There is a lot of buzz surrounding the 2015 Las Vegas Senior Open this weekend, but the Junior National tournament looks to be packed with a lot of talent as well. Six Iowa natives will look to try their hand at the tournament, where they will try and improve their odds to for the Junior World Team Trials later this summer. Winners of the tournament can go on to a best of three finals in Madison. Five in addition to the Iowa natives, five wrestlers from UNI/ISU will also be competing at the tournament.
Nolan Hellickson (Southeast Polk) – the 2015 top 100 recruit and state champion Hellickson will enter into a tough bracket at 55 kg, but it’s a weight that has had an Iowan as the Junior World Team member for the last two years. Hellickson has been a big part of the Southeast Polk team that was the 2015 state dual and traditional tournament champs. Hellickson is accomplished on the mat and in the classroom, as he is headed to one of the nation’s top academic institutions, Harvard.
Tanner Rohweder (Iowa City West) – Another talented Iowa senior, Rohweder entered the state tournament as the #2 ranked wrestler at 120 pounds with only top 20 in the nation Jacob Schwarm ahead of him. The pair met in the quarterfinals at in Des Moines, which led to Rohweder having to wrestle all the way back for third.
The big favorites of this weight are Northwestern’s Stevan Micic and Oregon State’s Ronnie Bresser. Micic finished third at last year’s Junior World Team Trials losing by injury default in the challenge tournament finals. Bresser finished his season for Oregon State, where he was a PAC-12 champion and went 2-2 at the NCAA tournament. The top high school prospect is Ohio State bound Austin Assad, who InterMat has ranked #10 at 126 pounds, seven spots ahead of Hellickson.
Colton McCrystal (Sergeant Bluff/Nebraska) – former Iowa high school state champion McCrystal will take his crack at 60 kg after redshirting in his second season at Nebraska. McCrystal had a rough true freshman year splitting time between 133 and 141 where he put together a 16-15 record. This past season he improved upon his record going 24-5 while competing in six open tournaments. He won three open titles: Nebraska-Kearney Holiday Inn Open, York College Open and Briar Cliff Open, and tied for a fourth at the Hastings Cusatis Open.
Josh Alber (Northern Iowa) – the four-time Illinois state champion Alber, who was semi-late in registering, will now be considered one of the favorites to claim the Junior National title. Alber came to Doug Schwab in Cedar Falls already highly talented and was a multiple high school All-American, in addition to being Illinois’s only undefeated four-time state champion in state history. Alber redshirted this past season for UNI, but one of his big wins was over eventual MAC champion Zach Synon of Missouri. Alber is a game changer at this weight, and could make some serious noise.
This weight is noticeably missing it’s top junior competitor, Joey McKenna and that’s because he is wrestling in the Senior division. McKenna is a Junior World silver medalist and has moved into the USA’s top three national rankings. Without the clear favorite in McKenna, McCrystal and Alber are expected to receive heavy contention from Kaid Brock and Luke Pletcher, both being accomplished high school wrestlers. A year ago Brock finished fourth at the Junior World Team Trials at 55 kg behind Junior bronze medalist Thomas Gilman, Nathan Tomasello, and Stevan Micic.
Dante Rodriguez (Iowa State) – After winning a spot on last year’s Greco-Roman team, Rodriguez will look to try his hand in freestyle this season as well. The Iowa State freshman put together a great first season in Ames, so great he replaced John Meeks in the starting lineup. He finished his year with over 20 wins, and was the Big 12 runner-up. Rodriguez knows how to rack up points, as 15 of his wins came by way of bonus. Rodriguez is also expected to compete in the Greco-Roman Junior nationals.
Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer (Iowa State) – Another one fo the Greco first wrestlers for coach Kevin Jackson to try their hand in freestyle, Rodriguez-Spencer was a high school national champion in Greco, and was also an All-American in freestyle. He spent most of his season up at 149 pound for the Cyclones, but it looks like his is dropping a few pounds for Junior Nationals.
Ryan Schuman (Iowa State) – Schuman saw rather limited action in his first season, only tallying eight matches to put together a 4-4 record. He was a three-time state champion from South Dakota and the 2014 Dave Schultz winner for his state.
This is a weight that is unbelievably loaded, for one 18 year old phenom Aaron Pico has already established himself as being one of the best wrestlers in not only the United States, but has already been making waves on the World level in the Senior division. Pico’s main nemesis was/is Cadet World champion Zain Retherford, who as a true freshman managed to beat Logan Stieber and placed sixth as a freshman at the NCAA tournament. Retherford will be the favorite at Junior nationals, and the Junior Trials if Pico stays in the Senior’s division – but it appears Pico is wrestling Juniors.
Logan Breitenbach (Iowa State) – This will be a tough weight for Breitenbach to come into, as it is headlined by some of the nations best young talent. Breitenbach had a pretty good redshirt season, taking second at the Kaye Young Open to his teammate Mike Moreno, and fourth at the UNI Open. As mentioned, this weight will have a ton of young talent like one of the top 2015 recruits Logan Massa, Cadet World Champion Mark Hall, former high school sensation Chance Marstellar, and Joe Smith son of six-time World and Olympic champion John Smith.
Marcus Harrington (Iowa State) – Harrington, who registered yesterday, comes in as the favorite of a weight that looked pretty thin prior to his arrival. Harrington was a state champion at Waterloo West at 195 pounds, but decided to go up to 220 pound in search of a challenge at Fargo. Sadly, it looked like no one wanted to challenge him, as he cruised through the freestyle bracket to claim one of two Iowa national titles. Harrington has spent the last season at 197 pounds learning from his teammate and eventual NCAA champion Kyven Gadson.
Donovan Doyle (Iowa City West) – One of the state’s better upper-weight juniors, Doyle spent most of his season at 195 pounds before dropping to 182. Doyle took fourth at the tournament taking losses to #5 Jarod Cadena and #3 Mitch Otto. Doyle is registered at 96 kg, which means he will be wrestling at 211 pounds, which mean he will be competing a couple weight classes up from where he was in February.
This weight appears to be pretty thin, so Harrington could be a run away favorite.The best wrestling at the weight looks like Chip Ness, though most of his success has been in folkstyle, and his freestyle resume is pretty limited. The best American wrestler at this weight is Kyle Snyder, who at 19 already has a Junior gold and silver medal at this weight. Snyder is trying his hand in the Senior Open this weekend, so the Junior National title is Harrington’s for the taking.
Jake Scanlan (Southeast Polk/OTC) – Former 3A standout Scanlan will come into his weight as one of the big players to win the title. Scanlan has won a couple All-American honors in his freestyle career as a prep, and has spent the last year training at the Olympic Training Center. His freestyle prowess might be enough to make his tough to beat.
There are a couple other interesting names, one being Jeramy Sweany who committed to Cornell a year ago. His freestyle experience is rather limited, but he still figures to be the favorite. The other big hammer is double Fargo All-American Tate Orndorff from Washington. Orndorff has had a couple tough battles with Southeast Polk’s Jake Marnin (the wrestler who ended up replacing Scanlan in the Rams’ lineup) over the past year, but the knock against him is that he is a young wrestler going up against some guys who have been getting a little more experience.