USA Greco

Woods Edges ‘Big Ben’; Scott Wins 1st National Crown, Bey Grabs #4

justus scott, 2023 us open champion
Justus Scott -- Photo: John Sachs

Spencer Woods (82 kg, Army/WCAP) had already understood what it felt like to win a Senior National title. What he had yet to accomplish was defeating a true #1, which in this case was none other than two-time Olympian/multi-time World Team member Ben Provisor (NYAC/Viking WC).

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Woods had come close before Thursday afternoon in Vegas, when he was awarded a 4-3 decision victory that saw little offense but involved plenty of suspense. Prior to their latest opus, Provisor had defeated Woods in three consecutive finals, including at World Team selection last June. Most of their bouts had been close, just like the one on Thursday. The difference this time was merely the outcome.

Woods got on the board first thanks to a passivity call on Provisor. Nothing was doing on top for the “Alaskan Assassin”, and a reset was ordered. Later in the frame, Provisor clamped a front headlock and drove Woods out of bounds. A one-point step-out was then upgraded to two as Woods was penalized for fleeing.

Behind 2-1, and after already having received a passivity/par terre opportunity in the first period, Woods set out for the second stanza exhibiting tactics aimed at either garnering, perhaps, another passive call in his favor, or to simply avoid Provisor benefiting from the presumptive flip-flop passivity that has become commonplace in tight matches. But “Big Ben”, a consummate pro, did what he could to plow forth into amenable positions nevertheless — and when passivity arrived, it did so on his behalf.

But when Provisor went to rotate on his lock, Woods half-floated and ambled to his feet and found himself with a front headlock on his foe. After wresting the hold for several seconds and attempting to crank Provisor for a score, the action was stopped; then, Provisor was penalized for a caution-and-two due to an apparent inadvertent singlet grab. Woods regained the lead on criteria 3-3, and the outright advantage was soon 4-3 following a Provisor challenge that did not alter the call on the mat.

One flurry after another followed. Provisor emptied the reserves in search of a last-gasp scoring attack. Woods, by now accustomed to the firepower that was heading his way, remained upright til the whistle, a Senior Open champ for the second time (’21).

woods us open

FAMILIAR SIGHT: over the past two seasons, Provisor (red) and Woods have met in every major US final with 2X Olympian “Big Ben” prevailing each time until Thursday, when Woods earned a 4-3 decision that was accompanied by his second US National title. (Photo: John Sachs)

Scott Emerges Over Smith

In a tournament that saw three athletes earn their first Senior National titles, Justus Scott‘s performance might have been the most impressive. For not only did he manage to defeat top-seeded three-time World Team member Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) in the final, he had also downed, in order, Nate Moore (NYAC), National Teamer Noah Wachsmuth (NYAC), and ’22 Open champ/Final X runner-up Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP). Scott, though a Junior World rep in ’21, entered Vegas week as still a relatively new full-time competitor and to have the kind of showing that he did speaks volumes to his work ethic — which according to several of his teammates far exceeds the standard.

That is something for which Smith is known, as well. Aside from an early test courtesy of Bobby Treshock (Curby 3-Style) and an iron-jawed comeback against ’19 Junior World Team member Jack Ervien (Viking WC) in the semifinal, Smith looked to be operating at full capacity once again, and figured to be ready to go once the finals commenced on Thursday afternoon.

Scott, he was ready, too. But he could not waste time, nor permit opportunities to disappear without leveraging them appropriately given Smith’s reputation for punishing the hesitance of skittish opposition. An early confidence boost entered the equation for Scott when he zipped a hawking Smith with an arm throw. Four points were awarded for the action, but more would be necessary. Smith brushed it off at the restart and got back to business. No one in the country is better at generating workable pressure, and soon enough the Minnesotan was hustling Scott off the line for a point. A reset, and then there was Smith again with another bullish step-out to cut his deficit to 4-2. Momentum began to seem as though it was shifting in his direction.

Scott was not wishing to become a bystander. He mixed between trying to meet Smith’s drive with staying prepared to pounce on even the faintest of openings. One such chance presented itself shortly before the break, as Scott swam in off of an exchange with an arm throw attack that he used to convert a takedown.

Tension increased in the second period. Smith, down by four, pursued in earnest with various looks at two-on-ones and occasional snaps. Neither wrestler could sway the other, whether through off-balances or outright attempts. Scott was rung up for a caution towards the latter stages of the bout for leading with his head. That made the score 6-4. Smith required three points, not two, since criteria belonged to Scott by virtue of the first-period arm throw. The effort was there on Smith’s part to engineer a multi-point maneuver. He did not stop pressing the issue. But Scott, whose determination and output were already one of the major stories of the tournament, would keep his feet through the remainder and in the process collect his first US National title.

Bey’s Fourth

Aliaksandr Kikinou (77 kg, Poway) during the meat of his career had earned a World bronze (’09), European gold (’10), took first in his weight at the World Cup (’11), and was both a runner-up and bronze medalist at the Golden Grand Prix (’06 and ’10, respectively). He also appeared in two Olympiads (’04 and ’12). Even as a 43-year-old father and coach, he was not roundly dismissed as a possible major player in this bracket, particularly since his last competition was relatively recent (’19 in NYC), plus he had in the past participated in plenty of practices and camps at the US Olympic Training Center. Maybe some of the younger athletes at 77 in Vegas were unaware of exactly who Kikinou is and of which he is capable, but the majority of American full-timers understood the threat he posed. And now that the former Belarusian representative can wear “USA” on the back of his singlet at World events, he demanded to be taken extremely seriously.

Such knowledge, or the lack thereof, became inconsequential on Wednesday, because Kikinou distributed a widely-viewed reminder of his formidability that included victories over Logan Hatch (OTC), multi-time champ/World Team member RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC), and second-seeded National Teamer Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS). These wins are what escorted Kikinou into the final round.

But standing in the opposing corner on Thursday was two-time World Team member Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP), who (like Perkins) indeed had long ago read the Kikinou memo; moreover, Bey is the type of wrestler who abides by the hard and fast rule of never underestimating an adversary. He competes against all comers with the same objective: try to get them out of there ASAP. The longer a match goes, the higher the chances are for something to go wrong.

Which is why, for as surprising as Kikinou’s performance may have been to some, there was nothing at all surprising about the manner in which Bey approached their contest. On the first opportunity available, Bey dashed in for a body attack that produced four points. After Kikinou went prone, the Army athlete executed a lift that was good for another four spot. That was the match. Kikinou challenged the sequence, claiming a leg foul. The officiating crew gave it a cursory look but the result went unchanged. Bey, 25, locked up his fourth National title (’16, ’18, and ’19) with the triumph in addition to having earned a berth in the Final X Series for a third time (’19 and ’22).

2023 US Open

April 26-27 — Las Vegas, Nevada


72 kg: Justus Scott (Army/WCAP) def. Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) 6-4
77 kg: Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP) def. Aliaksandr Kikinou (Poway) 9-0, TF
82 kg: Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) def. Ben Provisor (NYAC/Viking WC) 4-3


72 kg

GOLD: Justus Scott (Army/WCAP)
SILVER: Dalton Dufffield (Minnesota Storm)
BRONZE: Noah Wachsmuth (NYAC)
4th — Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP)
5th — Jack Ervien (Viking WC)
6th — Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP)
7th — Richard Fedalen (NYCRTC)

77 kg

GOLD: Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP)
SILVER: Aliaksandr Kikinou (Poway)
BRONZE: Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS)
4th — Burke Paddock (NYAC)
5th — Jesse Porter (NYAC)
6th — RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC/West Coast Greco RTC)
7th — Danny Braunagel (IRTC)

82 kg

GOLD: Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP)
SILVER: Ben Provisor (NYAC/Viking WC)
BRONZE: Andrew Berreyesa (NYAC)
4th — Johanner Correa (NC)
5th — Tommy Brackett (NYAC)
6th — Kendrick Sanders (NYAC)
7th — Ty Cunningham (NYAC/MWC)

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