double I hit on Deakin twice, at 65 I would have blown through a guy.
GR – 67k: Alejandro Sancho (Army WCAP) vs. Alston Nutter (Sunkist Kids WC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
Sancho, 28, a native of Miami, Fla., enjoyed an up and down international season last summer. He qualified for the Tokyo Olympics (where he lost his only bout to Russian Artem Surkov), but lost to Peyton Omania in the 2021 World Team Trials a month later. Sancho avenged that loss to Omania, 5-1, in the 2022 Challenge tourney semifinals to qualify for Final X.
Nutter, a 23-year-old native of Fennimore, Wisc., reached his first Final X, when he won a pair of technical falls at the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament. Before that, he appeared in three age-group Worlds: Juniors in 2018 and 2019 (bronze medal) and the 2021 U23 Worlds.
“The job is not finished yet,” said Nutter, who has been competing on the Senior level for just two years and has lost twice to Sancho by 6-5 scores. “(Final X) is just another wrestling tournament and I’m ready to bring it, make that team and get back overseas. (Wrestling on the Senior level) is a totally different game plan. As a Junior, I would try to go out and score a thousand points, but you can’t do that with Seniors. Mat strategy is the No. 1 thing.”
WFS – 57k: Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Alex Hedrick (USOP/TMWC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
These two met in a special World Team Wrestle-off in 2018, where Maroulis defeated a then 19-year-old Hedrick with a pair of technical falls. The match was delayed after Maroulis was overcoming an injury.
While Maroulis, 30, made history in 2016 when she became the first American woman to win Olympic gold (in 2016 with a victory over Japan legend Saori Yoshida), the native of Rockville, Md., may have enjoyed last summer even more. That came after she had recovered from concussion issues to qualify for her second Olympic tournament in Tokyo, where she earned a bronze medal (becoming the first American woman to win two medals), then captured her third World championship a month later in Norway (which also earned her a spot in 2022 Final X). Overall, she has also earned five World medals, winning championships in 2015 and ’17, while also claiming a silver in 2012 and a bronze in 2014.
Hedrick, 23, is a native of Fair Oaks, Calif, where she was a two-time California state champ for Bella Vista High School. She recently completed a college career at Simon Fraser in Canada, where she won a WCWA national championship in 2020.
Hedrick believes she has come a long way since meeting Maroulis in the 2018 World Team Wrestle-off.
“I learned what it is like to wrestle an Olympic champion and a multiple (time) World medalist,” Hedrick said. “I don’t think I was ready then. I didn’t even know what Final X was going into the Open that year. I just wanted to wrestle. I’ve always loved wrestling and wanted to wrestle anyone. I got a feel at a very young age for wrestling someone of that caliber. I’m excited to do it again. I’m a few years older and more mature. Technically, I have grown a lot from college and the OTC.”
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
MFS – 65k: Yianni Diakomihalis (Spartan) vs Evan Henderson (Ohio RTC) at June 8 Final X in New York City
GR – 63k: Sammy Jones (NYAC) vs. Jesse Thielke (Army WCAP) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
WFS – 55k: Jenna Burkert (US Army WCAP) vs. Jacarra Winchester (TMWC) at June 3 Final X in Stillwater
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