Pittsburgh Wrestling Club resident athlete Nico Megaludis and current Pittsburgh Panther Nino Bonaccorsi competed at the senior World Team Trials for freestyle May 18-19 in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Megaludis wrestled at 61kg (134.2 pounds) and Bonaccorsi at 86kg (189.2 pounds).
After placing second at the US Open, Megaludis earned the No. 1 seed, with Cody Brewer (US Open champ) having a bye to finals, and returning World Bronze medalist Joe Colon waiting in Final X (more on that later). After a bye in the first round, Nico teched his next two opponents: All American from NC State Sean Fausz and NCAA Champion from Iowa Tony Ramos.
After losing to Nico in the semis 11-1, Ramos, a four-time All American and two-time World Team member ceremoniously retired as all great wrestlers do.
Tony Ramos falls in the semis, then leaves his shoes in the middle of the mat. pic.twitter.com/RxaMYdSLbb
— FloWrestling (@FloWrestling) May 18, 2019
This set up a finals match with four-time All American from Wisconsin Tyler Graff.
Graff used an early takedown and ankle lace to go up 6-0. Nico scored two pushouts and a takedown in the second period to make it 6-4 with about a minute left. Graff’s defense was too tough, and he held off Nico’s relentless attack.
Because Nico didn’t wrestle Brewer in this tournament, he was allowed to challenge him for true second. This is crucial, as the top three at each weight make the US National Team. Colon and Graff were now the top two, so the final spot would be decided between the two former NCAA champs.
After being down 8-2 at the break, Nico used a takedown and four consecutive turns to put up ten points. He ended the match with another takedown and turn to tech Brewer 18-8 and earn his spot on the National Team for the second straight year at 61kg.
Bonaccorsi’s tournament did not fare as well. He earned the No. 8 seed, which meant he drew the No. 1 seed in the quarters, NCAA finalist Nick Heflin.
The match ended in the first period, with Heflin getting the 10-0 tech. Nino’s second bout did not differ much. Two-time All American from Indiana Nate Jackson also teched him 10-0 in the first period.
I happened to run in to a well-known wrestling expert at the grocery store on Sunday. I won’t name him because I didn’t ask if he wanted to be in the article. But we talked about Nino and he summed it up well (paraphrasing): He’s supposed to lose those matches, but he was there getting better. That’s all that matters.
Third String National team
The “third string” of the 2019 US Freestyle National team has been determined. I use quotes because if this was a college lineup, it would not only be the favorite to win NCAAs, but also to break the team points record.
57 Darian Cruz
61 Nico Megaludis
65 Frank Molinaro
70 Anthony Ashnault
74 Jason Nolf
79 Zahid Valencia
86 Nick Heflin
92 Mike Macchiavello
97 Ty Walz
125 Tony Nelson
Two years ago USA Wrestling installed an extra layer to determine the World Team and dubbed it Final X. It was to take place several weeks after the WTT to give the athletes a rest, and to create hype and sell tickets to an extra event. So far it has been a great success. The two locations this year are Rutgers, NJ on June 8th, and Lincoln, NE June 15th.
The matchups are as follows with the wrestler who had the bye listed first.
57 Daton Fix vs Thomas Gilman
61 Joe Colon vs Tyler Graff
65 Yianni Diakomihalis vs Zain Retherford
70 Ryan Deakin vs James Green
74 Jordan Burroughs vs Isaiah Martinez
79 Kyle Dake vs Alex Dieringer
86 David Taylor vs Pat Downey III
92 J’den Cox vs Bo Nickal
97 Kyle Snyder vs Kyven Gadson
125 Nick Gwiazdowski vs Gable Steveson
National Team Trends
I have been looking at the National Team over the last five years and noticed a few trends.
Only five wrestlers have made the National Team five consecutive years. James Green, each at 70kg, Jordan Burroughs, each at 74kg, Kyle Dake, twice at 74, once at 86kg, and twice at 79kg, David Taylor, once at 74 and four times at 86, and Kyle Snyder, each at 97kg.
Green, Burroughs, and Snyder are the only three who have made five consecutive World Teams.
Only Logan Stieber (61 and 65) and J’den Cox (86 and 92) have made the World Team at different weights. They are both World champs, but only Cox has medaled at more than one weight.
65kg has had the most representatives, with at least four. From 2015-2018 it was Brent Metcalf, Frank Molinaro, Zain Retherford, Logan Stieber. It will be five straight if Yianni makes the team this year.
57kg has only been repped by Iowa grads. Ramos, Ramos, Dan Dennis, Thomas Gilman. Gilman may keep that streak alive in a few weeks, but Ok St Cowboy Daton Fix may have something to say about that.
Only two Pennsylvania natives have been on the World Team in the last five years. Jake Herbert in 2015 and Retherford in 2017. Zain is the state’s only chance this year.
In 2015 however, all three at 86 were PA natives. Herbert, Ed Ruth, Keith Gavin.
No matter who wins the ten Final X matches, this is shaping up to be one of the best World Teams in US history.
IMAR and Dieringer wrestled the sharpest, cleanest, and most explosive I have ever seen them. They will both be a threat.
It’s looking like Jordan Oliver will never make a World Team.
How big is the gap between senior level and D1 college? Look no further than what Dieringer did to Zahid. It is as big as the gap between D1 and high school. Ok, almost.
The US has several weight classes with multiple guys who could medal. 57, 65, 74, 79, 92, and 125 are the most obvious. Heck, 79 could have four guys in that discussion. This is awesome for USA Wrestling. It is a sign of how far the program has advanced in the last decade, and a promise of good things to come.
Russia’s depth is still staggeringly better though. Check out the latest rankings: