RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC, 66 kg) had a great tournament on Friday at the 1st OG Qualifier in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. So great, that if it wasn’t a qualifier for the Olympics he’d have been celebrated more by the collection of fans who stayed up through the night to watch him. But because there was an Olympic spot on the line and Perk just missed out, some of his performance has been lost in the dust. That’s a shame, for he displayed constant poise and body awareness to match his considerable physical gifts.
To make it to the final wrestle-off for a qualifying berth, Perkins met up with Pavel Liakh (BLR). Liakh, like many Belarusians, likes to stay tight and brawl inside to open up more technical opportunities. This can be trouble for less-seasoned Americans who don’t have years and years of international experience. All that time in folkstyle breeds some bad habits, such as hunching over and bending down too low at the waist. That’s chum for most Eastern Block wrestlers.
Perkins, who burst onto the scene in a big way just a few years ago, has adapted his stance and style to better contend with foreign foes. And against a physical wrestler like Liakh, all it took was maintaining his posture and balance on his lead leg, which he employed soon after the match began.
Notice Perkins’s right foot. He juts it out to create the necessary pressure to push back and slow down Liakh’s advance. This is worth noting because a lot of times, taller Greco wrestlers have a tendency to lower their levels in effort to beat back any charge. That’s a bad strategy, because it’s what shorter wrestlers are looking for – opportunities for front-headlocks, arm control, and other scoring holds. Perkins may have naturally adjusted his stance this way over the last three seasons, but his ability to reflexively use his footwork in this manner is a strong benefit versus this type of opponent.
Perkins hit two gutwrenches versus Liakh. That long leg of his just cuts across so hard it makes it difficult to stop once the roll is in motion. However, he lost his handle on the first one. Liakh escaped following the exposure and then tried to hit a home run with an arm-spin. Perkins saw it coming from a mile away and got back on top quickly.
The second gut occurred in the last minute of the first period. Once again, this was a case of both his grip and his posting leg. He did a great job of keeping Liakh from bottoming out by using his leg strength to keep the Belarusian on his base. Perkins effortlessly locked using a traditional hand-on-wrist grip, which makes sense given his reach. It also allows him to twist the pressure going into his opponent’s torso and close space with his elbows. As you can see, Liakh had little choice but to go with the maneuver.
Even when he got sucked into a lowering his stance, he was able to use his upper-body strength to discourage any sudden movements. Walking forward is not usually a great idea, but he kept control of Liakh’s right elbow, which stopped any chance for a something wild.
That would serve as the one part of the match where at least momentarily, Perkins wasn’t in total control. He re-asserted himself and bullied Liakh around the rest of the way.
This bout with Pavel Liakh moved Perkins into the all-important wrestle-off with Venckaitis. Although he missed out on qualifying, his performance throughout the entire tournament and this match in particular, was extremely encouraging. The stakes were high and he needed to beat a game and experienced opponent to earn his shot against the Lithuanian. Perkins might not be happy about the bronze, but hopefully he can take some of what happened in Mongolia with him as a confidence-booster going forward.