Was 2016 Team USA's Best Junior Worlds Ever?

Justin Hoch Taylor, Alexis, Mark

We just witnessed an incredible week of wrestling at Junior Worlds, which arguably hosted the best 24-athlete Team USA squad we've ever sent to the prestigious event.

But first, a quick definition of "ever" for those who dislike operating in absolutes. The junior world championships have been in operation since 1969. The inaugural event took place in Colorado Springs, and only seven teams competed. Those first few iterations were held every other year, and far fewer countries sent teams.

Additionally, women's wrestling was not included until 1988, and not permanently until 1998 in Fredrikstad, Norway. Worlds weren't held in 2002 and 2004 for any style, and they weren't all held in one location until 2003. So we are really only dealing with 1998 and after.

Mark Hall's gold-medal match:


Let's start with the medal count. This year's squad tied Team USA's 2000 haul with eight medals won, and was second to the 2014 cache of 10 medals across all three styles. In France, we went 8-0 in medal matches, compared to 7-3 in 2014 and 2-6 for the 2000 team.

Macon was only the second time since 1998 that America won multiple Greco-Roman medals; the other time was 2011 in Bucharest, Romania. But it was the first time ever each style finished with more than one medal, as the 2011 men's freestyle team brought home one medal and the 2000 Greco team won one.

Points scored are another important metric to consider. In France, America ended up with 91 team points. Our 2014 juniors finished with 95 points, buoyed by the 58 scored by men's freestyle. The team sent in 2000 tallied 113 points, but it is important to remember there were more weights back then, and the scoring was slightly different as there were no double bronzes.

Alexis Porter's bronze-medal match:


While this team scored fewer points, they were more evenly distributed among the styles. The 2014 Greco guys put up just eight points, and the 2000 Greco team scored 13 points in Nantes. If we were just examining freestyle, those 2000 and 2014 squads are definitely more accomplished, but the Greco performances hurt them significantly.

To paint a better picture of how each team contributed, refer to the final team finish. The 2000 women's team ended up third, and the men's freestyle was fourth, but Greco finished outside of the top 20. Our 2014 juniors were second in men's freestyle, and fifth for the women, but tied for 16th in Greco.

This year's team saw men's freestyle finish fifth (36 points), the women finish sixth (32 points) and Greco tie for eighth (23 points); it's the most we've scored in junior Greco since 1998. Using golf score for placement, 2014 had 23 points and 2016 had 19 points.

Taylor LaMont's bronze-medal match:


There was no consideration of senior-level performance for a few reasons. First, it's obviously impossible to measure the future success of this year's team. Second, many careers in the 2007-2015 range are still going. Finally, America has changed its stance on the importance of Junior Worlds over the years, and talent levels off. The best junior at random weight X in 2004, for example, may have been surpassed on the senior level by someone who never even went to Junior Worlds.

As a result, this year's junior world squad seem like the most balanced, talented and successful Junior Worlds contingent ever assembled. When you look at a well-rounded series of criteria, the Macon juniors stack right up there with any team ever sent. And we may look back on the first Junior Worlds ever broadcasted by FloWrestling as having the best group of 17-20 year olds in American history.

Top Countries Medal Table (23 countries won medals)

RUS = 14 (4 golds, 4 silvers, 6 bronzes)
JPN = 8 (6 golds, 1 silver, 1 bronze)
USA = 8 (2 golds, 6 bronzes)
AZE = 8 (2 golds, 1 silver, 5 bronzes)
GEO = 7 (4 golds, 3 bronzes)
IRI = 6 (2 golds, 1 silver, 3 bronzes)
TUR = 6 (1 gold, 4 silvers, 1 bronze)
CHN = 5 (2 silvers, 3 bronzes)
KAZ = 5 (1 gold, 3 silvers, 1 bronze)

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