Southeast Polk wrestler Nate Jesuroga takes third at Cadet freestyle world championships
Nate Jesuroga is now, officially, one of the best wrestlers on the planet.
Jesuroga, a rising junior at Southeast Polk, won a bronze medal at the Cadet men's freestyle world championships on Wednesday in Budapest. He defeated Armenia's Tigran Buniatyan, 6-2, in the third-place match at 51 kilograms (112 pounds).
For the tournament, Jesuroga went 2-1 overall. On Tuesday, the first day of competition, he went 1-1, notching a preliminary-round win over Turkey's Resul Dogan, 4-2, then losing to Uzbekistan's Nodirbek Jumanazarov, 10-0, in the quarterfinals.
Jumanazarov then defeated Buniatyan, 8-2, to reach the championship match, which pulled Jesuroga back into medal contention. At the world level, once the finalists are decided, those they beat in the earlier rounds of competition can then wrestle back for third place. (Jumanazarov lost to Iran's Ali Khorramdel, 2-0, to finish second.)
Because Jumanazarov actually received a first-round victory by forfeit, Jesuroga's only wrestleback match was Tuesday's bronze-medal bout against Buniatyan. Jesuroga trailed 2-0 early, but rallied with three-straight takedowns off go-behinds to rally and win.
Jesuroga was one of six total medalists for the United States' Cadet men's freestyle world team, which finished second in the team race. The Americans totaled 143 points, four behind team champions India (147), which finished with 10 total medalists, and three points ahead of third-place Russia (140), which put eight on the podium.
Two Americans, Pennsylvania's Bo Bassett (45-kg) and Maryland's Meyer Shapiro (65-kg), won world titles. Three others took second: Missouri's Luke Lilledahl (48-kg), Oregon's James Rowley (80-kg) and New Jersey's Jim Mullen (110-kg). Jesuroga and Minnesota's Gavin Nelson (92-kg) both wrestled for bronze, but only Jesuroga prevailed.
In doing so, Jesuroga is Iowa's first Cadet world medalist since United World Wrestling, the sport's international governing body, reinstituted the Cadet world championships in 2011. He is just the fourth Iowa high-schooler to make the Cadet world team since then, too. Carter Happel, Ethan Andersen and Drew West all qualified in 2014.
Happel made the freestyle team that year, while both Andersen and West qualified in Greco-Roman. None were able to make the podium. Many more of Iowa's best prep wrestling talents tried over the years to qualify for various Cadet world teams, but year after year, they all fell short.
Then came this past April, when Iowa high school wrestling, as a whole, put on a show at the Cadet world team trials up in Wisconsin.
Underwood's Gable Porter went first, reaching the finals in greco, but losing the best-of-three series in two matches. Then came freestyle, where six Iowa high-schoolers made the semifinals and three — Waverly-Shell Rock's Aiden Riggins, Bettendorf's Bradley Hill and Jesuroga — made the finals.
Hill was swept by Mullen, who then parlayed his world team berth into a silver medal. Riggins fell to Pennsylvania's Levi Haines in an epic three-match series, and Haines ultimately took seventh in Budapest after losing in the preliminary rounds.
Jesuroga prevailed, navigating arguably the toughest field at the trials. He went 5-0, notching wins over a collection of All-Americans and top-ranked competitors. In the semifinals, he defeated Marc-Anthony McGowan, a 2019 Cadet world champion. In the finals, he swept California star Aden Valencia to make the team.
It proved to be adequate preparation for his competition in Budapest. Jesuroga wrestled only three matches, but emerged victorious when it mattered most. Already this year, he has won a state title, become a world team member and, just last month, helped Team Iowa win the Junior men's freestyle national duals for the first time since 2005.
Now, Nate Jesuroga is a Cadet world bronze medalist, officially one of the best wrestlers on the planet.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.