This past weekend, Team USA battled their way to 12 medals at the 2016 UWW Cadet World Championships; the women got five, and the freestyle men got seven. Although that presented many viable candidates for FloWrestler of the Week, three performances stood out among the rest, and they came from our three cadet world champions: Kurt McHenry, Yianni Diakomihalis and Gable Steveson.
None of it was easy, but these three left it all on the mat to win the gold.
Kurt McHenry feeling great after winning a world title in Tbilisi, Georgia:
McHenry brought a swagger to the mat that wouldn't allow him to leave with anything but gold. He collected takedowns fluidly and got the job done when he really needed it. With nine seconds on the clock, he trailed 5-4 in the gold-medal match. That's when his clutch gene kicked in, and he used a crotch lift to collect the winning exposure points as his opponent attempted to hold onto his leg to run out the clock.
He ended up getting the 7-5 win after Azerbaijan lost the challenge to end the match.
Diakomihalis and Steveson, who each claimed their second straight cadet world titles, were dominant from start to finish.
Diakomihalis pulled off some serious slickness to score a takedown in the semifinal that he converted to a trapped arm gut wrench for a few turns to go up 9-2. He gave up a step-out later in the match and got the 9-3 win. In the final, he had his best match as he won 8-0. He proved he was on another level as he cruised to his second straight title.
Steveson didn't struggle much throughout the tournament. He went in focused, and did what he had to do to reach the final. Once there, he took on the Russian Beterbiev, and no matter how tough Beterbiev tried to be, he was no match for Steveson. He answered every Beterbiev attempt with an even bigger attack until his hand was raised once again and he was named the cadet world champion for the second consecutive time.
These guys exemplified the true champion spirit, and because of that, they are all our FloWrestlers of the Week.
Other FloWrestler of the Week Nominees:
Macey Kilty, Ronna Heaton, Gracie Figueroa, Alleida Martinez and Alara Boyd did an amazing job leading the women's team to a third-place finish. Kilty was the first wrestler from Team USA to reach the podium as she came away with bronze. Gracie Figueroa followed behind, and fought through a knee injury to get the job done.
Ronna, Alleida and Alara capped things off for the women on day two with bronze-medal finishes from Boyd and Martinez and a silver-medal finish by Heaton, the now-two-time cadet world finalist. Boyd's strong performance in the bronze-medal match that clinched a spot on the podium for the team in third place. Martinez was way too slick in the bronze-medal match for her opponent as she used some savvy attacks to gain the upper hand.
Heaton may not have come away with the gold like she wanted, but she put in some work on the way to the final, which started with her neck-breaking bomb to get an eight-second fall. She followed it up with a few more falls before getting edged in the gold-medal match.
For the men, it was Vito Arujau, David Carr, Travis Wittlake and Jacob Warner that claimed medals on the first day of the men's tournament to set them up for their high team finish. Arujau had a wild match in the finals, but couldn't quite get the job done. But despite that, he proved he is one of the best in the world. Carr and Warner did an amazing job bouncing back after they both lost on criteria to come back and win bronze.
Carr completed his run with a fantastic (and chippy) win over Armenia. He said afterwards he wanted to make it a fight and really get after him. Warner got back to his dominant ways with an 11-0 tech after losing a close 4-4 match to the eventual champion. He showed a lot of grit to bounce back so dominantly.
Wittlake took a devastating loss, but when he was given the opportunity to come back for bronze, he made sure it didn't go to waste. He won both repechage matches, then defeated Yamada of Japan to claim the bronze medal.
The men and women's freestyle teams did an incredible job, as well. The women set the bar high with five medalists and a third-place finish, and the men followed with seven medalists and a second-place finish.