While the Team USA Greco-Roman Seniors were busy capping an impressive day some 1,000 kilometers away in Denmark, the Juniors were having their own party. An astounding 12 medals, including six golds, are coming home to America and it all took place at the 2017 Austrian Open in Götzis.
A big strength of the Junior squad rested in both credible experience and the kind of simmering potential that has a tendency to foretell big-time careers. 2016 Junior World Team members Randon Miranda (55 kg, NYAC-OTS), Taylor LaMont (60 kg, CWC), Kamal Bey ( 84 kg, Sunkist), and G’Angelo Hancock (96 kg, NYAC) have all cut their teeth at the Senior level, with Bey and Hancock winning Senior National titles for the first time just a few months ago. Hancock surged to the top of the Senior ladder earlier in 2016 by making the Senior National Team at the US Olympic Trials. So the talent and ability going into the Austrian Open was largely established some time ago. But when you combine the efforts of the lesser-experienced charges who also shined through today, the view is even rosier.
Gold medal block party
It starts with Miranda. The eager, technical kid from California picked up gold in the 55 kilogram weight category. Miranda, a light 59’er on the Senior level, is forced to wrestle up more and more. But against Junior competition, where he can compete closer to his own weight, he is exceedingly tough to mess with. Miranda will continue competing as a Senior but his Junior days aren’t over just yet. Like several of the others who struck it big in Austria, Miranda will compete for another spot on the US Junior World Team come April.
Taylor LaMont is a name that has a lot of recognition thanks to his star turns at the age-group level. But this isn’t Fargo anymore. LaMont earned a bronze medal at the Junior Worlds late last summer. Currently a redshirt frosh at Utah Valley, he returned to Greco-Roman competition in December at the US Nationals where he placed fourth at 59 kilos. He came back again a little over a month later for the Dave Schultz Memorial. It is all just preparation. LaMont, 60 kg, exhibited flashes of dominance today in picking up his Austrian Open title and is an athlete to be reckoned with.
As he starts to gain more and more matches against seasoned opponents, Logan Kass (NMU-OTS) is proving that perhaps sooner rather than later, he’s going to be a problem for the Seniors. The strong, durable Kass is picking up wrinkles of technique and showing them off every time you see him. Wrestling in the event at 66 kilograms, Kass was able to force his style and find scoring opportunities when they mattered most. It’s a nice tournament win for Kass, no question. But there will be more to come down the road and on even bigger stages.
We don’t know for sure whether or not the time is now for Bey on the Senior level. It very well could be. He has downright dominated a large percentage of his domestic opposition and offers up plenty of excitement against foreigners who dare test him out. That mistake was made a few times yesterday, resulting in more examples of what Bey is capable of. And he was up a weight at 84 kilograms from his usual 74 (75 as a Senior) to top it all off. Bey, like his partner in crime Hancock, is only 19. After the training camp following this event comes to a close, he will have his eyes fixed on making the World Team once again — only this time, with the Seniors.
The world already knows about Hancock. They got an education in France when he took bronze at the Junior Worlds. They found out even more when he defeated 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Cenk Ildem (TUR, world no. 4) at the World Wrestling Clubs Cup back in November. Hancock was expected to storm through this event and that is exactly what he did. Throws, bodylocks, man-sized control — it’s what he brings to tournaments like this. Hancock is very much in the running for the Senior World Team spot at 98 kilograms, but the 2017 Austrian Open served as a not-so-gentle reminder how young and talented this guy actually still is.
If you want power and excitement, then look no further than Nick Boykin (120 kg). “The Man-Child”, Boykin was a high school Greco-Roman phenom who US National Team head coach Matt Lindland couldn’t take his eyes off of. It’s easy to see why. Boykin fought hard for his gold at the Austrian Open, winning two bouts in a round-robin bracket. But the evidence is right in front of your eyes. Boykin is a big kid who throws other big kids. As long as he intends on keeping up the aggression, the Tennessee native could wind up help solidifying the country’s next generation of heavyweights.
- Northern Michigan-Olympic Training Site placed first in the team standings.
- In total, the US Greco-Roman delegation earned 12 medals: six gold, two silver, and four bronze.
- Junior-Senior competitor Jesse Porter (74 kg, NYAC-OTS) took third out of his bracket but first in his pool.
- Jordan Auen (60 kg, NMU-OTS) likes foreign competition. He won his first international event in November and is taking home a bronze medal for his work in Austria.
- Boykin isn’t the only young gun to come home with hardware. High school-aged Alston Nutter (66 kg, NMU-OTS), Drew Fenton (120 kg, Ohio), Cohlton Schultz (96 kg, Colorado), and rising talent Wyatt Koelling (84 kg, Utah) all made the podium. Nutter, Schultz, and Koelling earned bronzes while Fenton took second to Boykin.
- NMU-OTS head coach Rob Hermann knows how important events like this are to overall development, especially when it comes to competing at the international level. “This competition gave the athletes multiple matches on foreign soil that will help them reach their goals of winning World medals at the Junior World Championships,” he said following the event.
2017 Austrian Open US Greco-Roman Placewinners
Randon Miranda (NYAC-OTS), gold
Taylor LaMont (Utah, CWC), gold
Jordan Auen (NMU-OTS), bronze
Logan Kass (NMU-OTS), gold
Alston Nutter (NMU-OTS), bronze
Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS), bronze
Kamal Bey (Sunkist), gold
Wyatt Koelling (Utah), bronze
G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC), gold
Cohlton Schultz (CO), silver
Nick Boykin (Tennessee), gold
Drew Fenton (Ohio), silver