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Simsbury wrestler wins U.S. Open championship in U15 division

Simsbury’s Max Konopka won a national title at the U.S. Open Saturday in Las Vegas in the U15 division. (Photo courtesy Simsbury Wrestling Booster Club)

Max Konopka, an eighth-grade student at Henry James Middle School in Simsbury, won a U.S. Open national championship with his victory in the U15 division at 85 pounds on Saturday in Las Vegas.

He was one of seven state wrestlers to win medals on Saturday. Max’s younger brother Jaxson, was fifth at 41 kilograms (90 pounds)  in the UWW Futures category. Ryan Schneider of South Side Wrestling Club in Bridgeport was seventh in the U15 division at 85 kilograms (187 pounds). Jaxsen Bailey, 13, from Team Tugman finished fourth in the 15U in Greco-Roman at 38 kg (83 pounds) while Team Tugman’s Chase Kastner took eighth in U15 Greco Roman at 44 kg or 97 pounds.

Southbury’s Sarah Henckel (152) and Norwalk’s Kayla Batres (103) each finished third in the Girls High School Showcase division.

Max Konopka went 3-0 to win the U15 freestyle national championship. Max beat Ohio’s Danny Zmorowski in the semifinals, 6-5, building up a six-point lead to survive a flurry of points from Zmorowski in the final 57 seconds of the match.

In the finals, Max Konopka, who trains with the Empire Wrestling Club, beat Iowa’s Brayden Koester, 11-2 to win the national championship.

Jaxson Konopka went 3-2 at 41 kg or 90 pounds in the UWW (United World Wrestling) Future freestyle tournament to finish fifth. Schneider also went 3-2 in his U15 tournament at 85 pounds.

Henckel, a freshman from Southbury who competes at Blair Academy in New Jersey, advanced to the semifinals of the Girls Showcase event at 152 pounds with a pair of technical falls. She outscored her two opponents by a combined score of 18-0.

But Henckel ran into eventual champion Edarda Rodriguez of California in the semifinals and lost by pin in 31 seconds.

Henckel recovered with a pair of technical falls, including a 11-0 win in 3:16 over Trinity Bouchal of Arizona to finish third. In four of her five matches in the tournament, Henckel didn’t give up a single point.

Batres won her first three matches of the tournament to advance to the semifinals. In her second round win over Arizona’s Adrianna Gomez, Batres got a takedown with 26 seconds left for an 8-6 victory. win. In her quarterfinal win over California’s Diana Gonzalez, Batres got a takedown with five seconds left for a 6-5 decision.

Batres lost to eventual champion Clair Booe of Wyoming Seminary in the semifinals, 10-0 in 3:46 but rebounded with consecutive wins to finish third. Batres beat Gonzalez for a second time with a pin in 4:55 to win the bronze medal.

NOTE: With his fourth place finish in 15U Greco Roman, Jaxsen Bailey from Team Tugman earned a spot in the upcoming trials in August for the American team participating in UWW U-15 Pan-American Games.

2023 U.S. Open results and brackets


Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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