It's freestyle season! The US Open is LIVE on Flo next weekend, with every weight starting at 9am sharp on Friday, April 28th; Pacific time of course since it is in Vegas.
We'll be rolling out one preview a day to get you guys up to speed on who the contenders are at each weight. Yesterday was 57kg, and today we're moving up to 61kg. Reigning world champ Logan Stieber is sitting this one out, as he has a bye to the World Team Trials finals in June.
The ending of an Olympic cycle seems to have heavily affected this non-Olympic weight. None of the three world team members we've had at this weight will be in Vegas, with Reece Humphrey being retired and Jimmy Kennedy going up in weight.
Additionally, former national team members Dan Dennis and Coleman Scott have retired, and Joe Colon is down at 57kg. That leaves big room for guys like Jayson Ness and Kendric Maple to try to earn themselves a top seed for the challenge tournament in Lincoln, Nebraska. Complete entries may be found on FloArena. On to the full preview.
The ContendersJayson Ness, Minnesota Storm
Kendric Maple, Titan Mercury/Boilermaker RTC
The Dark HorsesCody Brewer, Titan Mercury/Chicago RTC
Kanen Storr, Titan Mercury/Cyclone RTC
Seth Gross, Jackrabbit Wrestling Club
On paper, this is a two-man race between Ness and Maple. Ness might be one of the most under appreciated wrestlers in the country. He was third at the non-Olympic WTT in November, and then third at the Senior Nationals in Greco at 66kg a month later.
Ness has a deceptive double leg, and can hit non-controlled exposures from neutral with a gator roll head pinch. On top, he transitions well from takedowns into an immediate gut wrench or leg lace, both of which he can normally get at least one turn out of. Essentially, Ness can put up points in every position and blow matches open quickly.
Maple was fourth at the 2015 WTT at this weight, but hasn't competed in a freestyle tournament since that year's Bill Farrell. In those '15 Trials, he was one second away from making the finals before Dan Dennis took him down. He and Ness will be two of the biggest guys in the weight, but there is some concern about Maple's long layoff. Particularly when he is not in the latest senior freestyle rankings from USA Wrestling.
When he's on, Maple has probably the best leg attacks of anyone in this field. Blast doubles and ankle picks are the main weapons, and he has a knack for timing people off his lefty back step. A hard right leg lead, the NCAA champ for Oklahoma can win every takedown battle he's in in Vegas.
Cody Brewer is the other former Sooner stud in this field. Brewer has kept up the manic pace that made him so difficult to wrestle in college, but it can get him in trouble in freestyle. Nearly every time he shoots, someone scores, which is why most of his match final scores end up in the high teens.
He is one that could potentially be helped out by the new rules with five point throws and correct throws. Brewer has never been afraid to go upper body, and those fireman's carries he hits can turn into high amplitude throws quickly.
Kanen Storr announced his senior level debut in a big way at the Schultz. He beat Joey Lazor (see below) and Josh Kindig there, and then beat Alan Waters at the Cerro Pelado. The Iowa State freshman has a head pinch that can rival Ness's or might even be better. The only issue is that the Cyclone may instead be competing at the junior level instead.
Seth Gross is coming off an NCAA finals appearance and had just two losses during the folkstyle season. His style, one in which he frequently allows opponents to get to legs so he can force scrambles, was thought to be tough to maintain in freestyle. But Gross made the junior world team and is the perfect size for this weight. His only senior level experience though is a 14-4 loss to Adam Diatta in last year's Grand Prix of Spain.
One thing seems fore sure: these guys will put points on the board. I think this weight will have the highest average per match scores, especially as we start to see guys work in the new rule set of fives and correct throws. Guys like Joey Lazor will be sure to go upper body and try to bomb dudes. Veterans like Shelton Mack will force you to score in bunches to beat him, as will someone like Daniel DeShazer.
Where Maple gets drawn into the bracket will be huge. It would also be great to see a guy like Zane Richards, who beat Tyler Graff in last year's University Nationals finals, to show up. This will be one of the most fun and unpredictable weights to watch, which is great for the fans but potentially bad for prognosticators like me. Here goes nothing.
- Jayson Ness
- Kendric Maple
- Cody Brewer
- Kanen Storr
- Seth Gross
- Joey Lazor
- Daniel DeShazer