The event featured competition in Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, pitting teams from different states against each other in a duals format. Twenty-seven teams competed for the Greco-Roman championship, while 32 faced off for the freestyle title.
Some states, such as Georgia, had two teams participating.
“This was the second straight year we’ve been able to bring two junior teams to the national duals,” said Josh Porter, a Team Georgia assistant and head coach at Parkview High School. “Having enough for two teams is a great commitment from Georgia and from the coaches around the state. It’s a sign that we’re continuing to rise on the national stage, and we want to get better.”
Twenty-four individual medals were awarded, and eight All-America plaques were handed out to the top eight teams in both styles.
There were 15 weight classes, and wrestlers who posted undefeated marks garnered all-tournament accolades.
Hulen, a recent Creekview graduate who is coming off a season in which he placed fourth at the Class AAAA state finals at 138 pounds and won the Region 7AAAA championship, is in his second straight season as a member of Team Georgia. He went 2-7 for Team Georgia’s Black team, wrestling exclusively in the Greco-Roman style at 138 pounds.
Hulen posted a 25-second pin over Colorado’s Benito Gutierrez and a 6-0, 5-2 win against Michigan’s Rocco Borg in a best-of-three format.
“Hulen started for us on the Black team and was a really solid performer,” Porter said. “Even though he didn’t win a lot of matches, we could always count on Joe to score at least a point for us, and he had a few upsets. Even that one point can come in handy when you talk about team scoring in Greco-Roman.”
Hulen’s accomplishments helped Georgia Black finish second in Pool A with a 4-1 record. They defeated Indiana 51-8 in the quarterfinals before losing to Illinois in the semifinals. The team topped Kansas Red (50-9), Missouri (33-26) and Colorado (44-21) in the consolation round to place second in Pool A and qualify for the championship Gold/Silver pool.
Georgia Black went on to finish seventh of eight in the Gold/Silver pool, qualifying for All-America status.
“Earning team All-America status is such a great honor, and Joe should be very proud to have been a part of that,” Porter said.
Georgia Black’s performance was only the second time one of the state’s junior team earned All-America status at the national duals, following in the footsteps of the 2010 junior team, which also placed seventh in Greco-Roman.
Georgia Black took home the consolation trophy in freestyle wrestling. The team finished 2-2, fourth in Pool D, but went 4-0 to win the Bronze/Copper pool, beating Kansas Blue 28-20 in the final and signifying a ninth-place finish in freestyle.
“We won all of our matches in bronze/copper to land just outside All-America,” Porter said. “That’s one of the best finishes in freestyle we’ve ever had.”
Nani, a rising Woodstock senior, wrestled Greco-Roman and freestyle for Georgia Red, compiling a 0-3 mark in Greco-Roman, and a 0-4 record in freestyle, in his first appearance with Team Georgia.
Georgia Red placed sixth in Pool D and fifth in the Blue Pool in Greco-Roman. The squad ranked eighth in Pool B and placed fourth in the Green Pool in freestyle.
“The Red team was young, but they got some mat time in, which was important,” Porter said. “They learned how to wrestle at that level.”
Woodstock coach Michael Powell played an integral role in encouraging Nani to join Team Georgia.
“I’ve been trying to preach to the boys to get involved with them,” Powell said. “To get that kind of mat experience and train with some of the best kids in the state, and wrestle some of the best in the nation, can only help them get better.
“Chris has a desire to be a college wrestler and decided to go on with it and train with (Team Georgia). I think he’ll be a better wrestler for it when he gets back.”
The tournament served as preparation for the wrestlers who plan to compete at the weeklong USAW Cadet/Junior National championship, which begin next Sunday in Fargo, N.D.
“Getting guys prepped for Fargo is huge,” Porter said. “That’s the biggest stage, and we want them to be ready.”