Mark Hall did not enter the US Open, but after winning the Last Chance Qualifier at 79 kg, he will be vying for a World Team spot. The field at 79 kg is a brutally difficult one, with a number of tough wrestlers to beat to even reach Final X. Hall's a very accomplished freestyle wrestler though, having won junior world gold medals in 2016 and 2017.
It seems easy to forget Hall's freestyle dominance since he had not wrestled freestyle in two years prior to the Last Chance . However, this was how he won his junior world title in 2017:
— Trackwrestling (@trackwrestling) August 1, 2017
At the Last Chance Qualifier tournament, Hall went 4-0 and won his matches by a combined score of 40-0. He may not have picked up any notable wins, but he certainly dominated in a familiar fashion.
Alex Dieringer is sitting out the World Team Trials tournament after winning the US Open, meaning Hall would have to beat him in a best of three series just to get to returning world gold medalist Kyle Dake. However, Hall will have to go through longtime nemesis Zahid Valencia to even get to the US Open winner.
Hall and Valencia have established arguably the greatest rivalry in college wrestling history. Hall is 2-3 against Valencia in folkstyle, and the World Team Trials will be their first competitive meeting in freestyle. Hall lost the NCAA final after a second period takedown and ride out to Valencia. With riding time is not a factor in freestyle, Hall can use his phenomenal par terre and scrambling ability to get the better of Valencia in Raleigh? It's a matter of flipping the coin with these two.
As mentioned, for Hall to get to Final X he would still have to win a best-of-three series against Alex Dieringer. Dieringer, a former three-time NCAA champion, has exploded onto the freestyle scene over the last couple of years, and has even pushed Kyle Dake hard in the past. Dieringer did get beaten handily by Valencia in last year's World Team Trials, but suggestions that he may not have been healthy for that series explains the gap between the two a year ago. A Dieringer vs. Hall matchup would be quite interesting to see, and seems very hard to predict at the moment.
Beyond the top three at this weight though, there are not a ton of wrestlers that catch your eye. Chance Marsteller is probably the most notable of all the other 79 kg wrestlers, but Hall should be on another level to the former Lock Haven man. Hall decisively beat him at the 2016 junior world team trials 2-0 in a bes-of-three series.
Prediction - Mark Hall beats Zahid Valencia, but loses to Alex Dieringer 2-1 in the best-of-three series.
Dieringer sitting out to the final is a huge benefit to him, and I think that could ultimately be the difference. I think Hall has more ways to score in freestyle, and he has better freestyle credentials than Valencia. That said, if this becomes a takedown battle, then Valencia should have the advantage. Hall is going to need to get him on the mat and use his par terre to get exposure points, but he has all the tools to make that happen.
I think Dieringer slightly edges Hall in a best-of-three series, but it really should be very tight. In my opinion, either of Dieringer, Hall, or Valencia could end up in Final X to take on Kyle Dake. These four are comfortably better than the rest of the field, and it is pretty hard to separate them.