Meet the Greco-Roman Junior World Team

photo courtesy of Richard Immel

Only one tournament at the US Open was played to establish the roster of a world team this summer and that was the Junior Greco Open. Nine of the ten members are locked up and it looks like a promising group. Three wrestlers have been on the World Junior Team for at least a second time. Another member of the team has world-class experience as a cadet. The United States team would like to preserve and improve on a three-year streak where at least two juniors returned from the world championships with a medal. A medalist returns, the anchor of the formation, Cohlton Schultz. Here’s a quick look at each of the ten Open winners, along with their paths to their title.

55 kg – Dylan Ragusin (Catholic Montini, Illinois)

A high school student from the Catholic Central Montini, Dylan Ragusin may be the youngest member of this team, but he has a lot of experience in Greco. Stanford entry Ragusin was a member of the Cadet Greco World Team in 2017, at 46kg and finished in seventh place. Dylan is also a two-time national junior champion in Greco and finished fifth in Greco Junior last summer at Fargo. In 2017, he came home with a double Cadet Championship. Dylan was in some of the most brutal high schools in the country, as a lightweight in Illinois. This year he won his first state title, having fallen in the final in his first two years.

Ragusin was the third seed in the Greco-Roman junior category which included 2017 junior world silver medalist Cevion Severado, although the pair did not meet. Dylan’s toughest game of the tournament came in the quarterfinals when he beat Jace Koelzer of northern Colorado, 4-3. In the final, Ragusin

60 kg – Mason Hartshorn (Northern Michigan)

California native Hartshorn was a state qualifier for Freedom High School as a senior. While in high school, Hartshorn twice placed fifth in the Fargo Junior Greco tournament. Earlier this year, Hartshorn competed in the Dave Schultz Memorial, but lost to two senior level competitors. Last year at the Open, Hartshorn fell in the final in the 63kg class to the team’s next wrestler, Alston Nutter. He then lost in the final of the World Junior Team Trials challenge tournament.

At this year’s Open, Hartshorn was seeded and showed why he got so billed. He only gave up one point in four matches, heading into his best-of-three series of finals with Haiden Drury. Mason only needs the first two games, winning 7-1 and then 4-1, to clinch his first place in a world team at any age level.

63 kg – Alston Nutter (Northern Michigan)

Nutter will make his second consecutive appearance on the World Junior Team. In 2019, he coached Utah Valley’s Dylan Gregerson in two consecutive games to secure his place on the world team. At the world championships, in Trnava, Slovakia, Nutter lost his first match against Erbol Bakirov (Kyrgyzstan), but was brought back to the repechage when Bakirov reached the final. Unfortunately, Alston didn’t advance any further and had to settle for 27th place.

Alston crossed the 63 kg mark with technicians in each of his first three games. These three fights were over in less than a minute and a half. It was more or less the same in the final as Nutter won both games for 2018 world cadet team member Hunter Lewis by tech 12-3 and 16-8. Neither match reached the second period.

67 kg – Peyton Omania (Michigan State)

Omania spent their first year at Michigan State taking a red shirt, while competing at 149 lbs. Overall, he managed to rack up a 19-6 record, including wins in open tournaments at the Storm Open and the Alma College Open. Prior to college, Omania twice won the California State spot, crowned with a state title in her senior season. Last summer, before entering Michigan State, Peyton won a Junior Greco national title at Fargo. The year before, he had lost in the Junior Greco final. Not only did Omania make the world junior team last year, but they also made the world cadet team in 2016.

This year’s Open presented Mania with some viable challengers. In the semifinals, he had to defeat Dominic Damon, a member of the world cadet team in 2018. He did so by a score of 9-4. In the final, Peyton had another tough opponent, Benji Peak. Benji finished second at the 2018 Open at age 60 and won the Junior WTT. Peak was unable to make the world team as he did not make any weight for a fight with Taylor Lamont. Omania won their two finals with fierce 6-4 and 7-4.

72 kg – Tyler Eischens (Stanford)

Like Omania, Tyler Eischens has just completed his freshman year at university, a season he spent in a red shirt for Stanford. Eischens had a red shirt record of 19-6, exactly the same as his new world junior teammate Omania. In high school, Tyler was a 2017 state champion and a four-time state runner-up. While in Fargo, Eischens competed in the Cadet and Junior Greco finals, once per piece. It is the first time that he has been part of a world team regardless of his age.

Eischens entered the US Open as the seed in a squad that included 2018 World Junior Team member James Burks; however, the two did not meet. Tyler was able to navigate the 72kg tournament with little difficulty. His closest match to the competition was a 7-1 semi-final victory over Britton Holmes. This set up a best of three final with his friend and fellow Minnesota native Calvin Germinaro. In the Junior WTT 2018, Germinaro reached the final of the challenge tournament before losing to Lenny Merkin. In his two final matches, Eischens was able to end the game by fall, but only after accumulating at least 13 points in both matches.

77 kg – Jack Ervien (White River, WA)

***** This location has not yet been defined. 2018 World Team member Tyler Dow will have the opportunity to fight for this spot since competing in the Senior US Open ****

Perhaps the most surprising winner of the Open is Jack Ervien. Jack gave subtle hints to a big 2018-19 when he won the Reno Tournament of Champions in December. He would go on to advance to the Washington state final, the second time in his career he has placed in the state’s top three. Campbell’s engagement, Ervien, recently finished fourth at the NHSCA Senior Nationals. Before the Open, his best Greco credentials came to Fargo last July when he was seventh at the junior level.

Jack entered the US Open without a seed and immediately caused a surprise, beating fourth seed Ankhaa Enkhmandakh 7-2. He secured a berth in the semi-finals after getting his hands on wrestler Sammy Cokeley. It was another technology in the semi-finals, this time against former World Cadet Team member Jake Hendricks, the seed at 77kg. Ervien won the Open title after two bowling in the final, against his compatriot underdog, Isaiah Alford, sixth seed.

82 kg – Zac Braunagel (Illinois)

Another freshman in a red shirt on that crew is Zac Bruanagel from Illinois. Zac posted a solid 12-5 record in his debut season at Champaign. He won his first collegiate event, the Maryville Open, then was a finalist at the Lindenwood Open a week later. Braunagel won three spots in the state and two-time Illinois state champion. On his last trip to Fargo, Zac walked away with the big stop sign after winning the Junior Greco at 182 lbs. The previous summer, in 2017, he had finished third in the same tournament. In addition to winning a national junior title in Greco last July, he also finished third in freestyle. At the end of the 2017-18 school season, Zac finished third at the NHSCA Senior Nationals.

The Braunagel tournament started off with little difficulty winning over first-half technological scraps in the quarterfinals and semi-finals. In the final he was tested by Max Wohlabaugh of Clarion, but eventually managed to get the W in both games 8-4 and 6-3.

87 kg – Cameron Caffey (Michigan State)

The most decorated varsity wrestler on this list is Cameron Caffey. He is the only wrestler in this group to have officially competed for a DI school, which he did in 2018-19 when he won the NCAA Championships for the Spartans and went 2-2 in the big show. Caffey had an impressive 32-9 record that included a 19 game winning streak to start the season. Last year Cameron won the Junior WTT challenge tournament but lost in the best of three final. He then continued to wrestle at the Pan American Junior Championships where he won a gold medal in greco and freestyle.

Caffey put in one of the most impressive performances of any junior wrestler in the Open. He’s won pins in his four games, none of which lasted more than 2:03. Cameron’s opponent in the final, Barrett Hughes, himself a victim of two pins, was a member of the 2019 World Juniors team.

97 kg – Nicholas Boykin (Murfreesboro, TN-OTC)

Boykin was long near the top of his respective age group standings for Greco, but eventually got over the bump and made it to the world squad. At one point, Nicholas had competed at 130kg, but rose to 97kg for the Junior WTT last year. He entered this tournament as a seed, but was bowled over in the challenge tournament final by eventual world team member Chad Porter. In 2015, Boykin was the Junior National Greco Champion at Fargo.

Nicholas reached the Open final caring for one of the top high school students in the country, Braxton Amos, in West Virginia. That set the stage for a series in the final against seed Austin Harris of Oklahoma State. Boykin left no doubt with a fall in the first half in both matches to win his Open championship.

130 kg – Cohlton Schultz (Ponderosa, CO)

For those who follow youth wrestling closely, no introduction is needed for Cohlton Schultz. This is his third appearance on the World Junior Team, he won a bronze medal last year and failed to win a medal on his first try. At the cadet level, Schultz won gold at the 2016 World Championships. He even made the 2018 U23 World Team. Arizona State signatory Schultz ended his high school career in as a four-time Colorado State Champion and also won four Reno Tournament of Champions titles and two Walsh Ironman Championships. Currently, Cohlton also sits third on the Senior Greco ladder.

Surprisingly, it was the only weight class to have played three games at the Open. In one of the biggest upheavals of the entire tournament, Schultz was pinned down by Lee Herrington in Game 1 of the Finals. Fortunately, Schultz had two more chances against Herrington and he won both fights by first-period technicians 9-0 and 8-0.

Robert J. King