SIX TITAN MERCURY WRESTLERS PUNCH THIER TICKETS TO PARIS IN EPIC WORLD TEAM TRIALS
By: Jonny Ruggiano
The Titan Mercury Wrestling club earned six champions and placed ten wrestlers in the finals of the 2017 World Team Trials. Thomas Gilman (57 kg), Logan Stieber (61 kg), James Green (70 kg), J’den Cox (86 kg), Kyle Snyder (97 kg) and Nick Gwiazdowski (125 kg) all have punched their tickets to the 2017 World Wrestling Championships this August in Paris, France. Held at the University of Nebraska, this year’s trials may go down as the greatest to date.
As sixteen wrestlers took stage to a sold out crowd, no one was safe. Not even 2012 Olympic Gold medalist and crowd favorite, Jordan Burroughs. Burroughs faced off against long time rival and TMWC wrestler, Kyle Dake. In the first match of three, Dake silenced a boisterous crowd as he launched Burroughs with a chest lock for four points. Burroughs fought back with a series of attacks as well. However, In the end of match one, Dake won 6-6 on criteria. Dake’s win over Burroughs was the first loss that Burroughs had given up on American soils since his rise to dominance in 2011. As expected, Burroughs was not finished yet. In the second match, Burroughs won by a commanding score of 8-4. It was the final best out of three match that was perhaps the best. Burroughs scored off of a counter to Dake’s crotch lock attempt and added extra points on a turn that left Dake in a deficit. In the end of the bout Burroughs won, 5-3 and earned his spot on his seventh World Team. The Burroughs/ Dake match will be remembered as one of the best series matches of all time.
While Burroughs and Dake offered fans some serious fireworks, it was by far not the only show in town. Two Titan Mercury Wrestlers, Olympic Bronze Medalist, J’Den Cox and David Taylor offered fans three exciting matches full of action, drama and even controversy. After battling his way through the qualifying tournament, David Taylor started off the series with a dominant win, 9-3, against Cox. In the second bout, Cox seemed to get his bearings back, after taking a hiatus from freestyle wrestling, and edged Taylor, 4-3. In the final bout Cox claimed his spot on the World Team, but not without some unfortunate consequences. Early in the match Cox injured his knee as Taylor looked to take him to the edge of the mat on a single leg finish attempt. In an amazing show of perseverance, Cox fended off several attempts from Taylor to win with an ultimate score of 6-2.
Another fan favorite series came from the ultimate underdog story of the tournament. A story that came with a premonition from Thomas Gilman. In the weeks leading up to the World Team Trials, Gilman had made his thoughts public about wrestling Tony Ramos. Ramos was the reigning World Team member, however he was knocked off of making the Olympic Team in 2016 by TMWC’s Daniel Dennis. Gilman professed that he could beat Ramos if he had the chance, yet Gilman had to work from the bottom up to even make the World Team Trials. After a some physical setbacks, Gilman had to qualify for the Trials through the last chance qualifier.
This was not the only major challenge in Gilman’s way.
Gilman took the hero’s journey through the qualifying tournament. His matchups were stacked with opportunities to face old demons, right the wrongs of past tournaments and rewrite his legacy. The challenge tournament started off with the former Hawkeye facing off against 2017 NCAA Champion Darian Cruz. Gilman ran through Cruz with a score of 9-0. With Gilman’s win over Cruz, he now faced the #1 seed, fellow TMWC wrestler, Tyler Graff. Gilman edged Graff 1-1 on criteria. With his win over Graff, Gilman now faced another Titan Mercury standout, Nico Megaludis. Thomas Gilman had faced Megaludis several times before. Gilman and Megaludis faced off in the 2016 NCAA finals in Madison Square Garden. In each match up, the outcome was all Nico: but not this time. Gilman came through with a big 11-0 tech fall to beat Megaludis and take on Nathan Tomasello in the challenge tournament finals, where Gilman came out on top, 6-2. Thomas Gilman had run the gauntlet. In what was one of the most concentrated weight classes of entire field, Gilman prevailed and now was able to put his money where his mouth was.
The match up between Thomas Gilman and Tony Ramos started as any wrestling fan would have expected: a brash, contentious and well extended stare down.
With neither Ramos or Gilman backing down, fans could feel the momentum building as the ref blew the whistle. In what lasted only two matches, Gilman and Ramos offered wrestling fans a series of gritty hand fighting battles and aggressive attacks. Ramos who had been known to win off last second scores and lack leg attacks, upped his games with a series of endless flurries. Yet in the end Gilman was too young, too hungry and too good for the veteran Ramos. Titan Mercury’s Thomas Gilman defeated Tony Ramos 4-3 and 7-2 to earn his birth on the 2017 World Team.
In keeping with theme of “no one being safe” in the finals, reigning World Champion Logan Stieber found a worthy adversary in fellow TMWC standout, Kendric Maple. Maple stormed into the finals with a 6-0 lead after converting three takedowns against Stieber. However the seasoned champion came back to even up the score. Maple was not finished though. Maple scored another takedown to take the lead. It was not until the end of the first bout that Stieber was able to score the last points and secure the win, 9-8. In the second match Logan regrouped and came in with a different game plan. This time the World Champion earned the tech fall, 10-0, to win his World Team Spot.
Another exciting matchup came as 2016 Olympian and TMWC wrestler, Frank Molinaro faced off against a young, tough Zain Retherford. Molinaro, the former Penn State standout, came out with a 7-6 win against Retherford in the first round. However, in the second bout Nittany Lion’s Retherford gained ground with a dominate 6-0 win against the veteran. In the final match up Zain came up early to hold off Molinaro with a 7-4 win to make his first World Team.
Hometown favorite, James Green made his third consecutive World team by besting Jimmy Kennedy of the NYAC, 6-0 and 8-5 in straight matches. Green, who was a 2015 World Bronze medalist, looked more confident and dominant than ever. Knocking off NYAC’s Kennedy is no easy task: the former World Team member is known for his extreme strength, power and explosiveness. Yet, the matches were rather one sided with Green proving, yet again, that he is a step above the restWith a impressive list of accolades, this could be the year that we see James Green earn his first World title.
World and Olympic Champion, Kyle Snyder demonstrated once again why he is the World’s best at 97 kg. Snyder faced off against Kevin Gadson of the Sunkist Kids. Gadson had defeated Snyder at the 2015 NCAA Championships. A loss that would ignite Snyder’s legacy as an international star. After Snyder’s loss to Gadson, Kyle went on to defeat reigning Olympic Champion Jake Varner for the World Team spot in 2015. In the World Championships, Snyder became the USA’s youngest World Champion, defeating Russia’s reigning World Champion, Abdusalam Gadisov. In 2016, Snyder became the youngest U.S. wrestler to win Olympic Gold. In his match up in the 2017 World Team Trials, it was less of a match of redemption and more of a display of growth as Snyder won the first bout with a 10-0 tech fall against Gadson in just two minutes and thirty eight seconds. In the second bout Gadson was able to score two points against the reigning Olympic Champion, yet TMWC’s Snyder finished off the finals with a 13-2 tech fall.
TMWC’s Nick Gwiazdowski rounded off team USA by besting Sunkist Kids wrestler, Dom Bradley. Bradley is known to be one of the most versatile heavyweights on the U.S. circuit right now. With strong leg attacks, throws and great defense, Bradley had proven to be a contender for the 125 kg. spot. However, Gwiazdowski was too much for Bradley. After a concentrated year of integral development and eye opening international experiences, which included a World title at the 2016 World Clubs Cup for team Titan Mercury, Gwiazdowski has grown into the leader of a new generation of 125 kg. wrestlers in the USA. Gwiazdowski made his first World team with consecutive wins, 5-0, and 3-1, over Bradley.
This year is poised to have one of the United State’s best World Teams competing in Paris, France. With three World and Olympic Champions, five World and Olympic Medalists and a stable of young, tough, hungry and capable wrestlers look out for team USA to make a run or the title. This will also be the last year where only eight weight classes will be contested. In 2018, UWW will add two more weight classes for a total of ten. We could very well see a team in 2018 where Dake and Burroughs and even Cox and Taylor are representing at different weight classes. The future looks bright for team TMWC, and team USA.
2017 World Team Trials Men’s Freestyle Finals Results:
2017 TEAM USA ROSTER:
57 kg.: Thomas Gilman (Titan Mercury WC)
61 kg.: Logan Stieber (Titan Mercury WC)
65 kg.: Zain Rutherford (Nittany Lion WC)
70 kg.: James Green (Titan Mercury WC)
74 kg.: Jordan Burroughs (Sunkist Kids WC)
86 kg.: J’Den Cox (Titan Mercury WC)
97 kg.: Kyle Snyder (Titan Mercury WC)
125 kg.: Nick Gwiazdowski (Titan Mercury WC)
57 kg/125.5 lbs. –Thomas Gilman, TMWC dec. Tony Ramos, SKWC
Bout One – Gilman dec. Ramos, 4-3
Bout Two – Gilman dec. Ramos, 7-2
61 kg/134 lbs. – Logan Stieber, TMWC dec. Kendric Maple, TMWC
Bout One – Stieber dec. Maple, 9-8
Bout Two – Stieber tech. fall Maple, 10-0
65 kg/143 lbs.– Zain Retherford, NLWC dec. Frank Molinaro, TMWC
Bout One – Molinaro dec. Retherford, 7-6
Bout Two – Retherford dec. Molinaro, 6-0
Bout Three – Retherford dec. Molinaro, 7-4
70 kg/154 lbs.– James Green, TMWC dec. Jimmy Kennedy, Ann Arbor, Mich. NYAC
Bout One – Green dec. Kennedy, 6-0
Bout Two – Green dec. Kennedy, 8-5
74 kg/163 lbs.– Jordan Burroughs, SKWC dec. Kyle Dake, Ithaca, N.Y. TMWC
Bout One – Dake dec. Burroughs, 6-6
Bout Two – Burroughs dec. Dake, 8-4
Bout Three – Burroughs dec. Dake, 5-3
86 kg/189 lbs. – J’den Cox, TMWC dec. David Taylor, TMWC
Bout One – Taylor dec. Cox, 9-3
Bout Two – Cox dec. Taylor, 4-3
Bout Three – Cox dec. Taylor, 6-2
97 kg/213 lbs.– Kyle Snyder, TMWC dec. Kyven Gadson, SKWC
Bout One – Snyder tech. fall Gadson, 10-0, 2:38
Bout Two – Snyder tech. fall Gadson, 13-2
125 kg/275 lbs.– Nick Gwiazdowski, TMWC dec. Dom Bradley, SKWC
Bout One – Gwiazdowski dec. Bradley, 5-0
Bout Two – Gwiazdowski dec. Bradley, 3-1