There are a lot of words to describe the 2017 University Greco-Roman Nationals, but boring wouldn’t be one of them. Just newsmaking performance on top of newsmaking performance. Dalton Roberts (NYAC-OTS) winning at 59 kilograms was notable for two reasons. First of all, at this stage in his career development, it is the kind of event a wrestler like him should win. Roberts is now a full-fledged Senior competitor and one of the best young athletes in the country. If he is to continue to make strides at the top level, then the Universities this year was a place for him to demonstrate such. But — the funny thing is that even though this was a tournament Roberts deserved to be a favorite at, he probably was not seen that way heading into the finals against Mike Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP).
Former Junior World Team member and NMU wrestler Fuenffinger went on to win two consecutive DIII National titles and though he has competed in Greco since then, he has also operated as a two-style athlete. That means he is capable of blending his offense and when he is competing in Greco, Fuenffinger is typically unafraid to bring the action forward. He’s aggressive. He also soundly defeated Roberts back in February at the Dave Schultz Memorial. On Friday, it was a total turnaround. Roberts was in command pretty much from the beginning and authoritatively moved Fuenffinger around the mat. It was startling. Fuenffinger later attempted to roll Roberts over with a front headlock, but was rebuffed in a big way when Roberts simply wrapped his arms around the WCAP wrestler’s waist and bottomed out. It was a two-point play for Roberts, who led 3-0. A beautiful plant-and-go bodylock by Roberts stretched the lead to 7-0 in the second period, and that’s how this one ended.
Last year, Roberts won this exact same event by staying in it long enough against Alan Waters (MO) until Waters cautioned himself right out of their semifinal contest. In that match, Roberts was smaller, greener, and had no choice other than to keep trying to bring pressure, and it paid off. This time around he was almost a completely different wrestler, which is something that bodes well for his future whether that is at 60 or 55 kilos.
If Roberts’ evident progression is one story, Alex Mossing (71 kg, Foxfire) is the other. Mossing has acquired himself just enough meaningful Greco-Roman experience to be dangerous, or at least that is how he could have been seen before Friday. But then he got on a run after his first bout with Austin Morrow (NYAC-OTS) and never looked back. What is so hard to ignore about Mossing’s performance in Akron is the decided lack of fear in his game. There just wasn’t any playing around. It’s one thing to be confident waltzing into the fire and going for throws, it’s another to do so and be able to recover when the flames start biting back.
After his bout with Morrow, Mossing tech’ed Sidney Logan (Marines) with two throws. He then did the same to a very tough Isaac Dukes (Army), closing that one out with a couple of gutwrenches. What was most impressive about Mossing is that he carried the same attitude into a final with someone as deadly as Anthonie Linares (NYAC-OTS) and not only lived to tell about it, but put on a show. Greco wrestlers usually have a couple of steps to take as they start getting adjusted to the Senior level. The first, even with a current rule-set where ordered par terre isn’t part of the program (yet) is to be able to turn and not get turned. The second is having zero reluctance when it comes to looking for offensive points. Mossing may still have some work to do in the former, but he is definitely someone who wants to score.
Mossing goaded Linares into positions where he was most comfortable and that allowed him to execute. It had to be that way. Linares is far too skilled for a wrestler to sit back and think there are going to a variety of openings available. That makes transitional opportunities imperative. Mossing’s first four of the match came with his back towards the edge and Linares holding a high clinch. He shucked Linares by a tad and then proceeded to dump him straight to his back. His confidence must have grown from there because even when Linares laser-tossed him after the reset, there was Mossing right back in it. First it was a high-dive to bodylock for two. Next it was another throw at the boundary which netted only two, but first appeared to be good for double that. Either way, it was an 8-4 lead and Mossing wasn’t done yet.
At 8-5 in the second, Mossing forced Linares out to increase his lead. Four points, particularly in this type of match and with Linares eminently capable of not only catching up but taking the lead, is not a lot. Thing is, Mossing didn’t start getting complacent. He dug in and although he came loose a couple of times, never relinquished control. Finally, with just a minute and change left, Linares once again locked around on a high over-under clinch and Mossing waterfalled it right over for the match-ending points. It’s as statement-making of a win as you can get.
For Linares, he might have been disappointed, but he needn’t be. He still holds a place as one of the top young Greco-Roman competitors in the country and he’ll live to fight many other days. But for now, Mossing served notice that he can be a player here. He had some solid moments at the World Team Trials in Vegas and whatever adjustments he made between then and Akron seemed to have worked. There is currently a dearth of all-around wrestlers with strong folkstyle backgrounds willing to mix styles as aggressively as Mossing has lately and if he figures out the other finer points required to become a serious contender, yikes.
Dawkins & Hancock
He might have missed out on making the Junior World Team in April, but Wesley Dawkins (63 kg, MWC) was one more wrestler who was mightily impressive at the University Greco-Roman Nationals. 2:45. Or, two minutes and forty-five seconds. That is the extent of the mat time Dawkins got in on Friday thanks to two tech’s and a pin, though not in that order. Lean and mean, Dawkins is a well-coached wrestler who never seems to get frazzled and is always looking for ways to open up. Should he be fully committed to the Senior level, 65 kilograms might be where he winds up. He could be a future star if he sticks around.
G’Angelo Hancock (98 kg, NYAC, world no. 18) is a current star who did not win his second straight University National plaque. That’s because Zach Merrill (NYRTC) was both hungry and fortunate. Hancock attempted an arm throw that Merrill saw coming and was forced to flatten out and concede. Merrill then attempted to lift and Hancock spread out and was called for a leg foul. Dicey, but okay. What happened next was the more head-scratching portion of the bout. As they were getting set in the ensuing par terre, both athletes false-started before Hancock did once more and bang, another caution on Hancock. Merrill could not generate any offense from top but when they got back to their feet, he uncorked a nice arm throw for four, and that was that.
Merrill is a fine wrestler who if anything, falls under the radar far more than he should. He is a serious, experienced athlete and he took complete advantage of unusual circumstances. You could see when he was hovering around at 130 kilograms, where he just did not have the size to hang around, that he could be a force at 98 and he has been on occasion. But for Hancock, this was a throw-away loss. The only stock an athlete of his age and stature (in the US) needs to take following a bout like that is the illusion of domestic invincibility is just that — an illusion. There are external factors involved in each match be it the officials or the opposition, and things can go the other way in a hurry. Nothing is guaranteed. Side note, it was Hancock’s first loss to a US opponent since the 2016 Olympic Trials, where he fell to three-time World Team member Caylor Williams (Army/WCAP).
Hancock will not be competing this weekend at the Tbilisi Grand Prix but will be training in Hungary with the rest of the US Senior World Team.
Cadet World Team
The 2017 US Cadet Greco-Roman World Team offers two returning members and a plethora of talented first-timers. Malik Johnson (58 kg, Illinois) and Cohlton Schultz (100 kg, Colorado) powered through with strong showings, though Johnson was given a whale of test from Jevon Parrish (Kansas). Schultz defeated 2016 Fargo Cadet National champ Tyler Curd (Missouri) in two straight matches via tech fall both times. Johnson is a steely wrestler with composure that belies his age and Schultz stands as one of the most promising upper-weight Greco-Roman prospects in years. This pair of talented kids will anchor a team that is stocked with ability. We will have more on the Cadets coming up in a special feature. For now, here is the squad that is going to Athens for the World Championships.
42 kg — Kase Mauger (Idaho)
46 kg — Dylan Ragusin (Illinois)
50 kg — Lucas Byrd (Ohio)
54 kg — Ridge Lovett (Idaho)
58 kg — Malik Johnson (Missouri)
63 kg — Mason Phillips (Washington)
69 kg — Will Lewan (Illinois)
76 kg — Jake Hendricks (Pennsylvania)
85 kg — Ashton Sharp (Missouri)
100 kg — Cohlton Schultz (Colorado)
Tbilisi Grand Prix
The US Greco-Roman Seniors will be heading to Georgia tomorrow morning for the Tbilisi Grand Prix. Most of the squad is comprised of the 2017 US World Team minus Hancock plus Alex Sancho (71 kg, NYAC-OTS) and Nick Tarpley (75 kg, NYAC). It is a two day tournament — June 10th and 11th. Greco-Roman begins Saturday (the 10th) with 59, 71, 80 and 98 kilograms. The action wraps up on Sunday with 66, 75, 85, and 130 kilos. Five Point Move will provide pre and post-tournament coverage.
For the full Team USA roster, shoot on over here.
What’s coming up here
- Four-time US World Team member Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC, world no. 20) joins The Five Point Move Podcast this week with Hall and Hands to talk about his career, recent highlights, and various other topics making the rounds in the sport. Smith, 30, is one of the longest-tenured and most popular wrestlers in the country, regardless of style. And he is also incredibly bright and articulate with plenty of insights that listeners are bound to enjoy.
- The aforementioned feature on the Cadet World Team. We’ll examine each World Team member and provide some additional analysis on the squad as well as get some takes from coaches Lucas Steldt and Zac Dominguez.
- We will have interviews up with two of the most influential coaches in the country and both are from Illinois — Mike Powell and Bryan Medlin. What these men have given to Greco in the US cannot be accurately quantified and there is plenty to learn from what each of them has to say.