Photo by Sam Janicki (sjanickiphoto.com)
The St. John's freshman proved he's ready to compete on the high school level by dominating his way to the 98-pound title on Saturday. Brya pinned through the tournament, including a :48 fall in the finals over Texas state qualifier Carson Laughery.
Another freshman, Swiderski was impressive at 105 lbs en route to a title. In the quarters, he knocked off Florida state champ Danny Nini, 9-4. After pinning another tough Floridian in Kai Owen, he defeated Ryan Luna of California with a last-second escape in the Tiebreaker.
A trio of Michigan middle schoolers were outstanding at the GFC. Dylan Gilcher was 3rd at 98 lbs, while Josh Barr and Aiden Davis were 8th at 130 and 119, respectively. Davis had wins over Indiana state placer Devon Casebolt and Ohio state qualifier Dominic DiTullio. Barr notably knocked off Florida state champ Christopher Rivera and also scored a win over Indiana 3rd-placer Logan Bailey.
The Hornets looked like they were in midseason form on Saturday. Two grapplers won titles in the Varsity division (Logan Wolford and Logan Zell). But it was the Elite performance that was noticeable. Justin Carnahan and Austin Wolford both advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to top-seeds Kai Bele and Kevon Davenport. Carnahan lost a 6-5 decision to the NC State-commit Bele. Interestingly, the lone placer in the Elite division was freshman Isiah Pasik, who was 8th at 215 lbs.
A state runner-up in 2018, Fish had a great tournament run that saw him pin his way to the semifinals. In that stretch, he pinned Illinois state placer Reece Heller and NHSCA JR All-American Daniel Vizcarra of California. He would fall to eventual champ Davenport and ultimately injury default to 6th place at 152.
Warren Woods Tower senior David Stepanian looked great on his way to a 5th place finish at 125 lbs. In the Round of 16, Stepanian bested Texas state runner-up Jordan Strmiska, 5-4. He'd make a run to the semis before falling to the 5th-place match where he picked up a win over 2017 MI champ TJ Daugherty.
Freeman picked up where he left off in Fargo by going 6-1, which was good enough for a 3rd-place showing at 119. Among his wins were Charles Huffman (FL 2nd), Jake Wohltman (FL 2nd), Sebastian Melguizo (FL 4th), and Jayden Gomez (CA 5th).
The John Glenn senior Meekins went 4-2 in a deep 125 pound bracket. He took down Texas state champ Noah Gochberg, 6-0, and then pinned Myles Griffin, a New York state runner-up in the match to place. In the 7th-place match Meekins won 9-8 over NHSCA Freshman AA Victor Jacinto of California.
Palmer was the last man standing in an extremely deep 130-pound bracket which featured five state champs and four state runner-ups. The Tennessee native defeated 2x GA champ Vincent Mannella, 6-3, in the semis before knocking off nationally-ranked Bretli Reyna (FL), in the finals by a 10-6 score.
There was no easy bout among Heil's five matches on Saturday. He opened up with 10-0 and 8-3 wins over Michigan 3rd placer Josh Rankin and '17 champ TJ Daugherty. He then knocked off Kentucky champ Thomas Deck, 6-2, in the quarters. The semis was perhaps his most impressive win though, battling back from a four-point deficit in the final 30 seconds to force overtime and an eventual win over IN's Brayden Littell. Heil would then defeat Jesse Mendez (IN) 6-3 in the championship match.
The Florida native picked up wins over a pair of nationally-ranked wrestlers in Josh Edmond (MI) and Malyke Hines (FL) on his way to the 135 pound title. Tal-Shahar rallied after giving up a late takedown to pick up an escape and takedown of his own over Edmond. He then used a late takedown to put the match away in the finals against Hines. He was named the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler.
Seeded 11th coming in, Campbell busted open the bracket and was extremely impressive during his run to 3rd place. His only loss came in overtime to Josh Edmond in the quarters. Among his wins were Kyle Kantola (MI 2nd), Justin Rivera (FL 1st), and Shannon Hanna (FL 2nd).
Hand up, didn't know Matt Lee was even entered. A two-time Indiana placer, Lee was a late entry and thus essentially drawn into the bracket. He scored a big win over FL's Noah Castillo early in the tournament and then was dominant all the way to the finals where he fell to James Whitaker, 8-4. That match could be a preview of the Grappler Gold Invite, where both St. Johns and Evansville Mater Dei will be competing.
An Ohio state qualifier, Leonard made some waves in the 152-pound weight with a runner-up finish and losing only to Kevon Davenport. He scored wins over Florida and Michigan 3rd-placers Bailey Flanagan and Jaden Fisher along the way.
Another state qualifier, Indiana's Walker was maybe the biggest surprise of the tournament. In three consecutive matches he beat MI runner-up River Shettler, 7-2, CA runner-up Gabe Martinez, 4-3, and #10 ranked nationally Kai Bale, 5-2. His run would end at the hands of ODU-commit Alex Cramer in the finals at 171.