The formula for the United States Greco-Roman program right now is a mixture of veteran savvy and youthful exuberance. The combination of the two, in whatever form or fashion, is what the country is looking towards currently as the World Team Trials await and an Olympic year starts to creep into the picture.
If there is one thing the 2018 US Senior Greco-Roman Nationals happens to offer, it is that concept served up on a silver platter. Competing in this evening’s semis were 18 athletes who had previously appeared in at least one Open final during their careers with 12 of the lot having been champions at one time or another. A small factoid that speaks to the experience which still rules the day around these parts. But in lockstep with all of those battle-hardened wrestlers is a new generation of talented competitors all fighting for their chance to stand alone. And if earning a bye into the World Team Trials best-of-three series is a byproduct of that, all the better.
The US National semifinals were contested earlier this evening and broadcast live on FLOWrestling.
The resurrection of 55
At 55 kilograms, two previous University World champs are set to collide in the finals after Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) and Hazewinkel both took care of business on Thursday. For Nowry, it was a consistent attack that set the tone throughout his bout with NYAC’s Jabari Moody. The WCAP wrestler piled up most of his points on takedowns but he ended it with a bang. Needing just a small score to close it out, Nowry swooped behind Moody, popped his hips, and launched him for five to come away with a resounding 14-2 tech.
Hazewinkel, back in active Greco-Roman competition for the first time in a few years, was called upon to face the red-hot Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS). Before Hazewinkel’s decision to enter this tournament, conventional wisdom tabbed Nowry and Miranda as the prohibitive favorites to wind up in the Trials finals one or the other. Following the Junior World Championships in August, Miranda went on a pronounced tear that included wins at three overseas events while the rest of the field struggled to keep up. Hazewinkel apparently didn’t need too much of a refresher course on how this all gets done.
Miranda brought the heat as much as he could but “Haze” controlled the tempo, forcing his foe to react off of his movement. While that’s part of Miranda’s style — his strength is in countering — the windows he usually needs weren’t open. Even with that, Miranda was in it till the bitter end, it’s just that end was extremely bitter. Down 4-4 on criteria with just over a minute remaining, Hazewinkel picked up two on a correct throw. More was coming. Only :17 were left as Hazewinkel uncorked a big arm throw for four, which all but put this one away.
Roberts Comes Up Big; Jones & Mango Also Impress
2017 U23 World Team member Dalton Roberts (60 kg, NYAC/OTS) and 2016 Junior World bronze medalist Taylor LaMont (Sunkist) know each other very well by now, but not well enough to where a match between the two offers a sense of predictability. Last year, Roberts hustled his way to a close win over LaMont in the Dave Schultz Memorial; a couple of months later at the Senior Trials, LaMont paid Roberts back by coasting to a wide 10-2 decision.
With LaMont’s unmistakable ability and extensive resume, as well as Roberts’s constant improvement throughout the past two years, it only makes sense that their latest dust-up carried with it a significant air of anticipation that would have seemed more appropriate for a finals showdown. But there they were tonight in Las Vegas, ready to put it all out on the line in hopes of performing under the brighter lights tomorrow’s festivities are intended to provide.
The only issue with any of the above is that most of the suspense surrounding this match disappeared quicker than could have been expected. Roberts collected a step-out and a passivity point to get things moving. He added two more off of a throw attempt at the edge. LaMont, an offensive machine, wasn’t out of it by this stage; right before the end of the first he slid-by Roberts for a takedown to cut the deficit in half. His undoing came soon into the second. Roberts locked double underhooks and twisted; LaMont, ever the athlete, cartwheeled over but exposed. The sequence (which was challenged by LaMont but upheld) yielded four points for Roberts (plus the challenge point), resulting in a 9-2 advantage that shrunk slightly to 9-4 on a late LaMont takedown. Either way, Roberts will be strolling into his first Senior National final tomorrow night.
Roberts/LaMont was a lightweight semi that commanded a lot of attention, but it wasn’t the only one. Travis Rice‘s (63 kg, NYAC/OTS) gritty quarterfinal victory over fellow 2015 Junior World Teamer Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP) gave way to an intriguing semifinal opposite Olympic Training Site compadre Sammy Jones. This was an important match for both athletes, but unfortunately for those hoping for a back-and-forth nailbiter, one that was done with far too early.
Rice observed a brisk pace to start off while Jones navigated his way into the tie-ups. It was Rice who got called for the first passive — and he never recovered. Jones wailed a blossoming bodylock for five — and received two more on a caution during the throw — and that was that. Jones with a blistering statement-making win, and like several others Thursday night — finds himself in an Open final for the very first time.
2016 Olympian Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG) and Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) represented another semifinal contest that promised breathtaking theater and it delivered, just not in the manner most might have guessed. Once again, par terre is what determined the victor. Thielke patiently dug inside as Mango kept a bouncier step in the early exchanges. There didn’t appear to be edge in activity one way or the other, but it was Thielke who was rung up for passive, and by extension, in very deep trouble immediately. Mango got his lock and rolled consecutive gutwrenches to go up 5-0. He next re-locked and hoisted Thielke up and away for four more, putting an end to one of the evening’s premier match-ups at just 1:31 of the opening period.
Marines Walsh & Miller Prevail
Fans hankering for yet another running of the Kamal Bey (77 kg, Sunkist)/Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS) saga are going to have to wait. Bey? He’s in the finals after bombing talented Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC) in what was somewhat of a surprise just going by recent history. It was the work of a very raw Marine why Porter won’t be joining him.
Peyton Walsh was the recipient of two points on a Porter caution and one on a passive in the first period. That’s only three points, and against the wonderfully gifted Porter, that is downright chump change. Porter has shown plenty of times before that he knows how to come back quickly, so in order for Walsh to be successful, he was going to have to find more scores any way that he could. His next opportunity presented itself in the second period. Porter flashed in and wrapped for a bodylock. As he lifted, Walsh adjusted (and let’s say it together now) to land on top. Two more points for Walsh and a 5-0 lead — and he was still nowhere close to being out of the woods, especially with nearly two minutes left to go.
Sure enough, Porter dashed inside again on a high dive. He wrangled a better lock this time. His first attempt got air, but no points. On his next try, Porter was able to cascade Walsh up and down for a pair to climb within two. Time, it kept ticking away, disappearing from the scoreboard like tiles off a bathroom wall. But you still waited for that last Porter gasp. And when Walsh was called for passivity with :23 left, it felt like that’s what was about to take place. Porter indeed locked and lifted. He even scored. However, the two points Porter earned weren’t enough since Walsh owned criteria, sending him on his way as perhaps the most unlikely finalist of the tournament given the short amount of time he has logged in the sport.
Daniel Miller (97 kg, Marines) is better known for placing in foreign tournaments than those of the domestic variety. But through his frequent travels overseas and the strides he has clearly made these last 26 months, it seemed like a matter of time before he’d have a chance to make the national impact he’s been waiting for.
Although, it didn’t come easily. Enock Francois (NYAC/FLWC), who himself enjoyed instances of dominance today, carried a 1-0 passivity-point lead into the second frame. The tables turned once the conclusive period got underway. Francois was knocked for passivity, providing Miller with both a point and an opportunity on top. When Miller went for his lift, Francois was nailed for a leg foul. The caution elevated Miller’s advantage to 3-1 and he snared another point soon after on a step-out. With under a minute left, Francois had no other option but to force the issue. He zipped in on a high dive, and when he came up, lassoed over/unders. But as he tried to twist the position to the line, Miller pivoted to the inside, causing Francois to careen out of bounds. Because he left his feet, it meant an extra point and a 6-1 Miller lead. Francois did net a takedown soon after to jump within three, but it was too late to capitalize any further.
Robby Makes Fourth Final
Counting his semifinal win this evening, 2016 Olympian/four-time World Team member Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC) spent a total of 3:18 on the mat Thursday with three tech falls. All three looked pretty similar. Against Alston Meeks (Florida Jets), Smith needed to chip away in effort to fight for position. Once he got there, the rest took care of itself. Smith unfurled an arm throw for four. Following the score, he circled around for a front headlock as Meeks began to find his footing. Smith stayed with it, straining and torquing until Meeks went head over heels.
Smith’s win against Meeks now sets up the heavyweight final everyone has been chattering about, as ’16 Trials runner-up and NCAA star Adam Coon (CKWC) landed on a throw attempt by Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm) in the opposite bracket’s semifinal to notch a fall. The pin was Coon’s second on the day.
- We’re all going to get to see RaVaughn Perkins (72 kg, NYAC) and Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) have at it once more. Perkins received the first par terre chance of his bout versus Chris Gonzalez (NYAC) and used it to roll three gutwrenches, giving himself a hefty 7-0 lead. He ended the bout altogether on a takedown early in the second. Smith’s semifinal win came in a much more unconventional package. Facing off against with 2017 U23 World Team member Alex Sancho (NYAC), the Minnesotan accumulated a 5-0 cushion with the brunt of those points arriving via caution. With little time left in the match, Sancho cautioned out. Craziness.
- Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm) earned a place at the table tomorrow night with a very strong showing against ’17 Trials runner-up John Stefanowicz. The victory marks Stanghill’s first time in a US Open final.
- Speaking of which, a whole lot of finalists are first-timers. They are: Nowry, Leslie Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP), Roberts, Jones, Jessy Williams (NYAC/FLWC), Walsh, Stanghill, Micah Burak (TMWC), and Miller.
- When the weight classes changed, a lot of folks said that the Army program would be set up very well with a “Murderer’s Row” of lightweights. It certainly looks that way, as the first four weight classes all feature a WCAP representative.
- At the end of Day 1 the team standings are: 1. NYAC (86 pts) 2. Army/WCAP (67 pts) 3. Minnesota Storm (55 pts) 4. Marines (54 pts).
FULL SEMIFINAL RESULTS
Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) def. Jabari Moody (NYAC) 14-4, TF
Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist) def. Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS) 10-4
Leslie Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP) def. Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) 4-3
Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) def. Taylor LaMont (Sunkist) 9-4
Sammy Jones (NYAC/OTS) def. Travis Rice (NMU/OTS) 9-0, TF
Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) def. Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG) 9-0, TF
Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) def. Austin Morrow (NYAC/OTS) 10-0, TF
Jessy Williams (NYAC/FLWC) def. Raymond Bunker (Marines) 8-4
RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) def. Chris Gonzalez (NYAC) 10-0, TF
Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) vs. Alex Sancho (NYAC) via DQ
Kamal Bey (Sunkist) def. Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC) 10-0, TF
Peyton Walsh (Marines) def. Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS) 5-5 (criteria)
Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm) def. John Stefanowicz (Marines) 7-3
Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) def. Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP) 5-1
Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC) def. Kevin Radford (Sunkist) 6-1
Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) def. Cheney Haight (NYAC) 4-0
Micah Burak (TMWC) def. Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) 7-6
Daniel Miller (Marines) def. Enock Francois (NYAC/FLWC) 6-3
Robby Smith (NYAC) def. Alton Meeks (Florida Jets) 8-0, TF
Adam Coon (CKWC) def. Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm) via fall
2018 US Senior Greco-Roman National Finals
55 kg: Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) vs. Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist)
60 kg: Leslie Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP) vs. Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS)
63 kg: Sammy Jones (NYAC/OTS) vs. Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP)
67 kg: Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) vs. Jessy Williams (NYAC/FLWC)
72 kg: RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) vs. Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm)
77 kg: Kamal Bey (Sunkist) vs. Peyton Walsh (Marines)
82 kg: Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm) vs. Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets)
87 kg: Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC) vs. Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm)
97 kg: Micah Burak (TMWC) vs. Daniel Miller (Marines)
130 kg: Robby Smith (NYAC) vs. Adam Coon (CKWC)