Cael Hughes, LaDarion Lockett win U20 Titles at U.S Open, advance to World Team Trials

Apr. 27—Two of the best Stillwater Pioneers, past and present, cemented themselves as the top young wrestlers in the country.

Cael Hughes, 61 kg, and LaDarion Lockett, 74 kg, won freestyle titles at the U.S. Open Championships on Saturday in Las Vegas to earn bids at the U20 World Team Trials in June.

Lockett's final bout was against a fellow U17 World champion in Joe Sealey of Pennsylvania. Sealey won their previous matchup in December at the Ironman tournament, and Lockett told the News Press at the state tournament that the loss has fueled him.

He made up for it and then some with an 8-2 victory. He stepped over a Sealey gutwrench attempt to give himself a four-point lead at the end of the first period and secured the win with a blast double leg takedown.

"I've been working a lot since the last time I wrestled him, moving my feet and my hands," Lockett told USA Wrestling. "I've been working on my conditioning every morning, so I think that helped me a lot throughout this tournament."

The U20 tournament was a quick turnaround for the Stillwater High School junior as he was just one week removed from the Olympic Team Trials.

"It was really hard. I was sick coming back from Olympic Trials ... banged up my ankle against Mitchell Messenbrink," Lockett said. "There was a lot of things I had to overcome this tournament, and I don't think I was at my 100% best.

"But I still got it done and endured everything. I train for moments like that — to do big things on a big stage — and I'm just ready to make another Worlds team."

The 61 kg final featured the past two Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award winners. Hughes claimed the title over Arizona State commit Kyler Larkin, 6-3. He outscored his six opponents 59-13 with four tech falls.

In Friday's quarterfinal matchup with Northern Iowa's Cody Land, Hughes pulled off a stunner. After trailing 10-2 in the first period, the 19-year-old Cowboy put up nine consecutive points and edged out an 11-10 victory.

It was the first time Hughes had competed since January, so he said he felt a bit sloppy and sluggish.

"I learned a lot from this tournament," Hughes told USA Wrestling. "That's really what I wanted to get out of it — to see where I'm at. I definitely did that."

This will be the second consecutive year that Hughes participates in the best-of-three finals, though this path is much different than the last. In 2023, Hughes squeaked his way into qualifying by finishing eighth and wrestled his way to the finals, but finished as the runner up.

"It's nice to have this tonight. I'll be happy," Hughes said. "But come Monday, I'm not satisfied with that. Keeping that attitude and effort in the room, staying hungry for more — that's kind of my mindset on it."

The U20 Team World Trials are scheduled to begin on May 31 in Geneva, Ohio.