The U23 and Cadet (16-17 yr old) World Team Trials took place in Akron, Ohio this weekend. Formerly known as “University Nationals”, the U23 tournament consisted mostly of college athletes, but had several high school seniors and unattached wrestlers competing as well. The winners of this tournament will represent America at the U23 World Championships, which take place October 28th – November 3rd in Budapest, Hungary. There is a freestyle and greco bracket, and some participated in both. Pitt/Pittsburgh Wrestling Club sent 15, all of whom wrestled freestyle:
57kg Brendon Fenton, 61 Garrett Reinsfelder/Micky Phillippi/Louis Newell, 65 Cole Matthews, 70 Dallas Bulsak/Luke Kemerer, 74 Hunter Kernan/Taleb Rahmani/Will Kaldes, 79 Tommy O’Brien, 86 David Crawford/Gregg Harvey/Nino Bonaccorsi, 92 none, 97 none, 125 Cole Rickert.
Micky Phillippi, Cole Matthews, Taleb Rahmani, and Nino Bonaccorsi each placed top eight in their respective weight class.
Micky was the closest to making the World Team, finishing second behind Cornell junior Chaz Tucker. Tucker was also bested at NCAAs by Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State to give perspective.
Phillippi started as the 7th seed. His wins to make the finals were mostly dominant: 14-4, 12-2, 13-4, 4-1, and 16-13 in the semis. However, he was shutout in both matches of the 2 of 3 finals, losing 4-0 and 10-0 to Tucker.
Cole Matthews may have given Pitt fans a taste of what’s to come. He won his first two bouts 10-0 before losing to Jose Rodriguez in the round of 32 (yes, that means he started in the round of 128. It’s a big tournament).
In the consolations he rattled off seven straight wins. One was via forfeit over Dom Demas, but Matthews proved he belonged in the subsequent round by beating Michigan senior Kanen Storr. The freshman Matthews lost the third place match, but made a statement that he’s ready for the next level.
Taleb didn’t start off well. He lost to Evan Barczak in the round of 64, but did not lose his determination though. Taleb responded with eight straight wins in the consis, including a 12-6 victory over Penn freshman Anthony Artalona. Rahmani and Artalona both lost in the Bloodround at NCAAs this year.
After losing in the consi-semis to Ohio State junior Elijah Cleary, Taleb avenged his first round loss at NCAAs to Justin Thomas (OU) to earn a fifth place finish.
Nino won his first three matches 10-0. As the four seed, he squared off in the quarters vs the five seed Hunter Bolen (Va Tech). Bolen is a highly regarded wrestler and was the ACC Freshman of the Year in 2018. Something tells me these two will be wrestling many more times.
The Pitt Panther won 8-8 on criteria, setting up a semifinal match with Max Dean. Like his teammate, Nino had a chance to avenge a loss from NCAAs this year, but came up just short. Dean squeaked out a 10-9 win, and went on to sweep the finals.
Nino was that close to making the U23 Team.
A full list of Pitt results can be found by clicking on this link, choosing “Teams & Competitors” and then Pittsburgh Wrestling Club:
Pitt fans should be excited about this weekend. There were many positive developments, not least of which Cole Matthews could make an immediate impact.
Opinion: I really like that coach Gavin is stressing freestyle by taking most of the roster. It will pay dividends.