2023 US Open Wrestling Championships

Why 79 Is The Wildest Men's Freestyle Weight Class At The 2023 US Open

Why 79 Is The Wildest Men's Freestyle Weight Class At The 2023 US Open

The 2023 US Open is shaping up to be one of the best tournaments in memory, and the men's freestyle entries at 79 kilograms is a big part of why.

Apr 19, 2023 by Andrew Spey
Why 79 Is The Wildest Men's Freestyle Weight Class At The 2023 US Open

As a qualifying tournament for Final X, this year's edition of the US Open has brought out a deeper level of talent than we've seen in Vegas in recent memory. Chief among the most loaded brackets will be 79 kilos in the men's freestyle divisions.  

The winner of that 79kg bracket will have the opportunity to challenge, Jordan Burroughs, the greatest American wrestler of his generation and arguably the GOAT, for the 2023 world team spot at Final X thanks to his 2022 world gold medal. 

Who will emerge from the abattoir that is the 79kg field? First, some numbers regarding the entries:

  • Final X/WTT Finalists: 3 (Dieringer 2X, Marsteller)
  • NCAA Champs: 6 (Dieringer 3X, Starocci 3X)
  • NCAA All-Americans: 26 (Ringer 4X, Kemerer 4X, Labriola 4X, Starocci 3X, McFadden 3X, Marinelli 3X, Marsteller 2X, White, Skatzka, Kharchla)
  • NCAA Qualifications: 48 (Everyone already mentioned plus Lujan, Perez, Washington, and Jamal Morris)

Not bad! And that's without registration being closed. There could be even more hammers by the time the Open rolls around. 

Now to go through the contenders one by one, in approximate order of their expected seeds, with the caveat of I don't really know what the seeds are going to be.

Chance Marsteller, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club

Chance Marsteller is one of the few Americans who can claim to have taken a match from the aforementioned Burroughs. Though "only" a two-time All-American, Marsteller was one of the biggest recruits ever coming out of high school who took a few years to find a time and place to thrive in college, where he was a two-time All-American at Lock Haven. 

Freestyle has been a more fruitful medium for Marsteller's martial artistry. Marsteller placed fifth at the U17 World Championships way back in 2012, but has more recently had a successful run at UWW Ranking Series, winning medals at the 2022 Yasar Dogu, the 2022 Zouhaier Sghaier, the 2023 Zagreb Open, and the 2023 Ibrahim Moustafa, all 79kg. 

Domestically, Marsteller has also been racking up big-time results. He won the 2022 Bill Farrell before settling for 5th at the 2022 US Open. At the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, however, Chance outplaced everyone, beating, David McFadden, Carter Starocci and then Vincenzo Joseph twice to earn a bid at Final X in New York City where he went 1-2 versus Burroughs.

Marsteller over Burroughs:


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Burroughs would go on to win his historic seventh world or Olympic gold medal at the UWW World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

Carter Starocci, Nittany Lion Wrestling Club

Technically Carter Starocci hasn't registered yet for the Open, but we're going to discuss him anyway under the assumption that the NLWC guys will all eventually be registered to compete. And if not, well that will be a bummer, for more reasons than just the wasted effort we spent on this blog. 

Starocci beat Marsteller at the 2021 World Team Trials before Chance got revenge at the 2022 Trials. Starocci also has wins over Dieringer and McFadden from the 2022 Team Trials. 

Starocci over Ringer:


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As far as formidable accomplishments go, Starocci can also boast of three NCAA titles in three years of NCAA eligibility, with an opportunity to add two more. 

Though Marsteller got the best of Carter in their last meeting, Starocci just might be the most dangerous man in the 79kg US Open bracket. 

Alex Dieringer, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club

One of the most accomplished American wrestlers to have not yet made a world or Olympic team. It's also pretty hard to do better than Alex Dieringer did in college, when the Oklahoma State Cowboy won three NCAA titles and placed third as a freshman. Dieringer is also only the second Cowboy to ever earn a Hodge Trophy, which Alex did at the end of his senior season in 2016, 11 years after Steve Mocco won college wrestling's most prestigious award. 

Dieringer made a push for the Tokyo Olympics at 86kg, a weight he bulked up to after winning the 2019 US Open at 79kg (over Marsteller in the finals, incidentally) but fell just short of the world team when he lost to Kyle Dake in the Final X special wrestle-off in Round Rock, Texas. 

As 86 proved to be a kilo too far, Dieringer settled back down to 79kg after the Tokyo Games. He won his first NCAA title at 157-pounds for what it's worth. 

Dieringer tore through the 2021 World Team Trials bracket (there was no Final X in 2021 because of the season's unusual timing with the Olympics postponed because of stupid covid), before running into the buzzsaw that is Jordan Burroughs, who beat Alex in the final series of the trials. 

Dieringer then finished third at the 2022 US Open, getting upset (at least according to some!) by Cenzo in the quarterfinals (Cenzo is registered for the 2023 Open at 74kg by the way). Alex still notched wins over studs like Evan Wick, Taylor Lujan and another over Marsteller on his way to third place in Vegas. 

Dieringer over Marsteller:


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The 2022 World Team Trials were less kind to Ringer, who finished fourth, taking losses to Cenzo and Starocci. 2023 could be a different story, however, as Dierginer has had another year of training at the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club in Ann Arbor with the likes of Olympic bronze medalist Myles Amine and others as practice partners. 

David McFadden, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club

Pennsylvania RTC team member David McFadden has not let coaching responsibilities at Drexel stop him from being one of the top 79kg wrestlers in the country. The three-time All-American (and would have been four-time if not for stupid covid) has been very active since winning the 2022 Open

And what a run he had at the Open! McFadden beat Isaiah Martinez, Vincenzo Joseph and Chance Marsteller in a magnificent tournament that ended with a coveted USA Wrestling 'stop sign'. That's four NCAA titles and nine All-American honors dispatched in three matches. 

McFadden over Joseph:


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McFadden couldn't repeat the results at the 2022 team trials, however, losing to Marsteller and Starocci, though he did notch another victory over IMar. 

David has been extremely active (as have all the PRTC athletes) since then, competing in the Yasar Dogu, Poland Open, Bill Farrell, and Ibrahim Moustafa. McFadden traded matches with Alex Marinelli during that time but also picked up a signature win over former World Champion Khetag Tsabalov, formerly of Russia, now wrestling for Serbia. 

Alex Marinelli, Hawkeye Wrestling Club

The aforementioned Hawkeye beat McFadden domestically at the Bill Farrell but lost to him overseas at the Poland Open. Alex Marinelli also scored a medal at the 2023 Henri Deglane, where he finished second to Evan Wick (who is not registered for the Open, at least not yet anyway). 

Marinelli over McFadden:


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Marinelli also had one of the most snake-bitten NCAA careers, qualifying for five NCAA tournaments and earning a #5 seed, a #3 seed, and three #1 seeds, but finishing in the top 8 just three times and never higher than 5th.

Taylor Lujan, Panther Wrestling Club

Speaking of less-than-ideal luck, Taylor Lujan was perhaps one of the most disadvantaged collegiate wrestlers due to stupid covid. The Georgia native was a four-time NCAA qualifier who finished in the bloodround his sophomore and junior seasons before earning the number one seed at 184-pounds as a senior in 2020, only for that tournament to be canceled. 

Lujan was able to rebound from that misfortune with an impressive and lucrative performance as runnerup finish at the Flo 195lb 8-Man Challenge, which included a clutch step over to pin Gabe Dean. 

Lujan over Dean:


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Since then Lujan has been active on the senior circuit. He placed fourth at the 2022 Open and competed at the most recent Bill Farrell and Henri Deglane. He's 2-1 vs Wick but has also taken losses to Ringer and McFadden. Lujan is a classic landmine though, with the potential to blow up any bracket from any seed.

Devin Skatzka, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club

An All-American at Minnesota, Devin Skatzka has been pushing his way toward the top of this weight class ever since graduating. He's had some battles with Isaiah Martinez during the 2022 World Team Trials process while training at the Gopher Wrestling Club. More recently he's made the move to the Spartan Combat RTC and placed at the Dan Kolov. 

Michael Kemerer, Spartan Combat RTC

A five-time qualifier and four-time All-American with the Hawkeyes, Pennsylvania native Michael Kemerer moved closer to home in 2022 and now trains with the Spartan Combat RTC in Ithaca, New York. 

Isaiah White, Indiana RTC

Isaiah White transferred to Nebraska after a year at Notre Dame College in Ohio with three years of NCAA eligibility, and though he qualified for three tournaments, he only got to wrestle in two because his senior year was 2020. The Chicago native placed in the two tournaments he did wrestle in. White now trains with the Indiana RTC.

Mikey Labriola, Nebraska WTC

White's former teammate Mikey Labriola is just getting his feet wet when it comes to senior-level freestyle wrestling, but the Pennsylvania native has logged many high-level matches in his collegiate career, as evidenced by the five times he qualified for the NCAA tournament and the four times he earned All-American honors, including his runnerup finish just last March. 

Carson Kharchla, Ohio RTC

An NCAA All-American for the Buckeyes, Carson Kharchla doesn't have a lot of senior level freestyle experience, though his college career is only half over. The Ohio native did win a national freestyle junior level title at Fargo and comes from a family rich in international wrestling history, as his father Miron was a member of the Soviet National team in the 80s and early 90s. 

Muhamed McBryde, New York Athletic Club

Muhamed McBryde graduated from Buffalo University in 2017 while still a teenanger. He stayed in the sport after graduation, winning a U23 national championship in freestyle in 2019 and placing 5th at the U23 Worlds in the same year. McBryde now trains in Morgantown, West Virginia as an assistant coach for the Mountaineers. 

Quentin Perez, California RTC

Texas native Quentin Perez has been slingshotting across the country throughout his wrestling career, qualifyiing for three NCAA Championships while wrestling at Cambell University in North Carolina before moving across the continent to Stanford and the California RTC.

DJ Washington, Indiana RTC

Though he has yet to make the podium while at Indiana University, DJ Washington has qualified for four tournaments and still has one more year of eligibility to break through to the final eight. He's also got freestyle bonafides, having made the 2021 U20 World Team. 

If that's not a loaded enough bracket for you then I don't know what to tell you. It's loaded!

And we all get to watch it unfold in Vegas. What a treat for us wrestling fans!