The Bill Farrell/NYAC International Open is traditionally a great way to look into the future. US Greco Roman competitors who do well in this tournament typically go on to enjoy solid, successful careers. Sure, year to year it is different, depending on which countries show up and who they send. Or, as was the case for this year’s event, if it is the beginning of a new quad. Either way, especially now that Sunkist isn’t around any longer, the NYAC provides a springboard for wrestlers who are on the verge of fully announcing their presence on the national stage, which makes it a vital stop on the calendar.
59 kg – Tuma takes silver, Jones bronze, and Roberts makes semifinal
Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP) dropped down to 59 kilograms for the first time (61 with the two kilo allowance) and impressed from start to finish. He looked increasingly comfortable each match, including the final, which he lost 4-3 to Japan’s Shota Tanokura. Tuma has been a wrestler who would always get after it, but maybe lacked some of the height necessary to really make a dent against some of the long, strong studs at 66. If making the scratch weight isn’t a problem for him, 59 just got even more interesting than it was before.
Sammy Jones (NYAC-OTS) is still right there. He lost to Tuma in the semis and then wrestled back for third, where he defeated teammate Dmitry Ryabchinskiy (NYAC-OTS). Jones is close to being on the same level as the top guys at this weight, but it is going to take a breakout performance for everyone else to realize that.
The surprise of this tournament took place in the first round when James LaValle (Minnesota Storm) upset National Team member Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP). Mango jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but that was it. LaValle picked up two off of an underhook he used to counter a two-on-one and then wrapped a front-headlock for two more. A passivity point and then a caution and two in the second period made the score 7-2, a margin Mango would not come back from. LaValle lost in the quarterfinals to Tanokura and in the consolation semis to Jones. But this was something he could build off of.
Northern Michigan standout Dalton Roberts advanced into the semifinals where he, too, fell victim to Tanokura. Roberts rebounded with a win over fellow Northerner Randon Miranda before falling to Ryabchinskiy in the penultimate consolation round.
66 kg – Morrow comes close, DeArmond shows he doesn’t back down
Austin Morrow (NYAC-OTS) climbed another rung on the 66 kilogram latter by earning a silver medal. Morrow is simply a cool competitor. There aren’t a ton of situations he can’t fight a way out of and he is constantly on the prowl for points. He got tossed and pinned in the final by Ktsuyoshi Kawase (JPN), but there is no shame in getting caught while being aggressive, at least not at this stage in his career.
Then there was Jamal DeArmond (NMU-OTS). DeArmond made the semifinals where he was outgunned by Kawase 17-6. He then dropped a tough bout to Mustafa Mohaney (NYAC) in the consolation round. There was no medal for DeArmond in this tournament, but he looked as sharp as could be racing past Joilson Junior (Unattached) in the first round 9-0. DeArmond’s biggest crime is that he sometimes overreaches or oversteps, and it can cost him. Those are correctable issues. You’d much rather take that than someone who is hesitant to engage (which we saw plenty of despite the new rule-set).
75 kg – Bey goes haywire, Porter takes third
It was just a matter of time before Kamal Bey (Sunkist) picked up his first Senior tournament win. That it came this past weekend and required all of his athletic talent to get it done is merely details. Bey battled with Bradley Dolezal (Minnesota Storm) to pick up his first win and then it was onto the finals against Karim Hawash (NYAC). Hawash executed a pretty headlock right off the bat to take a 4-0 lead. After that, Bey took control. A hectic scrambling sequence in which Bey nailed a takedown, got reversed, and then stepped over on a gutwrench attempt by Hawash gave him a 6-5 lead. He added to it quickly. A four-pointer via double underhooks and then a similar counter maneuver as time ran out in the first was all that was necessary. Bey, a big proponent of entertainment value, put on a show to earn himself his first Senior gold.
There wasn’t a Junior World Team Trials rematch in store for the fans in attendance, as Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS) was beaten by Hawash in the semis. While winning is always the objective, it might not have been the worst thing in the world, as it provided an extra match to see what this kid could do. Porter took advantage of it by dominating John Yeats (CAN) and Dolezal to pick up bronze. Together with Bey, Porter represents a scary new generation of US Greco Roman wrestlers the more-established Seniors are forced to take notice of.
98 – Hancock wins, but he was supposed to; Merrill might be onto something
You don’t discount someone’s first Senior-level domestic gold medal but at this point, there isn’t a lot to be surprised about when it comes to G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC) anymore. There just isn’t. Hancock was actually fortunate enough to receive a couple of appropriately tough assignments in Masato Sumi (JPN) and Hayden Zillmer (Minnesota Storm). Hancock defeated Sumi 5-0 in the semis and Zillmer 2-0 on a couple of passive points in the final. The only time Hancock was able to unleash the aerial assault everyone looks forward to was against Zach Merrill (TMWC) in the first round. Two reverse lifts in consecutive fashion, and there you go.
But Merrill could be an interesting case study. He displayed a lot of toughness locking up with heavies but just couldn’t make up the size disparity. And outside of getting tossed around by Hancock, Merrill had himself a really good day here. He defeated Daniel Miller (Marines — and another one who has the physical potential but needs to improve mightily on his skills) and then took out Sumi in the consolation finals for what was overall, an impressive bronze medal performance.
Martinez’s battle with Anderson will be remembered; Gonzalez-Sancho, too
Doubtful is the notion that people weren’t rooting for a Patrick Martinez (NYAC)-Cheney Haight (NYAC) 80 kg Non-Olympic Trials final. It’s nothing against Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP) or Kendrick Sanders (NYAC-OTS). But whenever you can match up two guys, one an iron-tough veteran National Team’er who has a decade of success under his belt, and the other a fast-rising upstart who has already made a World Team himself, the theater is just too good to pass up. The fact that Martinez and Haight both train at the OTC only added to the prospects.
But it wasn’t as if the air was let out of the building for Anderson-Martinez. In a strict Greco Roman wrestling sense, it equally promised the same type of fight you wouldn’t be able to turn away from. And it didn’t disappoint. Martinez, at this stage in his still-young career, is just a touch more technical than Anderson might be, and that helped during those dicey moments when Anderson would come on strong. Martinez used his considerable base to stay in the pocket and find the balance he needed to control more ties. Passivity points (we’ll be getting to this later) are a necessary evil in the role they play during big matches, but that’s the deal. If you could put that aside for even a second, the intense, brutal action these two gave the fans should speak for itself.
The 71 kilogram best-of-three doesn’t take a distant second. Chris Gonzalez (Army/WCAP) was forced to win the back two against Alex Sancho (NYAC-OTS) who seriously, left it all out on the mat. Gonzalez, who has been up at 71 before and certainly boasts a terrific frame for the weight class, simply stayed on his horse and absolutely pounced on the slightest, teeniest-tiniest windows of opportunity. We noted that Gonzalez was “on the cusp of a breakout.” This was it. If he can bottle what he had on Saturday night, there is a good chance he is in legitimate podium contention come Budapest in December.
Roberts and Rice headed to Finland — no, it is not a comedy routine
The aforementioned Dalton Roberts and Northern Michigan teammate Travis Rice (66 kg) are leaving for Finland on Thursday for what appears to be two competitions and a camp in between (that’s the formula, isn’t it? Two tournaments and a camp?). It is just those two plus Ryan Hope going — no one else is making the trip. Youth gone wild. We will have more on this tomorrow, so stay with us.
What’s coming up here
- An all-new Coach Lindland’s Report covering the Non-Olympic Trials/NYAC along with a look at the upcoming Golden Grand Prix.
- What Did We Learn? — A deeper examination of the new rule-set and how it was interpreted in the first event.
- Two athlete interviews.
- A special feature completed in conjunction with two Olympic/World Team athletes centered around competition, approach, and perspective. This is an important piece for both coaches and wrestlers, so please keep your eye out for that one soon.