2018 World silver Adam Coon (130 kg, NYAC/Cliff Keen, world no. 2) was not going to have an easy go out of it on Thursday no matter what.
For Coon to advance at the Pan American Games, he would have to first overcome ’17 World bronze Yasmani Acosta Fernandez (CHI) in the quarterfinal. If victorious there, three-time Olympic champ — and the man many consider to have supplanted Alexander Karelin as the greatest heavyweight in history — Mijain Lopez (CUB) would have been waiting in the wings.
A rough assignment for any athlete, even a returning World runner-up.
But it was still expected to be a battle. Coon and Acosta, they aren’t perfect strangers after having shared mat space during training camp a year ago. Of course, Coon did have his struggles with Acosta as he began shifting towards preparing for the Greco Worlds, though a lot has changed since then and Coon is much better equipped to deal with those top-level monsters than he was at any point in 2018.
Which is why today’s result is to largely be dismissed. These things happen, especially in heavyweight Greco-Roman at the absolute highest reaches of the sport.
Coon never got into a rhythm against Acosta. He was forced off the line coming out of an exchange soon after the opening whistle. Upon a restart, Acosta next wedged behind and bodied Coon for five; not wanting to let a good opportunity go to waste, the former Cuban National competitor quickly gutted Coon to put a halt to the bout via tech.
It all came down to Acosta and what he might be able to do opposite the aging beast in the semis. Lopez, now 36-years-old, has barely tested his competitive mettle since the Rio Games, appearing only in the Central American and Caribbean Games 13 months ago. But he had enough zeal on this day to edge Acosta 4-0 and earn a trip to his fifth Pan American Games final.
- If Lopez wins in his gold-medal bout versus Moises Perez Helburg (VEN), Cuba clinches the Pan American Games team title. And if Perez somehow shocks the world, Venezuela will win.
- The US entered action Thursday evening with a slight chance and was tied with Cuba after 77 kilograms, when Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) earned gold. But after both Joe Rau (87 kg, TMWC/Chicago RTC) and G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist, world no. 3) fell in head-to-head matchups against their Cuban counterparts, the hill to climb became practically insurmountable short of an outright Coon victory today.
- Team USA officially finishes third with 85 points, way in front of Mexico (55 points).
- The Senior World Team members will have a short break upon returning home and then reconvene in Colorado Springs for training camp in two weeks.
2019 Pan American Games
August 7-8 — Lima, Peru
TEAM USA FULL RESULTS
60 kg — Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) — bronze
LOSS Dicther Toro Castaneda (COL) 8-3
WON Emilio Perez Alonzo (MEX) 7-2
67 kg — Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) — bronze
WON Joilson de Brito Ramos (BRA) via fall
LOSS Ismael Borrero Molina (CUB) 8-0, TF
WON Luis DeLeon (DOM) via fall
77 kg — Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) — gold
WON Jair Cuero Munoz (COL) 4-1
WON Emanuel Benitez Castro (MEX) 4-1
WON Wuileixis Rivas Espinoza (VEN) 3-2
87 kg — Joe Rau (TMWC/Chicago RTC) — 5th
WON Ricardo Cardenas Esquen (PER) 5-3
LOSS Luis Avendano Rojas (VEN) 8-0, TF
LOSS Daniel Hechavarria (CUB) 7-2
97 kg — G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist) — silver
WON Thomas Barreiro (CAN) 9-0, TF
WON Kevin Mejia Castillo (HON) 10-0, TF
LOSS Gabriel Rosillo (CUB) 7-2
130 kg — Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen) — 8th
LOSS Yasmani Acosta Fernandez (CHI) 8-0, TF