USAW logo, world team trials


This preview isn’t for all the contenders or entries in a weight class. Instead it is a look at the top high school contenders in each weight class, especially those who won the US Open.

In the weights where a I have a current college wrestler making the world team, or the US Open champion was a college wrestler, I do mention them.

There are plenty of non high school guys in contention in these weights, like Vinny Kilkeary, the US Open runner up to Lilledahl at 57. Nasir Bailey at 61. And others.

I’m transitioning into an exclusively high school (boys/girls) platform. This is the first article specifically to that end.


In terms of top talent at the high school level, many of these weights have plenty to speak of. No bracket will have the depth of it that 57KG does though.

Lilledahl was the US Open champion and therefore sits until the finals. In the field will be a bunch of names that were also at the US Open but a couple new ones join this group as well.

By now the history between Jax and Luke should be fairly well known. And that could definitely be the finals match up this weekend in Ohio. At the US Open, it was Vinny Kilkeary in the finals against Lilledahl. It could be him again. But he’s not in HS so not part of my write up.

Others to watch are obviously Seth Mendoza and Anthony Knox. Mendoza made some big news for himself beating Jax, but then it was Knox over Mendoza for 3rd.

New to the group is former cadet world team member Chris Castillo, Haakon Peterson who was at the Last Chance trials, and Leo DeLuca who always battles with Knox and Lilledahl.

Have to consider Lilledahl the favorite here and I like Jax to bounce back in a big way.


College freshman Cael Hughes leads the way into Ohio as the US Open winner. But his road to the title and the spot on the world team just got even harder. At the Open he beat Kyler Larkin in a tight finals. This go round, he could get Larkin again – or he could get the one of the new top guns in this bracket. 

First, there’s Ben Davino, our 2024 Wrestler of the Year winner (all winners will be announced in the first edition of our digital magazine, Three.). He is of course one of the best in any style at any weight. His win for the high school season was bolstered by a huge showdown with Marcus Blaze in the Ironman finals.

Speaking of Blaze, he’s the 2nd newcomer to speak of here. He finished 3rd at the Olympic Trials and if you considered him the favorite here I couldn’t argue much. In fact he is my favorite. Based on what he’s done on the freestyle circuit.

There’s a solid group out of the top 8 from the US Open returning to do battle as well. Kyler Larkin, Jake Hockaday, Billy Dekraker, Elijah Cortez, and Matt Botello. Hard to predict any of them ultimately make the team, but I wouldn’t be shocked either. Very nice bracket here.


This looks like the next Bo Bassett world team. He won the US Open fairly easily. He didn’t make the National team at the Olympic Trials, but he’s right there among the very best in the country at the senior level at this weight. 

His biggest threat this weekend looks to be Aden Valencia. They’ve wrestled twice this Spring already. Bassett won both, but they were very close and competitive. No one else has really tested Bassett in this time.

After them, a few very familiar names round out the high school group: Pierson Manville, Jax Joy, and Daniel Zepeda. Zepeda is the last HS wrestler to beat Bassett but that was months ago and in a folkstyle all-star event. 

Bet against Bo at your own risk. Wait, is anyone taking bets on this?


PJ Duke is one of those phenom types who is the favorite to win just about every tournament he enters. He did just that at the US Open and figures to repeat the result again to make the U20 team.

The runner up to Duke at the Open was Kody Routledge, he’s entered at 74KG this weekend. Other challengers returning from the Vegas tournament are Isaias Jimenez and Landon Robideau. Both fell in the round of 16, Jimenez in a competitive match with Routledge. Robideau to college freshman Cross Wasilewski. Wasilewski is not in this field.

Newcomers to the party are Brock Mantanona, Paul Kelly, and Collin Gaj. Grigor Cholakyan is also down from 74KG this time.

Of the new names, Mantanona is the most intriguing to me. But in the end I think Duke is too much for everyone.


Like Bo Bassett at 65 and PJ Duke at 70, LaDarion Lockett 74KG is a US Open champion with HS years left. Lockett is a junior already committed to Oklahoma State (whose thoughts on the new coaching change were shared as part of the first issue of Three, so check that out) and already has a cadet gold medal to his credit.

Lockett’s battles with Joe Sealey are great and could be another round this weekend. Sealey was the US Open finalist opponent and I think should reach the 2 out of 3 rematch this weekend.

Others coming back are Vince Bouzakis and Claudio Torres. Kody Routledge as mentioned is up here from 70.

I do think the battles to get to Lockett will be tough, ultimately I expect to see Sealey as the challenge tournament champ.


As we get up to these weights, we start to see fewer HS athletes but we do have two. The first is Zack Ryder, the US Open champ. 

The second is Will Henckel who gave Ryder his toughest match in Las Vegas. That was a 4-3 decision in the quarterfinals.

While I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it’s Henckel making his way back to Ryder, the new entrant, Gabe Arnold, is perhaps even the favorite to make the team.

He’s older than the two HS athletes, and had big wins throughout his HS career and looked good in the action he did get for the Hawkeyes. Ryder does hold the head to head against him currently.

I think Ryder is just THAT dude. And we get two Minisink Valley NY kids on the world team.


Looks like all the top contenders are back from the US Open. And when you look at the way Aeoden Sinclair dominated that tournament, there isn’t much here to lead me to believe this is any different.

But that’s why they wrestle and don’t just ask me for my predictions. Though maybe they should?

The finalist in Vegas was Josh Barr and I expect him to win the tournament to get to Sinclair. Then it should be Aeoden victorious once again.


This is the smallest bracket I believe. And it has the US Open winner who didn’t concede a single point in the entire tournament.

I don’t know who is expected to knock Connor Mirasola off, but I just don’t see it happening.

Justin Rademacher was in the US Open finals but is registered for 97 here.


The US Open champion was 2023 HS graduate, and current Nebraska Cornhusker, Camden McDanel. He’s a world bronze medalist and I think was the favorite entering the US Open and held up to that billing.

This time, he’ll be challenged by a newcomer to the field in senior Cody Merrill. McDanel is really good, I’m not sure he’s going to beat Merrill however.

The other HS wrestler of note in this bracket is Cole Mirasola. He battled McDanel to a 5-1 finish in the Vegas finals. 

In the end, I think this is Cody’s to lose.


US Open champion Jimmy Mullen might get a familiar foe in the finals this weekend, might get a new entrant – a fellow two-sport standout in fact.

While Mullen ultimately won the US Open by fall, Nicholas Sahakian was winning at the time and he’s back in this mix.

Joining him are Koy Hopke and Aden Attao, who rounded out the top 4 in Vegas. Attao is a contender but he’s also out of HS. Hopke is looking to bounce back after a 16-4 loss to Mullen. Both Sahakian and Hopke lost to Mullen but didn’t wrestle each other. In their way, in a big way, is Iowa Hawkeyes freshman Ben Keuter.

A pair of new HS names figure to push some of the top contenders as well. They are Nick Pavlechko and Rocco Dellagatta.

Mullen is my pick to win this, having the advantage of sitting in the finals. But Keuter, is right there as perhaps even the odds on favorite to win it.

U20 Team Prediction

  • 57KG: Luke Lilledahl
  • 61KG: Marcus Blaze
  • 65KG: Bo Bassett
  • 70KG: PJ Duke
  • 74KG: LaDarion Lockett
  • 79KG: Zack Ryder
  • 86KG: Aeoden Sinclair
  • 92KG: Connor Mirasola
  • 97KG: Cody Merrill
  • 125KG: Jimmy Mullen
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Based in Western PA. Right in the heart of WPIAL country, Todd brings an insider’s view from the country’s epicenter  of wrestling. He’s excited to build on the TKDWN tradition of starting with the story first. The athletes, the coaches, their families and supporters, there is no shortage of stories to tell. And Todd will bring his unique perspective to help us continue to deliver top notch content for the world’s greatest sport!