2023 Senior Nationals - US Olympic Trials Qualifier

2023 Senior Nationals Preview & Predictions - Men's Freestyle

2023 Senior Nationals Preview & Predictions - Men's Freestyle

A full preview with predictions for the 2023 Senior National wrestling tournament in men's freestyle

Dec 13, 2023 by Jon Kozak
2023 Senior Nationals Preview & Predictions - Men's Freestyle

The 2023 Senior Nationals is set to take place December 15-17 in Fort Worth, Texas. This event will feature some of the best wrestlers in the United States with the top 5 finishers at every weight qualifying for the 2024 Olympic Team Trials. Take a look at the article below for a full preview with predictions for the men's freestyle division at Senior Nationals.

See more content for the 2023 Senior Nationals:

Schedule | Full Entry List | 57 kg Preview

57 kg

The Favorite

  • Spencer Lee

Spencer Lee is back competing just one month after winning gold at the Bill Farrell where he defeated Muhammed Bilal (10-0), Devan Turner (11-0), Luke Lilledahl (11-0), and Nico Megaludis (7-4). This is a great sign for Lee’s health considering he is already qualified for the Olympic Trials and isn’t required to wrestle at Senior Nationals. It’s also worth noting that Lee could “block” a wrestler from qualifying for the Olympic Trials considering only the top 5 wrestlers earn a qualifying spot. Lee is the favorite in this bracket and I expect a slightly better version of him in Fort Worth as he continues to shake off the “freestyle rust” with his continued competition. 

Spencer Lee's win over Nico Megaludis in the 2023 Bill Farrell Finals:

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The Contenders

  • Nick Suriano
  • Nico Megaludis

Nick Suriano and Nico Megaludis are the clear contenders in this weight to knock off Spencer Lee. We’ve been waiting for Spencer Lee and Nick Suriano to wrestle since their 2018 NCAA finals match. Lee came out on top in that match, 5-1, however, Suriano has had more success in freestyle since then. Suriano won the Henri Deglane in January of 2021 in a field that included Thomas Gilman and Vito Arujau. He then placed silver at the Matteo Pellicone in March of 2021 losing only to eventual Olympic bronze medalist Nurislam Sanayev. Suriano was one of the main contenders to make the Olympic team in 2021 until he tested positive for COVID-19. After taking 2022 off, Suriano made the US Open finals in April of 2023 but narrowly lost to eventual world team member Zane Richards. Suriano is one of the best wrestlers in America at 57kg and his potential match with Spencer Lee could be the biggest of the entire tournament. 

Megaludis showed how competitive he could be last month against Lee in the Farrell finals match when he exposed Lee for 2 late in the match and almost caught Spencer on his back. Megaludis will be a challenge for anyone in this bracket and is present the biggest threat to keeping us from the long-awaited match between Lee and Suriano. 

Sleepers & Landmines

  • Luke Lilledahl 

High school senior Luke Lilledahl is a really fun sleeper to keep an eye on in this bracket. The Penn State commit is coming off a tournament win at the Ironman and a third-place finish at the 2023 Bill Farrell. Lilledah was ultra-impressive at the Farrell only losing to Spencer Lee and recording wins over Daniel DeShazer and Muhammad Bilal (who beat Brandon Courtney). The field is tough at 57 kg but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Lilledahl makes the top 5 to qualify for the Olympic Team Trials. 

Luke Lilledahl's win over Daniel DeShazer at the 2023 Bill Farrell:

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57 kg Predictions:

  1. Spencer Lee
  2. Nick Suriano
  3. Nico Megaludis
  4. Luke Lilledahl

65 kg

The Contenders

  • Andrew Alirez
  • Beau Bartlett
  • Joey McKenna
  • Austin DeSanto
  • Alec Pantaleo
  • Jaydin Eierman
  • Matt Kolodzik

For me, 65kg is the premier weight class at Senior Nationals. The above group of contenders is so deep, I couldn’t pick out one or two as the favorites and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if any of the above seven wins the bracket in Fort Worth. Because this weight is so deep, I’ll try to quickly break down this group to show just how incredible it is.

After winning an NCAA title last year, Andrew Alirez chose not to compete at the US Open taking himself out of contention for the 65kg world team spot. However, Alirez went to Poland in July and won gold by defeating 3-time world champion and two-time Olympic medalist Haji Aliyev. In that match, and the entire tournament, Alirez displayed his high-powered offense while also keeping his opponents from scoring a point on him during the tournament. If the same Alirez shows up in Fort Worth, he’s going to be challenging to take out for anyone in this field.

Watch Andrew Alirez's win over Haji Aliyev at 01:43:30 in the below video:

Beau Bartlett almost defeated eventual world team member, and teammate, Nick Lee in the semi-finals of the US Open. In fact, a scoring error actually allowed Bartlett to have his hand raised by the ref at the end of the match before the mistake was corrected. Bartlett, a U20 world bronze medalist, has incredibly stingy defense and has continually made improvements to his freestyle game. Bartlett can win this weight class and is a dark horse to make the Olympic team at 65 kg.

Joey McKenna might have the best “case” for being considered the favorite in this field. McKenna is an established senior-level veteran, made the finals of the Olympic Trials in 2021, and most recently defeated Yianni Diakomihalis during his run to gold at the Kunayev tournament in Kazakhstan. McKenna hasn’t yet made a senior world team but he’s been knocking on the door to be the man at 65kg for Team USA and has been the Olympic/World team alternate 3 times in the past 5 years.
Watch Joey McKenna's recent win over Yianni Diakomihalis:

Then there’s Austin DeSanto. Over the past year, DeSanto has made consistent progress in his freestyle game and worked his way into the top 20 in the world at 61kg. DeSanto notably defeated 2023 world bronze medalist Shota Phartenadze last year and was the runner-up to Vito Arujau at the 2023 US Open while recording wins over Seth Cross and Joe Colon. DeSanto looks like he adjusting to the move up to 65kg well after taking 3rd at the Bill Farrell last month while defeating Michael McGee, Pat Lugo, and Yahya Thomas.

Austin DeSanto's win over Yahya Thomas at the 2023 Bill Farrell:

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Matt Kolodzik placed second at the Farrell and defeated Austin DeSanto in the quarterfinals, 14-3. Kolodzik has the skills to take out anyone in this bracket and has past freestyle wins over Beau Bartlett, Evan Henderson, Cole Matthews, Pat Lugo, Anthony Ashnault, and several other top wrestlers.

Alec Pantaleo is cutting down to 65kg after years of success at 70 kg. Pantaleo had several wins over past world champs and medalists at 70 kg and if he can effectively cut down, his offensive capabilities will overpower many of the top wrestlers in this weight class. This weekend will be a great litmus test for Pantaleo and because of the big cut, he needs to finish in the top 5 in order to qualify for the trials and limit the amount of time he has to make 65 kg. 

Jaydin Eierman is the final wrestler in this field who I consider a threat to win the bracket. Eierman last competed at 70kg at the US Open and placed 8th after losing to Hayden Hidlay in the quarters and then forfeiting out after making the placement rounds. Eierman has always experienced better results at 65 kg and has past wins over world champions Vladimer Khinchegashvili, Beka Lomtadze, and Logan Stieber. 

Sleepers & Landmines

  • Aden Valencia
  • Tyler Kasak
  • Seth Gross

The depth of 65 kg doesn’t stop with the contenders. Guys like Ian Parker and Luke Pletcher have had great results in the past and could make some noise in this bracket. However, Parker and Pletcher don’t fit the “Sleepers & Landmines” category like Valencia, Gross, and Kasak. Aden Valencia is still a senior in high school but made the semi-finals at the Bill Farrell last month only losing to Yahya Thomas (5-0) and Matt Kolodzik (9-7). I’m not picking Valencia to win this bracket but we shouldn’t be surprised if he upsets some veterans at 65kg.

Tyler Kasak is a true freshman at Penn State and will likely be the starter at 149 pounds with Shayne Van Ness’ season-ending injury. Kasak doesn’t have any results at the senior level yet but was a U17 world silver medalist in 2022. He also made the finals of the U20 world team trials this past summer by winning the US Open by defeating Pierson Manville, Vince Cornella, and Kannon Webster. Then Kasak lost a competitive best of 3 series to Jesse Mendez in the world team trials finals. Kasak will be right there with a lot of the top guys in this weight and will be fascinating to watch.

Kasak's win over Vince Cornella at the US Open:

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Seth Gross might be a national champion and past world team member, but I consider him a sleeper because I don’t know what to expect from him up at 65 kg. Gross notably made the 2022 world team by defeating Daton Fix in an epic 3-match series at Final X but we haven’t seen him compete yet at 65. Gross is an unconventional wrestler who frequently allows wrestlers in on his legs but defends and scores in creative ways. That could translate into Gross conceding too many unnecessary points or we could continue to see Gross find unique ways to win. Either way, I’m looking forward to Gross’ run at 65 kg.

65 kg Predictions

  1. Joey McKenna
  2. Andrew Alirez
  3. Beau Bartlett
  4. Alec Pantaleo

74 kg

The Contenders

  • Quincy Monday
  • Alex Marinelli
  • Tyler Berger

74 kg doesn’t have the depth of 65 kg but it does have the parity that makes it hard to pinpoint just 1 favorite. Fortunately, we saw most of the top contenders at the Bill Farrell last month and Monday, Marinell, and Berger are the safe picks to come out on top at 74 kg. 

Alex Marinelli made the finals of the Farrell by recording 3 straight wins over Jake Bergeland (10-0), Joe Sealey (11-6), and Tyler Berger (5-3) before losing to Jason Nolf in the finals. Marinell will likely be the top seed and will be a big favorite to make the finals.

Marinelli's win over Berger at the 2023 Bill Farrell:

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Quincy Monday was the surprise of the Farrell at 74 kg and took home 3rd place only losing a tight, 7-6 match to Jason Nolf but recording notable wins over Tyler Berger (12-2) and Jarrett Jacquest (5-2). We have to imagine Monday is going to continue to improve his freestyle game and a favorite to reach the finals opposite Marinelli.

Despite losing to Monday, Tyler Berger has been one of the most consistent wrestlers on the freestyle scene and established himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world at 70kg. Berger is crafty and shouldn’t be underestimated against anyone in this 74 kg field. 

Sleepers & Landmines

  • Yahya Thomas
  • Alex Facundo
  • Joe Sealey

The above group of Sleepers and Landmines is a lot of fun and could present us with several matches we’ve never seen before. First, Yahya Thomas is moving up to 74 kg a month after competing at 65 kg at the Bill Farrell. Thomas took 4th at the Farrell losing to Austin DeSanto (13-3) and Kyler Larkin (3-2) but defeated Pat Lugo and Aden Valencia. Thomas has great defense and if he can match the strength and size of his opponents, he’ll be effective against many guys in this bracket.

Alex Facundo is currently taking an Olympic redshirt at Penn State so we have to imagine he’s been focusing entirely on freestyle. Facundo was a two-time U17 world bronze medalist (2018 and 2019) and was even Kyle Dake’s training partner for the 2023 World Championships. Facundo is a true dark horse and if you’re looking for anyone other than Monday, Marinelli, or Berger to win gold - Facundo is the guy to pick. 

Joe Sealey is just a senior in high school but he’s shown he can compete with some of the top guys at the senior level. Last month, Sealey lost a competitive, 11-6 bout to Alex Marinelli and defeated All-American Jake Bergeland (10-0) at the Farrell. Combine that with the fact that Sealey was a U17 world champion in 2022 and we shouldn’t be surprised if Sealey finishes in the top 5 in Fort Worth.

74 kg Predictions

  1. Quincy Monday
  2. Alex Marinelli
  3. Tyler Berger
  4. Alex Facundo

86 kg

The Favorites

  • Alex Dieringer
  • Mark Hall

Alex Dieringer and Mark Hall both competed last month at the Bill Farrell taking 2nd and 3rd respectively at 86 kg. Dieringer made his run to the finals by recording wins over Matt Finesilver, Marcus Coleman, and Connor Mirasola before losing a close, 2-1 bout in the finals to Trent Hidlay. Despite the loss, Dieringer showed he’s just as effective at 86 kg as he was at 79 kg and will be challenging for anyone in this field to defeat

Dieringer's win over David McFadden for true third at 2023 Final X:

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At the Farrell, Mark Hall drew world silver medalist Avtandil Kentchadze in the first round and lost a competitive 8-5 match. However, Hall responded by winning 5 straight matches and ultimately avenged the loss to Kentchadze to place 3rd at the Farrell. Beyond that performance, Hall is a three-time junior world champion and has incredible freestyle skills. Hall is almost a lock to finish in the top five and a favorite to make the finals opposite Dieringer. 

The Contenders

  • David McFadden
  • Evan Wick

David McFadden and Evan Wick are two 79 kg wrestlers who are looking to cement themselves as contenders at 86 kg. Wick most recently wrestled at the Bill Farrell and fell one match shy of the 3rd/4th place match losing a 4-4 criteria bout to the aforementioned Kentchadze. Wick seems to finally be growing into his length and has always been able to use his scrambling ability to put up big points against his competitors. Sometimes that scrambling comes back to bite Wick (he was pinned by Connor Mirasola at the Farrell), but most of the time Wick comes out on top.

Over the past few years, David McFadden established himself as a top-five 79 kg wrestler in the US. This is seen best by looking at McFadden’s wins over Chance Marsteller, Alex Marinelli, Michael Kemerer, Vincenzo Joseph, and several other top wrestlers in the country and world. That success isn’t an accident and should be transferable for McFadden up at 86kg.

Sleepers & Landmines

  • Connor Mirasola
  • Max Dean

Penn State commit Connor Mirasola is still a senior in high school but showed at the Bill Farrell last month that he’s capable of competing on the senior level. At the Farrell, Mirasola made the semifinals by pinning Evan Wick but then lost competitive matches to Alex Dieringer (9-3) and Mark Hall (4-1). It’s worth noting that competition was Mirasola’s first on the senior level and, with him being so young, we should expect him to improve as he continues to test himself against the top guys at 86kg.

Connor Mirasola's win over Evan Wick at the 2023 Bill Farrell:

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NCAA Champion Max Dean is staying in State College to make a run at an Olympic team at 86 kg. While he’s one of the most credentialed folkstyle wrestlers in the field, we haven’t seen Dean compete in freestyle, and is a major unknown in this field. Dean could surprise us and make a run to the finals or be completely outmatched because of his lack of freestyle experience. 

86 kg Predictions:

  1. Alex Dieringer
  2. Mark Hall
  3. Evan Wick
  4. David McFadden

97 kg

The Favorites

  • Kollin Moore
  • Nate Jackson

Kollin Moore and Nate Jackson established themselves as two of the best 92 kg wrestlers in the world. Both Moore and Jackson had numerous wins at 92 kg over world medalist and found themselves frequently ranked in the top 5 in the world at the weight. Most recently, Moore defeated Jackson in a close, 11-8 bout for true third at Final X 2023. Despite the heavier weight class, Jackson and Moore are the class of this field and it’d be surprising if anyone other than these two take home gold from Fort Worth.

Kollin Moore's win over Nate Jackson for true third at 2023 Final X:

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The Contenders

  • Jay Aiello
  • Eric Schultz
  • Jacob Warner

Jacob Warner, Jay Aiello, and Eric Shultz all competed at the Farrell last month and finished 2nd, 3rd, and 4th respectively at 97kg. Warner made the finals by taking out Ben Honis in the semis before falling to Mike Macchiavello in the finals. While Warner was in college, we didn’t see him wrestle much freestyle, however, that doesn’t mean he’s inexperienced. In fact, Warner made a cadet (U17) world team back in 2016 and won a bronze medal. 

Jay Aiello defeated Eric Schultz twice at the Farrell to place third. Beyond that, Aiello won a bronze medal at the U23 World Championships in 2021 where he defeated this year’s senior world bronze medalist Feyzullah Akturk (TUR). Aiello may not have ever achieved All-American honors while in college but he’s proven to be one of the best in the country at 92kg.

Eric Schultz may have lost to Aiello at the Farrell but Schultz defeated him at the 2023 US Open to place 4th. Schultz also took 4th at the World Team Trials this past year at 92kg and won the Henri Deglane tournament in France at the beginning of 2023 where he also defeated Aiello.

Sleepers & Landmines

  • Tony Cassioppi

Make no mistake, Tony Cassioppi might be the most accomplished freestyle wrestler in the field. So why is he in the “Sleepers & Landmines” category? Cassioppi is wrestling 97kg! Cassioppi has been wrestling heavyweight for a long time and hasn’t wrestled this low since he was in high school. Cassioppi won a U23 world championship in 2021 and was a U23 bronze medalist in 2022 but how will he fare at 97 kg? 

97 kg Predictions:

  1. Kollin Moore
  2. Tony Cassioppi
  3. Nate Jackson
  4. Jay Aiello

125 kg

The Favorite

  • Greg Kerkvliet

Greg Kerkvliet is the clear favorite to win gold in Fort Worth at 125 kg. Kerkvliet recorded a statement win at the NWCA All-Star classic when he teched Wyatt Hendrickson. Kerkvliet looks like a man on a mission this year and his size and athleticism make him a nightmare matchup for anyone in the world at 125 kg. 

Kerkvliet's win over Hendrickson at the NWCA All-Star Classic:

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The Contender

  • Dom Bradley

Dom Bradley has been one of the best wrestlers in the country at 125 kg for what feels like forever. In reality, it’s only been about 15 years but Bradley is a three-time US Open Champion and is still competing at an extremely high level. Even last year, Bradley placed 5th at the US Open and then followed that up by taking 3rd at the World Team Trials behind only Mason Parris and Nick Gwiazdowski. Bradley is the favorite to make the finals opposite Kerkvliet and his experience, defense, and size make him a great test for Kerkvliet.

Sleepers & Landmines

  • Gary Traub
  • Sam Schuyler

Gary Traub and Sam Schuyler are two wrestlers in this field to watch out for. Neither earned All-American honors while in college but both have a style that translates well to the senior level. Schuyler placed third at the Farrell last month where he defeated Traub in a competitive 3-0 match. Neither are my picks to win but both could make a deep run in this bracket and finish in the top 5. 

125 kg Predictions

  1. Greg Kerkvliet
  2. Dom Bradley
  3. Christian Lance
  4. Sam Schuyler