2024 U23 Nationals and U20 World Team Trials (Men's)

2024 U23 Nationals Freestyle Preview & Predictions

2024 U23 Nationals Freestyle Preview & Predictions

What to watch for at the 2024 U23 Nationals from Geneva, Ohio.

May 30, 2024 by Andrew Spey
2024 U23 Nationals Freestyle Preview & Predictions

One of the most underrated tournaments of the year kicks off this weekend as the U23 Men's Freestyle Nationals is set to begin Saturday, June 1 at 9:30 AM and conclude Sunday, June 2 with a best two of three series that will begin at 10:00 AM (all times eastern). 

This tournament always attracts hordes of college competitors, with entries in some weight classes swelling to over 130 wrestlers (hello round of 256 pigtails!). There will be plenty highly credentialed talent as well, with over 52 nationally ranked college wrestlers in the registry. 

Before we get to weight class previews, some background on the U23 World Championships.

U23 World Championship Background Info

When: October 21-27

Where: Tirana, Albania

How to watch: LIVE on FloWrestling

How To Qualify For Team USA

You have to win U23 Nationals, be on the USA National Team, which was determined at the Olympic Team Trials. 

The top three competitors at the Olympic Team Trials make the National Team (the winners make the Olympic Team, if the weight class is qualified for the Olympics, otherwise they are merely Olympic Team Trials champions). 

The age-eligible national team members get first dibs, then the U23 Nationals winners. 

Our very own Kyle Klingman explains the process here, but note that for the women's team, it's top four at the Olympic Team Trials who get first dibs, whereas for men's freestyle and Greco-Roman it's top three.

Which Men's Freestyle National Team Members Can Claim A U23 World Team Spot

The age-eligible top three finishers at the Olympic Trials are the following three wrestlers:

57kg: Marcus Blaze

74kg: Mitchell Mesenbrink

97kg: Isaac Trumble

Additionally, for men's freestyle, if the U23 Nationals champ declines the U23 world team spot for whatever reason, then the fourth place finisher at the Olympic Team Trials would get an opportunity to claim the spot, which would include the following two athletes: 

57kg: Jax Forrest

65kg: Jesse Mendez

After that the U23 Nationals finishers from 2nd through 8th get to choose in order. 

There are a few more details (and more differences between the women's and Greco processes) in the official published procedures which you can read here

How Many Wrestlers Will Be In Each Weight Class?


That's as of a few days before the tournament starts. Those numbers could change with later entrants and scratches. 

And now on to the weight classes.

57 Kilograms


#15: Stevo Poulin, Northern Colorado

#16: Maximo Renteria, Oregon State

#19: Brendan McCrone, Ohio State

Poulin has the best folkstyle and freestyle credits of the field, having placed fifth at the 2019 U17 World Championships and reaching the round of 12 at the last two NCAA Tournaments. 

He'll have Renteria, who saw limited action last season for the Beavers but did notch a win over eventual national champ Richie Figueroa, and McCrone, who fought his way onto the Buckeye starting lineup and won a match at the 2024 NCAAs. 


Gregory Diakomihalis, Cornell

Blake West, Northern Illinois

Max Gallagher, Penn

Nicolar Rivera, Wisconsin

Vincent Robinson, NC State

Jeremiah Reno, Little Rock

Only three wrestlers in the field are currently in the preseason NCAA rankings, but they could quickly be joined by a host of contenders, two of which, West and Gallagher, both qualified for the 2024 NCAA Championships. 

Greg Diakomihalis is poised to assume the leadoff spot in Ithaca for the first time after three solid but injury-plagued seasons on the roster.

Jeremiah Reno is looking for his first bid to the NCAAs in what is expected to be his fourth consecutive career starting at 125 for the Trojans. Rivera is looking to make his first trip to the Big Dance in his second varsity season with the Badgers, and Robinson has senior and four-time qualifier Jakob Camacho in his path in Raliegh, but expected the talented redshirt freshmen to challenge for the job and make spot starts all season long. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Sam Smith, Oklahoma State

Ethan Perryman, Iowa State

Joey Cruz, Iowa

Sam Smith has one of the greatest pedigrees you can have in the sport of wrestling, being the son of the legendary and recently retired John Smith. Perryman will need to prove himself to the coaches in Ames with incumbent Kysen Terukina in his path to start and newly added competition from Cuba by the name of Osmany Diversent. Finallt, Joey Cruz was a highly touted prospect out of California who has yet to reach his potential but also just joined the Hawkeye program last year, and there are few better places to develop as a lightweight than Iowa City. 


1) Poulin, 2) Renteria, 3) Diakomihalis, 4) McCrone

Poulin is the heavy favorite to win the bracket but the field is dangerous, especially Renteria. It also remains to be seen if Marcus Blaze will accept the bid he earned thanks to his run at the Olympic Team Trials, but it's worth noting that Blaze is entered in the U20 Team Trials at 61kg. Making the U20 team, and the weight cut to 57kg, might discourage Blaze from claiming that opportunity. 

61 Kilograms


#2: Drake Ayala, Iowa

#3: Anthony Noto, Lock Haven

#7: Aaron Nagao, Penn State

#12: Nic Bouzakis, Ohio State

#14: Braxton Brown, Maryland

#16: Brett Ungar, Cornell

Two 125lb All-Americans are moving up to 134.2 pounds for U23s, as Ayala (2nd) and Noto (3rd) are adding some serious depth to one of the most loaded brackets of the tournament. 

Nagao just missed the podium in 2024, his first year at Penn State after placing fifth in 2023 as a redshirt freshmen at Minnesota, and is the highest credentialed 133-pounder in the tournament. 

Bouzakis, Braxton, and Ungar have qualified for a combined five NCAA tournaments in five varsity seasons, with seven combined years of eligibility remaining. Bouzakis also made the 2023 and 2022 U20 World Teams, earning a bronze medal last summer. 

The results of this bracket will be of keen interest to NCAA fans to see how Ayala and Noto do. Could their results in Geneva determine which weight they go in the fall? 


#21: Dominick Serrano, Northern Colorado

#24: Ryan Miller, Penn

Kurtis Phipps, Bucknell

Derrick Cardinal, South Dakota State

Gable Strickland, Lock Haven

Julian Farber, Northern Iowa

Ethan Berginc, Army

Serano and Miller, both ranked at 133 nationally, could very well be considered favorites given their stellar track record at the NCAA level. Phipps, Cardinal, Strickland, Berginc, and Farber, are similarly all just barely on the other side of an invisible barrier, on the rankings bubble but arguably good enough to be ranked, having all four qualified for the 2024 NCAA Championships.

Berginc (the 'C' is silent) and his very easily Googleable last name is already a two-time NCAA qualifier and is expected to start in his third season at Army in the fall.

It should also be noted that the current preseason rankings only extend to 24 per weight class, rather to the customer 33 once the season begins. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Joseph Fischer, Clarion

Eli Griffin, California Baptist

Hunter Leake, California Baptist

Teammates Leake and Griffin also qualified for the NCAAs, Griffin at 125 and Leake at 133. Griffin will get an opportunity to test the 133 waters, and who knows how the lineup shakes out in Riverside next season. Fischer is going into his fourth season as a starter at Clarion as a true senior. 


1) Bouzakis, 2) Nagao, 3) Ayala, 4) Noto

Bouzakis and Nagao split matches last season. I'm giving the edge in freestyle to Bouzakis, but like most folks watching, I am interested in seeing NCAA runner-up Ayala and two-time AA Noto do at 133. 

65 Kilograms


#5: Ryan Jack, NC State

#7: Cael Happel, Northern Iowa

Jack placed seventh at the 2024 NCAAs from the #4 seed. Happel was upset in the first round after learning the #7 seed, then battled all the way back to the bloodround before losing his second match of the tournament. Both wrestlers are seasoned vets with multiple NCAA tournaments under their belts who, by dint of their folkstyle accomplishments, are co-favorites to win this bracket. 


#19: CJ Composto, Penn

#21: Dylan Chappell, Bucknell

#24: Wyatt Henson, Lock Haven

Zachary Redding, Iowa State

Kai Owen, Columbia

Sean Carter, App State

Composto placed eighth at the 2022 NCAA Tournament, while Chappell, Henson, Redding, Owen, and Carter all qualified at least once before. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Hunter Mason, Virginia Tech

Kollin Rath, Missouri

Zeke Seltzer, Missouri

Jacob Frost, Iowa State

Three of these talented sleepers will be battling for starting jobs in the fall, while Kollin Rath, a blue-chip recruit, will be finishing his senior year of high school at Bethlehem Catholic in eastern Pennsylvania. 


1) Jack, 2) Happel, 3) Chappell, 4) Composto

I like Jack to prevail but a Happel championship would not surprise me in the slightest, and in fact this is a very deep and hard-to-predict field. Should the winner decline the spot for some reason or another (U23 Worlds is in October and some winners have declined to focus on the NCAA season in the past) 2024 NCAA champ Jesse Mendez may also swoop in and claim the world team spot, which would be his fourth age-level world team, having made the 2019 U17 and 2021 and 2023 U20 world teams. Mendez earned a silver at the 2023 U20 Worlds at 65kg. 

70 Kilograms


#3: Daniel Cardenas, Stanford

#6: Jackson Arrington, NC State

#7: Edward Scott, NC State

#8: Ty Whalen, Princeton

#9: Chance Lamer, Cal Poly

#10: Paniro Johnson, Iowa State

Colorado native Daniel Cardenas had a superb sophomore season, climbing the fourth-place step on the 2024 NCAA podium. 

Teammates Scott and Arrington both pile into a crowded weight class. Scott is a three-time qualifier (and 2023 fifth-placer) at 157lbs while Arrington finished in the round of 12 at 149lbs in 2023 and 2024. 

Princeton sophomore Whalen is ready to get wild in the 2024-25 season, after going 10-0 while wrestling unattached during the 2023-24 season which saw him defeat All-Americans Ty Watters and Kyle Parco at Midlands. 

Lamer finished in the bloodround at the last two NCAA tournaments, and Johnson is ready to get back on track after he qualified for the NCAA tournament in 2023, then had a long and complicated season that ultimately resulted in him taking a redshirt, the details into which we shan't delve any further. 


#14: Gabe Willochell, Wyoming

#19: Caleb Rathjen, Iowa

Tom Crook, Virginia Tech

Ethan Fernandez, Cornell

AJ Kovacs, NC State

Jude Swisher, Penn

We had to pick a cut-off point between the favorites and contenders that left ranked guys on both sides of the divide, but that's the kind of depth you can expect from 70kg (though it may take a minute or two this weekend before we get to the later rounds where these guys will start hitting on the championship side, as there will be round of 256-pigtails at 70kg). 

Willochell is a two-time All-American while Rathjen earned a ticket to the Big Dance last season. 

Florida's Tom Crook is a two-time qualifier, while Fernandez took over for the Cornell legend Yianni Diakomihalis (you may recognize that name from the 57kg section of this previewer where we mentioned his brother, Greg), earning an NCAA bid in his first varsity season. 

Jude Swisher also scooped up a tourney bid in his freshmen campaign, while Conneticut's AJ Kovacs is still trying to break into that crazy-deep Wolfpack lineup. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Alejandro Herrera-Rondon, Clarion

Connor Eck, Lock Haven

Samuel Hillegas, West Virginia

Blake Saito, Brown

Four dangerous guys all attending schools out east. No bias here, it just worked out that way!


1) Cardenas, 2) Scott, 3) Johnson, 4) Arrington

I like Cardenas to hold serve from the top seed which I think he'll earn, and I think Scott wins the battle of Wolfpackers. I have Paniro claiming third, however, I could also easily see him going beserk and tearing up the whole bracket. 

74 Kilograms


#3: Hunter Garvin, Stanford

Bryce Andonian, Virginia Tech

Garvin was (perhaps to some) a surprise All-American in 2024, placing sixth after receiving the #20 seed. The native Iowan is poised to earn a very high seed at this tournament thanks to his NCAA run. 

Bryce Andonian is a five-time qualifier and three-time All-American who wrestles like a lunatic. 

A very entertaining lunatic. He earned a bronze medal at the 2021 U20 World Championships and is undefeated against challenge bricks.


#6: Ryder Downey, Northern Iowa

#9: Cael Swensen, South Dakota State

#16: Derek Fields, NC State

#20: Max Brignola, Lehigh

#24: Matthew Bianchi, Little Rock

Another deep weight class with five more ranked wrestlers in the field, all of whom have arguments to be included in the favorites section. 

All five are 2024 national qualifiers, with Brignola and Swenson both qualifying for two tournes in their careers so far. Swensen and Downey are both bloodrounders, with Downey reaching the round of 12 as a freshman in 2024 and Swensen doing the same in 2023 as a freshman. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Derek Gilcher, Indiana

Jagger Condomitti, Nebraska

Gilcher is a national qualifier in 2023, while Condomitti is a highly-rated recruit coming out of Pennsylvania who is searching for a breakout season. 


1) Andonian, 2) Garvin, 3) Downey, 4) Swensen

I'm picking Andonian not just because he is one of the most fun wrestlers to watch, but also because he has the best freestyle credentials of the division. Does Mitchell Mesenbrink want the team spot, however? This is what the winner will then wonder. Mesenbrink was a 2022 U20 silver medalist and a 2023 U20 gold medalist, so I'm going to guess he'll nab the spot, but we'll see!

79 Kilograms


#5: Julian Ramirez, Cornell

#6: Lenny Pinto, Nebraska

The two highest ranked wrestlers in the bracket are converging on 74kg (173.8lbs) from opposite directions. Ramirez, a three-time round of 12 finisher from Miami, Florida by way of Blair, is bumping up from 165 pounds, while Pinto, a two-time qualifier and 2024 bloodrounder from eastern PA, is coming down from 184 pounds.

A collision by these two in the finals should make for some highly entertaining wrestling. 


#13: Will Miller, App State

#13: Clayton Whiting, Minnesota

Patrick Kennedy, Iowa

#17: Bubba Wilson, Nebraska

#18: Tyler Lillard, Indiana

#21: Gunner Filipowicz, Army

Kennedy is the only unranked member of the contenders grouping, but that is only because the rankers are assuming Gabe Arnold will be in the 174lb spot for the Hawkeyes, with Michael Caliendo at 165 and Nelson Brands at 184, cutting off any alternative routes to the lineup for the Minnesota native. However, Kennedy is a two-time national qualifier, at both 165 and 174, and was one match shy of the podium last season at 174. He would for sure be ranked if he were to find his way in the Iowa starting 10. 

Miller, WIlson, Lillard and Filipowicz have all qualified for the NCAA tournament before, with Miller and Wilson being two-timers. Whiting has yet to qualify but has been stuck behind some extremely good teammates while at Missouri and this offseason made the jump to Minnesota. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Marcus Petite, Buffalo

Jasiah Queen, Drexel

Nick South, Indiana

Evan Maag, George Mason

Maag qualified for the 2024 NCAA tourney after winning the MAC as a freshman. South, Queen, and Petite are looking for their first NCAA bid and have a goos shot at earning one this season. 


1) Pinto, 2) Ramirez, 3) Kennedy, 4) Whiting

Pinto being down a weight class is surprising but I'm very much looking forward to seeing what he can do at 79 kilos. Picking a top four was tough but ultimately the real winners will be the fans (I mean that sincerely AND ironically, if that's possible). 

86 Kilograms


#8: Dylan Fishback, NC State

#11: Colton Hawks, Missouri

Brayden Thompson, Oklahoma State

Like Kennedy, Thompson would be ranked if he were the presumed starter at his respective program. However, all signs point to a redshirt season for Thompson, who qualified for the NCAAs as a true freshman last season in Stillwater. 

Thompson is joined in the favorites grouping by two 2024 bloodrounders, rising sophomore Dylan Fishback and rising junior Colton Hawks. 

All three wrestlers have international freestyle experience, with Hawks making the 2021 U20 World Team, Thompson making the 2022 U20 World Team, and Fishback wrestling in the 2023 Ziolkowski in Poland, where Fishback earned a bronze (a tournament Thompson also wrestled in, though he did not place). 


#16: Reece Heller, Pittsburgh

#20: James Conway, Franklin & Marshall

#22: Maximus Hale, Penn

A trio of 2024 NCAA qualifiers round out our contenders list. Hale recently tested the transfer portal waters but decided the grass in Philadelphia was green enough and will return to UPenn for his final season of eligibility. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Anthony D'Alesio, Long Island

Deanthony Parker, Oklahoma

Samuel Fisher, Virginia Tech

Parker and D'Alesio are both NCAA qualifiers, with D'Alesio being the first in Long Island University program history. Go Sharks! 

Fisher has some very tough competition in his wrestling room in Blacksburg but would likely be ranked if he got the starting job at 184. 


1) Fishback, 2) Thompson, 3) Hawks, 4) Conway

I think there is some separation between the top three and the rest of the field and could see any one of them earning the U23 world team spot. 

92 Kilograms


#3: Jacob Cardenas, Michigan

#3: Trey Munoz, Oregon State

The brackets have been thinning out since we traversed the middle weights and the thick section of our bell curve. However, 92kg has some very highly credentialed wrestlers, such as two-time All-American Jacob Cardenas, who graduated Cornell and is using his final year of eligibility at Michigan, and Trey Munoz, another two-time All-American who might be signaling a bump from 184 to 197 (92kg is 202.4lbs). 

Cardenas is also a two-time U23 veteran, earning a silver and bronze medal at the 2022 and 2023 U23 World Championships, one of only two Americans to earn two U23 world medals, the other being Anthony Cassioppi (pretty sure about that stat anyway, feel free to fact check me). 


#12: Zach Glazier, Iowa

#19: Wyatt Voelker, Northern Iowa

#24: Levi Hopkins, Campbell

Christian Carroll, Oklahoma State

Lucas Cochran, Penn State

This contenders grouping may be my favorite one of any weight class. Glazier stepped up to fill a hole in the Iowa lineup last season and performed better than many expected. He's back for his final year of eligibility and hopefully an All-American honor. 

Voelker won multiple matches at the NCAAs as a freshman and is in a great spot to develop in Coach Doug Schwab's program in Cedar Falls. Voelker also placed fifth at the 2023 U20 World Championships in Greco.

Levi Hopkins is a two-time national qualifier from Alaska, a state that (random fact incoming) holds their high school championships in December. 

Christian Carroll is a blue-chip recruit who everyone presumed would be a heavyweight, however, it now appears 'Christmas' Carroll is headed down to 197. Carroll made the 2022 U20 Greco world team and the 2023 U20 freestyle world team. 

Finally, Lucas Cochran has the privilege and misfortune of being on some ridiculously loaded, nay, ludicrously loaded Penn State teams, where making the lineup means you are a de facto title contender. He bumped up to heavyweight last season and defeated All-American Yaraslau Slavikouski, but could not find a spot in the postseason lineup thanks to four-time national champ Aaron Brooks occupying the 197lb spot and four-time AA and 2024 national champ Greg Kerkvliet holding down heavyweight. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Seth Shumate, Ohio State

Cade Lautt, North Carolina

Chase Horne, NC State

Jack Darrah, Stanford

Horne could also be making a move from heavyweight to 197. Lautt, Shumate, and Darrah are, like Horne, hoping to earn a trip to their first NCAA tournament, but are still very dangerous competitors. 


1) Cardenas, 2) Munoz, 3) Carroll, 4) Glaier

I think Cardenas wins and makes his record-breaking third straight U23 World Team but I am also very much interested in seeing how the rest of this interesting bracket shakes out! 

97 Kilograms


#13: Nick Stemmet, Stanford

By far the shallowest bracket at the tournament. Not a knock on three-time NCAA qualifier Nick Stemmet, however, it's a fact that 97kg has the fewest number of entries and the fewest number of ranked wrestlers, with Stemmet being the only one. 


Massoma Endene, Wisconsin

Dontae Hoose, Lehigh

Kalob Runyon, Northern Iowa

NCAA Divison III national champ Massoma Endene transferred from Wartburg to Wisconsin in the off-season. Hoose and Runyon are in the running for a starting job at their respective programs. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Austin Kohlhofer, Army

Donovan Sprouse, George Mason

You can always count on Army to provide depth at every weight class, and George Mason is on the rise whose depth is also not to be slept on!


1) Stemmet, 2) Runyon, 3) Hoose, 4) Endene

I'm going with Stemmet, who may be the craftiest wrestler in the NCAA. 

But will Stemmet (or whoever emerges from this bracket unscathed) be on the 2024 U23 World Team? That's up to Isaac Trumble!

125 Kilograms


#1: Greg Kerkvliet, Penn State

#3: Nick Feldman, Ohio State

Though Feldman was 0-3 versus Kerkvliet last college season, the Buckeye narrowed the gap against his Big Ten rival with each subsequent match. Their early February dual meat match was won by Kerkvliet 12-0, their early March Big Ten bout was won by Kerkvliet 9-3, and their NCAA contest was a mere 1-0 victory for Kerkvliet. 

They both also have plenty of experience in freestyle. Feldman placed fifth at U20s in 2022, while Kerkvliet was a U17 champ in 2017, a U17 runnerup in 2018, and took fifth at U23s in 2019. 

Could we see another big (literally and figuratively) matchup in Geneva?


#8: Nathan Taylor, Lehigh

#21: Lucas Stoddard, Army

Jacob Bullock, Indiana

Taylor, a two-time qualifier who finished one win away from the podium in 2024, has quietly climbed up the heavyweight ranks and has some separation between himself in the favorites tier as well as with the rest of the contenders. 

That is not to take anything away from Stoddard and Bullock, both of whom have earned trips to the NCAA tournament in their careers. 

Sleepers and Landmines

Ryan Catka, Virginia

Luke Rasmussen, South Dakota State

Ashton Davis, Cornell

All three of these wrestlers should start for their respective programs with an eye on making the NCAA Championshops next March. 


1) Kerkvliet, 2) Feldman, 3) Taylor, 4) Stoddard

I'm very much looking forward to a Kerk v Feldman matchup, but I'm going to make sure I can easily flee from wherever I'm watching should these two giants start rumbling towards me.