It was a record-setting year for the Walsh Ironman in terms of team quality, as well as for the depth and breadth of the individual talent in the field. Among the 520 athletes were around 30 percent of the nationally ranked individuals, and just under one half of the InterMat Fab50 national ranked teams were among the 90 schools with full or partial entries in the event.
National No. 1 Blair Academy (N.J.) won the event by an event-record margin of 100 points over No. 2 Wyoming Seminary (Pa.). The Buccaneers had six wrestlers make the finals, and twelve wrestlers earn to eight podium finishes on the way to 276-1/2 points. That performance was not an event record, which would be the 297 points score by St. Edward (Ohio) in December 1999. It actually was the fourth best point total in event history, the third among Blair Academy teams (287 in December 2001, 282 in December 2008).
Earning titles for the Buccaneers were No. 3 Trevor Mastrogiovanni (120), No. 7 Shayne Van Ness (132), and No. 1 A.J. Ferrari (195). For Mastrogiovanni, it was a repeat title, and it took a pair of third period takedowns including the match winner with 24 seconds remaining to outlast No. 4 Lucas Byrd (Cincinnati LaSalle, Ohio) 6-5. It was also a repeat title for Ferrari, who scored two takedowns in each period of a 13-7 victory over No. 4 Peter Christensen (Montini Catholic, Ill.); a late escape and takedown for Christensen made the match seem closer than it was.
The sophomore Van Ness, for whom it is his first season as the primary starter, has had a spectacular six week period to make people aware of his true ability level. On the way to winning a title at the Super 32 in late October, he beat three-time tournament champion Adam Busiello in the quarterfinal round.
In Saturday afternoon’s semifinal round, he used a mid-third period takedown to equalize the bout and then a late third period five-point move to confirm the 11-5 victory over national No. 1 Jordan Decatur (CVCA, Ohio). Then to win the title, he used a four-point toss at the edge of the mat inside the last 30 seconds to beat No. 15 Frankie Tal-Shahar (American Heritage, Fla.); Tal-Shahar used a last second takedown to beat No. 2 Dylan D’Emilio (Genoa, Ohio) 5-4 in his semifinal.
Runners-up for Blair Academy were No. 2 Michael Colaiocco (126), No. 3 Julian Ramirez (170), and No. 2 Owen Trephan (220). Other medalists included No. 13 Travis Mastrogiovanni (145), Nick Incontera (152), and No. 5 Dominic Mata (160) placing fourth; Ryan Miller (113) in fifth; No. 16 Peyton Craft (182) in seventh; and Daniel Wask (106) in eighth.
Or the second place team, Wyoming Seminary (Pa.), No. 10 Darrien Roberts was the Blue Knights’ lone finalist and champion. He upended No. 8 Jackson Turley (St. Christopher’s, Va.), a fellow National Prep runner-up, in the 182 pound final by a 4-2 score; Roberts’ first period takedown was the key factor in that victory. Out of eight other placers, No. 8 Troy Spratley (113) and No. 8 Jacob Kaminski (220) each placed third; Lachlan McNeil (120) finished fourth; No. 3 Beau Bartlett (132) earned fifth; while Drew Munch (126), Benny Baker (152), No. 19 Jake Stefanowicz (170), and Michel Doggett (195) each finished sixth.
The two teams finishing in joint third, No. 4 Cincinnati LaSalle (Ohio) and No. 15 Bethlehem Catholic (Pa.), barely combined to exceed the total of second place Wyoming Seminary, as each team had 90 points. The lone champion between those two teams was No. 2 Ryan Anderson for Bethlehem Catholic at 145 pounds.
Anderson started his tournament with two pins and a 12-2 major decision in the round of 16 before a pair of regular decision victories to advance to the final; those came against nationally ranked opponents, 4-2 over No. 18 Trevor Chumbley (Marmion Academy, Ill.) in the quarterfinal and 6-2 over Mastrogiovanni in the semifinal.
That was the prelude to the finals program’s featured bout between No. 2 Anderson and No. 1 Jaden Abas (Rancho Bernardo, Calif.), whose advancement to the final included a 7-3 win over No. 3 Bryce Andonian (St. Edward, Ohio) in the semifinal. Anderson made the finals match a basic non-event after one period as a two takedowns and a late near fall that would have been a pin but for the period ending gave him a 7-1 lead. A technical violation and a second stalling against Abas in the second period made it 9-1, while another stall call against Abas in the third period created the final 11-1 margin.
Said performance was enough for the Iowa State signee Anderson to be named the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the 25th Walsh Ironman.
Four others joined Ferrari as national No. 1 ranked wrestlers to win titles in the 2018 Walsh Ironman: Richard Figueroa (Selma, Calif.) at 113 pounds, Joshua Saunders (Christian Brothers College, Mo.) at 138, Carson Kharchla (Olentangy Liberty, Ohio) at 170, and Braxton Amos (Parkersburg South, W.Va.) at 220.
Figueroa outlasted state champion Alejandro Herrera-Rondon (Seneca Valley, Pa.) 2-1, as a reversal in the second period followed by riding that period out was enough to offset Herrera-Rondon’s escape early in the third period. Saunders used a second period near fall and third period escape to outlast Chris Rivera (Lake Highland Prep, Fla.) 3-0 in his championship bout.
For Kharchla, it was two first period takedowns, which he was able to make last in a 5-2 victory over No. 3 Julian Ramirez (Blair Academy, N.J.); in Kharchla’s four previous matches during the weekend, he had three wins by technical fall and a 12-3 major decision in the semifinal. Amos earned a repeat title at the Ironman with a 4-2 victory over No. 2 Owen Trephan (Blair Academy, N.J.), the key being a first period takedown; his four previous matches were three pins followed by a 25-10 technical fall in the semifinal.
Joining Mastrogiovanni, Ferrari, and Amos as a repeat champion at the Walsh Ironman was No. 2 Cohlton Schultz (Ponderosa, Colo.), who beat No. 10 Jonathan Birchmeier (Broad Run, Va.) 6-0 at 285 pounds. In his fourth tournament finals appearance, Schultz was held to a scoreless first period before a pair of second period near falls and a third period escape confirmed the title for the Arizona State signee. It was the first match of the tournament that lasted more than 41 seconds, as Schultz reached the final with four pins in a cumulative time of 2:12.
No. 2 Connor Brady (Olentangy Liberty, Ohio) joined high school teammate Kharchla in winning a weight class title, as the Super 32 champion added gold at the Ironman via a 7-0 domination of No. 6 Jace Luchau (Selma, Calif.). Brady scored a takedown in each period to avenge his loss from the Junior National freestyle tournament from this summer in Fargo.
Rounding out the weight class champions were No. 6 Kyle Rowan (Perry, Ohio) at 106 pounds, No. 13 Reece Witcraft (Broken Arrow, Okla.) at 126, and No. 8 Sam Dover (St. Edward, Ohio) at 152. Each wrestler beat top three ranked in the country opposition in their championship bout.