The Mullett and the Muscle are heading to Sofia, Bulgaria.
For the first time since 2015, the Keystone State will have two representatives on the United States Cadet World Team in Men’s Freestyle. That year in Sarajevo, Bosnia – Pennsylvania’s Jarod Verkleeren won a Cadet World Title and Gavin Teasdale was fifth.
Rising seniors Clayton Ulrey and Hunter Catka each qualified for their first ever World Team spot over the weekend in Akron, Ohio. The two join an elite list of Pennsylvania wrestlers who have been on a United States Cadet World Team – including Spencer Lee, Jordan Wood, and Gavin Hoffman – since 2011 when United World Wrestling reinstated the Cadet World Championships after an eleven year hiatus.
Ulrey is riding a wave of a spring after falling short of a State title in March. He was the State runner-up at 160 pounds when he was defeated by Mifflin County sophomore Trey Kibe. Since then Ulrey has been unstoppable. He first won a FloNationals Title in Cadet Freestyle at 80 kilograms in April. At the NHSCA Virginia Beach Duals he went perfect at (10-0) and notched wins over State Finalist Luke Nichter and 2019 PIAA State Champion Gerrit Nijenhuis. A short week later and Ulrey punched his ticket to Bulgaria.
In Akron, Ulrey was workman like en route to the best-of-three finals at 80 kilograms. He picked up two quick wins, both by technical superiority before notching back-to-back victories by points. In the quarterfinals against Jack Darrah (Missouri) Ulrey held a 5-4 advantage after the first period. The two exchanged push-outs and Ulrey connected on a double-leg near the edge to hold a 7-6 lead with a minute left in the match. He snapped Darrah down hard for an easy go-behind and added another takedown to seal it up 11-6.
In the semifinals Ulrey needed to score big points in order to advance into the finals. He took on another Missourian – this time in wrestler Colton Hawks – who quickly connected on a left-hand high crotch to go up 2-0 on Ulrey. The Lower Dauphin Falcon responded in slick fashion hitting a low, head-outside single leg, before switching off to a double and finishing for the two points. Sticking to what was working, Clayton again connected on a left-handed high crotch on Hawks who attempted to roll through as Ulrey was running him out of bounds. Four for Ulrey was offered and confirmed by the chairman to put him up 6-2.
In the second period Clayton pushed Hawks out for a point but gave up two points on the edge when he was hip-tossed. Up 7-4 he didn’t slow down – quickly going back to his bread-and-butter high crotch. As before he drove Hawks out-of-bounds to pick-up another four pointer. Hawks added on two points with two push-outs but it was not enough to catch Ulrey who won it 11-6. The win propelled him into the best-of-three Cadet World Team finals against Blair Academy’s Rylan Rogers – a native of Washington.
Rogers finished up his freshman season at Blair in 2019 with a third place finish at 189 pounds and came in ranked #8 in the Nation at 170 pounds by FloWrestling. Ulrey, in the latest National Rankings from May entered two spots behind Rogers at #10.
In their first match Clayton came out with a high pace and quickly secured a takedown eighteen seconds into the bout – moving right into a leg lace for two more points. Rogers came out on top of a wild scramble to cut Ulrey’s advantage to 4-2 after the first period. In the second period Ulrey again came out swinging collecting another takedown but Rogers rolled him through for a two point exposure. Ahead 6-4, Ulrey fought off a double leg attempt by Rogers and re-attacked – finishing a double leg out of bounds to wrap it up 8-4.
Sitting one win away from clinching a spot on the Cadet World Team, Ulrey approached match number two the same way. He got a push-out, take-down, and leg lace to jump out to a 5-0 lead on Rogers. While Ulrey was standing up from the leg lace he was hit for a step-out point. Rogers connected on a single-leg to end the first period down 5-3 on Ulrey.
In the second period Ulrey closed out the win with two takedowns – only giving up a push-put point – and taking the series in two matches 9-5.
Hunter Catka’s run was much less dramatic as he spent only 3:47 total on the mat in three matches where he outscored his opponents 38-1. In the best-of-three finals Hunter, ranked #4 in the Nation by FloWrestling, took on Washington’s Braxton Mikesell. It wasn’t their first meeting as they squared off in the semifinals in April at the 2019 FloNationals. Catka took the match 6-1 and ended up winning the title while Mikesell finished in third. In match one Catka, a 2018 PIAA State Champion at 220 pounds, controlled the entire six minutes scoring three takedowns and a push-out point and only giving up a point for a hands to the face call for a 7-1 win.
The script was essentially the same in match two for Catka winning 8-0 with three takedowns and securing a spot on the Cadet World Team as USA Head Coach Brandon Slay looked on. If Catka can come home with a medal from Bulgaria it would be a big confident boost after a short junior season that saw him fall short of defending his 2018 State Title at 220 pounds. It was in Fargo, ND last year that Hunter injured his ankle forcing him to miss most of the regular season and placing third in the State Tournament.
Both Ulrey and Catka will compete in Sofia, Bulgaria at the Cadet World Championships as the event takes place July 29th through August 4th.