The best part about the 2018 Bill Farrell Memorial/NYAC Open this coming Friday is its place on the Senior schedule. It’s like an early-spring segue into the most important time of the year domestically, as the US Open/Junior World Team Trials will only be a few weeks away following this weekend, and then roundabout two months after that the Senior Trials will come screeching into view. Not bad.
Of course, it goes both ways. The scheduling of the Farrell hasn’t been wonderful for all wrestlers, particularly the US Greco athletes who up to now were only able to get matches in at the Dave Schultz Memorial back in November. Not everyone makes it overseas. The Schultz and the Bill Farrell Memorial essentially swapped dates this season, which by itself wouldn’t have been a big deal. But with the Senior Nationals being held in April for the first time in three years, a chasm was created for athletes whose funding/availability normally precludes them from traveling. Them’s the breaks.
But it’s all going to be okay because the Farrell can now serve as a transitional tournament. For competitors who have been able to stay reasonably active (and otherwise), the event will provide a nice testing ground ahead of the Open (or any one of the three Trials — Junior, Senior, and U23). Plus, it will also be useful as a primer for fans who are beginning to break out of the folkstyle haze and into the international styles.
5PM NYAC Plans
We’ll be releasing a brisk preview of competitors to look out for later in the week and then providing live coverage from the event on Friday. Fans who would like to check out the action as it’s happening can do so easily on FLO. Additional follow-ups on our end will be made available throughout Easter weekend.
Unfortunately, there were no US medals over the weekend at Bulgaria’s famed Petrov Cup, making it the first Senior overseas event (not counting the Worlds) since the 2016 Golden Grand Prix where that’s happened. Mike Fuenffinger (60 kg, Army/WCAP) rebounded from a tech loss at the hands of 2017 World Champion Kenichiro Fumita (JPN) to win his repechage bout in impressive fashion, but ran into trouble opposite youthful Bulgarian buzzsaw Ivo Iliev in the battle for bronze. As noted previously, Fuenffinger was the only American who advanced to a medal match at the tournament.
Ryan Mango (63 kg, Army/WCAP) put together an entertaining performance against Dato Chkhartishvili (GEO) in his first match on Friday. Both athletes had their moments on and off, though Mango never really seemed like he wasn’t in control. With the score knotted at 8-8 in the second and criteria a factor, Mango locked head-and-arm on the feet and tossed Chkhartishvili to his back for the pin.
His next bout was much more compelling. Mango originally faced Shinobu Ota (JPN) at the 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix in what was an 11-7 win for the eventual Rio silver medalist. On Friday, the score was different but the result was the same. Mango was called for the first passivity/par terre of the bout and Ota seized all of the momentum from there, racking up six additional points and a 7-0 lead. An inverted arm throw netted four more for Ota soon after, although Mango was able to scramble his way into a pair of points during the sequence. Nevertheless, the match was over and Mango’s run at the Petrov came to an end a little while later when Ota was bombed by Nikolay Vichev (BUL) in the semis.
Reigning World Team member Patrick Smith (72 kg, Minnesota Storm) didn’t look like his usual self during a 9-0 loss to eventual runner-up Evrik Nikogosyan (FRA) on Thursday and his repechage tussle with Tomohiro Inoue (JPN) the next morning wasn’t any more “normal.” Smith was put down first, Inoue gutted three times, and then a passive in the second ended it altogether at 8-0. Fellow 2017 World Teamer Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) dropped his only bout of the tournament via tech to Uyar Ahmet (TUR).
The importance of Signing Day
On Saturday, Alston Nutter (63 kg) and Benji Peak (60 kg) signed their papers to officially enter Northern Michigan University as college students next fall. There was a table set up inside of Combat Wrestling Club, 2018 Cadet World Team coach Lucas Steldt’s academy. US National Team head coach Matt Lindland was there, as was NMU assistant Andy Bisek. Steldt coached both wrestlers previously, so it was a big moment for him. Also in attendance were friends and family. Photos were taken, words, said.
USA Greco-Roman doesn’t do this enough. Last year, Britton Holmes‘s (67 kg) signing got a little bit of attention and kind of made news in other places. But along with Holmes was a collection of other signees with legitimate ability, such as Riley Briggs (67 kg), who just won the Austrian Open a few weeks back.
The point is, it’s up the Greco community to ensure that when athletes commit to this sport at the next level, people are made aware. High school folkstyle wrestlers will soon be announcing where they intend to go to college and it’ll all be gobbled up and digested in relative glee. But it’s not exactly news. A talented folkstyler declaring that they will be attending some school, whichever one it is, is not startling information, nor is it a meaningful gesture towards advancing the Olympic movement in this country. Then again, that ship seems to have sailed for many around these parts a long time ago.
It’s up to us. If someone is Going Greco, whether that is at NMU, Williams Baptist, the Olympic Training Center, or somewhere else wherever else, it is significant and deserves to be treated accordingly. It’s what made Saturday special and it is also why Greco-Roman in this country finally has leaders in place who understand just how vital the concept of full-time commitment really is.