The annual Dave Schultz Memorial tends to serve as a litmus test for some of the country’s more prolific Greco-Roman wrestlers. There is just the right amount of challenging competition domestically mixed in with enough foreign faces to provide a fairly reasonable sample of where certain athletes are currently at and more importantly, where you believe they can eventually go. For others, the tournament can act as a way back on the path, a one-foot-in-front-of-the-other journey towards rediscovering the tools necessary to take on the world’s best. It’s like a panacea for US Greco Roman wrestling, capable of curing ills while delivering preventative maintenance.
That is probably why the 2017 running of the Dave Schultz Memorial seems to have given United States Greco Roman wrestling the booster shot it needs heading into a new quadrennial. At nearly all times throughout the day, the mats were occupied not only by hungry athletes on the trail to full development, but also by battle-hardened monsters and accomplished prospects fighting for the spotlight. And that was never more evident than in the finals of this special event presented at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
RaVaughn is back
2016 Olympic Trials champion RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) picked up his second consecutive Schultz Memorial title after nearly nine full months spent recovering from a spinal fracture. Competing up at 71 kilograms from his previous 66, Perkins looked completely at home in the new weight in the semifinals, where he decimated Je Frim Sambula (HON) via tech fall shortly into the second period. In the finals, Perkins was called upon to meet up with Japan’s Shogo Takahashi and although he didn’t escape unscathed, the Nebraska native proved too tough to tangle with.
A takedown at the edge opened up the scoring for Perkins in the first period. He would receive a passivity point soon after to go up 3-0. The second frame is when things got interesting. A Takahashi front headlock at the edge netted the Japanese wrestler one point. Perkins responded after the reset by getting behind for two and a 5-1 lead. Takahashi wasn’t about to lay down, however. A bodylock attempt near the boundary didn’t expose Perkins, but it did yield two points. Perkins challenged the sequence and lost, making the score 5-4 in his favor. With a little over 30 seconds remaining, Takahashi attempted an arm throw and in the proceeding scramble, Perkins was able to swing behind for two more points and a 7-4 lead, which is how the score ended up. It’s a nice win for Perkins, who will now prepare to head overseas to Denmark and Croatia come March.
Bey upends Porter in instant classic
It could be that for years to come, Kamal Bey (75 kg, Sunkist) and Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS) continue to trade paint on the last lap of every race and if that winds up being the case, matches like their final earlier this evening will remain must-watch programming. The first period delivered a stark contrast to their previous match at the 2016 US Nationals final (and virtually all of their previous matches). In Vegas, Bey blitzed Porter with two throws to come away the winner inside of a minute. This time around, Porter employed a patient, measured strategy which saw him work to frustrate Bey inside without over-extending in positions that could make him vulnerable. A passivity point came Bey’s way fairly quickly to give him a one-point advantage. Porter was awarded a passivity point in his own right to take a 1-1 criteria lead at the break. The tension mounted from there.
Porter drew blood early in the second period thanks to a two-point arm throw that against most other wrestlers, probably results in exposure and two more points. But a 3-1 lead from an offensive maneuver versus an athlete like Bey at this juncture speaks volumes. Porter’s confidence just about surged like a tidal wave when Bey slipped on a headlock attempt, only to have the ensuing counterpoints for Porter be wiped away via challenge. With a 3-1 lead, Porter wasn’t in the clear and the following sequence shines a light on why.
Admirably, Porter chose not to get on his bike and find a way to ride this one out. Instead, he got tight on an arm and tried to coil it over. Unfortunately for Porter, Bey immediately adjusted his hips, locked around Porter’s head and arm, and assumed command of the position. He rolled Porter to his back for four huge points and a 5-3 advantage. Porter recovered and ran back into the fire as time ticked away, but couldn’t overcome the deficit. The win gives Bey his third straight Senior gold medal and the driver’s seat in a packed weight class as the World Team Trials approaches.
Speiller out-hustles Olympian Sebie
Like Perkins, Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) was coming off of a pronounced lay-off and competing up a weight class, though it is doubtful Speiller will be staying at 80 kilograms for the long-term. Enduringly referred to as one of the best overall athletes in the sport, Speiller brings an assortment of attributes to the table: he’s fast; possesses an incredible sense of timing; and doesn’t wilt when the walls are closing in. He would require all of that and more to triumph over 2016 Olympian Mahmoud Sebie (EGY).
Sebie, a wiry and versatile wrestler, plodded out to a 1-0 lead on a passivity before busting loose with a two-point throw off the edge. However, Speiller wasn’t rankled by that. No, what bugged Speiller were Sebie’s tactics, which included an assortment of “tricks of the trade” such as finger-pulling (and twisting) and going for the throat. Speiller managed to maintain his composure and settle into the pace of the match by lowering in for high-dive looks and reaching up on head-rattling snaps.
That pace would be ratcheted up a notch in the second.
Speiller got on his horse to begin the final period and it initially paid off with a passivity point. Down by two against a skilled foreign competitor, the Floridian was left with no choice but to push the output meter to full bore. Speiller bursted in and out, up and down, and worked every angle he could muster to upset Sebie’s defenses. It was a rate of fire that became overwhelming for the Egyptian, as he gazed at the referee to complain about head clashes while Speiller diligently kept his foot on the pedal. The effort was worth it. With only 46 seconds left, Speiller wrapped around Sebie and drove him towards the mat, swooping behind defiantly for a takedown. Armed with a 3-3 criteria edge, Speiller muscled Sebie for the remainder to emerge with a startlingly impressive Schultz Memorial gold medal in his first competition since the spring.
Provisor says “not so fast”
The 2016 US Nationals saw Kevin Radford (85 kg, Sunkist) shock the US Greco Roman community with a championship performance. That Sunday in December also brought Ben Provisor (NYAC) back into the arena. The two-time Olympian had taken time off following Rio and was just rounding into form. Provisor earned a bronze that afternoon and it was something that apparently, didn’t sit very well with him.
After brushing past Adrian Salas (unattached) and Vaughn Monreal-Berner (Marines) via two technical falls, Provisor punched his ticket to meet the new National Champion everyone has been talking about. In Radford, Provisor was dealing with a green but smart, talented competitor who isn’t afraid to try new things if he thinks it will make a dent. In Provisor, Radford was negotiating with a bullish bruiser who treats physicality like a favorite pastime.
At the whistle, Wisconsin hero Provisor angrily jutted in an underhook to kick this thing off. It’s a hallmark of his, and he uses it to take advantage of his immense inside power that is supported by those tree-trunk legs. Provisor worked with his tie-ups enough to be the recipient of a passivity point as Radford almost seemed to be calculating what type of force he would need in order to return the favor. Turns out, quite a lot. Not because Provisor went on a scoring barrage. But because if there is enough juice in his tank, Provisor is simply too tough to move around if he doesn’t feel like being moved.
Provisor dug, pushed, pulled, and snapped his way to a 2-0 advantage on two passivity calls. Radford never looked like he was about to fold but just the same, he was wrestling with a wall. When Provisor’s output dipped, Radford couldn’t find a position open for exploitation, but he’d be rewarded in due time with his own passivity point in the second. Up 2-1 with 90 ticks left, Provisor seized on the opportunity to violently coax Radford out of bounds, landing in position for two points and a 4-1 cushion which he wouldn’t relinquish.
Hancock/Zillmer give the fans their money’s worth
You could put these two in a phone booth or in a cavernous, empty arena. The difference, for now, is negligible. G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC) and Hayden Zillmer (Minnesota Storm) just bring out something in each other that at least so far, no one else stateside is capable of.
What very well could have been tabbed as the premier showdown of the evening, the 98 kilogram final pitted 2016 Junior World bronze medalist and US National champ Hancock against Zillmer, a National Team member at 85 kilograms who has gone up in weight to chase down World-level success. Hancock has defeated Zillmer twice in two passivity-happy contests by a combined score of 4-1. A good measure of competitive heat exists between both athletes because of their prior matches and the Dave Schultz Memorial final put it all out on display for everyone to witness.
The wrestlers, predictably, eagerly got started with neither offering much in the way of offense. Zillmer, who like an overgrown pitbull can go lockjaw on an opponent in the ties, maintained pressure inside while Hancock stayed fluid picking and pecking in the hand-fighting department. The two traded passivity calls until the dam broke. If there were bets to see who would get the first big move, the smart money certainly would’ve went to Hancock, given his reputation. And while technically, that’s true here, it was Zillmer who took advantage. Hancock went in on one of his vicious bodylocks but at the last second, Zillmer adjusted and locked around for four as the pair collided into the judge’s table. The first cut had been made.
Hancock did not take long to volley. 15 seconds hadn’t passed in the second period when Hancock served up another bodylock attempt for two points and another. 5-4, Zillmer. The 19-year old Hancock, now with a sense of urgency, pursued Zillmer aggressively. In his desire to stay out of danger, Zillmer tried too hard. Hancock literally chased Zillmer around the perimeter, resulting in a caution and two for Hancock and a narrow 6-5 advantage. The lead was tenuous, or so it seemed. Zillmer re-centered as precious time began evaporating but Hancock stayed busy enough to ward off any last-ditch efforts by the Storm wrestler to take this one along with his first Dave Schultz Memorial title.
- Malcolm Allen (130 kg, Minnesota Storm) impressed throughout the day and picked up his first Schultz gold by defeating Pete Gounaridis (Army/WCAP) 4-1.
- Alex Sancho (66 kg, NYAC-OTS) fell in the finals to Tsuchika Shimoyamada (JPN) 6-5.
- The US put 12 athletes in the finals — the last three finals bouts featured all US wrestlers and altogether, there were six champions (Perkins, Bey, Speiller, Provisor, Hancock, and Allen).
- NYAC won the team standings with a staggering 79 points. The runner-up was Japan with 45 points and in third was WCAP with 24.
- About Japan: The country put three wrestlers in the finals with two champs (Kawana and Shimoyamada) and wound up with two bronze medalists (Yabiku and Sonoda). In all, five Japanese athletes competed for medals.
- Northern Michigan provided a strong presence. Wrestlers representing either NYAC-OTS or NMU-OTS participated in six medal matches, including three finalists (Jones, Sancho, and Porter) as well as two bronze medalists (Linares and Johnson).
2017 Dave Schultz Memorial Champions and Placewinners
59 kg: Masuto Kawana (JPN) def. Sammy Jones (NYAC-OTS) 8-0 (TF)
66 kg: Tsuchika Shimoyamada (JPN) def. Alex Sancho (NYAC-OTS) 6-5
71 kg: RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) def. Shogo Takahashi (JPN) 7-4
75 kg: Kamal Bey (Sunkist) def. Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS) 5-3
80 kg: Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) def. Mahmoud Sebie (EGY) 3-3 (criteria)
85 kg: Ben Provisor (NYAC) def. Kevin Radford (Sunkist) 4-1
98 kg: G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC) def. Hayden Zillmer (Minnesota Storm) 6-5
130 kg: Malcolm Allen (Minnesota Storm) def. Pete Gounaridis (Army/WCAP) 4-1
Bronze medal matches
59 kg: Mostafa Mohamed (EGY) def. Mike Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP) 5-2
66 kg: Rodolfo Guillen (unattached) def. Jessy Williams (NYAC) 12-4 (TF)
71 kg: Anthonie Linares (NYAC-OTS) def. Je Frim Sambula (HON) 4-1
75 kg: Dillon Cowan (Army/WCAP) def. Curt Calovechhi (NMU-OTS) 8-0 (TF)
80 kg: Shohei Yabiku (JPN) by default over Aliaksandr Kikiniou (BLR)
85 kg: Khymba Johnson (NYAC-OTS) def. Easton Hargrave (Choker Wrestling) 10-0 (TF)
98 kg: Kevin Mejia Castillo (HON) def. Trent Osnes (Marines) 8-0 (TF)
130 kg: Arata Sonoda (JPN) def. Luciano Del Rio (ARG) 9-0 (TF)