Two wrestlers medal in Junior Open

Cody Boyer

Over the weekend, members of the USOEC Greco-Roman wrestling team traveled overseas to Austria to competed alongside Team USA, earning two medals.

NMU’s USOEC wrestlers competed on Saturday, March 9 at the Austrian Junior Open in Götzis, Austria, earning two medals within the NMU team and contributing to Team USA’s accumulated 55 points.

The two athletes that medaled gold and silver were both from the USOEC team. Freshman Isaiah Varona, who took first place for Team USA at Austria, said the matches he faced helped him develop a better sense of his wrestling abilities.

“When I got on the mat this time around, I felt so much stronger than my competition,” Varona said. “It gave me the confidence I needed to be dominant. Once I feel like I have the control in the match, I just run with it.”

The competition hosted 12 other countries taking place in its events, with France taking second place with 53 points and Georgia taking third with 43. The Austrian Junior Open is being followed by training camp that will continue taking place for the remainder of the week. Grabbing the gold for the USOEC, Varona wrestled in the 55-kilogram weight class, defeating Serbian wrestler Nikola Markovic 3-0 and 4-0.

Varona said the competition was a valuable experience for the entire team as the trip presented experience-building opportunities both on and off the mat.

“The competition was great,” Varona said. “There was a great turnout and a great attitude between all of the wrestlers, regardless of how bad the language barrier was. Coming out of this, I’m going to make sure I keep up on my strength for nationals in Vegas next month.”

Another USOEC freshman, Ramon Moreno, took away the silver in the 50-kilogram weight class for Team USA. Moreno wrestled against Georgia wrestler Davit Iremadze, who defeated him on the mat to take first place in the weight class. Moreno pinned his first two opponents, wrestling against Team Austria in the first round and Team France in the second.

Moreno said the matches against the other teams overseas were difficult, but the team went into their respective matches well-prepared.

“There was definitely some tough competition over there at the tournament,” Moreno said. “The guys from Team France and Team Georgia were especially tough. I felt like our USOEC guys wrestled great, went in aggressive and brought it every match. As for helping Team USA win the tournament, it was an honor.”

Although the USOEC did not bring in any other medals, two other NMU athletes participated in the Open. Sophomore Austin Barton from Phoenix, Ariz. placed fifth after wrestling in the 74-kilogram weight division.

Freshman Zeke Honegger also competed in the same weight class, placing behind Barton in sixth place.

“It’s amazing how this sport can unite people from across the world,” Varona said. “These are the kinds of experience I live for: traveling the world, seeing amazing things, doing what I love and competing with the best in the world. I feel like I couldn’t have picked a better dream to chase.”