Season-long team and individual rivalries will finally be settled this weekend at the DODDS-Europe Wrestling Championships.
The field of 152 wrestlers includes automatic qualifiers from last Saturday’s four sectional meets, as well as wild-card entries nominated by coaches and determined by a panel led by DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore.
The two-day event begins Friday at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield Fitness Center, the 11th time Wiesbaden has hosted the wrestling championships.
The first four rounds of wrestling run Friday from 9:45 a.m. to approximately 7:30 p.m. Round five starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, leading up to the championship matches, which are scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m.
Here’s a look ahead at each of the tournament’s 14 weight classes, based on season results and input from several DODDS-Europe coaches.
106 pounds: Ramstein’s Joey Fortunato is unbeaten and a solid bet to wake up Sunday the same way. But fellow sectional champs Peter McCollaum of Vicenza, Tyler Rodriguez of Lakenheath and Dylan Wagner of Patch will try to insert themselves into the race.
113 pounds: Kaiserslautern junior Matt Fischer won a European title at 106 pounds a year ago, and he’s made the transition to a higher weight class look as seamless as possible. His season-long unbeaten streak continued at sectionals. Fischer has beaten many of the top contenders he’ll see at Wiesbaden, including Patch’s McKenna Fields and Bitburg’s Brandon Beaumont. The wild-card is newcomer Brandon Mowery, a transfer from Virginia to Aviano who has dominated at 113 and 120 pounds since his debut.
120 pounds: Small and remote in comparison to its DODDS-Europe adversaries, Rota nonetheless has a good shot at a European title in Kris Rios. He hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to prove himself, with the Admirals competing in only three regular-season meets, but he also hasn’t shown many vulnerabilities. Rivals include Ramstein’s undefeated Ryan Goins, Black Forest Academy’s Henry Paige, Hohenfels’ Austin Atkinson, SHAPE’s Joshua Crabtree and Heidelberg’s Reshawn Wells.
126 pounds: Isaac McIlvene won the European crown at 120 pounds a year ago, and he has designs on repeating the feat a notch higher this year. It’s hard to see anyone denying the Panther senior, but a group including SHAPE’s Karl Kristensen, Ramstein’s Mitchell Shafer, Alconbury’s Dallin Cazier, Ansbach’s Shawn McDonald and Vicenza’s Ethan Fullmer will give it a shot.
132 pounds: While the classes at each extreme of the scale often feature less wrestlers, it’s middle-of-the-pack weight classes like this where the competition is thickest. The big schools have their contenders in Wiesbaden’s Dante Thomas, Ramstein’s TJ Moore, Patch’s Christopher Carlisle and John Kellett-Forsyth and Kaiserslautern’s Brodie Cutshall. Thomas, in particular, looks primed for European gold after a strong runner-up finish at 120 pounds a season ago. Southern sectional champion Connor Smith of Vicenza will be tasked with maintaining his season-long unbeaten streak among the many threats to shatter it.
138 pounds: Evidence suggests that Patch’s Jaden Fields is ready to step into the championship shoes left by his older brother, reigning 170-pound European champion and Stars and Stripes wrestler of the year Calen Fields. The younger Fields brother nearly accomplished the feat a year ago, taking third place at 132 pounds, and pinned Hohenfels’ Marcus Dudley at last weekend’s sectional to earn another opportunity. Those seeking to derail Fields include Wiesbaden’s Joseph Spiszer, Ramstein’s George Hyde, Vicenza’s Ramsey Schroeder, and Kaiserslautern’s Ryan Parkinson.
145 pounds: While Patch and Ramstein have their contenders in Jonathan Charpenter and Andi Abel, it’s a pair of entrants from less-heralded programs that might decide this intriguing class. Miles Davis of Naples earned a 7-5 decision over Aviano’s Daniel Dinges at last week’s sectional to boost his stature entering Europeans. Alex Abing, meanwhile, represents the entirety of the Menwith Hill contingent, but he might be enough to earn the Mustangs a weight-class win.
152 pounds: The headliner of this deep and dangerous class is Desean Horton of Patch, the 2012 third-place finisher at 138 pounds. The added bulk agrees with the Panther senior, who cruised through the ranks at each regular-season meet and scored a pin over Heidelberg’s Aaron Gauff to win last weekend’s sectional. But there’s no such thing as a lock at Europeans. Ramstein’s Eric Carter, Vicenza’s Liam Manville, Kaiserslautern’s Erik Robinson and Lakenheath’s Zach Harris are fellow sectional champs with the potential to overtake the frontrunner.
160 pounds: This class represents a peek of sunlight for those schools overshadowed by the domineering presence of Panthers and Royals. The list of potential champions here starts with Lakenheath’s Justin Menges. The Lancers leader has handled mainland big-school foes all season, most recently scoring a 3-2 decision over Wiesbaden’s Andrew Hempstead to take Northern sectional honors. As usual, however, there’s an able list of contenders lurking in the bracket, including Black Forest Academy’s Greer McCollum, Kaiserslautern’s Paul Michitsch, Heidelberg’s Justin Vatcher, Bitburg’s Evan Less and the aforementioned Hempstead.
170 pounds: Some of the largely untested wrestlers to venture northward from Italy will be in for a rude awakening as the scope of competition increases. William Pagan likely won’t be among them. The skilled Vicenza grappler proved his mettle with a third-place showing at last year’s Europeans and has only improved over the course of his current unbeaten regular season. Still, Pagan competes in one of DODDS-Europe’s largest and most competitive classes. SHAPE’s Bryce Mann, Ramstein’s Galen McCarver, Patch’s Caine Collins and Kaiserslautern’s Arvin Hrushka highlight a deep and formidable field of potential champions.
182 pounds: This class belongs to reigning champion Robert Mannier of Patch until proven otherwise. A field including fellow sectional champions Zach Cheek of Naples, Joseph Ankrom of Ramstein and Dustin Varia of Alconbury will look to prevent the coronation.
195 pounds: Bitburg’s Bryce Randall appears to have an edge here as the crush of mid-class wrestlers begins to dissipate. Patch entry Jonah Logan is among the formidable wrestlers in his way. Aviano’s Johnathan Corriere survived his region unbeaten, while AFNORTH’s Victor Black and Alconbury’s Xavier Merrill could sneak into contention.
220 pounds: The graduation of Bitburg beast Austin Schmidt has opened this class up for a new champion. Ramstein’s Anthony Zaferis and AFNORTH’s Luke Narug, both 2012 semifinalists, should battle for the vacant seat, but Patch entry Michael Mineni is no easy pin.
285 pounds: Many schools struggle to find a grappler to fill this hefty singlet. But the caliber of competition among the select group makes this class one of the weekend’s most interesting. The sectional champions - Vilseck’s Armando Saldana, AFNORTH’s Tom Hahn, Ramstein’s Christian Elliott and Naples’ Jordan Thurston – all have a shot at the title, as does Ansbach’s Rahim Beatty, who had handled Saldana throughout the regular season before taking the surprise pin in the sectional round.