The most action-packed edition of the US Open in years was capped by an extremely enjoyable slate of finals matches. Friday night delivered just about everything fans should expect to witness at a high-level Greco-Roman competition boasting such lofty implications. There were wild throws, nail-biting endings, an inspired comeback, and plenty of the clean technical maneuvers that are so vital to illustrating the excitement that unquestionably needs to be associated with the classical style in the US.
All credit begins — and ends — with the athletes. Without the skilled, devoted Senior wrestlers who participated in the event, there is nothing to talk about. But moving past that little bit of melodrama is the new emphasis on negative wrestling. While it’s true that there were mistakes and confusing moments, by and large, the rule update got its desired effect — a whole lot of points being scored. Officials and athletes still need to get on the same page in certain respects, especially prior to the Trials. But for now, most are very pleased with what they saw over the course of the two-day tournament. We’ll have more on the rule emphasis and its impact following the Pan Ams this week.
A Few Undercover Stars
National champs have the luxury of a bye to their respective weight class’ best-of-three series in June — and not to mention a little extra cash — but there were other notable performances on Thursday and Friday outside of the tournament victors. Here are a few (and they’re not the only few) deserving of supplemental recognition.
- Both athletes who comprised the third-place bout at 67 kilograms. 2012 University World bronze medalist Jamel Johnson (Marines) was gone for over a year before he came back at the Dave Schultz Memorial. He then was forced into another, albeit much shorter, layoff into the winter. And then he lost his first match at the Open to Connor Myers (Army/WCAP). But he bounced back in the most impressive way possible. Johnson won all of his matches in the consolation bracket via tech (with the exception of a forfeit victory over teammate Ray Bunker) while reaching the second minute of the first period only once. Crazy.
- The man Johnson defeated for bronze in Vegas, Austin Morrow (NYAC/OTS), had also been inactive for most of the season coming in due to lingering shoulder issues. On Thursday, Morrow put in an inspired effort that saw him reach the Senior National semifinals for the first time in his career.
- One weight class up was Logan Kass (72 kg, Minnesota Storm), who really opened some eyes with his fifth-place showing. His biggest win of the tournament came early. Against U23 Trials runner-up and scary-tough Colin Schubert (NYAC/OTS), Kass got on a run and ended that affair in the first with a tech. If you take into account how improved Kass looked in Cuba and combine that with what he did in Vegas, it’s hard not to be optimistic about his potential.
- Here’s how 77 kilos shook out. Cody Pack (NYAC/LOG) piled up points against Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm) in the round-of-16, had the same thing done to him by Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS), and then knocked off Ryan Whittle (WBC) and 2017 University Nat’l champ Curt Calovecchi (NMU/OTS) before receiving a forfeit (Jon Jay Chavez) to make the bronze match. Who was standing across from him once he got there? Ortiz, who surged through the consolation bracket himself after a string of huge wins over some severe talent including Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP), Brandon Mueller (Air Force/505 WC), and Porter. Pack got the better of Ortiz for a second time to take third, but both wrestlers deserve a ton of credit for the work they put in throughout the event.
- At 33, Cheney Haight (87 kg, NYAC) is still a revelation. Following a pair of tech wins, Haight made the semis opposite Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) and dropped a 4-0 decision, with all four points arriving early in the first. After that, Haight rebounded with a tense criteria victory over Khymba Johnson (NYAC/OTS) and a runaway tech against 2016 National Champion Kevin Radford (Sunkist) in the third-place match.
- 2017 U23 World Team member Blake Smith (OTC) is likely to attract some attention from club sponsors soon enough. A first-round loss to up-and-coming Eric Twohey (Minnesota Storm) shuffled Smith off to the consolation bracket where he came away with three nice wins (and a forfeit) to make the bronze-medal match. His run was ended there by top-seeded Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP), who was upset in the semis by an improved Micah Burak (TMWC).
Pan Am Rosters for Greco-Roman
The 2018 Pan American Championships begin this Thursday in Lima, Peru at 10:00am CT (11:00am EST) and can be viewed live in the US on Trackwrestling.com. Because it is a Continental Championships, there are ranking/seeding concerns related to the Senior World Championships in October. Mind the chart below and this link for clarity.
In a nutshell, athletes who accrue points at any of United World Wrestling’s “Ranking Series” events (of which include the Pan Ams and any other Continental Championships) receive a higher World ranking, and thereby, a potentially higher placing/seeding at the Worlds.
*Note: rosters are tentative
67 kg: Elias Ismael Lucio
77 kg: Francisco Albano Barrio
130 kg: Luciano Del Rio (2015 Pan Am Championships bronze medalist, 2016 South American Championships gold medalist)
77 kg: Cristian Alberto Nova Roca
55 kg: Sargis Khachatryan
60 kg: Marat Garipov
63 kg: Mauri Silverio Junior
67 kg: Joilson De Brito Ramos Junior (2017 Pan Am Championships runner-up, 2016 Brazil Cup gold medalist)
72 kg: David Pereira Barbosa
77 kg: Angelo Marques Moreira
82 kg: Adil Hendresson Barros Machado
97 kg: Davi Jose Albino
63 kg: Adam Takahashi MacFayden
67 kg: Joseph Dashou
77 kg: John Yeats
82 kg: Brayden Ambo
87 kg: Phillip Barreiro
97 kg: Thomas Barreiro
60 kg: Cristobal Torres Nunez
87 kg: Jose Antonio Bustos
130 kg: Yasmani Acosta Fernandez (2017 World bronze medalist, 2017 Pan Am Championships runner-up)
60 kg: Dicther Castaneda
67 kg: Julian Horta Acevedo
77 kg: Jair Cuero Munoz
87 kg: Carlos Munoz Jaramillo
97 kg: Oscar Loango Solis
130 kg: Gilberto Perez Montes
60 kg: Luis Orta Sanchez
67 kg: Ismael Borrero Molina (2016 Olympic Champion, 2015 World Champion, three-time Pan Am Championships gold medalist, 2018 Granma Cup gold medalist)
77 kg: Ariel Batista
87 kg: Daniel Gregorich Hechavarria
97 kg: Yasmany Lugo Cabrera (2016 Olympic silver medalist, six-time Pan Am Championships gold medalist, three-time Granma Cup gold medalist)
130 kg: Oscar Pino Hinds (2017 World bronze medalist, two-time Pan Am Championships gold medalist, 2015 Granma Cup gold medalist)
60 kg: Jancel Pimentel Gonzalez
67 kg: Luis De Leon (2017 Pan Am Championships runner-up)
77 kg: Johan Batista
87 kg: Carlos Adames Palmer
97 kg: Jose Arias Paredes
130 kg: Luis Santana Heredia
60 kg: Andres Montano Arroyo
67 kg: Jose Sanchez Betancourt
87 kg: Enrique Cuero Ortiz
60 kg: Juan Rodriguez Jovel
130 kg: Jose Erazo Henriquez
67 kg: Jose Varela Garcia
77 kg: Reiner Terry
97 kg: Lester Enriquez Calderon
60 kg: Gorge Gonzalez Batis
67 kg: Jefrin Mejia Sambula
97 kg: Kevin Mejia Castillo (two-time Junior Pan Am Championships gold medalist, 2016 Dave Schultz Memorial International gold medalist, 2016 Pan Am Championships bronze medalist, 2016 Granma Cup gold medalist)
60 kg: Ali Soto Macias
67 kg: Manual Lopez Salcero
72 kg: Fernando Vincente Gomez
77 kg: Juan Angel Escobar (two-time Pan Am Games bronze medalist, two-time Pan Am Championships silver medalist, 2011 Pan Am Championships bronze medalist)
87 kg: Daniel Vincente Gomez
97 kg: Alfonso Leyva Yepez
130 kg: Luis Roman Barrios
77 kg: Alvis Almendra Jimenez
87 kg: Elton Brown Morrison
63 kg: Gerardo Oliva Montes
77 kg: Renzo Garcia Mendoza
82 kg: Carlos Espinoza Castro
87 kg: Ricardo Cardenas Esquen
97 kg: Li Herbert Castillo Florian
130 kg: Daniel Medina Chancafe
67 kg: German Diaz Maldonado (*US Marines)
97 kg: Zach Merrill (*USA)
130 kg: Edgardo Lopez Morell
67 kg: Wuileixis Rivas Espinoza
77 kg: Luis Avendano Rojas
87 kg: Yorgen Cova Pulido
97 kg: Luillys Perez Mora
130 kg: Moises Salvador Perez Hellburg
WRESTLERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Your (somewhat) weekly dose of inspiring words, knuckleheaded antics, or thought-provoking questions from your favorite US Greco-Roman athletes and coaches.
Left no doubt.
It was a great week in Vegas! I went there to do a job and I got the job done, now I move on to the next one!!! I want to say thank you to my sponsors @newyorkac @athletepswrestling @nikewrestling CYC for all your support! Also want to thank my coaches for getting me ready @mark.halvorson.21 @mogotraining Momir Petkovic @mohamed_abdlfattah_ @mlindland
New meaning to the term “finals week.”
First off, I don’t think I’ve ever flexed after a win but DAMN it felt good! 2018 Senior US Open Champion and Outstanding Wrestler. Thank you to all that continue to support my journey. Headed back to ol MQT right now for final exams 😅. Anyone interested in the emotional context of this tournament my post-match interviews are on YouTube. 🤙🏼
First one, as hard as that may be to believe.
The Marine Captain, another first-timer.
Last week I won my first senior national title and punched my ticket to represent the United States in the Pan American Championships this year. I can not thank the Marine Corps, my teammates, my coaches, and my family enough for the opportunities they have given me and the help I have received from them along the way. Shout out to @fivepointmove for doing an article after the competition. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the LINK IN BIO #marines #sports #allmarinewrestling #amwt #athlete #wrestling #champion #gold #stopsign #podium #nationals #gogreco #fitness #lasvegas #nevada #mustache
Always an impressive performer and was even more so Friday.
Scary when healthy. He’s healthy.
Haven’t competed at the US open since 2014, glad I came and won my 2nd National title of my Senior career. It was hard for me dealing with injury after injury since 2016 but thanks to my coaches and training staff that helped me build up, we got it done together. Feels great to be back on top. Congrats to not only the Champions at the US Open but everyone who competed. This weekend showed Greco-Roman is still alive in the USA and together we can make it exciting again.
Podcast co-host to the right.
Would like to thank all my sponsors @nittanylionwc @newyorkac @athleteps for the constant support to get me where I’m at today! This is the best I’ve ever felt and I’m going to continue to improve until I reach my goal! Being at @pennstatewrest has changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful for it. #weare #nike #3
Indeed, that is often the case.
They want beef you gotta feed em lunch
— G’angelo Hancock (@OlympicKidd) April 30, 2018
He’ll be back.
Think I needed this tournament.
— Jesse Porter (@jporter_2015) April 28, 2018
So will Miranda.