USA Greco

PAN-AM TEAM FINALIZED: ‘Ninja Squad’ Repped; Smith, RaVaughn, & ‘Big Ben’ Also Victorious

Dalton Roberts -- Photo: Sam Janicki

The Americans wanted a tournament to decide their roster for the 2022 Pan-American Championships next month in Mexico. It did not take too long. The McLeod Arena in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Friday was scheduled to host Greco-Roman competition all the way into the evening. Instead, wrestling had wrapped by mid-afternoon, though not without its fair share of highlights.

The final round of the 2022 Bill Farrell Memorial began Friday at 4:00pm local time in Cedar Falls, Iowa (3:00pm ET) and aired live on FLOWrestling.

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Surprise endings were abound during the first session – which on its own had determined three USA Pan-Am Team members — but that was not the story for the finals. Yet even sans shockers, several still put forth stellar performances to conclude the first major event of the season on stateside shores.

3/4 of the ‘Ninja Squad’

As many had anticipated, the Army World Class Athletes Program’s “Ninja Squad” grabbed three of the four lightest weight categories. Three-time Pan-American gold Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #1) had already secured his spot on the roster by the time the finals arrived. Army was locked in at 60 kilograms, as well — they just didn’t know which athlete would make the cut.

In one more in a string of classic battles, Dalton Roberts (world #20, 5PM #1) defeated stablemate and oft domestic rival Ildar Hafizov (5PM #2) for the 60-kg Pan-Am spot. Roberts had fallen behind Hafizov 3-0 in the first (the result of a passive/high gut lift combo) but a takedown shortly thereafter stemmed the tide. Back and forth it was in the hand-fight, the dynamics of which have changed a little since becoming teammates. They know each other even better these days, thus tightening the skirmishes for advantageous ties. Roberts was awarded the bout’s second passivity/par terre. His weapon of choice was a lift. He locked and loaded, busying himself towards the boundary. The attempt did not land — but Hafizov was quickly knocked for a legs caution, a call with which he took umbrage. The officials reviewed the sequence and the caution was upheld; Roberts was given an additional point for the failed challenge on Hafizov’s part for a 6-3 lead. And it was getting late.

Hafizov, he still made a go of it. The pressure increased, but not recklessly so. Level changes and darting checks for scanning purposes came and went like bolts of lightning. He did not want to waste time or motion. Roberts avoids retreating on principle and his physical eagerness never wanes even whilst holding narrow leads. The latter stages of this one was another example in that regard. It would be thick wall for Hafizov to crack, though he sure tried. A literal last-second spin behind (and non-scored gut due to time having expired) closed the gap to 6-5, but that was it. Roberts, the victor, now re-assumes command of the division along with the opportunity for Pan-Am hardware.

’20 Olympian Alex Sancho (67 kg, Army/WCAP, world #17, 5PM #2) and two-time National champ Hayden Tuma (Suples, 5PM #3) were expected to put on a show for interested viewers. Two of their generation’s most gifted lightweight competitors (and briefly former teammates), their styles almost automatically invite the sort of high-intensity static that attracts a buzz.

Both had also been nearly untouchable prior to the evening. Sancho scorched Justin Kopet (MN) and Jessy Williams (NYAC/Spartan RTC, 5PM #10); second-seeded Tuma earned one-sided nods against Calvin Germinaro (Minnesota Storm) and Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC, 5PM #10), respectively. Sancho, he’s always a smooth operator but his Farrell final adversary had expressed more dominance in the lead-up. Because neither had endured hefty challenges en-route to the gold round, they were considered fresh and ready to produce a classic.

Their clash ended far too early for something incredible to transpire.

Sancho received the first passivity/par terre chance. Everyone knew what was coming, a side or straddle variation. Sure enough, Sancho locked and hipped, appearing to net points. And he did, though the official instead penalized Tuma for legs. A caution-and-two was distributed, resulting in a PT restart. From top once again, Sancho struggled before eventually re-asserting his lock and stepping for a straddle lift. Tuma had seemingly scrambled for a reversal and more on the back-end; the Army corner was all over the sequence and hastily tossed the challenge brick. A lengthy review process followed, after which Tuma was charged with his second leg foul. The match was thus brought to a halt, as only two infractions involving the legs are required for disqualification.

Jones Defeats Thielke

“Wildman Sam” Sammy Jones (63 kg, NYAC, 5PM #1), amid of the best stretch of his Senior pursuits after making the ’21 World Team, took a 3-0 lead against ’16 Olympian Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP, 5PM #4 at 67 kg) thanks to a passive/gut scenario in the first period. Thielke, back down at the weight in which he made his last Worlds appearance (’18), was very much in this thing deep into the second period until a violent succession of front headlock rolls forced the stoppage. Jones snapped on the head after a reset and torqued Thielke in the opposite direction before rotating the string. A concerning sight, for Thielke has dealt with severe neck injuries that have been responsible for disrupting his own career. As for Jones, Friday presented a notable benchmark: dating back to the ’18 Open, he has competed in six finals held in the US out of seven appearances with three tournament wins (’19 Schultz, ’21 Trials, and now the ’22 Bill Farrell).

Smith & RaVaughn

Patrick Smith (72 kg, Minnesota Storm, 5PM #1) enjoyed one of his most dominant front-to-back tournament runs on Friday and capped it off with a VSU over teammate Orlando Ponce (whose own march to the final deserves recognition). Smith worked behind Ponce for two and converted a pair of guts; a reset, and the three-time World Team member bodied Ponce off the line for two additional points. The officials gave the action a second look, and necessitated a conference to understand where the scoring should go. It all went to Smith, who will now set his sights on a fourth Pan-American Championships crown.

Tension permeated throughout RaVaughn Perkins‘ (77 kg, NYAC, 5PM #3) triumph against Jesse Porter (NYAC, 5PM #1). Patience — and health — aided Perkins, whose feel, balance, and positioning remain coveted strengths. He needed all of the cylinders to fire opposite reigning World Teamer Porter, especially since offense would be difficult to muster for both athletes. Porter’s movement, equally explosive and unpredictable, was hindered in part by Perkins keying in on tie-ups that favored his own disciplined approach. Hence, Porter was dinged for passivity twice, once in each period.

Except Perkins was unable to capitalize on these opportunities. The deficit for Porter was only 2-0; even with time a factor, that is dangerous territory for any opponent. Porter angled and dipped inside, hunting the body at all costs. Right before the conclusive whistle, he sprang into the air for a last-gasp “Flying Squirrel” — and Perkins caught him mid-flight for a slam that put the bout of reach and in the books. The final score was 6-0, tying a bow on quite the day for Perkins, who in four matches outscored the opposition (in offensive points only) 34-0 with three technical falls. The native Nebraskan will also head into next month’s Pan-Am event as a two-time gold medalist (’18 and ’19).

Ben & Boykin

Roberts/Hafizov was one rematch from the ’21 World Team Trials finals. Ben Provisor (82 kg, NYAC, world #14, 5PM #1) versus Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP, 5PM #2) was the other. And just like in September, Woods’ physicality and associated zeal tested the two-time Olympian in most exchanges. Provisor’s right underhook found a home when necessary but the interior dogfight via pummel was often too tight for either athlete to negotiate a scoring opportunity. Woods received the first period passive and came up empty from top PT; closing in on intermission, Provisor was the recipient of two caution points doled out against Woods for leading with the head. That was it. Provisor’s 2-1 lead from the first period carried all the way to minute six of the match.

Two-time National Champion Nick Boykin (97 kg, Sunkist/Ohio RTC, 5PM #3) was given a good fight in the semifinal courtesy of Guy Patron and burst out of the gate with a little extra sauce in the final against Christian Rouleau (Minnesota Storm). It was was 4-1 for Boykin in the second period when passivity rang on Rouleau. A reverse lock was the call — and it was a solid execution. Boykin needed a few seconds to set up his launch and drive; he then hoisted Rouleau up and over for five, thus ending the match.

Earlier

Prior to Friday night’s slate of finals, three athletes who competed in round-robin brackets had already made the Pan-American roster: Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP, world #9, 5PM #1), Rich Carlson (87 kg, Minnesota Storm, 5PM #3 at 82 kg), and Tanner Farmer (130 kg, NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #3).

Notes:

  • Friday was a big day for both the Army and Minnesota Storm. Army (including round-robin bracketing at 55 kg) had seven finalists and three champs. The Storm came away with four finalists and two eventual tournament winners. Wrestlers sponsored by the New York Athletic Club had four earn top honors with six finalists.
  •  Five first-place bouts ended via technical fall. The only pin recorded belonged to Carlson.
  • The Five Point Move USA Greco-Roman rankings will be updated for Monday.

2022 Bill Farrell Memorial

First-Place Results

55 kg: Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) def. Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) 8-0, TF
60 kg: Dalton Roberts
(Army/WCAP) def. Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) 6-5
63 kg: Sammy Jones (NYAC) def. Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP) 9-0, TF
67 kg: Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) def. Hayden Tuma (Suples) via disqualification
72 kg: Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) def. Orlando Ponce (Minnesota Storm) 8-0, TF
77 kg: RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) def. Jesse Porter (NYAC) 6-0
82 kg: Ben Provisor (NYAC) def. Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) 2-1
87 kg: Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm) def. Alan Vera (NYAC) via fall
97 kg: Nick Boykin (Sunkist/Ohio RTC) def. Christian Rouleau (Minnesota Storm) 10-1, TF
130 kg: Tanner Farmer (NYAC/IRTC) def. Courtney Freeman (Marines) 9-1, TF

Third-Place Results

55 kg: Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) def. Cole Smith (Army/WCAP) 8-0, TF
60 kg: Randon Miranda
(Rise RTC) def. Max Black (NMU/NTS) 12-5
63 kg: Mason Hartshorn (CYC) def. Aidan Nutter (NMU/NTS) 5-1
67 kg: Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC) def. Calvin Germinaro (Minnesota Storm) 17-9, TF
72 kg: Robert Perez III (Sunkist) def. Garrett Johnson (MWC) 9-0, TF
77 kg: Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP) def. Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP) via forfeit
82 kg: Tyler Cunningham (MWC) def. Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm) 10-5
87 kg: Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm) def. Kodiak Stephens (Beaver Dam RTC) 10-1, TF
97 kg: Guy Patron (Dubuque WC) def. Tyler Thurston (IA) 8-0, TF
130 kg: Kaleb Reeves (Eastern Iowa WC) def. Tom Foote (MA) via fall

2022 Pan-American Championships Roster

Seven of the ten weight categories for the United States will be represented by previous Pan-American Championships medalists.

55 kg: Nowry (gold – ’13, ’19, ’20; silver – ’18)
63 kg: Jones (bronze – ’16)
67 kg: Sancho (silver – ’16; bronze – ’20)
72 kg: Smith (gold – ’15, ’16, ’17; silver – ’20)
77 kg: Perkins (gold – ’18, ’19)
82 kg: Provisor (gold – ’17, ’21; bronze – ’18)
97 kg: Hancock (gold – ’20; silver – ’19; bronze – ’17)

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