Cadet Day 1 Wrap and Day 2 Preview: Figueroa and Kerkvliet reach freestyle finals, five Americans to make World debuts Tuesday

Cadet World Championships


Richard Figueroa II and Greg Kerkvliet reached the freestyle finals on the tournament’s first day and will wrestle Tuesday for gold. Abe Assad remains in medal contention and will compete in Tuesday’s repechage. He needs three victories to bag a bronze.


4:30 a.m. ET — Qualification rounds at 45, 51, 60, 71 and 92 kilograms and repechage at 48, 55, 65, 80 and 110 kilograms.

11:30 a.m. ET — Semifinals at 45, 51, 60, 71 and 92 kilograms.

Noon ET — Medal matches at 48, 55, 65, 80 and 110 kilograms.


Richard Figueroa wrecked everybody in his path Monday.

Greg Kerkvliet dusted his first three opponents and did just enough to get past a fourth to complete his return to the World finals.

The United States finished the opening day of the Cadet World Championships with bookend finalists. Figueroa started the semifinal round with a 10-4 victory against Ukraine’s Mykyta Abramov at 48 kilograms and Kerkvliet capped the session with a 2-2 criteria win against Russia’s Sergey Kozyrev at 110 kg to give the U.S. its first two medalists of the week in Zagreb, Croatia.

All five Americans who wrestled Monday registered a victory, but Robert Howard and Carson Manville were eliminated from medal contention. Abe Assad of Illinois will compete Tuesday in the repechage at 80 kilograms and needs to win three bouts to capture a bronze.

“I’d say overall the performance has been solid,” Cadet freestyle coach Lee Pritts said in an interview with USA Wrestling. “I don’t think we’ve performed up to our capabilities yet. But I also remember last year at this time after that first round we were going, ‘Oh man, we’re in trouble.’ And then (USA Wrestling freestyle developmental coach Kevin Jackson) brought the team in and had a conversation and next thing you know they pulled together as a unit and started firing on all cylinders and ended up with a great tournament.”

The Americans left Greece last September with four freestyle golds, including Kerkvliet’s at 100 kilograms. The Minnesota native who’s committed to Oklahoma State is up against bigger opponents this go-round with the heavyweight limit pushed up to 110 kg this year.

He got through a full-sized heavyweight in Monday’s semifinals when he used a second-period takedown to defeat Kozyrev, a European Cadet champion.

“I could be wrestling better,” Kerkvliet, who opened the tournament with three shutout technical superiority wins, told USA Wrestling. “We’ll find out tomorrow. The tournament’s not done yet and I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Kerkvliet’s bid to become the third repeat Cadet champion in American history goes through Iran’s Amir Hosse Zare, who outscored his three opponents by a combined 32-0 count Monday.

Figueroa was nearly as dominant Monday during his run to the 48-kilogram final. The California state champ pinned China’s Xiaolong Ye in 54 seconds to start the tournament, dismantled Russia’s Valerii Androsov 10-0 in the quarterfinals and took out Ukraine’s Abramov in the semis. Figueroa will wrestle Azerbaijan’s Alihasan Amirli, a 2018 European Cadet bronze medalist, in Tuesday’s gold medal bout.

“He came out firing,” Pritts said of Figueroa. “First match, first World Championship and all of a sudden he’s got his headphones on and he’s bobbing and I’m like, ‘Look at this dude. He’s ready.’ And Izzy Martinez was here and Kellen Russell and we were watching him and I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen, but this dude is about to bring heat.’ And he went out in his first match and just lit the gym up. When he came off, I was like, ‘Everybody else in the weight class is in trouble because he is coming hard.”


Five more Americans will make their Cadet World debuts on Tuesday during the second day of men’s freestyle competition.

Chance Lamer of Oregon, Matthew Ramos of Illinois, Josh Saunders of Missouri, Alex Facundo of Michigan and A.J. Ferrari of Texas received their draws on Monday. All five have wrestled in the Fargo Cadet freestyle finals and Saunders, Facundo and Ferrari won titles last summer.

Here are the draws:

45 kilograms — Chance Lamer (Oregon) vs. Pavel Sagdy (Russia) — Lamer is an Oregon state champ who reached the Fargo finals last summer. Sagdy is a Russian Cadet Nationals champion.

51 kilograms — Matthew Ramos (Illinois) vs. Ioannis Martidis (Greece) — Ramos was a Fargo Cadet freestyle finalist last year. Martidis placed fifth this year at the European Cadet Championships. Martidis placed 15th and 12th in two previous trips to the Cadet World Championships.

60 kilograms — Josh Saunders (Missouri) vs. Benedikt Huber (Austria) — Saunders, a two-time Missouri state champ and Fargo Cadet freestyle champion, has had an impressive 2018, performing well against Junior-level opponents in the U.S. Huber dropped a 12-2 tech against Ukraine’s Vladyslav Ostapenko in his only bout at last year’s Cadet World Championships. A Saunders win would set him up for a bout in the second round against India’s Ravinder Ravinder, an Asian Cadet champ this year.

71 kilograms — Alex Facundo (Michigan) vs. Damian Dan Korbus (Poland) — Facundo, one of the top prospects nationally in the 2021 class, won a Fargo Cadet title last year before his freshman year in high school. This is Korbus’ first major international tournament.

80 kilograms — A.J. Ferrari (Texas) vs. Banzragch Munkhbat (Mongolia) —  Ferrari, a two-time Texas state champ and Fargo Cadet freestyle champion last year, is one of the top wrestlers in the 2020 class. Munkhbat placed fifth this year at the Asian Cadet Championships.

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