Wrestling: Breaking down the Final X matchups involving Iowa wrestlers
LINCOLN, Neb. — The Hawkeye Wrestling Club already has one representative on the 2019 Senior World Team. Forrest Molinari made the women’s freestyle team at 65 kilograms (143 pounds) after winning her Final X series over Maya Nelson last weekend at Rutgers.
At least one more of her teammates will join her on Saturday here inside the Bob Devaney Sports Center, as the matchup at 59 kilos (130 pounds) features two Hawkeye Wrestling Club members — Alli Ragan and Lauren Louive.
“We could’ve done this like a week ago in the Iowa room,” Ragan said and laughed Friday afternoon. “Just best two-out-of-three right there.”
Instead, the Ragan-Louive battle is one of 15 matchups scheduled for Saturday, and one of five that features at least one wrestler with an Iowa tie. Additionally, Hawkeye Wrestling Club’s Kayla Miracle and Thomas Gilman, as well as former Iowa State star Kyven Gadson and former Northern Iowa wrestler Joe Colon.
With Molinari and Pat Downey, a 2016 NCAA All-American for Iowa State, already on the team, that means as many as seven wrestlers with Iowa ties could ultimately make the 2019 World Team in either men’s or women’s freestyle wrestling. The world championships are set for September 14-22 in Kazakhstan.
Below is the breakdown of Saturday’s matchups, all of which are best-of-three series. Ragan and Louive will wrestle during Session I, which begins at noon. Everybody else will compete in Session II, beginning at 6 p.m.
Women’s Freestyle, 59-kg: Alli Ragan vs. Lauren Louive
Ragan is the headliner, a six-time Senior world-teamer and two-time world silver medalist. She won the U.S. Open in April to punch her ticket to Final X. Louive took fourth at the Open, but then stormed through the world team trials challenge tournament last month to advance, defeating fellow Hawkeye Wrestling Club member Michaela Beck in the process.
“I wish we were all at different weights so we could all make the team,” Ragan said, “but it also means that we all have great training partners. Everyone has elevated each other. Before you’re the best in the world, you have to be the best in the room.
“That’s huge. If they’re getting better, I’m going to have to get better.”
Women’s Freestyle, 62-kg: Kayla Miracle vs. Mallory Velte
This is perhaps the most intense rivalry in women’s freestyle. Velte and Miracle, a Hawkeye Wrestling Club member, have wrestled five times in the last calendar year, with Miracle winning three to Velte’s two. Velte’s two victories, though, came at last year’s Final X, giving her the world team spot that led to an eventual world bronze medal.
As such, Velte got an automatic bye to Final X. Miracle, meanwhile, won both the U.S. Open in April and the world team trials challenge tournament in May to advance to Final X. The winner here will be a favorite to medal in Kazakhstan.
“Everyone knows this is a rivalry,” Miracle said. “We’ve gone at it six times in the past year-and-a-half, and we always bring it. It’s always fun to watch. It could be on the mat or at camp playing cards, but there’s always competition.”
Men’s Freestyle, 61-kg: Joe Colon vs. Tyler Graff
Colon, the UNI grad who’s now wrestling at the Valley Regional Training Center in California, is the reigning world bronze medalist at 61 kilos (134). He’s flourished on the freestyle scene since finishing third at the NCAA Championships as a senior in 2014 — he’s twice won a gold medal at the Pan-American Championships and has won various international competitions as well.
After winning the U.S. Open last year, Colon actually lost to Nahshon Garrett, a former Cornell star, at Final X, but Garrett sustained an injury, so Colon ultimately got the nod for the world championships. He automatically advanced to Final X after winning a bronze medal last year. Graff navigated a challenging world team trials challenge tournament last month to advance.
“Looking forward to tomorrow and ready to let it fly,” Colon said. “Body feels good, and it’s good to focus and take the time to recover and get ready for whoever was going to come through. There’s going to be guys coming for the spot. I’m ready to take him out.”
Men’s Freestyle, 97-kg: Kyven Gadson vs. Kyle Snyder
For the third-straight year, Gadson and Snyder will wrestle for the world team spot at 97 kilos (213). Snyder has dominated each of the previous matchups. He’s swept both series, winning all four matches by a combined 42-4. Snyder is the reigning world silver medalist and a three-time world and Olympic champion.
Saturday’s third time figures to be an equally tall task for Gadson, who won an NCAA title for Iowa State in 2015 by pinning Snyder. Gadson won both the U.S. Open and the world team trials challenge tournament to advance to Lincoln.
“I’m super excited to be here and wrestle, and there’s not much else to be said other than that,” Gadson said. “Just been working on my mind. I think that’s always been my biggest strength — or my biggest weakness. I think consistency creates character and creates championships.
“I don’t want to look at stuff based on potential. I don’t want to be a potential guy, a guy that could’ve potentially won a world championship, or potentially win Olympic championships. I want to experience those things.”
Men’s Freestyle, 57-kg: Thomas Gilman vs. Daton Fix
One of Saturday evening’s feature matchups, and a rematch of last year’s Final X won by Gilman, two matches to none. Fix scored revenge by beating Gilman at the U.S. Open in April, forcing Gilman to win the world team trials challenge tournament last month to advance.
Whoever emerges from this series will be a strong threat to medal in Kazakhstan. Gilman, of course, is a two-time Senior world-teamer and a 2017 world silver medalist. Fix is a 2017 Junior world champ and a three-time age-level world bronze medalist — twice as a Junior, and once as a Cadet. He was also the 2019 NCAA runner-up. Expect a brawl.
“Growing up, my mom taught me well,” Gilman said. “One thing she taught me, if you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.