Josh Alber is coming off a seventh place finish at the Junior Freestyle National tournament last month, but after seeing his results I am certainly more encouraged that this weekend can be even better for the UNI Panther. His two losses on the weekend were to Minnesota high school standout and eventual runner-up Mitch McKee and the other loss being to Iowan Colton McCrystal. Alber lost his match with McCrystal 4-4 on criteria, and McCrystal went on to win third place, so it’s not too far-fetched to think that Alber just missed out on having a completely different weekend.
Alber will be ready, and he certainly has the stuff to be fighting for a title.
Colton McCrystal is also entered in this bracket and he too is a tough wrestler to figure out at this weight. He took third at the Junior National tournament, but his loss was to eventual eighth place finisher David Zemenak. Outside of that McCrystal looked fairly dominant, with his next tough match being his 4-4 win over Alber, but he then won 9-0 over American University’s Josh Tearo in his final match. With the right draw McCrystal might be able to do some damage in Wisconsin.
Fredy Stroker and Max Thomsen will both be representing Iowa in Madison this weekend, and while 66 kg may have two of the toughest Junior World wrestlers, I expect both of these wrestlers to put in a strong showing. Stroker, who is headed to Minnesota this fall, is looking to climb back to the top spot in the rankings and win a Fargo title. To do that, it will start this weekend and as long as he isn’t facing Aaron Pico or Zain Retherford, he will be a real threat.
Thomsen has come on strong this senior year. A runner-up finish to start the season followed by an early season win over Stroker really pushed Thomsen to the top of the rankings. He also picked up a win over Mike Kemerer to end his folkstyle career, but the biggest question is what improvements has he made in freestyle. Last year he left Fargo without an All-American honor so the Trials will serve as a good gauge to where Thomsen stands.
Lawton Benna from the Viking Wrestling Club will be a little bit harder to figure out what he can do in this tournament. Benna is coming off a sixth place finish at the Junior National tournament, although that came at the 79 kg weight class – which is not a World weight. It makes sense to see him drop to 74 kg for this event, but part of the problem will be Benna having to try and take out Cadet World champion Mark Hall at this weight, and he would have to do it twice. Jason Nolf from Penn State will also be a tough customer to go through at this weight.
Marcus Harrington is coming off a third place performance at Junior Nationals, with his only loss coming to eventual champion Anthony Cessar 15-14 in the semifinals. Outside of that loss, Harrington won every match by technical fall and going off of scores, he gave Cessar his toughest match in the tourney. He will have to go through Cessar twice to make the Junior World team, but Harrington has the skills to compete and beat everyone in this bracket. My prediction would be to expect to see the Cyclone in the finals, and from there he will determine his own destiny.
Jake Scanlan could be a major player at the heavyweight after taking third place at the Junior National tournament out in Vegas. Scanlan’s only loss came at the hands of Jesse Webb, and he later avenged that loss in the consolation finals.
Sam Stoll was announced to also be competing at this weight, and it will be interesting to see if the Hawkeye wrestler can make his second World team, this time in freestyle.
The favorite of this weight is Nathan Butler of Stanford, who is sitting in the best of three finals. This past year Butler was 29-9, but what is interesting about that record is that three of his losses came by fall to less than dominant opponents. To be fair Butler is still a young heavyweight (he is still wrestling juniors), but this would be an excellent opportunity for either of Stoll or Scanlan to step in and make a run to represent the USA at the Junior World Championships.