The first stateside tournament of the 2022-23 Greco-Roman season offered several booming scoring sequences and ended with familiar names delivering potent reminders of their continued World-level candidacy.
The 2022 autumn edition of the Bill Farrell Memorial began on Friday at 10:00am ET from the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan and streamed live on FLOWrestling.
Two-time US World Team members Dalton Roberts (60 kg, Army/WCAP) and “Wildman Sam” Sammy Jones (63 kg, Sunkist/CTT) both reigned supreme in their respective weight categories to come away victorious at one of America’s flagship events for the first time. They were not alone, as ’22 U23 World reps Britton Holmes (77 kg, Army/WCAP) and Ty Cunningham (82 kg, MWC) also prevailed to earn their first-ever Bill Farrell Memorial golds.
But the day most belonged to the man who won in New York for a second time — Hayden Tuma (67 kg, Suples).
Tuma — long one of America’s best lightweights, and whose penchant for explosive scores is and has been well-recognized — operated in the event’s most populated bracket and dominated each of his four opponents, so much so that he did not surrender a single point. He also triumphed via stoppage in all of his bouts, including in the final opposite none other than hometowner Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC).
After defeating, in order, NMU’er Charlie Dill, ageless Farrokh Safaeinejad (SWAT), and Alaskan prospect Colton Parduhn (IGA), the stage was set for a potential barnburner between the pair of dynamic competitors. Merkin, who is now fully recovered from a broken jaw suffered towards the end of last season, also impressed en-route to the gold round. He had turned back young Ryu Brown (NMU/NTS) before scoring a sizzling tech at the expense of an up-in-weight David Stepanyan (NYAC/NTS).
The expectation was a bevy of points for both athletes, but it was Tuma who scored all of them, and he got started in a hurry.
From the whistle, he immediately found Merkin’s body and zipped behind for a takedown ahead of securing a gutwrench at the boundary. They reset, and then Tuma face-planted following an arm throw attempt. He required some attention from the tournament trainer but was fit to continue. Merkin soon latched his preferred tie-up, double-overhooks, with Tuma responding by locking the body and minding rigid position. Tense, the whole thing was, until they jostled near the edge. There was no space for Merkin, who tried to fight back to the center but was bumped off the line to provide Tuma with a 5-0 advantage.
In the beginning stages of Period 2, Merkin began to find small doses of success by collaring the head and working with a right overhook. He was not opening up attack lanes, but the ties were moving Tuma’s feet enough to anticipate a meaningful attempt. That did not happen. What did, was passivity. Oddly, the call was on Merkin, whose 5-0 deficit had increased by a tick. It was all Tuma needed. From top par terre, he locked gut and raked Merkin over his left hip for the match-winning points — but a hitch had appeared. Merkin demanded the challenge brick, claiming there was offensive leg interference. The officials determined that the athletes would repeat par terre, which essentially resulted in a repeat of Tuma’s previous sequence.
On the day, Tuma outscored his four opponents 30-0 and was responsible for collecting one pin and three VSU’s, which speaks to his sparkling NYC resume. The two-time National Champion’s first Farrell title was earned in ’18; two years prior, he had finished second in New York to Shota Tanokura of Japan.
Roberts & Jones
Surprisingly, the 2022 Bill Farrell Memorial did not yield a full bracket for Olympic weight 60 kilograms, relegating it to a four-man round-robin. Salvaging the optics was the depth at the top, namely Roberts and Randon Miranda, who know their way around the general vicinity of Columbus Circle. Also in tow were Mitchell Brown, Air Force’s promising Greco athlete, and Marat Garipov, the Brazilian-by-way-of-Kazakhstan who Ildar Hafizov defeated in ’20 to qualify 60 kilograms for the Tokyo Olympics.
It was Roberts’ show from beginning to end. Like Tuma, the former NMU wrestler was lights-out, with his most formidable challenge arriving courtesy of Miranda (a 5-0 decision). Against Garipov to clinch, Roberts was overwhelming in his charges. A takedown, and another which came as the result of a violent throw-by, gave way to a crash gut that had seared both Garipov and the scoreboard. Step-outs ushered in the ending. Roberts’ oncoming assault was too much for his adversary, and one last skirmish on the edge in his favor forced a halt to the proceedings.
A bye, followed by an early second-period VSU over Logan Savvy (NYAC), helped propel Jones towards his tournament win on Friday. In order to nail it down, first he had to get past the returning Dylan “Greco’s Son” Gregerson (UVRTC), yet another athlete who spent most of ’22 on the shelf due to injury. For his part, Gregerson had a bye in the quarterfinals, as well, before defeating ’21 Fargo champ Jeremy Bockert (IGA).
Jones and Gregerson did not bring to the table a substantial competitive history, though there were items of note to observe leading up to their finals showdown. In ’19, it was Jones who had kept a then-green Gregerson off the National Team in the World Team Trials. Approximately one year later, they were teammates in Utah along with Taylor LaMont, that is until Jones bounded to Michigan last season. Now the NMU grad is once again out west, this time as part of the emerging Colorado Top Team.
A hint of tentativeness for Gregerson upon the whistle allowed Jones to assume early command of the exchanges, although the former angled the latter square near the edge and came close to notching the bout’s first point via step-out. But as the static enveloped past the zone and onto the boundary, Jones rocketed a highlight-worthy throw that garnered four points, plus an added point from a Gregerson challenge. A land-on-top for Jones midway through the period made the score 7-0, and Gregerson appeared in deep trouble despite the match not having yet eclipsed the 1:00 mark.
But — he stayed in it, thanks in large part to a twisty, countering scramble on the proceeding reset. Gregerson then settled in a touch more after that, and there was no further scoring entering the break.
And there would be not much in the way of offense until the waning stages of the match. The athletes had for all intents and purposes reached a prolonged stalemate on the feet. Jones intently jimmied into otherwise workable tie-ups, while Gregerson fought and flung through positions which betrayed his gradual overcoming of ring rust. Passivity arrived to end the argument. Gregerson was dinged with one minute remaining, and Jones capitalized by securing a hard-fought gutwrench, thus compelling a premature ending to the contest.
It was one thing for Holmes to go ahead and win the Open last year and eventually advance to Final X. Sometimes, seasons unfold in a vacuum, especially at 77 kilograms, a weight category in which it is exceedingly difficult to maintain consistency. ’22 spoke to Holmes’ undeniable abilities and vast well of resolve, attributes for which he become closely associated. But the main objective for any top young athlete like Holmes is to take steps forward and solidify their status. That the Colorado product persevered to finish first on Friday suggests his priorities are in order.
Because, as always, Holmes was willing to fight tooth and nail. In both of his matches.
His opener took place in the semifinal opposite his most frequent rival, “The Gunslinger” Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm). Ortiz, himself now a resident of the Centennial State, has had to piece together his training concerns as of late. It is a dichotomous proposition. A tournament such as the Farrell currently stands to offer Ortiz the best looks he can get from a training perspective; at the same time, it is a live, legitimate competition. The stakes were not be terribly high (especially in an event that was oddly without procedural implications) but the matches early in the season sort of count for something in the end.
Ortiz’s approach was sufficient, and Holmes’ always is. Their energy on Friday was typical comparative to their most recent allotment of bouts insofar as the degree of tactical aggression was more or less equal. The difference was Holmes capitalized when Ortiz could not, particularly in the second period. That’s when Ortiz was dinged and Holmes snagged a 5-0 lead. The works bogged down on the heels of the reset. Ortiz heated up accordingly. The officials got involved and doled out a late passive on Holmes, but Ortiz’s measures came up short and the decision went to the Army grappler.
The victory for Holmes delivered to the fans an attractive final with ’21 World Team member Jesse Porter (NYAC) standing across the line. They met in the center with both snugly engaging, patiently prodding through the preamble. A blink-and-you’d-miss-it reach for a headlock from Porter was instantly countered by Holmes, who covered for the takedown. A subsequent short lift attempt on his part saw Porter reverse and nab exposure points, which capped the scoring for the first period.
A heightened sense of urgency seemed to escort Porter onto the mat for Period 2 with his bottom half more active and the hand-fight more purposeful. But Holmes’ own center of gravity wouldn’t be budged, plus it was his weaving inside that served to dictate the playback. Passivity on Porter put Holmes ahead 3-2 — and in the proceeding par terre, Porter was hit for a one-point caution for fleeing. They restarted from the position. This time, Porter defended without an issue.
The combatants, they had barely reached their feet before the officials were looking to call Holmes passive. A mere 1:03 read the scoreboard clock when the determination was made, thus opening the door for Porter — who was behind 4-3 — to generate big-time offense late in the match. So, he initially looked lift. The elevation wasn’t available, but Porter retained his lock and, after a readjustment, managed to turn Holmes for two points and a 5-4 lead. Porter wanted more, and went for it; however, Holmes was prepared, and floated heavy on the next attempt. Army coach Shon Lewis (strategically perched near Porter’s corner, as is his custom), bellowed “Two!” in an effort to indicate that his wrestler deserved points. The officials reviewed the action, they concurred with Lewis, and Holmes had regained the advantage 6-5, which is how the match ended.
Fresh ’22 Pan-American Championships bronze Cunningham had some heavy lifting to do on Friday. Operating as the #2 seed, Cunningham first had to deal with Canada rep John Yeats, which he did in a short but electric semifinal that ended in his favor via fall. The final round brought forth the promise of a different type of test in Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm). Epps, a full-timer since ’20 following a splendid career for Augsburg, was both a National and Trials runner-up a year ago, and made a nice transition to 82 last season. But for those who might remember, Cunningham defeated Epps in the April Farrell, a result that at the time could have been construed as an upset. They were to meet again in the consolation bracket at the Open, a match in which hardcores were interested. But, Cunningham had opted to default and Epps moved on with a bye.
It is all a long way of saying that for 82 kilograms in the US to be deemed “healthy” in ’22 behind Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP), the National program needs horses in the race who can at the very least push the #1. For now, that is where Cunningham and Epps have a role, until one or both of them will fitfully challenge Woods — and it is why their meeting Friday in NY drew attention.
Except Epps could not get out of the starting block.
Good and snug they were in the center, as Cunningham checked into the ties with Epps eagerly squaring position for what was sure to be a tactical jousting session, that is before actionable attempts might see deployment. But it never got that far. Epps was chosen as the foil for the first period passivity, of which Cunningham took advantage by bombing Epps for five. To make matters worse for the Minnesotan, he had also been charged for legs, which netted Cunningham all the points necessary to force a premature stoppage as well as nail down his first Senior gold.
Carlson & Donny Silver
Rich Carlson (87 kg, Minnesota Storm) was subject to a tight, nail-biting battle against Asykeev Kalidin (KGZ) in the quarterfinal. Down 2-0 late in the second period (on two passivity calls), Carlson struck back with the match hanging in the balance and converted in clutch fashion to come away victorious 2-2. There was no such drama for Carlson in the semifinal. Two front headlocks, a correct-throw-arm-throw, and a takedown were responsible for his second straight win, this time at the expense of Khasanov Bakhtovar (TJK).
With a pair of solid matches under his belt, Carlson faced off with Ahmed Hassan Ahmed (EGY), who eventually defeated the Stormer by way of 6-3 decision.
In what was perhaps the most encouraging return for an American athlete at the 2022 Bill Farrell Memorial, Donny Longendyke (130 kg, Minnesota Storm) entered the fray and jogged everyone’s memory as to how capable he could be when competitively locked-in.
Longendyke decisioned Sergo Gogisvanidze (GEO) and hastily took out Tom Foote (NYAC) to make the final where a very suitable opponent was lying in wait, Uzebki Olympian Muminjon Abdullaev. This one didn’t go the big man’s way. Abdullaev scored on an off-balance, cranked a gut, and then was credited with four after another turn. But the mere presence of Longendyke early in the season raises the bar once again in the heavyweight class, a sorely-needed development considering the overall landscape.
- Members of the Moldovan National Team, which was to include ’21 World Champion Victor Ciobanu, did not make it to NYC for the tournament reportedly due to travel issues.
- Disappointingly, 55 kilograms had only one entrant, Medeuov Abylay of Kazakhstan.
- Of the five American victors, only Tuma prevailed at the Farrell for a second time.
2022 Bill Farrell Memorial
November 18 — New York, NY
GOLD: Medeuov Abylay (KAZ)
GOLD: Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP)
SILVER: Randon Miranda (UA)
BRONZE: Marat Garipov (BRA)
GOLD: Sammy Jones (Sunkist/CTT)
SILVER: Dylan Gregerson (UVRTC)
BRONZE: Logan Savvy (NYAC)
GOLD: Hayden Tuma (Suples)
SILVER: Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC)
BRONZE: David Stepanyan (NYAC/NTS)
GOLD: Mirzobek Rakhmatov (UZB)
SILVER: Tynar Sharshenbekov (KGZ)
BRONZE: Pete Ogunsanya (West Point WC)
GOLD: Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP)
SILVER: Jesse Porter (NYAC)
BRONZE: Amirkhonzoda Loigi (TJK)
GOLD: Ty Cunningham (MWC)
SILVER: Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm)
BRONZE: Fritz Schierl (Minnesota Storm)
GOLD: Ahmed Hassan Ahmed (EGY)
SILVER: Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm)
BRONZE: Asykeev Kalidin (KGZ)
GOLD: Azisbekov Atabek (KGZ)
SILVER: Aitbekov Melis (KGZ)
BRONZE: Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm)
GOLD: Muminjon Abdullaev (UZB)
SILVER: Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm)
BRONZE: Courtney Freeman (Marines)
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