Home National Weather McDonogh grad Richard Fedalen, Maryland’s Jaxon Smith to represent US at 2022 World Junior Wrestling Championships in August – Baltimore Sun

McDonogh grad Richard Fedalen, Maryland’s Jaxon Smith to represent US at 2022 World Junior Wrestling Championships in August – Baltimore Sun

by DrewLUD
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The upcoming 2022 World Junior Wrestling Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, will have a Maryland tinge to it.

Jaxon Smith, who redshirted his freshman season this past winter at Maryland, and Richard Fedalen, who completed his senior year in June at McDonogh, will represent the United States at the world championships from Aug. 15 to 21 — albeit in different disciplines. Smith is a member of the freestyle team, while Fedalen will compete for the Greco-Roman squad.

Even though the pair don’t know each other, each wrestler expressed pride at being able to bring some Maryland flavor to a destination almost 5,000 miles away on another continent.

“It’s pretty cool because Maryland is not necessarily known as a big wrestling state,” Fedalen said. “Last year, we had a Cadet World Champ from Maryland [Woodbine’s Meyer Shapiro] and then we’ve had two Olympic champs from Maryland [Woodbine’s Kyle Snyder and Rockville’s Helen Maroulis]. We may not have a ton of depth as a state, but we definitely have the talent that brings back gold medals.”

Added Smith: “We’re on the rise, for sure. In previous years, we’ve kind of been in a little bit of a slump, but you can see the new kids coming around Maryland, and we’re starting to see a little bit more success, and I feel like this is just the start of it.”

Here is a look at each wrestler and their paths to this position.

The Scaggsville resident is no stranger to the Greco-Roman discipline, a form of wrestling that prohibits holds below the waist and consequently promotes the ability to throw an opponent. Fedalen finished second at 63 kilograms in Greco-Roman wrestling at last summer’s World Team Trials and Pan American Championships.

“I feel like I have a natural build for Greco-Roman,” said Fedalen, who wrestled at 152 pounds during the winter and was named The Sun’s All-Metro Wrestler of the Year. “My freestyle and folkstyle wrestling is upper body-oriented. So I decided to pursue that.”

In a move exemplifying his commitment to the style, Fedalen — who will wrestle at Columbia — hired in early April private coach Jay LaValley, founder of JOwrestling and former chairman of the Maryland State Wrestling Association. Three weeks later, Fedalen captured the 72-kilogram title at the U.S. Open and then followed up with similar wins at the World Team Trials and Pan American Championships.

“I always visualized myself winning that,” he said of his victory at the U.S. Open, which included winning his first three matches by a combined score of 26-0 and then decisively triumphing in the final. “But how that happened, I was pretty dominating. I got a tech fall in the finals, and I wasn’t really expecting that to happen. I anticipated that being a war of a match, a really tight one. After that, that gave me a lot of confidence heading into the trials.”

LaValley said he has sought to improve Fedalen’s ability to battle on the inside, grabbing wrists and elbows when contact occurs to gain control in certain positions and move the opponent to more advantageous positions.

“It’s one of the few wrestling styles where you actually get better as you get older, and that’s kind of what I’m seeing in Richard,” LaValley said. “He’s so focused and homed into Greco-Roman since April, and he’s getting better every single day. … He’s very strong and determined obviously, and he learns quick. But he didn’t have a lot of the small, finer details, and that’s what we have really been working on.”

Because European and Asian wrestlers have been wrestling the Greco-Roman style since they were children, Fedalen and LaValley have spent a considerable amount of time studying potential opponents on film. Fedalen said his biggest opposition might be European champion Robert Attila Fritsch of Hungary.

Still, Fedalen said he is not lowering the bar.

“I go into every tournament that I enter with the expectation to win,” he said. “It’s going to be tough. Pretty much all of the Europeans have been doing Greco. That’s the only style they’ve wrestled. So it’s kind of like the cards are stacked against me, but I’ve always had the expectation to win.”

The Cartersville, Georgia, resident’s talent has not exactly been a secret. Despite redshirting this past winter, he racked up 23 wins against just six losses in open tournaments and captured the Edinboro Open title at 197 pounds.

Smith said he found his rhythm after winning the 92-kilogram crown at the United States Marine Corps Open in Las Vegas on April 30, which kickstarted a run that included victories at the World Team Trials in Geneva, Ohio, on June 4 and the Under-20 Pan American Championships in Oaxtepec, Mexico, on July 10.

“After I won the U.S. Open, it definitely put me in a good spot to make the national team,” he said. “After I won the Open, I was pretty confident in myself. I believed this was the year I was going to do it and make the team and go win a world championship. After that, I felt like the ball was rolling.”

If Smith needed motivation, all he had to do was remember how he finished fourth at 86 kilograms at last summer’s World Team Trials and stayed stateside.

“I learned you get what you put in,” he said. “I knew I needed to work harder. I knew I needed to sacrifice a few more things and work harder. So that’s what I did.”

Since June, Terps coach Alex Clemsen said he and his staff have been working with Smith to be more assertive with his hand fighting and strengthen his leg defense. Clemsen said he has noticed a change in Smith’s body language.

“He’s really learned not to take a backseat to anybody,” he said. “He’s very talented, and I think he’s realized that he is able to work at a consistent effort at an extremely high level, and he’s put a lot of deposits in the bank. His bank account is really big, and because of that, he shouldn’t fear anybody or take a backseat to anybody. He shouldn’t think that anybody out there is better than him. He’s really starting to believe in himself because of his God-given talents and because of his ability to really work.”

Smith said he is anticipating a number of opponents who are just as eager as he is to capture a world championship. But he said he may have an advantage they don’t have.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “I’ve wanted to win a world gold medal since I was 5 years old and I’ve always thought I could do it. So I’m in a position to do that now.”



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Source: Baltimore Sun