The United States men’s freestyle world team is set for the 2023 UWW World Championships, which take place September 16-24 in Belgrade, Serbia.
Out of the 10 weight classes, the United States will send six world team members to their first ever world championships, as multiple world medalists for team USA lost and fell short of being a 2023 world team member.
Here is a recap of what went down at Final X this weekend:
Zane Richards defeated World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist Thomas Gilman two matches to none, and will represent the United States at 57kg for the World Championships.
In two previous meetings, Richards was teched twice by Gilman and only scored two points in their two bouts. However, Richards found the answer he was searching for and battled through to knock off Gilman twice in a row Saturday night.
Gilman finds a lot of his success by pressuring forward and forcing his opponents to retreat, however it was Richards pressing the pace in their two bouts.
Richards did an excellent job defending Gilman’s renowned head-inside single leg, and was even countering Gilman to open up his own offense.
It seemed to look like Gilman’s cardio started to fade towards both of each matches, which could have been caused by the weight cut, or that Richards gassed him out. Either way, it was convincing victories and Richards has continued his roll onto the United States World Team.
Vito Arujau will represent the United States at 61kg in Serbia, after defeating Nashon Garrett in two straight matches at Final X.
Garrett was an interesting matchup for Arujau, and the two had prior experience with Arujau getting the best of him.
Vito showed everyone why he’s been able to defeat Garrett before, and looked really sharp in competitive matches. Arujau’s speed has been the difference maker in each of his bouts, and continues to get better and better as he gains more experience on the international scene.
In match two at Final X, Arujau and Garrett’s bout ended up scoring a total of 23 combined points, which went back and forth for a full six minutes of electric wrestling.
Arujau will be a really solid option for the U.S. for the World Championships, and continues to prove why he will thrive on the international scene.
Nick Lee put the country on notice with back to back nail-biting victories over World silver medalist Yianni Diakomihalis.
In their first bout, Nick Lee was able to get to his attacks throughout the whole bout, and had a sizable lead before Yianni made it close near the end of the second period.
There’s some controversy about Lee’s first points scored on Yianni early on in the first period, where both wrestlers were awarded two points in a move that seemed to be initiated by Diakomihalis. That could have drastically changed the outcome of the bout, however Lee responded with another victory in their second bout.
Nick Lee will compete in his first World Championships in Serbia, and has a great opportunity to find himself on the podium for Team USA.
World silver medalist Zain Retherford is back for his fourth world team for USA, as he defeated Tyler Berger in two straight matches at Final X.
Although things got a bit chippy after the result of their first bout, Zain stayed composed and narrowly beat Berger in their second bout 4-3.
It was all Retherford in their first bout, winning 11-2. Zain’s pace and pressure overwhelmed Berger in their first bout, which led to Berger head-butting Retherford with just seconds left in the first bout.
Retherford got cut open badly, and responded with some words to Berger after the bout. Retherford would then beat Burger again and claim his spot at 70kg for Team USA.
In a series that featured two wrestlers from the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, four-time World Champion Kyle Dake will return to 74kg for his sixth appearance at the World Championships.
Dake shutout Jason Nolf 6-0 and then 3-0 in two matches to make the World Team, and defensively looks better than ever. Dake was able to easily shut down Nolf and his attacks, and scored when he needed to.
Dake will look to win back-to-back World Championships again like he did in 2018 and 2019, and seems to be the favorite to do so again.
In the most entertaining series at Final X, Chance Marsteller did the impossible and knocked off seven-time World and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs in an epic three matches.
After dropping the first bout due to a singlet pull, Marsteller rallied and defeated Burroughs in two consecutive matches to earn a spot on his first World Team.
One of the most controversial calls in the entire event came in match three between Marsteller and Burroughs, where Marsteller was rewarded four points with just 30 seconds left in the bout to give Marsteller an 8-3 lead.
Initially, Burroughs was awarded the points but was then reversed after the judges reviewed the sequence. Marsteller’s foot was halfway in the circle, which was all he needed to be awarded four points for his throw that went out of bounds. Burroughs and Slay were arguing that Marsteller stepped out prior to him initiating the throw, but after review his foot was barely in the circle and it would give Marsteller the points.
Despite all the controversy, Marsteller will be the representative for the United States at 79kg for the World Championships in Belgrade.
The Magicman David Taylor is back for his fifth World/Olympic team, and won in two bouts over teammate Aaron Brooks at Final X.
In their first bout, it was all Taylor as he won 6-0. Taylor was picking apart Brooks and shut down Brooks’ attacks. However, their second bout was much closer as Taylor narrowly won 5-4.
This shouldn’t be such a big topic considering the two train in the same room together, and were training partners when Taylor was previously competing at Final X in years prior.
Taylor will be the favorite to win the World Title at 86kg in Serbia, and the Magicman looks fit to do so once again.
Zahid Valencia dominated his way to his first World Team with two convincing wins over Mike Macchiavello at Final X.
Valencia took the first bout 8-0, and then capped it off with a 9-2 victory in their second bout. Valencia’s speed was a serious problem for Macchiavello, and it looks like Valencia is in the perfect spot to succeed.
After missing out on a World Team in past years, Valencia now has his shot to earn a medal for the United States in Serbia.
Kyle Snyder will once again be the representative for the United States at 97kg, as J’den Cox unfortunately could not compete due to injury.
At weigh-ins, Cox was spotted on crutches and seemed to have injured his left foot/ankle leading up to Final X.
This was projected to be the most exciting series as the two have a combined four world titles between them.
Olympic Champion Gable Steveson will be heading to his first World Championships after defeating Mason Parris in two straight matches at Final X on Saturday.
Steveson handled Parris 6-2 in their first bout, and then shut out Parris 5-0 in their second bout. Parris, the 2023 Hodge Trophy Winner, fell short in dethroning the Olympic champ.
Although Parris did earn a takedown in the first match, it was all Steveson in convincing fashion throughout both bouts.