Greco News

Monday Roundup: Complete US Nationals Placewinners and Weekend Recap

2016 us greco roman nationals placewinners
Image: Five Point Move

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Have you had time to breathe out yet?

The 2016 US Greco Roman Nationals/World Team Trials Qualifier this past weekend at the Westgate Resort Hotel & Casino here in Vegas offered a little bit of everything. We talk about youth a lot on here and there were plenty of talented young wrestlers on display, but that was only a part of the story. There were also tales of redemption, vindication, and bitter disappointment. Two weight classes ushered in potential enduring rivalries, one weight class was given a clean bill of health despite reports of its demise, and a decorated warrior from the past dusted off his shield before honorably going out on it. Before the end of the first day, he would wind up being joined by another combatant who decided to walk away from battle, the scars of years past rendered visible as gentle reminders of a dream worth pursuing.

59 kg — Standing at parade rest

The first of two all-WCAP finals gave the world Hayden Tuma and National Team member Ryan Mango, a match-up that likely plays itself out in practice on a weekly, if not daily basis, but one that commanded attention nonetheless. Mango came into the tournament off of a high-ankle sprain and a disappointing performance at the Bill Farrell Memorial last month. However much the ankle still bothers him is speculative, but it didn’t seem to be a hindrance throughout the day as he marched to the finals via a couple of quick tech falls and an exciting dustup with 45-year old Dennis Hall (WGW). Tuma himself had been bothered by sore ribs and unlike Mango, it was pretty easy to tell this was still an issue for him, especially when 2016 Junior World bronze medalist Taylor LaMont (CWC) was tugging on the area.

Of course, Tuma blitzed Mango in the finals with a four and a five in speedy succession, giving him his first Senior title and elevating his profile considerably. He’s got time to heal up before the Schultz, but so does Mango. So does everybody. But if Tuma remains hot, April’s Trials at 59 kilos is going to be a tinderbox.

The two athletes who made the biggest impressions at this weight would have to be Zach Sanders (Minnesota Storm) and Xavier Johnson (Marines). Sanders, who entered into the tournament as a one-off before he returns to freestyle competition, took an impressive seventh, qualifying him for the World Team Trials. Johnson began his day by tech’ing Justin LaValle (Minnesota Storm), Mike Fueffinger (Army/WCAP), and Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) and then had the tables turned on him by Mango. Johnson would end his day losing to Nowry in the match for fifth/sixth, but the message was clear — this dude is a big bag of promise if he keeps on the right track.

Placewinners (top 7 qualifies for 2017 US World Team Trials)

  1. Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP)
  2. Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP)
  3. Sammy Jones (NYAC-OTS)
  4. Taylor LaMont (CWC)
  5. Max Nowry (Army/WCAP)
  6. Xavier Johnson (Marines)
  7. Zach Sanders (Minnesota Storm)
  8. Lillishawn Coleman (Army/WCAP)

66 kg — Controversy clouds the finale

When Alex Sancho (NYAC-OTS) defeated Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) for third place and the National Team spot at the Olympic Trials, it added one more rivalry to what was already a packed weight class. RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC), the graceful gladiator that he is, is recognized in part for his scraps with close friend Coleman but now that Perkins is moving on from 66, there is a void that needs to be filled.  Sancho and Coleman are here to do the job, but not in the manner that unfolded Saturday night.

Sancho was all over Coleman when the two went at it during November’s Non-Olympic Trials, making their final one to pay attention to. Because you approached it like this — if Sancho wins somewhat decisively, then he’s got Coleman’s number. Right? Isn’t the rule three straight times? Likewise, should Coleman take the bout then for all and intents and purposes, it’s on. Well, Coleman took the bout, but the ending was anything but conclusive.

One of the many, many problems with passivity points is that they can decide matches. Another one of the many, many problems with passivity points is that their governance is at times, misappropriated. Some might say that is often the case. But there we were Saturday night with both athletes fighting their guts out and Sancho holding onto a 2-1 lead late when Coleman was awarded a point. Whether or not you believe(ed) the point was justified is inconsequential. But when a point is initially not confirmed and one wrestler believes he won only to have an officials’ conference after the whistle turn it all around, what you get is an over-sized reason why Greco in the US has trouble attracting casual fans.

Coleman is not to blame. Other than being pressed by Minnesota Storm newcomer, freestyler Jayson Ness (who like Sanders is bouncing back to the other style), he had a typically dominant day otherwise and tested Sancho’s positioning very well during their bout. But what could be a fantastic rivalry is now muddled by the ambiguous, non-transparent nature of passivity officiating and all of the evils that come with it. That there was confusion in the actual distribution of the point at the end only underscores the tragic comedy of the rulebook itself.

How about Ness by the way? Third place? Anyone who saw his matches could tell he has the body, strength, uncanny natural instincts, and total wrestling acumen to pick up Greco and run with it. He likely won’t be coming back, which of course, is a shame. Ness hasn’t been around enough to deserve the Seussian “Don’t cry because it’s over…” line of thinking, though it isn’t far off. You hate to see talent declare itself and then stroll away.

Junior World Team member Jamal DeArmond (NMU-OTS) rebounded from losses to Sancho and Ness to take fifth. Another step up the ladder for a kid with some gifts.

Placewinners (top 7 qualifies for 2017 US World Team Trials)

  1. Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP)
  2. Alex Sancho (NYAC-OTS)
  3. Jayson Ness (Minnesota Storm)
  4. Jessy Williams (NYAC-OTS)
  5. Jamal DeArmond (NMU-OTS)
  6. Raymond Bunker (Marines)
  7. Chris Anderson (NMU-OTS)
  8. Aaron Kliamovich (NMU-OTS)

71 kg — The Smith show

Patrick Smith winning his first Senior Greco Roman National championship was not surprising. Quite the contrary. There was an air of formality to the proceedings as the day went on. Smith, who for the last three years has turned himself into one of the most consistently viable competitors at any weight in the US, has been nice and active over the last month.  A semifinal loss to Chris Gonzalez (Army/WCAP) spoiled his run to the World Team, but he got three good matches in at that event, saw another bout in Baku, and five more at the Clubs Cup in Hungary. That is nine high-level matches in a fairly compressed period of time.

As such, Smith was razor-sharp marching through his side of the bracket, taking out Marine Josh Russo, David Prado (NMU-OTS), and breezing past Cody Pack (Legends of Gold — the two met at the Farrell with Smith winning there, as well) on his way to the final.  Anthonie Linares (NYAC-OTS) is a gutsy kid who has improved in leaps and bounds, but there was just nothing he could trouble Smith with. The Storm wrestler attacked constantly and owned virtually every tie-up to where it seemed like there were two different levels being represented on the mat. That is to take nothing away from Linares; he’ll be back. But when Smith is on his game and what’s more, is aware of it, there is little hope for opponents to come up for air.

But still, it was a win that meant something for Smith. He had tasted success before, certainly, but not quite in this way. A wire-to-wire reign of superiority in a tournament, domestic or otherwise, eluded him until Saturday. The funny part about that is he’s so well-respected, there were people in attendance who were surprised to learn this was his first Senior “stop sign.” Well, it was. Perhaps liberated from the shackles of being a runner-up, Smith can now focus on the next objective: April’s Trials. Before that, he will be going off to Sweden for some training and to be part of an exchange program as he finishes up some college coursework.

Chase Nelson (BWC) showed some honest-to-goodness throw attempts along with solid hand-fighting skills to take third. This is a wrestler who was not perched very high on the radar going into the event and made that work for him. Nelson hustled in every exchange and even during the times he was caught in between, he stayed composed enough to not let it all unravel. Impressive job.

One more bright spot worth talking about was Logan Kass’ fifth-place effort. He actually didn’t wrestle Cody Pack for fifth but what he did do was bounce back from a first-round loss to Bradley Dolezal (who took seventh) to win two more matches before coming up short to Nelson in the consolation semifinals. That’s what this event is supposed to be about, especially for some of the NMU guys– wrestling through adversity and learning each subsequent match. Kass will have time to learn even more as he prepares for the Trials.

Placewinners (top 7 qualifies for 2017 US World Team Trials)

  1. Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm)
  2. Anthonie Linares (NYAC-OTS)
  3. Chase Nelson (BWC)
  4. Marco Lara (Army/WCAP)
  5. Logan Kass (NMU-OTS)
  6. Cody Pack (Legends of Gold)
  7. Bradley Dolezal (Minnesota Storm)
  8. Chris Rodgers (NMU-OTS)
Patrick Smith, 2016 US national champ

Smith (red) constantly had Linares on the defensive en-route to an 8-0 win. (Photo: FLW)

75 kg — Fireworks aren’t just for July

The deepest weight class this weekend was unquestionably 75 kilos, where five wrestlers were seen a big-time threats to one another. Two of those athletes, Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm) and Dillon Cowan (Army/WCAP), engaged in what was one of the most exciting bouts of the year. That isn’t very new to Ortiz, he likes high-scoring affairs as much as fans do and God bless him for it. Ortiz and Cowan piled up a combined 35 points in a 21-14 Ortiz win that was labeled an early upset. If you have yet to see it, do so. It’s a must-watch.

As great as all that was, the day belonged to the event’s Outstanding Wrestler, Kamal Bey (Sunkist). Bey outscored all four of his opponents 39-2, including a semifinal win over Ortiz (who is responsible for the only two points scored against Bey) that also served as a measure of revenge (Ortiz defeated Bey for third at last year’s Schultz). The 75 kg final, at least on paper, looked to be another scintillating rematch. Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS) earned his way to the finals via a 12-6 win over weight-class favorite Kendrick Sanders (NYAC-OTS). With a win over the supremely-talented Sanders under him, Porter must have been feeling pretty good about his chances versus Bey. Especially considering he had a win against him from the best-of-three Junior World Team Trials finals Bey eventually prevailed in.

But Bey didn’t even give Porter a chance to get warm. A high-dive to a headlock followed by a counter double-overhook throw and it was all over. In 31 seconds, Bey not only won his first Senior National title, but also took command of a weight class that is in search of a lead dog to carry the flag into the new quad. More than that, Bey is someone USA Greco needs right now. People want to love Greco but all-too-often are turned off by the hen-pecking rules and officiating that lead to pummel-fests. For the fans who’d like to start giving Greco more love, there is an athlete like Bey who is willing to supply the excitement. The scary part is that he’s only 18 years old.

Meanwhile, Sanders had a decent day, taking third over Ortiz in the consolation final. For all of Bey’s talent and hype, this was an event Sanders was also favored in and being knocked out of the running for gold by Porter had to have been excruciating. Bey has the whole “wow” factor locked down, but Sanders does not take a backseat to Bey in that department when he is on a roll. And that is what needs to happen if he wants to make the World Team. Sanders has to overcome the little patches of quicksand that seem to find him every now and then simply because he is too good not to. If he doesn’t, he is in danger of being left behind in the sport’s most eclectic weight class.

Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) shook off early disappointment to sew up fifth place and Northern’s Michael Donato held on for seventh against JayShon Wilson (Marines) to make his first Trials tournament.

Placewinners (top 7 qualifies for 2017 US World Team Trials)

  1. Kamal Bey (Sunkist)
  2. Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS)
  3. Kendrick Sanders (NYAC-OTS)
  4. Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm)
  5. Mason Manville (Army/WCAP)
  6. Corey Fitzgerald (NMU-OTS)
  7. Michael Donato (NMU-OTS)
  8. JayShon Wilson (Marines)

80 kg — Haight sends a message

Cheney Haight’s birthday is right around the corner, two days after Christmas. You always felt for those kids growing up because you knew they got those “combo gifts”, those two-in-one presents that family members spent like, a whole five extra dollars on.

Haight, who will be turning 32, likely never cared about that sort of thing, what, with his lack of self-importance as apparent as his unyielding physicality on the mat. Plus, he decided to be the one to treat himself this year to a different kind of combo gift. He’s earned it, no? To top it all off, Haight figured it was a good idea to start celebrating a little early. Surely, we can’t begrudge him that, as well.

Carrying over his sharpness from wrestling overseas the past month, Haight turned in a complete performance on Sunday afternoon. A crisp, clean technical fall over rugged John Stefanowicz (Marines) followed by another one against 17-year old wunderkind Tommy Brackett (Tennessee) propelled Haight into the finals. Waiting for him was the gifted and at-times-flashy Jon Jay Chavez, whose talents were on bright display during his semifinal upset over Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP). Haight was simply the stronger, more confident athlete against Chavez, winning every exchange by asserting his position and discouraging his opponent’s output.

An early lightning-quick arm throw netted the only four points scored throughout the entire match, but that’s okay. What you saw here was a combination of brute force and savvy control of the mat by Haight. He dominated the center against Chavez, a feat worth acknowledging given Chavez’s incredible balance. The score by the end might have only been 4-0, but it was as one-sided as it gets.

With the win, Haight remains a potent threat to everyone in this weight class. The strength, the speed, the timing — they are all there. Patrick Martinez (NYAC) has represented 80 kilos two years in a row at the World Championships and will look to make it three in a few months. But in order to do so, hopefully he will have to stand across from Haight. It just seems right that it gets decided that way. Then again, a new contender is starting to emerge…

You know who else had a nice tournament? Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm). Stanghill lost to Chavez in the quarterfinals 2-1 (that is going to be another rivalry to keep an eye on going forward), but then came back in the consolation bracket to tech Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP), Curt Calovecchi (NMU-OTS), and Brackett. Stanghill racked up a 27-0 combined score to make the consolation final and it was there where he got his biggest win to date, a 3-0 decision over Anderson. Third place for Stanghill, an achievement he could absolutely build on.

Brackett deserves to be talked about, too. Look, it’s fine to win at Fargo. It is a big deal, a nice accomplishment, and could be an indication of a young wrestler’s trajectory. And sure, Brackett went off to Sweden in the fall, and that’s great also. But he didn’t jump into this thing just so he could say he did. No, Brackett came to win matches and that’s what happened. In his first bout he defeated past US Open and World Team Trials finalist Courtney Myers. Next time out Brackett tech’ed Trey Hardy (NMU-OTS). Brackett didn’t win another match but he did place sixth, which means he earned the right to wrestle in April. He might not be the first high schooler to make noise at a major domestic event. In fact, Brackett adds his name to a growing list of wrestlers who have attempted the same thing. But few do so with the attitude Brackett flew to Las Vegas with, which was the most impressive part of the whole thing. We’ll have more on him later.

Placewinners (top 7 qualifies for 2017 US World Team Trials)

  1. Cheney Haight (NYAC)
  2. Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC)
  3. Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm)
  4. Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP)
  5. John Stefanowicz (Marines)
  6. Tommy Brackett (Tennessee)
  7. Sergio Guerrero (NMU-OTS)
  8. Curt Calovecchi (NMU-OTS)

85 kg — “Everybody, say hi to Kevin, you might not have noticed him before.”

Going in, this was supposed to be all about Ben Provisor (NYAC) stomp, stomp, stomping his way towards eventual victory. The two-time Olympian, still in his mid-20’s, was packaged dynamite at the 2016 Olympic Trials and just as fearsome at the Rio Olympics, despite not advancing past the first round. However, Provisor was stunned in the semifinal by Khymbakhy Johnson (NYAC-OTS) 3-2 in a tense, gripping battle that was on a tipping point till the end. Johnson scored his points thanks to a passivity point and a critical takedown in the first. Provisor tried to initiate sequences by moving forward with plunging underhooks and he sustained a steady attack plan, but it wasn’t good enough for the officials, and any perceived lull in activity cost him dearly.

Nevertheless, Johnson performed brilliantly. He was constantly in motion and moved with so much more fluidity than he had a year ago. Most importantly, he was able to hold his ground when Provisor bullied him, notable due to the force the Wisconsin wrestler is capable of generating. Johnson smartly widened his stance and pivoted off angles to stay in tie-up’s. Sometimes, these tactics lead to passivity calls, but Johnson kept up enough output to avoid being dinged repeatedly. Only, even an upset win over an Olympian doesn’t guarantee you much these days.

Kevin Radford (Sunkist), welcome to the big time.

Radford, in his own admission, is still progressing. He isn’t anywhere close to being a finished product. Recognizing that, it has to be positively bothersome for the rest of the 85’ers because if we’re only catching Radford at the lowest incline, imagine what this guy might offer when he nears the apex.

Radford took his experience from Budapest and spun it into the best tournament of his Greco life. Jeff Palmieri (NYAC) gave him his first test of the day and presented enough challenges to kick Radford’s motor into gear. A clean technical fall against one of Northern’s rising prospects, Brandon Marshall, put him into a semifinal showdown with Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP). Down 5-2 in the second, Radford came back with a step-out point and then a caution-and-two on Sheridan was added on for a 5-5 criteria win.

It was not going to be easy for Radford to defeat Johnson the same way he did Sheridan. The stylistic differences are too drastic. Johnson is rangier and full of moving parts, making slowing him down an uphill battle that isn’t worth fighting for a smaller 85, which is what Radford is. No, it was going to require offensive points and that is exactly what got the job done.

A four-point double-overhook counter throw by Radford in the first period was the totality of his scoring versus Johnson, but more than enough for him to settle in and work with. Johnson played catch-up for the remainder of the bout, a precarious place to be when you know the guy in the lead doesn’t have to overextend himself. 4-1 was the final score for Radford. A significant win for an athlete who had yet to catch the spotlight. That’s all changed by now.

Provisor wound up fighting back for third place with wins over Dan Olsen (Unattached and who he had beaten in his first match of the day) and the aforementioned Sheridan. Olsen bounced back with a tech-fall win for fifth place.

Cliff Keen’s Ryan Hope didn’t get the results he was expecting. Hope fell to Johnson 6-1 in his second bout, won his first wrestle-back, and then lost to Palmieri before tech’ing out Austin Chaon (NMU-OTS) for seventh. Hope was already qualified for the Trials due to winning a medal overseas, but if he wants to contend for the spot in April, he can’t have the hiccups he suffered on Sunday.

Placewinners (top 7 qualifies for 2017 US World Team Trials)

  1. Kevin Radford (Sunkist)
  2. Kyhmbakhy Johnson (NYAC-OTS)
  3. Ben Provisor (NYAC)
  4. Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP)
  5. Dan Olsen (Unattached)
  6. Jeff Palmieri (NYAC)
  7. Ryan Hope (Cliff Keen WC)
  8. Austin Chaon (NMU-OTS)
G'Angelo Hancock, 98 kg

G’Angelo Hancock (Photo: Frank Gioia)

98 kg — Okay, now we’ve got some heat

The time will come when G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC) and Hayden Zillmer (Minnesota Storm) are forced to become personally acquainted with each other. It might even be at January camp but if not, it’s an eventuality that soon enough they will be putting work in together with the same group. When this happens, and mind you, it will, let’s all just hope it doesn’t pour cold water over their brand new but still very-heated rivalry.

In just two matches between them, Hancock and Zillmer have capably demonstrated that in Joe Rau’s absence, they are the class of the field at 98 kilos. You could throw Enock Francis (NYAC) in there if you must, but he might not be there yet, despite a narrow loss to Zillmer here on Sunday. No, it’s Hancock and Zillmer who people are going to have to keep an eye on and it’s a very safe bet we see them fighting it out again soon enough.

A grand total of five points has been scored in both matches featuring these young men. Hancock won 2-1 in NYC and 2-0 the other night. Credit actually belongs to Zillmer, simply because he stays right in front of Hancock and is more than happy to test him with bruising pummeling and move him off his spot. And Hancock is very rarely moved by any opponent nowadays.

Some have said the histrionics following Sunday’s final, where Hancock pushed Zillmer away after the whistle, were uncalled for. Maybe. But people have to stop judging athletes in the moment. We all want sportsmanship, even if its contrived, fabricated nonsense. But we also want reality. The reality is that a 19-year old rising star brushed away the guy he was just fighting with for six minutes. This is not to condone less-than-cordial behavior, but come on. A little heat never hurt nobody.

Francis wrestled his tail off for third place against Micah Burak (TMWC) and this match was a good one to watch because while the two finalists along with Rau are who currently rule this weight, Francis and Burak might enter into the argument at some point themselves.

Daniel Miller (Marines) got cleaned up by James Souza (Army/WCAP) in the quarterfinals 11-3. Souza was a little bit of a revelation on Sunday. Aside from sporting a bodybuilder’s physique, there wasn’t much about his wrestling that ever stood out a great deal. But he was a different beast in the Nationals, moving fast inside and using his short stature to his advantage by trying to elevate opponents. Good stuff. Souza and Miller took fifth and seventh, respectively.

Placewinners (top 7 qualifies for 2017 US World Team Trials)

  1. G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC)
  2. Hayden Zillmer (Minnesota Storm)
  3. Enock Francis (NYAC)
  4. Micah Burak (Titan Mercury)
  5. James Souza (Army/WCAP)
  6. Trent Osnes (Marines)
  7. Daniel Miller (Marines)
  8. Anthony Riopelle (NMU-OTS)

130 kg — Erickson outworks Mitchell

Former Junior World medalist Toby Erickson (Army/WCAP) won his first Senior plaque thanks to a healthy dose of grit. In his first match of the morning, Erickson ran through undersized heavyweight Ron Dombkowski (NMU-OTS) 10-0 in just a little over a minute. Next was a fun scrap with the Storm’s Malcom Allen that included a five-pointer the entire arena felt. That, too, ended in a tech. But standing across from him in the final was fellow WCAP wrestler Jacob Mitchell, a skilled wrestler who is looked upon by many as a very legitimate prospect.

A 130 kilo final that ends 2-1 and relies on passivity to determine the outcome usually isn’t a fabulously entertaining watch. And at times, this one wasn’t. But there were moments that delivered some tension, especially as the bout wore on in the second period with the score tied and Mitchell holding criteria. That’s when Erickson got moving. He started dominating position by boring in on Mitchell and hustling tie-ups Mitchell had no answer for. As Mitchell began to fade, Erickson seemed to get stronger. In fact, considering that Erickson is coming off a pronounced break from competition, he had a good amount of stamina left in him after the match ended. That shows he came in prepared, something you like to see out of a guy like him.

Allen took third by getting past Eric Fader (Marines) in the consolation finals. That one was a little surprising. Fader had the benefit of wrestling in the Clubs Cup, so you kind of figured he was at the very least, the third best competitor at this weight. But credit to Allen, he knows how to get to places in matches that work for him and he’s coached very well. There may be more in store for Allen as we move forward here, he has gameness that goes for miles.

Placewinners (top 7 qualifies for 2017 US World Team Trials)

  1. Toby Erickson (Army/WCAP)
  2. Jacob Mitchell (Army/WCAP)
  3. Malcom Allen (Minnesota Storm)
  4. Eric Fader (Marines)
  5. Zack Wilcox (MWC)
  6. Ron Dombkowski (NMU-OTS)
  7. Christopher Pierce (Patriot Elite)

Saying goodbye

Two athletes (probably) wrestled their last matches on Saturday — Dennis Hall (59 kg, WGW) and Marco Lara (71 kg, Army/WCAP).

Hall, 45, had come out of retirement once before in 2012 at the Olympic Trials and went 1-2. In fact, his second loss of that tournament was to Lara. This time around, it wasn’t as much about trying to make a team as it was to make a point. Hall felt he could still be competitive and he was. His first match of the day was a tech-fall win over Jordan Auen (NMU-OTS). Auen isn’t a slouch. Quite the opposite. He has Klippan Cup gold to prove it. In his next bout, Hall went to work against Ryan Mango and gave the National Team member a whole lot of trouble there for awhile. Down 2-0, Hall got in on Mango and threw him for four and predictably, the place went bananas.

By the middle of the second period, the momentum was strictly in Mango’s favor. Hall couldn’t time Mango nor could he get off first. It didn’t look like a physical thing, it looked like a lack of sharpness. This also brought the best out of Mango, something he needs every now and then. He started having fun out there and you know what? So did Hall. With the score just about out of reach, Hall began clubbing Mango HARD. Mango answered back and the two were practically swinging at each other as time ran out. It was, in a word, awesome. The whole thing was awesome, seeing one man who was clearly past his best days as an athlete still out there in the pocket and loving every minute of it. It was equally terrific seeing Mango, a dynamic yet normally-reserved wrestler, get fired up in a big way.

Moved into the consolation bracket, Hall matched up with Lillishawn Coleman (Army/WCAP), Ellis’ younger brother. That’s weird, isn’t it? Hall wrestling the younger brothers of two Olympians? The younger Coleman took a 5-2 decision after which, Hall unlaced his shoes and left them in the center. He wanted to go out on his terms after competing through an injury and whatever else in 2012, and he did just that. Hope everybody got a good look, because you will not being seeing another guy like that around these parts for a long, long time.

And then there was Lara. Lara never had the career Hall did, but that didn’t make it any easier to take. There is just something about seeing someone like Lara, who isn’t necessarily so over-the-hill, come to a realization that he just doesn’t have it in him anymore. Once again, this isn’t about the physical so much as it is about those feelings inside each and every athlete that tell them it’s best to move onto something else. Painful isn’t the word. When these wrestlers enter a place in their lives when they don’t “have it” anymore, they aren’t just saying goodbye to competition. They are saying goodbye to a part of themselves that comforted them, drove them, and provided the fuel for the next day. The next achievement. The next tournament. The next practice. The next, the next, the next… It’s a loss of identity, a fracturing of the ego, which is beautiful, but also, heartbreaking. There is no “next” anymore.

Whether or not Lara had some kind of agreement with himself that if he didn’t win or earn a specific place he was going to walk away is not known. He could have been talking about this with others — no idea. He took fourth, losing to Chase Nelson in the third place match. It wasn’t as if he went 0-2 and was done for the day. Not even close. But as a consistent contender for over a decade, there is a standard Lara measured himself by. There are probably goals outside of wrestling he wants to shoot for, as well.

But seeing him at the moment when the match was called and untie those shoes  while doing his absolute best to stifle the tears that were just so eager to announce themselves to the world wasn’t easy. Lara handled the circumstances with the grace and dignity he exemplified as a competitor, although right then and there, he was one no longer.

Congratulations to both wrestlers on two outstanding careers. We’ll miss you.

What’s coming up here

  • The next “Coach Lindland’s Report” is going to include his perspective on all of the above along with a look at the upcoming schedule for the winter. There might also be some more off-topic stuff since people seem to enjoy it.
  • Check out our Facebook page for video interviews with 2016 US National champs Kamal Bey and Kevin Radford.
  • A full-scale interview with the aforementioned Radford and a look at Tommy Brackett’s decision to compete and his goals in Greco for the future.
  • Special features celebrating the year that was.
  • An announcement you’re not going to want to miss!

Questions? Concerns? Feel like reaching out? Do so on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

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