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(Release courtesy Gary Abbott of USA Wrestling) / STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Six more U.S. World Team members were determined with some great competition at Final X in State College in Rec Hall on the Penn State campus on Saturday night.
For the local wrestling fans, the evening was highlighted by the return of David Taylor of the Nittany Lion WC, a two-time NCAA champion and two-time Hodge Trophy winner for Penn State. In his first Rec Hall appearance since 2014, Taylor defeated NC State star Nick Reenan in two straight matches at 86 kg to make his first U.S. Senior World Team in men’s freestyle.
The crowd was fired up when Taylor entered for bout one, but Reenan quickly scored the first takedown to lead 2-0. A pair of spin-behind takedowns by Taylor gave him a 4-2 lead. A Reenan body lock was blocked by Taylor on the edge, with Taylor awarded four points. A Reenan protest was denied making it 9-2. Taylor scored a single leg takedown to make it 11-2. A counter turn ended it with a 13-2 technical fall.
The second match was all Magic Man. Taylor scored an early takedown. After a second takedown, he added two ankle lace turns to lead 8-0. A double leg takedown ended it for a 10-0 first-period fall.
“It feels dang good. This is not the end goal. The goal is to be a World and Olympic champion, but this is the first step. To do it here at home in front of these fans is pretty special. Running out for my first match, I had all these thoughts and emotions going through my head. Who ever thought I would be coming back here and wrestling?,” said Taylor.
Taylor, a three-time U.S. Open champion and two-time World Cup champion, who still trains and lives in the State College area. Reenan, on a redshirt year with the Wolfpack, won the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament to earn his spot in Final X.
The event determined the 2018 U.S. Senior World Teams in men’s and women’s freestyle wrestling in six weight classes, with the winner in each weight class earning a spot on Team USA at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, October 20-28.
It marked the comeback of three-time World champion and five-time World medalist Adeline Gray of the New York AC, who missed the 2017 season to recover from injuries. Gray dominated the two-match series against college freshman Korinahe Bullock of the McKendree Bearcat WC at 76 kg. Gray, a 2016 Olympian, has also won World gold medals on the Junior and University levels. Bullock, a WCWA All-American at McKendree, earned a spot on the 2018 U.S. U23 World Team.
In bout one, Gray came out and scored the opening takedown with a high single, then locked up her trademark ankle lace, turning Bullock four straight times to secure the quick 10-0 technical fall in 1:15.The second match also ended quickly as Gray scored a takedown, secured a powerful bar arm turn and pinned Bullock at 1:04.
“It’s an honor to be on a World Team. Terry Steiner always says that you don’t these kinds of opportunities very often. The fact that I’ve had eight chances now has been amazing. Not many athletes have the opportunity to go out there and be at the top of their game for this long. It just feels like a privilege to still feel healthy and still feel motivated. I feel all those things right now, so I’m excited,” said Gray.
The winner of the battle between Ohio RTC workout partners at 65 kg was 2016 World champion Logan Stieber of the Titan Mercury WC, who defeated two-time age-group World medalist Joey McKenna of the Titan Mercury WC in two straight bouts.
Bout one was back-and-forth, with Stieber getting a big four-point move, leading at the break, 6-3. In the second period, McKenna took a lead, before giving it back to Stieber. With eight seconds left in the match, McKenna forced a stepout to tie it at 8-8, but Stieber won by having the highest scoring move.
Stieber was in control in bout two, opening the scoring with a four-point move. In the second period, Stieber scored a go-behind takedown and added an ankle lace turn to finish it off with an 8-0 victory.
“I feel really good making this World Team. I’ve had an up and down year, but I always believed in myself so this feels really good about it right now. I had a good focus for the last month or so and I put in two really good weeks leading up to this event, so I feel really good about it,” said Stieber.
Stieber won four NCAA title for Ohio State and has now made his third Senior World team. McKenna, a two-time NCAA All-American who transferred to Ohio State this year and has another year of eligibility.
In a series which went the full three matches, 2017 U.S. World Team member Mallory Velte of the Titan Mercury WC made her second straight World Team, beating two-time U.S. Open champion Kayla Miracle of the Sunkist Kids, two matches to one. Velte lost round one, but battled back with two straight wins.
In the first match, Miracle scored two takedowns in the first period to lead 4-0 at the break. In the second period, Velte answered with a single leg of her own to close it at 4-2. Velte almost got behind with 30 seconds left, but Miracle was able to get free and run out the clock to win, 4-2.
The second match saw Miracle score a leg attack to lead 2-0 at the break. Velte scored a takedown of her own in the second period to knot it at 2-2, and a late spin-behind takedown ended the bout at 4-2 for Velte.
In the third-and-deciding bout, Velte got a great start with a takedown. When Miracle challenged it, it was denied, giving Velte a 3-0 lead. In the second period, Velte surrendered a point on the shot clock, but then scored a pair of late takedowns to win 7-1.
“I think my fitness really helped me get through those three rounds, so I’m happy about that. I circled right into her shot twice in the first match, so it took two times to adjust to that, and I think that adjustment really paid off in the end. Regardless of if I’ve just won or lost a match, I try to have the mindset of staying aggressive and the process goals, rather than the outcome,” said Velte.
Velte won three WCWA national titles for Simon Fraser. Miracle was a four-time WCWA national champion for Campbellsville and boasts three age-group World medals.
In a highly anticipated series at 79 kg four-time NCAA champion from Cornell, Kyle Dake of the Titan Mercury WC, made his first World Team, defeating Arizona State’s 2018 NCAA champion Zahid Valencia of the Sunkist Kids at 79 kg in two straight bouts.
In bout one, Dake was placed on the shot clock in the first period, but got behind Valencia for a powerful takedown and a 2-0 lead at the break. In the second period, Dake added two more on a counter exposure for a 4-0 lead, which held up for the rest of the bout.
The second match started with a quick Valencia takedown on the edge for a 2-0 lead at the break. Dake tied it up with a crotch lift turn in the second period. He turned Valencia with a gut wrench to make it 4-2. Although Dake gave up a caution and one point for fleeing later, Valencia could not close the gap, and Dake won, 3-2.
Dake, a two-time U.S. Open champion, had been No. 2 on the Freestyle National Team four times. Valencia was a Junior World silver medalist in 2017.
2015 World Team member Erin Clodgo of the Sunkist Kids made her second straight World Team, winning a tough three-match series over five-time age-group World Team member Rachel Watters of the New York AC at 72 kg.
In bout one, Clodgo led at the break with a 1-0 lead, after forcing an early stepout. In the second period, Clodgo got two exposure points on a crotch lift to extend her lead to 3-0. A double leg takedown by Watters with two seconds left was awarded two points. Watters challenged but it was denied, making it 4-2, then time ran out.
Watters came out on fire in the second match, scoring two first-period takedowns to lead 4-0 at the break. She put the bout away with a slick ankle pick takedown followed by an ankle lace, scoring an 8-0 shutout.
In the deciding third match, Clodgo got the first point on a shot clock penalty against Watters, then used a crotch lift for two points on a counter to lead 3-0. Watters was able to get a reversal to make it 3-1. In the second, Watters took a lead, getting point on a shot clock against Clodgo then scoring a takedown to lead 4-3. Clodgo forced a Watters stepout as the period ran down. It ended 4-4, with Clodgo getting the criteria.
Clodgo, a four-time U.S. Open champion, made her 10th Women’s National Team. Watters, a WCWA All-American at Oklahoma City, has made five U.S. age-group World Teams.
FloWrestling is providing exclusive live and on-demand coverage of the three-event Final X series. Watch the events across all screens by downloading the FloSports app on iOS, Roku, or Apple TV 4, as well as on desktop or mobile web via FloWrestling.com
The U.S. World Teams in men’s and women’s freestyle will be completed with the third Final X event, Final X at Lehigh on June 23. Tickets for all three Final X events can be purchased at www.FinalX.tv
FINAL X IN STATE COLLEGE
At State College, Pa., June 16
Men's freestyle 65 kg
Joseph McKenna, Towaco, N.J. (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) dec. Logan Stieber, Columbus, Ohio (Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC), two matches to none
Bout One – Stieber dec. McKenna, 8-8
Bout Two – Stieber dec. McKenna, 8-0
Women's freestyle 62 kg
Mallory Velte, Sacramento, Calif. (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Kayla Miracle, Campbellsville, Ky. (Sunkist Kids), two matches to none
Bout One – Miracle dec. Velte, 4-2
Bout Two – Velte dec. Miracle, 4-2
Bout Three – Velte dec. Miracle 7-1
Bout Three - Women's freestyle 72 kg
Erin Clodgo, Richmond, Vermont (Sunkist Kids) dec. Rachel Watters, Ankeny, Iowa (New York AC/Aires WC), two matches to none
Bout One – Clodgo dec. Watters, 4-2
Bout Two – Watters dec. Clodgo, 8-0
Bout Three – Clodgo dec. Watters, 4-4
Bout Four - Men's freestyle 79 kg
Kyle Dake, Ithaca, N.Y. (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Zahid Valencia, Bellflower, Calif. (Sunkist Kids), two matches to none
Bout One – Dake dec. Valencia, 4-0
Bout Two – Dake dec. Valencia, 4-3
Bout Five - Women's freestyle 76 kg
Adeline Gray, Kingston, Pa. (New York AC) dec. Korinahe Bullock, Cahokia, Ill. (McKendree Bearcat WC), two matches to none
Bout One – Gray tech. fall Bullock, 10-0
Bout Two – Gray pin Bullock, 1:04
Bout Six - Men's freestyle 86 kg
David Taylor, State College, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC) dec. Nick Reenan, Dallas, Texas (Titan Mercury WC/Wolfpack RTC), two matches to none
Bout One – Taylor tech. fall Reenan, 13-2
Bout Two – Taylor tech. fall Reenan, 10-0