Richard Figueroa wrecked everybody in his path Monday.
Greg Kerkvliet dusted his first three opponents and did just enough to get past a fourth to complete his return to the World finals.
The United States finished the opening day of the Cadet World Championships with bookend finalists. Figueroa started the semifinal round with a 10-4 victory against Ukraine’s Mykyta Abramov at 48 kilograms and Kerkvliet capped the session with a 2-2 criteria win against Russia’s Sergey Kozyrev at 110 kg to give the U.S. its first two medalists of the week in Zagreb, Croatia.
All five Americans who wrestled Monday registered a victory, but Robert Howard and Carson Manville were eliminated from medal contention. Abe Assad of Illinois will compete Tuesday in the repechage at 80 kilograms and needs to win three bouts to capture a bronze.
“I’d say overall the performance has been solid,” Cadet freestyle coach Lee Pritts said in an interview with USA Wrestling. “I don’t think we’ve performed up to our capabilities yet. But I also remember last year at this time after that first round we were going, ‘Oh man, we’re in trouble.’ And then (USA Wrestling freestyle developmental coach Kevin Jackson) brought the team in and had a conversation and next thing you know they pulled together as a unit and started firing on all cylinders and ended up with a great tournament.”