By Sgt. Michael Hunnisett | U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP)
FORT CARSON, Colo. — The U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program (WCAP) dominated the 2022 U.S. Open held at the South Point Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada. The tournament lasted two days, with WCAP Soldier-athletes competing in almost every weight class. In total, six athletes took national titles during the competition.
Seven of the 10 weight categories in the competition’s finals have at least one WCAP Soldier-athlete competing, with a total of eight Soldier-athletes making it to the finals. Three of these athletes are former Olympians: Sgt. Ildar Hafizov, Pfc. Jesse Thielke and Spc. Alejandro Sancho.
At 55kg, three-time national champion Staff Sgt. Max Nowry faces Spc. Dalton Duffield in the finals. In 60kg, Hafizov secured an 8-0 technical fall over Ohio RTC Dylan Koontz in the semifinal round. Thielke, in 63kg, swept his opponent in an 11-0 technical fall in the semifinals to reach the final round. Former Olympian Sancho came into the finals with a 3-0 record to face Lenny Merkin of the New York Athletic Club. In the semifinals, Sancho won by decision over opponent Alston Nutter 6-5. Pfc. Britton Holmes faces Alex Ortiz of the Minnesota Storm in the finals of 77kg. At 82kg, Spc. Spencer Woods, a 2021 U.S. Open Champion, and an 8-0 technical fall winner in the semifinals secured his position in the finals against Ryan Epps of the Minnesota Storm. Staff Sgt. Lucas Sheridan made light work of his bracket, winning by technical fall to face Khymba Johnson of the New York Athletic Club in the finals for 97kg.
55kg — Staff Sgt. Max Nowry (WCAP) tech. fall Camden Russell (MWC Wrestling), 10-0
Spc. Dalton Duffield (WCAP) tech. fall Jacob Cochran (New York Athletic Club), 12-2
60kg — Max Black (New York Athletic Club) inj. dft. Spc. Dalton Roberts (WCAP)
Sgt. Ildar Hafizov (WCAP) tech. fall Dylan Koontz WI (Ohio RTC), 8-0
63kg — Pfc. Jesse Thielke (WCAP) tech. fall Nicholas Leonetti (Suples WC), 11-0
67kg — Spc. Alejandro Sancho (WCAP) dec. Alston Nutter (Sunkist Kids WC), 6-5
77kg — Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm) inj. dft. Pvt. Kamal Bey (WCAP)
Pfc. Britton Holmes (WCAP) dec. Payton Jacobson (Sunkist Kids WC), 5-2
82kg — Spc. Spencer Woods (WCAP) tech. fall Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm), 8-0
97kg — Staff Sgt. Lucas Sheridan (WCAP) tech. fall Guy Patron (Dubuque WC), 8-0
In the finals, Duffield forfeited to Nowry, with WCAP claiming both first and second place in the 55kg class and qualifying both wrestlers for the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament.
Hafizov won his third career U.S. Open title with a 9-0 technical fall over 2022 U20 national champion Max Black. Hafizov hit an arm throw and turned Black to end the final match. Hafizov was a 2020 Olympian for the United States. After the conclusion of the event, Hafizov was also named the event’s Outstanding Wrestler.
2016 Olympian Thielke scored a 9-0 technical fall over Aidan Nutter (New York Athletic Club).
2020 Olympian Sancho claimed his second career U.S. Open title after he won by injury default when opponent Lenny Merkin (New York Athletic Club) did not compete due to injury.
At 77kg, Holmes won his first U.S. Open after a 9-6 battle over Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm). Holmes gained an early lead, which was later lost after a challenge from Ortiz. Leading by 7-5, after review, Holmes was now trailing 5-6. Holmes managed to respond with a counter throw for a three-point lead after scoring four.
Woods lost a tough battle to U.S. Olympian Ben Provisor (New York Athletic Club) 3-5 after Provisor had scored two gut wrenches during the second period. A late take down from Woods wasn’t enough to close the gap. Woods finished in 2nd for the 82kg weight class.
Winning another first U.S. Open title was Sheridan at 97kg. After the first period, Sheridan was trailing 0-2. After being penalized twice for passivity, the score was tied at 2-2. Sheridan took down Johnson and scored the fall with only three seconds left in the bout to win.
55kg — 1st Staff Sgt. Max Nowry (WCAP) forfeit Spc. Dalton Duffield (WCAP)
7th Spc. Cole Smith (WCAP) pin Stephen Emrich (Minnesota)
60kg — 1st Sgt. Ildar Hafizov (WCAP) tech. fall Max Black (New York Athletic Club), 9-0
5th Phillip Moomey (Spartan Combat RTC) inj. dft. Spc. Dalton Roberts (WCAP)
63kg — 1st Pfc. Jesse Thielke (WCAP) tech. fall Aidan Nutter (New York Athletic Club), 9-0
67kg — 1st Spc. Alejandro Sancho (WCAP) inj. dft. Lenny Merkin (New York Athletic Club)
72kg — 3rd Cpt. Michael Hooker (WCAP) dec. Brody Olson (NMU), 5-0
77kg — 1st Pfc. Britton Holmes (WCAP) dec. Alex Ortiz (Minnesota Storm), 9-6
5th Tyler Eichens (California RTC) inj. dft. Pvt. Kamal Bey (WCAP)
82kg — 1st Ben Provisor (New York Athletic Club) dec. Spc. Spencer Woods (WCAP), 5-3
97kg — 1st Staff Sgt. Lucas Sheridan (WCAP) pin Khymba Johnson (New York Athletic Club)
Next up for U.S. Army WCAP Wrestlers is the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in Coralville, Iowa, May 21-23, 2022.