Final X Stillwater had plenty of emotions

Updated: June 6, 2022

Photos: Seth Gross (center) could not hold back his joy and hugged his Wisconsin RTC coaches after he upset 2021 World silver medalist Daton Fix at the June 3 Final X in Stillwater, Okla. Gross, a men’s freestyle wrestler, was one of four wrestlers who earned their first Senior Worlds berths; joining the likes of Dymond Guilford (left) in women’s freestyle and Benji Peak (right) in Greco-Roman. (Photos by Justin Hoch and John Sachs)

By Mike Finn

One half of the 2022 United States World Championship wrestling teams was decided last Friday in Stillwater, Okla., where six of the 15 weight classes went to third-and-deciding match, a 2021 World Team member suffered a tough injury against a World champ and four wrestlers qualified for their first World Championship this fall.

The following is a recap of the Final X matches at 15 different weight classes — five in each of the men’s freestyle, women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman styles — that took place June 3 at Gallagher-Iba Arena. This event determined half of the USA team that will compete in the 2022 UWW World Championships, Sept. 10-18, in Belgrade, Serbia.

The rest of the 2022 World Team will be determined June 8, in New York City, where there will be Best-of-3 Finals in the following 15 weight classes:

Men’s Freestyle

65 kg – Evan Henderson (ORTC/TMWC) vs. Yianni Diakomihalis (Spartan WC/TMWC)

74 kg – Kyle Dake (Spartan) vs. Jason Nolf (NLWC/TMWC)

79 kg – Jordan Burroughs (Penn RTC) vs. Chance Marsteller (TMWC)

86 kg – David Taylor (NLWC) vs. Zahid Valencia (Sunkist Kids WC)

130 kg – Nick Gwiazdowski (Spartan WC) vs. Hayden Zillmer (Minnesota Storm)

Women’s Freestyle

50 kg – Sarah Hildebrandt (NYAC) vs Alyssa Lampe (Sunkist Kids WC)

53 kg – Felicity Taylor (BEAR/TMWC) vs. Dominique Parrish (Sunkist Kids WC)

57 kg – Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Alexandra Hedrick (USOP/TMWC)

62 kg – Kayla Miracle (Sunkist Kids WC) vs Jennifer Rogers (NLWC/TMWC)

72 kg – Skylar Grote (NYAC) vs. Amit Elor (NYC/TMWC)

Greco Roman

60 kg – Dalton Roberts (Army WCAP) vs. Ildar Hafizov (Army WCAP)

67 kg – Alejandro Sancho (Army WCAP) vs. Alston Nutter (Sunkist Kids WC)

77 kg – Britton Holmes (Army WCAP) vs. Kamal Bey (Army WCAP)

87 kg – Alan Vera (NYAC) vs. Timothy Young (Illinois)

97 kg – G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist Kids WC) vs. Braxton Amos (Wisconsin RTC)

WIN Magazine will provide comprehensive coverage of both Final X events in our next issue, which will be printed on June 16. Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe to WIN in time to receive the next issue.

Best of 3 Men’s Freestyle Final X Stillwater Matches

57 kg MFS – Thomas Gilman (Nittany Lion WC/TMWC) defeated Vitali Arujau (Spartan Combat RTC/TMWC), two matches to none

Thomas Gilman looks to repeat as a World champ at 57 kilos. (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Gilman won by TF over Arujau, 12-2, 5:15; Bout 2 – Gilman won by TF over Arujau, 14-2, 5:09

Gilman, the 2021 World champ, 2020 Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World silver medalist from Council Bluffs, Iowa, scored a total of seven takedowns in the two matches to dominate the current Cornell All-American. One of those takedowns was a four-pointer with about a minute left in the second match that extended Gilman’s lead to 11-2 with a minute left.

Arujau did score two takedowns overall, but the former Iowa All-American actually scored two points with 1:18 left in the first match, when he kicked out of a single-leg by Arujau and converted it into points.

61 kg MFS –Seth Gross (Sunkist Kids) defeated Daton Fix (Cowboy RTC/TMWC), two matches to one

Bout 1 – Fix dec. Gross, 5-5 (criteria); Bout 2 – Gross dec. Fix, 5-4; Bout 3 – Gross dec. Fix, 9-5

Seth Gross scored a takedown en route to upsetting Daton Fix at 61 kilos. (Justin Hoch photo)

A home-mat advantage did not pay off for the three-time Oklahoma State NCAA finalist and 2021 World silver medalist as Gross rallied to beat Fix in the final two bouts of this series.

Fix won the first match when he jumped out to a 5-0 lead and still held criteria after Gross battled back to tie the score. Gross, the former NCAA champ from South Dakota State, who now trains at his second college home of Wisconsin, also battled back from a 4-1 deficit in the second bout with 2:22 left as he forced four straight step-outs against Fix.

The third match was similar as Fix jumped out top 4-0 before Gross scored two takedowns with six seconds left in the first period and at the 2:11 mark in the second frame. A Gross step-out gave Fix a 5-4 lead with 1:31 left before Gross rallied with five points (off two takedowns) in the final 38 seconds.

70 kg MFS – Zain Retherford (Nittany Lion WC/TMWC) defeated Jordan Oliver (Sunkist Kids), two matches to one

Zain Retherford (right), like Jordan Oliver, chose to move up to 70 kilos this year. (Justin Hoch photo)

Bout 1 – Retherford dec. Oliver, 8-3; Bout 2 – Oliver dec. Retherford, 5-4; Bout 3 – Retherford dec. Oliver, 4-3

Similar to 61 kilos, Oliver was competing in Stillwater and his home collegiate arena. In the third match, Retherford jumped out to a 4-0 lead off a takedown and two stepouts and then held off Oliver, who scored three points off a takedown and stepout in the final 1:28. This gave Retherford his third World Team spot and first since 2019.

Retherford, the three-time NCAA champ and two-time Dan Hodge Trophy winner from Penn State, iced the first match when he countered an upper-body throw of Oliver with a headlock of his own in the final seven seconds. Meanwhile, Oliver, the two-time NCAA champ (2011, ’13), forced a third bout when he scored two takedowns in the second match.

92 kg MFS – J’den Cox (Cliff Keen WC/TMWC) defeated Nathan Jackson (New Jersey RTC/NYAC), two matches to one

J’den Cox (left) scored this takedown against Nathan Jackson at 92 kilos). (Justin Hoch photo)

Bout 1 – Cox dec. Jackson, 4-2; Bout 2 – Jackson dec. Cox, 3-2; Bout 3 – Cox dec. Jackson, 3-0

Defense proved to be the key for Cox in the third and final match after he scored a takedown with 1:25 left in the first period and added a stepout early in the second frame. This victory earned Cox his sixth Worlds/Olympic appearance since 2016 when the former three-time NCAA champ won an Olympic bronze medal in Rio. Cox later won two World championships in 2018 and ’19 and a pair of bronze medals in 2017 and ’21.

Jackson, the current Princeton assistant coach who earned two NCAA All-American honors at Indiana, took a 2-0 lead in the first match off a power double before Cox rallied with two takedowns, the second coming with 13 seconds left.

But Jackson did force a third match, in which all of the points were one-pointers, three by Jackson.

97 kg MFS – Kyle Snyder (Nittany Lion WC/TMWC) dec. Kollin Moore (Ohio RTC/TMWC), two matches to none

Kyle Snyder (right) put on a takedown clinic against Kollin Moore at 97 kilos. (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Snyder won by TF over Moore, 11-0, 3:37; Bout 2 – Snyder won by TF over Moore, 12-2, 5:46

In this match-up of former Ohio State All-Americans, Snyder clinched a World/Olympic spot for an eighth straight year by scoring eight combined takedowns over the two bouts. One of those takedowns was a four-pointer that gave him a 6-0 first period lead over Moore, who actually led 2-1 with his only takedown at the 2:24 mark in the second period before Snyder scored 11 straight points.

Snyder, the former three-time NCAA champ, will travel to Serbia in September with a 2016 Olympic gold, 2020 Olympic silver medal, World championships in 2015 and ’17 and three other World medals (2018, 2019 and 2021).

Best-of-3 Women’s Freestyle Final X Stillwater Matches

55 kg WFS – Jacarra Winchester (USOPTC/TMWC) defeated Jenna Burkert (Army WCAP), two matches to one.

Jenna Burkert (left) scored a takedown but injured her neck against Jacarra Winchester at 55 kilos. (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Burkert dec. Winchester, 6-4; Bout 2 – Winchester won by injury default over Burkert, 2:24; Bout 3 – Winchester won by injury default over Burkert, 0:00 (match not held)

Winchester, a 2019 World champ and 2020 Olympian, qualified for her third World Championship when Burkert, the 2021 World bronze medalist, injured her neck in the second bout and was forced to also injury default the third match.

A strong double-leg takedown by Burkert led to four points and a 5-3 lead with 1:24 left and she held on to win the first match. In the second bout, Winchester led 2-0 lead but Burkert responded with two points of her own off a takedown, but hit her head on the mat during the takedown and grabbed her neck in pain after the two wrestlers rolled through the move. Burkert laid on the mat for about 20 minutes before a brace was put on neck and she was eventually carried off on a wooden stretcher.

She was eventually released from the hospital and released the following statement on twitter: “So many have reached out with support and prayers. This community is the best, and I am forever grateful for the support. I am devastated by the turn of events — I was just getting my groove on. This sport is tough on the body and sometimes it shows no mercy. I’m truly humbled by the amount of messages and support I have received. I can’t thank you all enough.”

59 kg WFS – Abigail Nette (Army WCAP) defeated Lexie Basham (Spartan Mat Club), two matches to none

Abigail Nette, a native of Louisiana, scored a takedown against Lexie Basham at 59 kilos (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Nette dec. Basham, 12-4; Bout 2 – Nette dec. Basham, 8-5

Nette, a native of Louisiana, scored nine of her points in the first period of the first bout on three takedowns, then jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the second match off three more takedowns.

Nette qualified for her first Senior Worlds after competing in two U23 Worlds, finishing as high as seventh in 2019.

65 kg WFS – Mallory Velte (Beaver Dam RTC/TMWC) dec. Forrest Molinari (Sunkist Kids), two matches to one

Officials spent plenty of time trying to stop the blood on Mallory Velte at the 65 kilos. (Justin Hoch photo)

Bout 1 – Velte dec. Molinari, 9-1; Bout 2 – Molinari dec. Velte, 3-1; Bout 3 – Velte won by TF over Molinari, 10-0, 1:33

In the end, Velte looked more beat up and bandaged — from a cut to her head that left blood streaming down her face in the second match — but the native of Sacramento, Calif., qualified for a third World Team (and first since 2018 when she earned a bronze medal) when she scored three takedowns and two exposures in the first period of the deciding bout.

Velte also dominated the first match with four takedowns, including two when she was able to lock up an inside cradle against Molinaro, the three-time World Team member who captured bronze last fall. Molinaro won the second match, which was stopped many times as trainers worked to stop bleeding so the match could continue, when she scored a takedown with 17 seconds left.

68 kg WFS – Tamyra Mensah Stock (USOPTC/TMWC) defeated Sienna Ramirez (Southern Oregon RTC), two matches to none

Tamyra Mensah Stock (top) wrestled for the first time since the 2021 Worlds in beating Sienna Ramirez at 68 kilos. (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Mensah Stock won by TF over Ramirez, 14-3, 5:56; Bout 2 – Mensah Stock won by TF over Ramirez, 10-0, 4:37

Mensah Stock, the 2020 Olympic gold medalist, 2019 World champ and 2021 World bronze medalist, actually trailed 2-0 in the first match when Ramirez scored a takedown with 2:24 left in the bout. But the Texas native ended that bout with four seconds left after scoring six takedowns, then blanked Ramirez in the second match with five more takedowns.

76 kg WFS – Dymond Guilford (USOPTC/TMWC) defeated Yelena Makoyed (Cardinal WC/TMWC), two matches to none

Dymond Guilford (right) will represent the USA at 76 kilos, a weight that has been dominated by Adeline Gray, who is currently pregnant. (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Guilford dec. Makoyed, 10-5; Bout 2 – Guilford won by TF over Makoyed, 12-2 (4:47)

Guilford showed fans her dance moves shortly after her hand was raised a second time as the native of Lancaster, Pa., and 2018 Junior World Team member qualified for her first Senior Worlds. In the first match, Guilford scored five takedowns, including three in the first period, then ended the second match on four straight two-point moves in the second period and ended it with 1:13 left in the frame.

Best-of-3 Greco-Roman Final X Stillwater Matches

55 kg GR – Max Nowry (Army WCAP) defeated Brady Koontz (Ohio RTC/TMWC), two matches to none

Max Nowry (right) will compete in his third World Championship at 55 kilos (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Nowry dec. Koontz, 1-1; Bout 2 – Nowry dec. Koontz, 1-1

All these points came when wrestlers were penalized for passivity and Nowry, a two-time former World Team member from Wheeling, Ill., benefitted when Koontz, the native of Stevens Point, Wisc., was penalized the second time in each match; giving Nowry the winning criteria in each bout.

Neither were able to score any more points when they earned a par-terre advantage from the passivity calls.

63 kg GR – Jesse Thielke (Army WCAP) defeated Sammy Jones (NYAC), two matches to none

Jesse Thielke (right) had not competed at this level since the 2018 Worlds. (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Thielke dec. Jones, 4-4; Bout 2 – Thielke dec. Jones, 3-2

Thielke, the 2016 Olympian, qualified for his second World Team after the native of Germantown, Wisc., had been absent from the sport since wrestling in his last Worlds in 2018.

Thielke actually trailed Jones, the 2021 World Team member, 4-0 after the first period of the first match and it could have been 6-0 before Thielke’s challenge overturned the second takedown to two points. Thielke then scored a takedown and gut-wrench in the first 15 seconds of the second frame for the winning criteria of the initial bout.

In the second match, Jones led 2-1 off a passivity call and a stepout before Thielke scored the match’s only takedown with 2:24 left.

72 kg GR – Benjamin Peak (Sunkist Kids) defeated Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm), two matches to one

Benji Peak (top) was the one who actually scored points on this attempted throw by Pat Smith at 72 kilos. (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Smith dec. Peak, 5-3; Bout 2 – Peak dec. Smith, 3-2; Bout 3 – Peak dec. Smith, 6-2

Peak, a native of Elkhorn, Wisc., yelled out, “One more” after he scored the first three points of a second bout to force a deciding match with the three-time World Team member.

Once in the third bout, Smith led 2-0 after the break before Peak clinched his first World Team spot by scoring all six of points in the second frame.

In each of Peak’s victories, Smith was penalized for grabbing Peak’s singlet, including ripping it in the second match.

In the first match, Smith trailed 3-1 before he was able to Peak for a four-pointer before the intermission.

82 kg GR – Ben Provisor (NYAC) defeated Spencer Woods (Army WCAP), two matches to none

Ben Provisor (bottom) used this throw to beat Spencer Woods at 82 kilos. (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Provisor won by TF over Woods, 8-0, 1:52; Bout 2 – Provisor dec. Woods, 5-3

In this rematch of the 2021 World Team Trials, Provisor — a 2012 and 2016 Olympian — qualified for his third World Team as the native of Stevens Points, Wisc., dominated the first bout that ended 72 seconds into the bout as he scored three takedowns. Woods, a native of Alaska, led the second match 3-0 with 1:12 left in the first period before Provisor ended the period with a takedown, then added three points in the final frame.

130 kg GR – Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kids WC) defeated Tanner Farmer (NYAC) two matches to none.

Cohlton Schultz (right) was born on the day (Sept. 27, 2000) Rulon Gardner upset Alexander Karelin for Olympic gold in Greco. (John Sachs photo)

Bout 1 – Schultz dec. Farmer, 5-1; Bout 2 – Schultz dec. Farmer, 5-2

Schultz, a three-time age-group World medalist (including Cadet gold in 2017), qualified for his second straight Senior World Championships, when the native of Ponderosa, Colo., scored a takedown and gut-wrench in the first match; then added another takedown and gut-wrench in the final 50 seconds of the first period of the second bout. Farmer, the former Nebraska football player, scored his points off a passivity call and two step-outs against the NCAA All-American from Arizona State.