The finals for Day 2 of the 2017 US Senior Greco-Roman World Team Trials, held in Las Vegas at the South Point Hotel, had a lot to live up to. After all, the first night of finals left awfully big shoes to fill, what with Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC) blowing the doors off the joint when he clinched, or the grueling struggle that was the series between Ellis Coleman (66 kg, Army/WCAP) and Alex Sancho (NYAC-OTS). Or how about 32-year-old Cheney Haight (NYAC), who made his second World Team six years after he did his first? Those are the kind of storylines that are tough to follow, for anyone.
But then you have a guy like Patrick Smith (71 kg, Minnesota Storm), who had seen his share of Trials finals disappointments in the not-so-distant past. How about a two-time Olympian who despite his success, had never made a Senior World Team himself? That was Ben Provisor‘s (85 kg, NYAC) deal heading in. Uzbekistan-native Ildar Hafizov (59 kg, Army/WCAP) was also an Olympian (2008) and seeking his second try at making a United States team of any sort, which only added to it all. Throw in a surging Chris Gonzalez (71 kg, NYAC) intent on making good on all of the hype he so rightfully earned along with the much-maligned Mason Manville (75 kg, Army/WCAP) turning back one of the country’s most talked-about talents, and you have yourself something to work with.
It was a night of drama, high expectations, violent clashes, and glories at last realized. It’s what makes any high-profile Greco-Roman event great but when it all comes together at a World Teams Trials finals, it’s even greater.
Here are round-by-round recaps of the finals for Day 2 of the 2017 US Greco-Roman World Team Trials.
59 kg: Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) vs. Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP)
Tuma took an early 1-0 passivity lead to open up this one as Hafizov sought out two-and-ones and underhooks. Tuma, when he’s upright, is difficult to deal with because he can hold position so well. Even still, Hafizov is both polished and explosive, so it was just a matter of time before he would find an opportunity to make a meaningful attempt. And he doesn’t often swing and miss at those. Hafizov darted in an underhook — he didn’t weave it in after a prolonged struggle — it was as if he pulled back the string on a bow and fired his arm straight under Tuma’s arm. Tuma, feeling like he could nail a throw, went to arch over and when he did, Hafizov landed on top and then nailed a correct hold and a turn. Following the sequence, the score was 5-3. A caution and two on Tuma for grabbing the fingers pushed that lead for Hafizov up to 7-3.
The second period saw Tuma have moments where he could almost get in on an arm or bodylock, but Hafizov managed to stay one step ahead. No further scoring took place in the second frame, giving Hafizov a one-match advantage.
Whatever practice looks like in the WCAP wrestling room, one thing was clear after the first bout — in nearly every category, these two appear evenly-matched with the lone exception being Hafizov’s wealth of experience combined with his technical polish. Those are two important departments to hold an edge. They jockeyed for position in the ties, Tuma stood tall and tried to wrangle an arm or get around Hafizov’s waist, but nothing was doing. Hafizov kept patient, maybe a little too much so, for once again he was the recipient of the first passive knock, allowing Tuma a 1-0 lead. Things would pick up soon enough.
Shortly into the second, Hafizov got a passive point back and then came through with a nice bodylock for four and a subsequent high gut to jump in front 7-1. Tuma briefly considered challenging but thought better of it. With time becoming a factor, Tuma stepped up his activity and came at Hafizov hard. He almost exploded with double underhooks and then dropped down for a high-dive. Hafizov was never in any serious trouble and skated the rest of the way on the strength of that six-point cushion, giving him Match 2 and the World Team spot at 59 kilograms.
71 kg: Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) vs. Chris Gonzalez (NYAC)
Sure, Smith’s previous runner-up appearances at the Trials (both Olympic and World) played a role in why this was such a highly-anticipated match-up, but outside of 85 kilos, 71 was the deepest weight and that also made it intriguing.
Gonzalez, the longer, more wiry athlete, tried to edge his way inside. Smith pressed onward, which forced Gonzalez to meet the demand and navigate his way into his tie-ups. Smith wanted to anchor down an underhook and accomplished the objective, only to lose the position soon after. Gonzalez did a good job of holding his ground and sustaining an active pace himself, thus earning the first passivity point of the contest.
As is custom for him, Smith went back to a pressure game in the conclusive frame and Gonzalez admirably answered back as best he could. A passivity rang in for Gonzalez and Smith was on the board. The Storm wrestler then came off his tie and Gonzalez locked in double overhooks. Smith met the position, exploded in, and got a takedown to leap ahead 3-1. Gonzalez didn’t agree with the scoring and wanted a challenge. Its denial widened Smith’s lead to 4-1. Sensing a first match victory, Smith didn’t relent. If anything, he appeared motivated for more and increased his output. The only obvious defensive measures were Smith pivoting off onto angles and in one instance, pushing Gonzalez way hard. It was a 4-1 win for Smith, who was in the driver’s seat heading into Match 2.
This one offered a bit more action than the first bout, certainly to start off. A (very) early passivity call on Gonzalez gave Smith a 1-0 bump. The same amount of tension that surrounded their first meeting of the evening was still there — Smith working feverishly to get his arms underneath, Gonzalez adjusting his level and weaving in. Smith came forward on Gonzalez towards the edge. Gonzalez tried to go with it and counter with a throw of his own, but Smith landed in control and on top for four. Gonzalez challenged the call and lost, making it 5-0. Smith was in command.
Another passive point came Smith’s way in the second. To his credit, Gonzalez fought as hard as he could to make up the considerable ground and clashed often in the waning stages to find something to latch onto. Nothing was there for him. A 6-0 victory was all Smith’s as he makes his first Senior World Team on what is surely a night he won’t soon forget.
75 kg: Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) vs. Kamal Bey (Sunkist)
There were a lot of ways this series could have gone and if you asked most people, they would have likely pointed to a two-match domination in Bey’s favor. That not only wasn’t the case, if anything, it was (somewhat surprisingly) the other way around.
Manville wrestled beautifully all day, as if all of his early lessons on what life is supposed to be like as a Senior Greco-Roman wrestler finally clicked. Bey, the owner of probably the fastest high-dive in the country, unloaded one soon after the whistle and made good on it, taking Manville down. Upon the restart, Manville doggedly got behind Bey for his own pair of points and followed up with a gutwrench and a 4-2 lead. A timeout was called for a Bey injury. Manville countered a quick attempt by Bey to come around back for another takedown to widen the gap to 6-2.
Bey came back to life in the second. A near takedown by Manville was defended and Bey responded by spinning around. From there, he immediately went for a reverse gutwrench, which he got, plus two more. 8-6, Bey.
In the latter stages and with Bey seemingly on his way to a win, Manville, in short order, received a passivity point and then attacked Bey towards the boundary, who couldn’t keep his feet, resulting in another two. The score was 9-8 for Manville and that was that going into their second bout of the series.
Manville with a four-pointer right away, which got Bey’s attention if he hadn’t already. On one hand, it is easy to say that Bey had a good style for Manville to compete with, since it’s heavy on level changes and explosiveness, which are also areas where Manville is exceptional. But when you look at the guys Manville beat earlier in the day and more importantly, how he did, that theory becomes somewhat flimsy, since he ran the gamut of styles earlier in the day and came through nicely. Whatever the case, Manville turned a corner this evening in Las Vegas and he didn’t waste the opportunity to embrace it.
Early in the second, Manville came close to moving behind Bey once more. The 19-year old phenom, a terrific scrambler, momentarily scampered out of trouble. Bey next went for a headlock he came loose on and Manville came around back for two more and a huge 6-0 margin for error on a night he didn’t make too many of them. One more takedown with :47 left in the period sealed it up and practically out of nowhere, Mason Manville will be wrestling at the Senior World Championships later this summer.
85 kg: Ben Provisor (NYAC) vs. Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm)
These two have met before and each time has been ultra-competitive and extremely tight. Factor in Rau’s return to a weight class he hasn’t competed at in a couple of years and Provisor not having yet made a World Team despite wrestling in two Olympiads, and it made all of this seem different, even if the action wasn’t so much.
The two collided right away and Provisor instantly went to those pounding underhooks that are so effective. This was not going to be a test to see who exerted more energy. Passivity was going to be a factor, but not for any other reason than positioning, as both athletes were eager for contact. Rau had some success moving Provisor and on occasion seemed close to isolating for a usable two-on-one, but Provisor stayed right in the pocket and took a 1-0 lead on a passive call.
Eventually, Rau collected his own passivity point to take a tenuous 1-1 criteria lead. There was almost a cadence to the exchanges, the answer-back nature and continuous fights for position unveiled a rhythm. They could do this 100 times, it might always be this way. The one thing that became evident was the fact Rau would need to score again. There was too much time for his opponent to operate and as could have been expected, Provisor wasn’t done. He came in with a bodylock and got Rau to the floor, though there was some doubt. Rau challenged the call and lost, giving Provisor a 5-1 opening match win.
Rau had the benefit of having been in this position before. It was only a little over a year ago when he was dramatically thrown and pinned by Caylor Williams (Army/WCAP) in the first match of their 98 kilogram best-of-three series at the Olympic Trials in Iowa City, and came back to win the back two.
In order for him to repeat that feat, Rau was going to need to find offensive points. He was also going to have to avoid being called passive first. That didn’t happen.
Provisor took a 1-0 passivity lead and stretched it to 2-0 before the first period was over. In the second, Rau finally broke the ice when Provisor was knocked and trailed 2-1. A short time later, a caution and two on Provisor for apparently not keeping his head up rang out and all of the sudden, Rau was in front 3-2, though it didn’t last long. Provisor got in and around for a takedown to jump back ahead 4-3 and he carried it home the rest of the way.
2017 US SENIOR GRECO-ROMAN WORLD TEAM TRIALS DAY 2 FINALS & 3RD PLACE RESULTS
59 kg: Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) over Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP) two matches to none
Match 1: Hafizov def. Tuma 7-3
Match 2: Hafizov def. Tuma 7-1
71 kg: Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) over Chris Gonzalez (NYAC) two matches to none
Match 1: Smith def. Gonzalez 4-1
Match 2: Smith def. Gonzalez 6-0
75 kg: Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) over Kamal Bey (Sunkist) two matches to none
Match 1: Manville def. Bey 9-8
Match 2: Manville def. Bey 8-0, TF
85 kg: Ben Provisor (NYAC) over Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) two matches to none
Match 1: Provisor def. Rau 5-1
Match 2: Provisor def. Rau 4-3
3RD PLACE/NATIONAL TEAM MATCHES
59 kg: Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) def. Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) 4-3
71 kg: RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) def. Colin Schubert (NMU-OTS) 16-5, TF
75 kg: Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC) def. Dillon Cowan (Army/WCAP) 16-6, TF
85 kg: Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP) def. Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) 4-2