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Poulin earns spot at world wrestling championships

Poulin earns spot at world wrestling championships

Shenendehowa sophomore goes 6-0 at trials
Poulin earns spot at world wrestling championships
Stevo Poulin of Shenendehowa will compete at the World Cadet Wrestling Championships in Bulgaria later this summer.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

Stevo Poulin is all set to take on the world.

The Shenendehowa High School sophomore and Journeymen Wrestling Club member will represent the United States at the World Cadet Wrestling Championships July 29-Aug. 4 in Bulgaria after posting a 6-0 record at the event's qualifying meet.

The two-time state champion outscored his opponents at the May 31-June 2 Cadet World Team Trials in Akron by a 55-3 margin and also notched a pin to earn his spot on Team USA.

"It is incredibly difficult to make a world team, and he not only did it, he did it in dominant fashion," Journeymen founder and coach Frank Popolizio said. "It's such an incredible honor, but it's not by accident. He had a specific plan and executed it. He put himself in position to win with his diet, conditioning, what tournaments he went to."

Where the 16-year-old is headed to is the equivalent of the Olympic Games for his age group.

"Every country can put a delegation in. They all have their qualifying system," Popolizio said. "You've got your perennial powers in Russia, Japan, Iran, India and the United States."

Poulin will be among 10 Cadets (17 and under) representing America after his performance in Akron. Poulin's preparation included training sessions with Michele Liuzzi, who represented Italy at two Olympic Games and at 12 world championships.

"After I won the state championship, my goal was to make the world team, and I worked my butt off," Poulin said. "As much as I worked before, I worked even more, so when I got there, I would be flawless. I've never been in such good shape. I was ready."

Poulin competed internationally once before, in May of 2018, when he placed first in freestyle and third in Greco-Roman at the Cadet Pan American Championships in Guatemala City.

"I believe he can win the whole thing," Popolizio said. "He has the skill set and the mind set. He's been around enough."

Poulin is confident he'll have success, but not overconfident.

"I can't be thinking that if I'm the best in the United States, and the United States has the best wrestling, that I'm just going to go in there and win it," Poulin said. "There are other guys out there that are working just as hard. Hopefully, I will be the world champion."

None of Poulin's six freestyle matches in the 48-kilogram (106 pounds) weight class went the full six minutes at the Cadet World Team Trials, and only two wrestlers scored against him. In the quarters, he defeated the top seed, Joey Fischer of Pennsylvania, 12-1. In the best-of-three final against Cory Land of Alabama, Poulin recorded a pin in 1:32 before winning by technical fall 10-0.

"I didn't know what to expect. He [Land] had taken out some big kids," said Poulin, who was unseeded among the 33 wrestlers in his weight class. "My thought was, 'I made it this far and to get second, that would be the worst thing.' I went out and wrestled as hard as I could."

Poulin has not lost a match since July of 2018, when he placed third at the USA Marine Corp/USAW Junior and Cadet National Championships in Fargo. Before that,  at the 2018 Cadet World Team Trials, Poulin lost early, but wrestled back to finish third in the 45-kilogram (99 pounds) weight class.

"It was a real disappointment, losing in the second round," Poulin said. "I made sure I did all of the things I needed to do so that wouldn't happen again."

Before his sophomore campaign began at Shenendehowa, Poulin was among 33 wrestlers named to USA Today's All-USA Preseason Wrestling Team, and he won the prestigious preseason Super 32 Challenge. As the season unfolded, he would go on to place first at the Reno Tournament of Champions, Eastern States Classic for a second time and Bethlehem (Pa.) Holiday Classic before repeating as a Section II Class A, Section II Division I and New York State Public High School Athletic Association champion.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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