It was quite the two days at the South Point Hotel (& whatever else) in Las Vegas this weekend. Largely, the 2017 US Greco World Team Trials went how many probably figured it would. Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) wasn’t a big surprise at 59 kilos. Neither was Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) at 66, Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) at 71, Ben Provisor (NYAC) at 85, G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC) at 98, or Robby Smith (NYAC) at 130. Certainly, these six athletes were expected to do well, though the argument could be made that Patrick Smith’s performance was a little surprising. Not that he won, but how he did it. He was in complete control of virtually every match throughout the day on Saturday, and sweeping through RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) and Chris Gonzalez (NYAC) while only surrendering a single point in those three contests is something worthy of recognition.
Cheney Haight (NYAC) defeating John Stefanowicz (Marines) in two straight for the World Team spot at 80 kilos also wasn’t a shocker, primarily because Haight had gotten past the Marine twice in recent months. But Stefanowicz’s clutch two-point arm throw and subsequent win over Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets, world no. 9) in the 80 kg semifinals was without a doubt one of the biggest moments of the entire two days. Stefanowicz is probably be pleased with his runner-up finish and maybe there’s an argument in there that it wasn’t as much of an upset as advertised considering Stefanowicz’s obvious abilities. Thing is, Speiller has abilities, too, which is why bouts like that one have a habit of being remembered.
Haight’s Trials win on Friday night was his second and an excellent example of his durability. Even if you want to reference Haight’s hiatus from the sport and his subsequent return, his consistency is still remarkable. In 2010, Haight won his first US Open title and in 2011, he snagged his first World Team spot for the squad that went to Turkey. His second Open championship arrived in December of 2016, and his second World Team is this year’s, 2017.
Toby Erickson (Army/WCAP) was right there with Robby Smith in their first finals match Friday night. Smith prevailed with a 2-1 passivity-laden win. It was probably natural to expect more of the same in Match 2. Despite Smith’s relative dominance over Erickson over the past several years, the gap appeared to be closing up when Smith got by his friend and former training partner 3-1 in Denmark, making the 2-1 opener seem almost as if it was par for the course by now. It was altogether different in the second bout. Smith scored two when he used a front headlock to scurry behind. After the reset, a Smith arm throw led to him taking Erickson’s head and arm and holding him in place for the fall.
Haight, 32, and Smith, 30, have an approximate combined 25 years of Senior competition under their belts at this stage in their respective careers. Neither athlete appears to have a lost a step.
Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) might be ticketed for Penn State soon enough, but his overall display on Saturday was something to behold. The talent of the former Cadet World champ has never been in question, but a total performance on the Senior level had alluded him leading up to his victory the other night. His win over Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS) was big. But then to go out and defeat Dillon Cowan (Army/WCAP) the way he did following that got the ball rolling even more. To go out and beat Kamal Bey (Sunkist) in two straight to lock it all up was something entirely different.
- At 59 kilograms, Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) picked up two wins over 2013 World Team Trials runner-up Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) to lock down third place and the National Team spot. Both of their bouts made for compelling theater. They first locked up on Saturday in the quarterfinals with Nowry edging Mango 5-5 via criteria. In the third-place bout, Nowry was down 3-0 in the second period before he picked up a passivity point to cut the deficit to 3-1. Then with :04 left, he got in on Mango with a bodylock and forced him out and was awarded a caution and two. Mango’s challenge was rejected to make the final score 4-3. Tough result for the super-talented Mango, who aside from his two losses to Nowry, looked like a machine. Mango ran over Michael Hollingsworth (Navy) in his first consolation bout and then tech’ed out 2016 Junior World bronze medalist Taylor LaMont (Sunkist) to make it to the consolation final.
- 2015 National Team member Brian Graham (Minnesota Storm) sure looked like he didn’t miss a beat. Graham advanced to the 66 kilogram semifinals and was defeated by eventual champ Coleman. After that, victories over NMU stalwarts Jessy Williams and Anthonie Linares sealed up his third-place finish.
- Then there was Colin Schubert (71 kg, NMU-OTS). Schubert appears on the radar and then goes off of it at times. He was a revelation on Saturday. Schubert engaged in a fun, competitive affair in the quarters but wound up dropping the bout 12-7. He recovered with a tech over Alex Mossing (Foxfire) and an incredibly entertaining win against fellow prospect Cody Pack (Legends of Gold). Here, Schubert was down 7-2 and picked up two by getting behind on a missed arm spin by Pack. Then an attempted throw Pack was called for a caution and two on narrowed the margin to 7-6. Pack challenged and lost, making the score 7-7. Schubert found himself behind 9-7 and then hit a four-point toss at the edge for four to make the score 11-9, and that was it. He wound up getting tech’ed by RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) for third, but even still, Schubert’s effort Saturday puts him right back where he belongs — at future contender status.
- WCAP’s Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP) was a part of that crammed 85 kilo field and though he didn’t finally achieve his goal of making a World Team, he was impressive nonetheless. After dropping his first bout to Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm), Anderson bounced back with dominant wins over Vaughan Monreal-Berner (Marines) and Jeff Palmieri (NYAC) to set up a showdown with two-time World Team member Patrick Martinez (NYAC) in the consolation semis. Anderson lost to Martinez in their best of three series back in November. This time the story played a little differently, as Anderson managed to grab a 7-5 win. Martinez held a 3-1 advantage in the second period when Anderson got two from a takedown. He then turned Martinez twice to go up 7-3. Martinez did rush in for a nice high-dive that netted two right near the end but time was all but out. Anderson secured his fifth consecutive National Team spot with a close 4-2 win over WCAP teammate Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP).
2017 US World Team Trials Notes
— There were 68 technical falls and only five matches decided by criteria during the Greco-Roman portion of the US World Team Trials, finals included.
— As far as team results go, NYAC led the field with 130 points with Army/WCAP coming in at 117 and Minnesota Storm with 64. Separating the finals, it is the same order with NYAC at 58 points, WCAP with 48, and Storm with 28.
— Most of the winners are first-time US Senior World Team members — Hafizov, Coleman, Smith, Manville, Provisor, and Hancock. Of course, Hafizov was an Olympian for Uzbekistan in 2008 and Coleman, Provisor, and Smith have been Olympians here. So if you’re counting, that’s four of the eight having been past Olympians. Not bad.
We’ll have (a little) more on the Trials before the week is out.
Brazil and the Pan Ams are next
The US Greco-Roman team will now travel to Brazil for the 2017 Pan-Am Championships, which for Greco, get underway on Friday morning. The roster is:
59 kg: Ryan Mango
66 kg: Hayden Tuma
71 kg: Patrick Smith
75 kg: Kamal Bey
80 kg: Geordan Speiller
85 kg: Ben Provisor
98 kg: G’Angelo Hancock
130 kg: Robby Smith
United World Wrestling is applying all Continent Championships results as a mechanism for athlete placement or potential separation in the 2017 World Championships, set for August in Paris. US National Team head coach Matt Lindland had remarked that given its importance, he wanted to take an exceptionally strong squad and that appears to be the case. From a fan’s perspective, it will be interesting to see guys like Speiller and Bey perform following big letdowns. Big showings here might ease too much of the sting, but they would certainly help the team as it tries to pick up its second title in three years.
Don’t forget the Euros
With the US guys going on Friday, that gives hardcore Greco-Roman fans the opportunity to catch all of the European Championships Saturday and Sunday. The event this year takes place in Novi Sad, Serbia. As is the case every year, the European Championships provides a glimpse at the most talked-about talents on that side of the globe. Best of all, Russia, Serbia, Georgia, and Hungary are all bringing packed rosters, so it promises to be an extremely entertaining weekend if you’re into Greco. Which you should be.
What’s coming up here
- An all-new Coach Lindland’s Report is all done and will be up in the middle of the week.
- The third episode of “The Five Point Move Podcast” will also be available soon enough with the World Team Trials and other topics dominating the discussion.
- 2017 Pan-Ams Championships preview.
- A look at some of the notable performances over the weekend from Northern Michigan competitors.
- An athlete interview.