More people from Indiana have Googled Estonia over the past few days than ever before and with good reason. After this weekend Indiana will have four representatives at the Junior World Championships in Tallinn, Estonia. For those of you that want a little geography lesson, Tallinn is the largest city and capital of Estonia. Estonia is a country that has about 1.3 million people and is about half the size of Indiana. It is a very historical city and sits on the Baltic Sea. Wikipedia has a lot of great information Tallinn and Estonia, just click here for that info.
Now onto the wrestling part, which is why you’re here. Last week Alara Boyd was dominant in her quest to make her first Junior World Team at Women’s Nationals in Texas. After medaling twice as a cadet she is looking for her third world medal in as many tries this year.
The men duked it out this weekend in Raleigh this past weekend looking to join Boyd in Tallinn. Lucas Davison had an immense advantage sitting out until the second day already in the best of three finals. Brayton Lee was the top seed in the challenge tournament in an extremely deep weight class. Lastly, Mason Parris decided a couple weeks ago to start training for the event and with his Fargo placement last year was given the three seed. The tournament brackets were small due to a limited number of qualifiers. Most brackets were 8 man or less with a couple that had around 10 competitors.
Parris’ path to Estonia was quite unique to say the least. Not only was entering the trials a late decision, the top two wrestlers from the Junior Open did not come to the trials. That left the weight wide open as Anthony Cassioppi was considered a big favorite to win the weight.
Parris had one match on Saturday where he defeated Virginia Tech’s John Borst 7-4. That put him in the best of three finals against Wiconsin’s Trent Hillger with whom he defeated during the NCAA season. In the first match of the best of three series Hillger topped Parris 7-6 after a late flurry of action that almost gave Parris the win. The second an third matches were quite different as Mason go after it early with a tech fall in the second match and a pin in about a minute in the last match.
Lucas Davison saw North Carolina’s Brandon Whitman in the finals. Whitman was an NCAA qualifier last year for the Tar Heels as a true freshman. Davison dominated the first match 9-0 with a big 8 point first period. In the second match he wrestled a little more conservatively and won 5-0. Not only will Davison have Indiana friends on the Junior World Team, his Wildcat teammate Yahya Thomas is also on the team.
Brayton Lee had quite the weekend to say the least. Brayton employed quite a unique strategy all weekend long and while it took a few more hairs off his dad Brett’s head it worked out well in the end. He started Friday out with a late tech fall of Justin McCoy who wrestles for Virginia. After that match the drama began. In the challenge bracket semi-finals he faced off with rival Jacori Teemer. They have wrestled three times before and every match was pure pandemonium. This match would be no different. Teemer raced out to a 7-0 lead in the first period on a couple snatch singles and pushout. At the start of the second period something changed…that being Lee broke the ice. He scored 12 straight points to take the lead and ended up winning 12-9.
In the bracket finals Lee had Peyton Robb who was a redshirt for Nebraska last year. This time Robb raced out to an 8-2 lead late in the first period before rattling of four late points to close the gap to 8-6 at the break. The second period once again was all Lee as he racked up 11 more points to win 17-6.
Next up for Lee would be Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso who made quick work of him in Vegas. Lee was prepared to not give up a leg lace, but early on may have forgotten about leg defense. Sasso came out hungry and was up 6-0 after the first period. Another early score in the second period it looked like the match would be cut early due to a tech fall. However, Mr. Lee had other plans. He kept the pressure on and started to crack the ice with constant pressure and heavy hands. Lee started with one takedown, then another with a turn, then a pushout and for good measure two more takedowns to eventually break Sasso. The final score was 11-8 after 11 straight points by Lee.
The final match had a little less drama as you could tell Sasso was still tired both mentally and physically from the first one. Sasso got an early push-out, but Lee rattled off another 8 points to win convincingly 8-1 and earn his trip to Tallinn. On the weekend Lee scored 47 points in the second period while only allowing 7(3 to McCoy and 2 each to Teemer and Sasso).
This year is the third time we have had multiple representatives in the same age group and style at a World Championships. The two other times were when Angel Escobedo and Reece Humphrey both represented the USA at the University Championships in 2010 and the Senior Championships in 2013. Before this weekend Indiana has had six others qualify for the Junior World Championships: Leroy Vega(1999), Matt Coughlin(2006), Angel Escobedo(2007), Andrew Howe(2009), Jason Tsirtsis(2013), and Stevan Micic(2015). Micic and Howe both brought home bronze medals.
On the senior side of things three Indiana natives had solid days on the mat. Kayla Miracle fresh off claiming her third straight spot on a U23 team made quick work of Desiree Zavala spending less than two minutes on the mat total in two matches. She pinned Zavala in 1:10 in the first match and almost broke a sweat in a 34 second tech in the second. She clinched a spot in Final X where she will face Mallory Velte in the best of three series for a spot on the senior world team. Last year Velte won the series in three matches and went on to win a bronze medal at the World Championships.
On the men’s side of things Riley Lefever and Ben Harvey came into the challenge bracket as a 5 and 7 seed respectively. Both exceeded seed expectations and placed 3rd and 4th. For Lefever he lost to Ohio State’s Kollin Moore in his first bout. He beat three-time All-American Tim Dudley in his first consolation match then avenged his loss to Moore for 3rd place.
Harvey faced Mark Hall first round and dropped that match. He defeated Stacey Davis and Geno Morelli in the consolations before falling to Nick Becker in the 3rd place bout.
Overall Indiana had a great few days on the mat and will be well represented at the world level. Currently we have five representatives on teams with the cadet teams determined in a couple weeks and both Hildebrandt and Miracle two wins from earning their spots at Final X. Both girls will be at Final X in Lincoln on June 15th.