Plenty of athletes have put together strong performances thus far on Day 1 of the 2018 US Senior Greco-Roman Nationals, but there is room for only so many headliners. Like say for instance, Travis Rice (NMU/OTS).
After defeating 2017 University National champ Wesley Dawkins (MWC) via tech in the round-of-16, Rice faced off with former Junior World teammate and last year’s Senior Trials runner-up Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP). Tuma, the #1 seed, ended an 11-month hiatus from competition at the Bill Farrell Memorial in March. It was like he never left. Tuma blitzed through the 63-kilogram bracket that Friday afternoon, boosting his stock to the sky just as the Open began to approach. And despite Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG) and Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) also being present in Vegas, many had leaned towards Tuma as their pick to earn that coveted bye to the World Team Trials finals in June.
Suffice it to say, Rice wasn’t one of them.
Holding a 1-0 passivity point lead in the second period, Rice picked up another pair when it mattered most to eventually walk away with a 3-1 victory that instantly becomes his biggest on the domestic Senior circuit at this stage of his still-young career.
Standing across from Rice in the 63-kilogram semifinals will be none other than Sammy Jones (NYAC/OTS), who grabbed himself a healthy dose of revenge with a domineering 12-2 technical fall of Marine standout Xavier Johnson in their quarterfinal meeting. Once again, it all goes back to New York and the Bill Farrell Memorial at the end of last month. Johnson, a talented, explosive prospect, claimed bronze when he ousted Jones by way of tech. That script got flipped in Vegas this morning, as Jones capitalized on a couple of big scoring attempts right away and never looked back.
The aforementioned Thielke capped his morning as one of five holdovers from the Rio Olympic Team to slide into the semifinals. The Wisconsinite enjoyed a bye in the round-of-16 before taking out Lilishawn Greedy (Army/WCAP) 9-0. He next resumes pleasantries with Mango, who he defeated in the 2013 World Team Trials finals. In the extremely-deep 72 kilogram field, RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) found little trouble getting past Christopher Rodgers (NMU/OTS) and Eleazar DeLuca (SETRC-VT) on the strength of back-to-back techs to set up a showdown with friend and former training partner Chris Gonzalez (NYAC). Perkins and Gonzalez last competed against each other in the semifinals of the Dave Schultz Memorial this past fall with Perkins winning on criteria.
Two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC) and Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) are also on a similar track. On the upper half of the 87-kilogram bracket, Provisor earned tech wins over Austin Chaon (NMU/OTS) and Robert Hammers (Unattached), respectively. Rau, victorious by technical fall in his two bouts, as well, notched his second one at the expense of a returning Jake Fisher (Curby 3-Style). Tonight, Provisor will battle reigning National Champion Kevin Radford (Sunkist) while Rau takes on two-time World Team member Cheney Haight (NYAC).
Fans want to see a heavyweight showdown between multi-time World Teamer/2016 Olympian Robby Smith (NYAC) and his Iowa City runner-up Adam Coon (CKWC), who is also fairly well-known in the folkstyle world apparently. That prospect is one step closer to reality as Smith bulldozed newcomer Malique Trumbo (Unattached) with a series of front headlock rolls before downing NMU’s Andrew Fenton. For his part, Coon was also lights out today, earning a tech over Daniel Reyes (Z Fighters) in his first match and a pin of David Tate (Utah Valley).
- If Rice’s win over Tuma is considered an upset, then what do you call Peyton Walsh (Marines) pouring it on against Kendrick Sanders (NYAC/OTS)? It started innocently enough. Sanders, up 2-0, went to execute a throw near the boundary and Walsh adjusted to land on top. It was still 2-2 in the second when picked up two off of a caution. Walsh next nailed a front headlock for four — and then another two was awarded on another caution as Sanders refused to retake the center. Strange as all get-out but a huge, huge win for Walsh.
- 2012 Olympian Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP), who entered today not having competed since the Military Worlds in September, lit it up and then some Friday morning. Top-seeded Coleman rammed his way through all three bouts via technical fall inside of the first period.
- The same can be said of Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist). Hazewinkel, wrestling Greco for the first time in several years, has yet to reach the one-minute mark. The Oklahoman racked up a pair of tech’s over Britain Longmire (Team Nevada) and Michael Freeman (505 Wrestling Club).
- The last time Bey and former Junior World Team member Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC) clashed was in the semis of the ’17. That bout wound up as one of the most entertaining of the entire tournament. They have a chance to repeat that whole deal again this evening.
- Wrestlers from the Olympic Training Site at Northern Michigan account for five of tonight’s 20 semifinalists.
The semifinal and consolation rounds of the 2018 US Greco-Roman Senior Nationals begin tonight at 6:00pm PT (9:00pm EST) and can be viewed live on FLOWrestling.
2018 US Senior Greco-Roman Nationals Semifinal Match-Ups
Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) vs. Jabari Moody (NYAC)
Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS) vs. Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist)
Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) vs. Leslie Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP)
Taylor LaMont (Sunkist) vs. Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS)
Travis Rice (NMU/OTS) vs. Sammy Jones (NYAC/OTS)
Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG) vs. Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP)
Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) vs. Austin Morrow (NYAC/OTS)
Raymond Bunker (Marines) vs. Jessy Williams (NYAC/NYRTC)
RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) vs. Chris Gonzalez (NYAC)
Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) vs. Alex Sancho (NYAC)
Kamal Bey (Sunkist) vs. Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC)
Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS) vs. Peyton Walsh (Marines)
John Stefanowicz (Marines) vs. Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm)
Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) vs. Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP)
Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC) vs. Kevin Radford (Sunkist)
Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) vs. Cheney Haight (NYAC)
Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) vs. Micah Burak (TMWC)
Enock Francois (NYAC) vs. Daniel Miller (Marines)
Robby Smith (NYAC) vs. Alton Meeks (Florida Jets)
Adam Coon (CKWC) vs. Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm)