2022 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament

2022 World Team Trials Preview & Predictions - Men's Freestyle

2022 World Team Trials Preview & Predictions - Men's Freestyle

A full preview and predictions for men's freestyle at the 2022 World Team Trials.

May 17, 2022 by Jon Kozak
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The World Team Trials will go down on May 21-22 and will establish every Final X matchup. Take a look below at a full preview and predictions for all 10 weights in men’s freestyle at the 2022 World Team Trials. 

57 kg

Sitting In Final X: Thomas Gilman

Seeds:

  1. Matthew Ramos
  2. Vito Arujau
  3. Zane Richards
  4. Jakob Camacho
  5. Anthony Molton
  6. Caleb Smith
  7. Greg Diakomihalis
  8. Gabriel Townsell
  9. Aden Reeves
  10. Michael Tortorice
  11. Timothy Levine

The Favorite
Vito Arujau has been an incredible freestyle prospect and is just getting started at the senior level. Arujau was a cadet and junior world silver medalist and made a run to last year’s Olympic trials when he defeated Daton Fix, coming in second place to Thomas Gilman. Without Suriano, Fix, Tomasello, and Spencer Lee in the field, Arujau is the greatest threat to unseat Gilman and take over the spot at 57kg for Team USA. 

Other Contenders
Arujau might be the favorite based on his performance at last year’s Olympic Trials but Zane Richards is a dangerous opponent and holds a head-to-head win over Arujau. At the 2019 US Open, Richards defeated Arujau 8-2 in the third-place match. Richards and Arujau are likely to meet in the semi-finals and we know anything can happen in a 6-minute match!

Richards' win over Arujau from the 2019 US Open:

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After Richards, #1 seed Matthew Ramos has proven to be a dangerous freestyle wrestler. Though he failed to All-American this year, Ramos won the US Open and was a cadet world champion in 2018. Ramos will be opposite Richards and Arujau meaning he’s the favorite to reach the finals on the top side of the bracket.

Sleepers And Landmines
57kg doesn’t have the same depth as some of the other brackets at the world team trials but still has some interesting landmines. Considering the layout of the bracket, look for the landmine to come from a wrestler on the top side in either Anthony Molton, Gabriel Townsell, or Jakob Camacho. Of those 3, Molton had the most notable US Open performance where he made the finals with a highlight reel pin over Townsell.

57 kg Prediction:
Finals: Vito Arujau over Matt Ramos
3rd: Zane Richards over Jakob Camacho


61 kg

Sitting In Final X: Daton Fix

Seeds:

  1. Nico Megaludis
  2. Josh Rodriguez
  3. Tyler Graff
  4. Jesse Mendez
  5. Seth Gross
  6. Daniel DeShazer
  7. Josh Kramer
  8. Shelton Mack

The Favorite
Nico Megaludis proved at the US Open that he is the man to beat in this bracket and the main contender to take on Daton Fix at Final X. At the Open, Megaludis took out both Seth Gross (4-1) and Josh Rodriguez (3-1) to win gold and earn the #1 seed. Megaludis will be a big favorite in the quarter-finals against Shelton Mack and should have a tough match in the semis against the Gross-Mendez winner. Rodriguez and Graff are the two likely to come out of the bottom side of the bracket where Megaludis will be the slight favorite against either wrestler. 

Hear Megaludis after his 2022 US Open title:

Nico Megaludis: 'I Love This Sport'


Other Contenders
While they finished behind Megaludis at the Open, Josh Rodriguez, Tyler Graff, and Seth Gross should all be considered contenders to win the world team trials and make Final X. This group of three has notable results on the senior level and could make a run to the final if wrestling their best. Of the three, Rodriguez had the best tournament at the US Open with wins over both Daniel DeShazer (5-2) and Tyler Graff (9-5). 

Gross will likely have the toughest route to make the finals with potential matches against #4 seed Jesse Mendez and #1 seed Nico Megaludis. Rodriguez and Graff will likely meet in the semi-finals and wool have to get through Daniel DeShazer and Josh Kramer respectively.

Josh Rodriguez's win over Tyler Graff at the 2022 US Open:

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Sleepers And Landmines
Jesse Mendez is the #4 seed and might not completely fit the “sleeper” category but he’s still in high school and has limited experience on the senior level. At the US Open, Mendez showed he can compete with everyone in this bracket with a win over #7 seed Josh Kramer and a close loss to #6 DeShazer. Few will pick Mendez to make the finals but don’t be surprised if we see him take out an established senior-level wrestler like Seth Gross or Tyler Graff at the trials. 

Prediction:
Finals: Nico Megaludis over Tyler Graff
3rd: Seth Gross over Josh Rodriguez


65 kg

Seeds:

  1. Kendric Maple
  2. Yianni Diakomihalis
  3. Joey McKenna
  4. Nick Lee
  5. Matt Kolodzik
  6. Ian Parker
  7. Luke Pletcher
  8. Evan Henderson
  9. Pat Lugo
  10. Dean Heil
  11. Beau Bartlett
  12. Carter Young
  13. Josh Saunders

The Contenders
Unlike most of the other weights, it’s hard to pin down a clear favorite at 65kg. The #1 seed Kendric Maple looked incredible at the US Open pinning both Luke Pletcher and Matt Kolodzik but has never wrestled Diakomihalis, McKenna, or Nick Lee. Yianni Diakomihalis is the returning world team member but has past losses to both Joey McKenna and Nick Lee. Joey McKenna finished second at the Olympic and World Team Trials but has lost 3 of the last 4 matches to Diakomihalis. And then there’s Nick Lee. He had an amazing tournament at the Olympic Trials beating Zain Retherford and Yianni Diakomihalis but he hasn’t wrestled on the senior level since that tournament (April of 2021). Two of the aforementioned four wrestlers are huge favorites to make Final X but picking what two will likely come down to who’s wrestling their peak in the semi-finals on Sunday morning. 

Yianni's win over McKenna to make the 2021 world team:

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Kendric Maple on his return to competition following his US Open title:

Kendric Maple Lost Bet And Won US Open Title


Sleepers And Landmines
The depth at 65kg is outstanding but there are three wrestlers who fit the definition of a “sleeper and landmine” perfectly - Evan Henderson, Beau Bartlett, and Carter Young. Of this bunch, Henderson has the best results highlighted by career wins over Dom Demas, Matt Kolodzik, Dean Heil, Ian Parker, Jaydin Eierman, Josh Saunders, Luke Pletcher,  Pat Lugo, Anthony Ashnault, and Joey McKenna. If there’s 1 wrestler to spoil the top 4 from meeting in the semi-finals, Evan Henderson is the pick.

Beau Bartlett and Carter Young are interesting prospects at 65kg. Bartlett won a bronze medal last year at the junior world championships and is better suited for freestyle compared to folkstyle (he’s also a more natural 65kg wrestler than 149 pounder). After Bartlett, Carter Young turned heads at last year’s world team trials when he placed third and defeated Nahshon Garrett, Tyler Graff, and Seth Gross. Young’s chances of duplicating that performance in this bracket might be slim but he certainly won’t be underestimated this year!

Prediction:
Final X Matchup: Nick Lee vs Yianni Diakomihalis
3rd place: Joey McKenna over Kendric Maple


70 kg

Seeds:

  1. Alec Pantaleo
  2. Ryan Deakin
  3. Jordan Oliver
  4. Zain Retherford
  5. Doug Zapf
  6. Michael Blockhus
  7. Sammy Sasso
  8. Tyler Berger
  9. Anthony Ashnault
  10. Dayne Morton
  11. Jarod Verkleeren

The Favorites
While they are the #2 and #4 seeds, Ryan Deakin and Zain Retherford are the favorites to make the finals in this bracket based on their past freestyle results and placement in this bracket. Retherford is sitting at the #4 seed and will have a tough match in the quarter-finals against Doug Zapf, who had a fantastic US Open (Zapf placed 3rd with wins over Sammy Sasso and Anthony Ashnault). Should Retherford get by Zapf, he’ll likely face #1 seed Alec Pantaleo to earn a spot in Final X. Retherford has owned the head-to-head series against Pantaleo with 1 freestyle win (3-2 in September 2020) and 3 in folkstyle. 

On the bottom side, Ryan Deakin and Jordan Oliver are the big favorites and should meet in the semis. Since 2019, Deakin has proven to be the second-best 70-kg wrestler in the United States taking second at Final X in 2019 and at the 2021 WTT behind James Green. On top of those finishes, Deakin has head-to-head wins over James Green, David Carr, Doug Zapf, and Alec Pantaleo. With Green retired, Deakin is in a great position to take over the 70kg spot.

Other Contenders
Alec Pantaleo and Jordan Oliver might be slight underdogs to Retherford and Deakin but they’re still capable of making their way to the finals. Pantaleo owns past wins over the #8 and #9 seeds in Berger and Ashnault and will be a big favorite to make the semis where, as mentioned, he’ll likely face Retherford. Pantaleo has notably closed the gap against Zain since they met in college and is a much better freestyle wrestler compared to folkstyle. On top of that, Pantaleo’s international results at 70kg have been the best of any wrestler in this group with gold medal performances at the 2020 Cerro Pelado, 2021 Matteo Pellicone, 2021 Pan-Am Championships, and 2021 Poland Open earning him the #14 spot in our international rankings.

Jordan Oliver has been in the top 3-4 at 65kg or 70kg for the past 10 years and this tournament should be no different. Coming off winning the Olympic Trials at 65kg, Oliver has run into a bit of adversity up at 70kg. He failed to place at the 2022 Yasar Dogu and lost consecutive matches to Alec Pantaleo. That adversity might just be Oliver adjusting to moving up in weight and we should expect to see Oliver in the semis against Deakin in what should be a very competitive match. 

Pantaleo's win over Jordan Oliver in the finals of the 2022 US Open:

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Sleepers And Landmines
Tyler Berger and Doug Zapf are perfect for this category. Though Berger is the #8 seed, he has past wins over #1 seed Alec Pantaleo and #2 seed Ryan Deakin. Berger will still have to navigate a tough draw through Ashnault, Retherford, and Pantaleo but don’t be surprised if Berger makes some noise in this bracket.

Zapf was the surprise of the US Open beating both Anthony Ashnault and Sammy Sasso and losing a close, 3-2 decision to Alec Pantaleo. Was that performance a fluke? Zapf will get a chance to prove it wasn’t with his match against Retherford in the quarter-finals. While we’re all circling the Pantaleo-Retherford semi, Doug Zapf is capable of spoiling that party and blowing up the top side of this bracket. 

Doug Zapf's win over Anthony Ashnault at the 2022 US Open:

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Prediction:
Final X Matchup: Zain Retherford vs Ryan Deakin
3rd place: Alec Pantaleo over Jordan Oliver


74 kg

Sitting In Final X: Kyle Dake

Seeds:

  1. Jason Nolf
  2. Josh Shields
  3. Tommy Gantt
  4. David Carr
  5. Collin Purinton
  6. Peter Pappas
  7. Joey Lavallee

The Favorite
Jason Nolf is one of the biggest favorites of any men’s freestyle wrestler at the world team trials. Nolf has had a fantastic start to his 2022 season after taking silver at the Yarygin in January and winning the US Open. At the Yarygin, Nolf pinned 2021 world bronze medalist Timur Bizhoev (RUS) before losing to U23 world champion Cherman Valiev. On top of the performances this year, Nolf has past wins over everyone in this bracket except Collin Purinton (they’ve never wrestled) and will only have to defeat David Carr to reach the finals. Nolf notably teched Carr at the Olympic trials last year, 10-0.

Nolf's win over Josh Shields in the finals of the 2022 US Open:

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Other Contenders
Josh Shields and Tommy Gantt will be big favorites to meet Jason Nolf in the finals. Shields defeated Gantt in the semis at the US Open in an entertaining 11-7 match. Expect those two wrestlers to meet again in the semis for the right to wrestle Nolf in the finals. 

Sleepers And Landmines
David Carr at the #4 seed is the best bet to shake up this bracket. As mentioned, Carr lost last year to Jason Nolf at the Olympic Trials, 11-0 but has incredibly freestyle skills exhibited by his run to a junior world title in 2019. Expect Carr to make adjustments against Nolf in their semi-final and make the match much more competitive. 

Prediction:
Finals: Jason Nolf over Josh Shields
3rd place: David Carr over Tommy Gantt


79 kg

Sitting In Final X: Jordan Burroughs

Seeds:

  1. David McFadden
  2. Vincenzo Joseph
  3. Alex Dieringer
  4. Carter Starocci
  5. Chance Marsteller
  6. Isaiah Martinez
  7. Taylor Lujan
  8. Nick Reenan
  9. Brayden Thompson

The Contenders
79kg, like 65kg, is a weight that has too many contenders to pick a clear favorite. Essentially every wrestler in the top 7 has traded wins and losses over the last year making matches from the quarter-finals incredibly difficult to predict. McFadden is coming off an incredible US Open where he defeated Isaiah Martinez, Chance Marsteller, and Vincenzo Joseph in successive matches. McFadden will be a big favorite to make the semis where he’ll face the winner of Carter Starocci and Chance Marstetller. Starocci will be the favorite in that match based on his 7-0 win over Marsteller at last year’s world team trials. 

The bottom side will likely come down to a rematch between Vincenzo Joseph and Alex Dieringer in the semi-finals. At the US Open, Dieringer was leading 6-3 before Joseph hit a lat drop with less than 30 seconds to take the 7-6 lead. Joseph was able to hold on for the upset over Dieringer but will need to repeat that performance to make the finals. 

It’s also worth noting that Alex Dieringer and Isaiah Martinez will meet in the quarter-finals as the #3 and #6 seeds. Dieringer has controlled this series with 3 wins over Imar dating back to 2017 and the most recent coming at the Rudis Super Match event. In that match, Dieringer bested Martinez in a tight, 4-1 decision. Look for their quarter-final match to be a similar, low-scoring bout decided by a few points.

McFadden shares on his US Open title and potential Final X match with Burroughs:

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Sleepers And Landmines
Taylor Lujan is the biggest landmine in this bracket. Lujan holds past wins over #1 seed David McFadden and #4 seed Carter Starocci but has losses to #2 seed Vincenzo Joseph and #6 seed Isaiah Martinez. Though Joseph teched Lujan at the US Open, Lujan has frequently had up-and-down performances throughout his career and is capable of defeating anyone in this bracket when wrestling his best.

Lujan's win over Starocci at the 2021 World Team Trials:

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Prediction:
Finals: Alex Dieringer over Carter Starocci
3rd place: Chance Marsteller over Vincenzo Joseph

86 kg

Sitting In Final X: David Taylor

Seeds:

  1. Mark Hall
  2. Zahid Valencia
  3. Pat Downey
  4. Trent Hidlay
  5. Drew Foster
  6. Marcus Coleman
  7. Owen Webster
  8. Caden Steffen
  9. Caleb Hopkins
  10. Julien Broderson
  11. Andrew Morgan

The Favorite
Zahid Valencia is the clear favorite in this bracket with head-to-head freestyle wins over Mark Hall and Pat Downey. Valencia teched Downey at the Olympic Trials (11-1) and has 2 past freestyle wins over Hall - 5-0 at the 2019 world team trials and 11-0 at the 2021 Matteo Pellicone. Valencia will be a big favorite to cruise to the best of 3 finals at the trials and should be considered the biggest challenge in this bracket to take on David Taylor at Final X. 

Zahid's win over Mark Hall at the 2021 Matteo Pellicone:

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Other Contenders
As a cadet and two-time junior world champion, Mark Hall was one of USA’s brightest freestyle prospects in recent memory. He hasn’t yet experienced the same level of success on the senior level but he also hasn’t competed much over the past two years. After his dominant performance at the US Open, Mark Hall is looking better than ever at 86kg and this could be the tournament where Hall jumps to the next level. 

Along with Hall, Pat Downey and Trent Hidlay should be considered major contenders in this bracket. Downey placed 4th at last year’s Olympic Trials where he lost only to Bo Nickal and Zahid Valencia but defeated Aaron Brooks by tech fall. Trent Hidlay placed third at last year’s world team trials (at 92kg) where he only lost to Kollin Moore (5-4) and defeated both Myles Martin (9-5) and Drew Foster (8-1). Of any wrestler in this bracket, Hidlay could have the tools to knock off Zahid Valencia and make a run to Final X. 

Mark Hall's win over Trent Hidlay at 2021 Senior Nationals:

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Sleepers And Landmines
Marcus Coleman at the #6 seed is a great pick for a sleeper - especially considering his quarter-final matchup is set to go down against Downey. We have no idea what Downey’s training situation has been and Coleman has been wrestling better than ever over the past year. He won his first All-American honors taking 7th at NCAAs and then finished 2nd at the US Open in April.

Prediction:
Finals: Zahid Valencia over Mark Hall
3rd Place: Trent Hidlay over Drew Foster

92 kg

Sitting In Final X: J’den Cox

Seeds:

  1. Cam Caffey
  2. Nate Jackson
  3. Jay Aiello
  4. Isaac Trumble
  5. Max Shaw
  6. Levi Hopkins
  7. Michael Battista

The Favorite
Nate Jackson made the semi-finals of the world team trials last year where he lost a back-and-forth battle to Kollin Moore. With Moore up at 97 kg, look for Nate Jackson to be the man to beat in this bracket and the favorite to earn a Final X bid against J’den Cox. 

Other Contenders
Cam Caffey, Jay Aiello, and Isaac Trumble are wrestlers who could challenge to make the finals and are slight underdogs to Jackson to make Final X. Caffey got the best of Trumble in the US Open finals in a back-and-forth, 11-7 match and will need to replicate that performance to make it to Sunday's best of three finals.

Aiello was up at 97kg at the US Open where he placed third, only losing to runner-up Joe Rau. Aiello also notably made the U23 world team last year bringing home a bronze medal from the U23 world championships. Outside of the U23 run and US Open, Aiello has very limited results on the senior level and this could be the tournament where he surprises many of the top competitors at 92kg. 

Highlights of Caffey's win over Trumble in the 2022 US Open Finals:

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Sleepers And Landmines
With only 7 wrestlers in this bracket, you only have 3 wrestlers to choose from when it comes to a sleeper or landmine. As the third-place finisher at the US Open, Max Shaw is the best option to pick from to make a deep run in this bracket.

Prediction:
Finals: Nate Jackson over Isaac Trumble
3rd Place: Jay Aiello over Cam Caffey


97 kg

Sitting In Final X: Kyle Snyder

Seeds:

  1. Mike Macchiavello
  2. Kollin Moore
  3. Timothy Dudley
  4. Samuel Mitchell
  5. Ethan Laird
  6. Duncan Lee
  7. Jason Carter

The Favorites
Kollin Moore and Mike Macchiavello have traded wins over the past 2 years and are the clear favorites to win the trials to take on Kyle Snyder at Final X. In December 2020, Macchiavello won a 6-6, last-second match over Moore at the RTC Cup. Then at the Olympic Trials, Kollin Moore defeated Macchiavello by tech fall, 10-0, to make the Olympic Trials Finals. That outcome certainly makes Kollin Moore a slight favorite but, should they make the finals, expect these matches to be a highly competitive, best of 3 series.

Macchiavello's win over Moore at the RTC Cup

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Other Contenders
Tim Dudley took 4th place at the US Open losing only to Mike Macchiavello in a competitive, 5-2 bout. Dudley will be on the opposite side of the bracket from Macchiavello and will likely meet Moore in the semi-finals. While Moore has had better results recently, it’s worth noting Dudley defeated Kollin Moore 11-5 back at the 2019 US Open. 

Dudley's win over Moore from the 2019 US Open:

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Prediction:
Finals: Kollin Moore over Mike Macchiavello
3rd Place: Joe Rau over TJ Dudley


125 kg

Seeds:

  1. Hayden Zillmer
  2. Nick Gwiazdowski
  3. Tony Cassioppi
  4. Dom Bradley
  5. Ty Walz
  6. Kyven Gadson
  7. Demetrius Thomas
  8. Lucas Davison
  9. Jordan Wood
  10. Christian Lance
  11. Derek White
  12. Ceron Francisco

The Favorite
Two-time world bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski is looking to make his 5th world team since 2017. The only Americans who have a win over Gwiz in that time frame, Gable Steveson and Mason Parris, are not entered in this bracket making Gwiz the clear top dog in this bracket. Standing in Gwiazdowski’s way to make Final X will likely be the #3 seed, Tony Cassioppi. The two met in November of 2020 and May of 2021 where Gwiz won both meetings - 10-0 and 12-0. All of that points to one thing - Gwiazdowski is in the driver's seat to make another world team and challenger for a medal at the 2022 World Championships. 

Gwiazdowski's win over Cassioppi in the finals of the 2021 Senior Nationals:

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Other Contenders
Hayden Zillmer, Tony Cassioppi, and Dom Bradley will all be threats to make Final X. Zillmer earned the #1 seed by winning the US Open and defeating Dom Bradley in the finals, 2-2. On top of that win, Zillmer defeated Bradley twice at last year’s world team trials - 4-2 and 5-3. 

While Tony Cassioppi has lost to Gwiz twice, we’ve seen him make major improvements highlighted by his 2 All-American finishes and his U23 world title from last November. Cassioppi should be able to close the gap against Gwiazdowski and should be considered the greatest threat to unseat Gwiz from his hold on 125kg. 

Hear from Hayden Zillmer's after his 2022 US Open Title:

Hayden Zillmer Top Super HWT At US Open


Sleepers And Landmines
Kyven Gadson has been the #2 97kg wrestler for essentially 5 years but is now registered at 125kg. How will Gadson perform up in weight? That’s the question that begs to be answered and reason Gadson is the biggest dark horse in this bracket. Gadson will have #11 seed Derek White in the round of 16 and then will wrestle Cassioppi in the quarters. If Gadson can match the size and strength of some of these heavyweights, he’ll absolutely be capable of placing above his seed and making a deep run in this bracket.

Predictions:
Final X Matchup: Nick Gwiazdowski vs Hayden Zillmer
3rd Place: Dom Bradley over Ty Walz