NICE, France – The U.S. men’s freestyle squad turned in a solid performance on Saturday at the Henri Deglane Grand Prix in Nice, France. Aden Valencia, Camden McDanel, Michael Macchiavello and Hayden Zillmer turned in gold medal efforts, while Team USA earned 11 total medals.
It was an international breakout for Valencia, who earned his first Senior-level international gold medal with his win at 65 kg. The 18-year-old went 5-0 on the day with three technical falls and a pair of come-from-behind wins in the semis and finals.
Valencia popped through a head pinch at the buzzer to take out Canada’s Peiman Biabani, formerly a U20 World champion for Iran, in the semifinals. He added to the dramatics with a finals-clinching takedown at the 15-second mark to beat 2022 U20 World bronze medalist Khamzat Arsamerzouev of France, 3-2.
To add further scope on Valencia’s title run, he topped a weight class that included two past NCAA champions, Nahshon Garrett and Anthony Ashnault, plus NCAA All-American and U.S. Open finalist Matthew Kolodzik. All three veteran competitors were unable to make the podium.
It was an all-American final at 97 kg between U.S. National Team member Macchiavello and recently crowned Zagreb Open champion Nathan Jackson. The low-scoring match was primarily dictated by Jackson’s length advantage until the final moments. After repeated attempts, Macchiavello finally broke through Jackson’s head and hands defense to snag the winning takedown going out-of-bounds with one second on the clock, taking the gold, 4-2.
Past U.S. World Team member Zillmer controlled all aspects of his finals match at 125 kg against fellow American and Gopher WC-RTC teammate Trent Hillger, a past NCAA All-American at Wisconsin. Zillmer capped his five-win tournament with a 9-2 win over Hillger.
2023 U20 World bronze medalist and U20 Pan American champion McDanel earned his first Senior-level title with a punishing 11-0 technical fall win against Abdimanap Baigenzheyev of Kazakhstan. McDanel, who is a Nebraska commit and Elite Accelerator Program resident in Colorado Springs, Colo., broke his finals opponent with relentless forward pressure, icing the match with a takedown-to-lace sequence.
The U.S. dropped a pair of highly anticipated finals bouts. Past U.S. National Team member Daniel Deshazer fell to Mexico’s Roman Bravo-Young, 2-1, off a pair of shot clock points in the 57 kg finals. Three-time age-group World champion Mark Hall was outmatched by reigning European champion and Russian expat Dauren Kurugliev of Greece, 10-4, in the 86 kg finals.
Earning bronze medals for Team USA were Pan American Games champion Tyler Berger and two-time U17 World bronze medalist Alex Facundo at 74 kg, plus Taylor Lujan at 86 kg, who earned his second-straight bronze medal at this event.
The Henri Deglane Grand Prix concludes on Sunday with the Greco-Roman competition, which begins at 10:30 a.m. local time in Nice, France. The U.S. has one entrant in the field, Taylor LaMont at 60 kg.