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Wrestling: Iowa native Alex Thomsen wins Senior Greco-Roman National title


Cody Goodwin   | Des Moines Register
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CORALVILLE, Ia. — Alex Thomsen won four state titles for Underwood, a small-class power in southwestern Iowa. Head coach Joe Stephens has a simple mantra for his athletes: wrestling is wrestling, just go compete.

So many Eagle wrestlers have found success in each of the sports’ disciplines: folkstyle, freestyle and greco-roman. Thomsen earned All-American honors in all three, including a Junior greco national title in 2017, before joining Nebraska’s program.

On Friday night, here inside the new Xtream Arena, Thomsen added another lucrative wrestling accomplishment to his résumé by winning greco gold at the U.S. Senior National Championships. He went 4-0 and won at 60 kilograms (132 pounds).

“Senior national champ, that feels pretty good,” Thomsen said afterward through a smile. “Not too bad, I don’t think.”

Thomsen beat Northern Colorado wrestler Mosha Schwartz, 5-3, in Friday’s finals, capping an unlikely run as a 9-seed in this weekend’s tournament. He pulled three upsets and outscored all four opponents by a combined 32-7.

This accomplishment is nothing to shrug off, even if the novel coronavirus pandemic threw many wrenches into this tournament — chief among them was limiting who attended.

This tournament does not have the same firepower as previous Senior National Championships, including the one last December in Texas. Some wrestlers didn’t come out of precaution. Some weren't allowed. The Army World Class Athlete Program, for example, has a strong freestyle and greco presence. None could come compete.

But that opened the door for an exciting and eventful tournament, if only because of the unknown.

Thomsen was one of many college wrestlers that competed in greco this weekend. Others with more notable greco backgrounds prevailed at other weights, but at 60 kilos, six of the top eight were current college guys. The field also included Utah Valley’s Taylor LaMont and NYAC athlete Randon Miranda, both past U23 world team members.

You can only wrestle who shows up, and Thomsen flourished. He beat top-seeded LaMont, 10-4, in the quarters; Cal-State Bakersfield’s Chance Rice by technical fall in the semifinals; then Schwartz in the finals. LaMont and Rice finished third and fourth, respectively, meaning Thomsen beat the second-, third- and fourth-place finishers.

And he did it by wrestling tough — good head position, strong hand-fighting, and an occasional arm spin and high-dive.

“This was another opportunity for me to show another side of my wrestling,” Thomsen said. “I have the hips, the power, the explosiveness, and the mat awareness. That final match, it was all mat awareness. I had to be smart, keep my butt in the center.

“I love greco. When I committed to Nebraska, my goal was to be the best I could possibly be, no matter the style, and our coaches are allowing us to follow our dreams, and that’s been really cool.”

Wrestling is wrestling, in other words, and as we’ve seen time and again, Alex Thomsen is quite good at wrestling.

Iowa State recruit holds his own: Conor Knopick, a senior at Millard South in Nebraska, held his own against Senior-level competitors on Friday, going 2-3 and finishing eighth at 60 kilos.

Knopick has a successful greco background. He’s earned multiple All-American honors at the Cadet level, and even made the 2019 Cadet greco world team. He was the youngest competitor in the field on Friday, and still reached the quarterfinals and, ultimately, the podium.

Knopick, who won a Nebraska state title last season, committed to Iowa State in June. He is considered the No. 29 overall recruit in the 2021 class. The Cyclones are plenty excited about adding him to the program. His performance on Friday showed why.

Former Loras wrestler finds Greco success: Eddie Smith, a Division III All-American for Loras, finished eighth in the greco competition at 77 kilos (169 pounds). He took the long way to the podium, losing in the first round and winning three in a row in the wrestlebacks to reach the top-eight.

College guys shine: Many other notable current college wrestlers performed quite well in Friday’s greco competition.

Two actually won titles: Arizona State’s Cohlton Schultz, at 130 kilos, and Ohio State’s Nicholas Boykin, at 97 kilos. Schultz is a seasoned greco veteran, a Cadet world champ and two-time Junior world medalist. Boykin, a 2019 Junior greco world-teamer, actually beat another Sun Devil wrestler, Chad Porter, in the finals.

Others finished also finished in the top four: Princeton’s Lenny Merkin, third at 67 kilos; Nebraska’s Peyton Robb, fourth at 77 kilos; Illinois’s Zach Braunagel, third at 87 kilos; and Wisconsin’s Braxton Ames, third at 97 kilos.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

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U.S. Senior National Championships

Greco-Roman Finals

  • 60 kilograms (132 pounds): Alex Thomsen over Mosha Schwartz, 5-3
  • 67 kilograms (147 pounds): Benji Peak over Calvin Germinaro, 8-0
  • 77 kilograms (169 pounds): Kendrick Sanders over Pat Smith, 8-0
  • 87 kilograms (191 pounds): Alan Vera over Joe Rau, 7-1
  • 97 kilograms (213 pounds): Nicholas Boykin over Chad Porter, 5-1 
  • 130 kilograms (286 pounds): Cohlton Schultz over West Cathcart, 4-2