Clemente and Merkin Earn All-America Honors at Kids Nationals in Utah

Only two New York wrestlers made the trip to Orem, Utah for the Kids Freestyle and Greco Roman Nationals this week, but the pair made a big impact in the Schoolboy competition, with Joseph Clemente finishing in the top four in both styles at 136 pounds while Leonard Merkin grabbed seventh in Greco action before coming within one victory of placing in Freestyle in the 128-pound bracket.

The event began with Greco on Tuesday and both Empire State wrestlers ended the day on the podium.

At 136 pounds, Clemente took fourth, notching a pair of pins along the way.  The LaSalle wrestler opened with a fall over Trey Waltz of Arizona in less than a minute before dropping his next bout to eventual champion Ashton Seely of Utah.  Clemente followed with his second pin over Haydn Maley, before falling in the third place tilt against Hayden Bates of Oregon.

On the same day, Merkin compiled a 4-2 record in Greco on the path to seventh at 128 pounds.  Bronze medalist Nicholas Vestal of Florida defeated Merkin in Round 1, but the Brooklyn grappler responded with three consecutive victories, including falls against California’s Sergio Leal and Michael Peters of Illinois.  After New Mexico’s Clayton Arellano downed Merkin in the consolations, the outstanding New York City middle school wrestler finished his day on a high note with a pin of Ricardo Gonzalez of the Golden State for seventh.

On Wednesday in Freestyle, Merkin once again faced a tough first round task, this time squaring off with eventual finalist Owen Webster in a three-period affair won by the Minnesota grappler.  Merkin rebounded after the setback, racking up two dominant wins over New Jersey’s Michael Ilic and California’s Ronnie Guerrero before dropping his final match to Idaho’s James Fisher in the “Round of 12”.

Meanwhile, Clemente opened with two bonus point victories before dropping his semifinal match.  He battled back, however, notching a first period pin over New Mexico’s Kyle Snelling and a 5-0, 7-0 technical fall over Wisconsin’s Jordan Meyer to capture third.

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