ISU recruit MJ Gaitan, Iowa Western's Jakason Burks win UWW Junior Greco national titles
It's U.S. Open week in Las Vegas, and already, Iowa wrestlers are making some serious noise.
Over the next five days, more than a dozen competitions will unfold at the South Point Hotel & Casino. The highlight of the weekend is the UWW Cadet world team trials, where many of Iowa's best high-schoolers will compete for a chance to wrestle at the 2022 Cadet world championships this summer.
But Wednesday's opening competition featured the UWW Junior Greco-Roman national championships, both the first leg of the Junior world team trials process as well as an exciting appetizer for all the great wrestling coming the rest of the week.
And Iowa wrestlers — we mean both wrestlers from Iowa and those with Iowa ties — put on a show.
Two won titles: Jakason Burks, from Iowa Western, and MJ Gaitan, an Iowa State recruit.
Burks, a one-time Oklahoma State wrestler who made the NJCAA finals this year for Iowa Western, went 3-0 and outscored his opponents 26-3 to win at 55 kilograms (121 pounds). Gaitan, from Temecula Valley in California who recently flipped from Cal Baptist to the Cyclones, outscored his four opponents 53-19 to win at 77 kilos (169).
Two more, both high-schoolers, made the finals: Iowa City West's Hunter Garvin and Westwood's Jackson Dewald.
Garvin, a senior and Stanford signee, scored 43 points in his first four matches and made the finals at 67 kilos (147), where he lost 11-4 to Robert Perez III. Dewald, just a junior, used a series of big throws to score back-to-back technical falls to make the finals at 97 kilos (213), then lost in the same manner, 10-0, to Oregon's Robert Plympton.
Three others all finished sixth at their respective weights:
- Northern Iowa recruit Cory Land, a returning Cadet world silver medalist who finished 2-3 at 60 kilos;
- West Delaware's Wyatt Voelker, another future Panther and the 2021 Junior Greco national champ who also finished 2-3 at 87 kilos;
- and Spencer Mooberry, a state champ from Osage who's now at North Dakota State, at 97 kilos. (Mooberry was winning 6-0 in the semifinals when he injured his elbow and defaulted to sixth).
All seven of these wrestlers are now qualified for the 2022 UWW Junior world team trials, set for June 3-5 in Geneva, Ohio. Whoever wins there will represent the United States at the Junior world championships, set for August 15-21 in Sofia, Bulgaria.
By winning on Wednesday, Gaitan and Burks will automatically advance to the best-of-three finals. The rest will have to navigate the challenge tournament and the finals series in June to earn a spot on the Junior world team.
That's more than a month away. Many of these guys will continue to wrestle this week.
On Thursday, the nation's best high school wrestlers will compete for spots on the Cadet Greco-Roman world team. Friday through Sunday will feature men's and women's Senior-level freestyle, the Senior Greco-Roman national tournament, plus the Junior men's freestyle national championships and the Cadet men's freestyle world team trials.
And if Wednesday's opening action is any indication for what's in store, Iowa wrestlers could be in for a busy and successful week in Las Vegas.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.