USA Greco

BREAKTHROUGH: Sancho, Porter, Stanghill, & Smith Emerge On Day 1 of U23 Trials

Blake Smith, 98 kg, 2017 US U23 World Team Trials
Blake Smith -- Photo: John Sachs

Leading up to this, the first-ever US U23 World Team Trials, a lot of the talk centered around Northern Michigan’s potential to dominate the proceedings. After a fun-filled Day 1, all you need to know is that at least half of the roster going to the World Championships next month either calls the Olympic Training Site home or did in the past.

Alex Sancho (66 kg, NYAC/OTS), who had been a runner-up at four different World Team Trials previously, finally broke through with a pair of exemplary performances in the finals, while Jesse Porter (75 kg, NYAC/OTS), Barrett Stanghill (85 kg, Minnesota Storm), and Blake Smith (98 kg, NMU/OTS) also managed to prevail over talented, young opponents. The action took place earlier this evening at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minnesota and streamed live on

In the 66 kilogram best-of-three finals, Sancho did battle with 2014 University World Team member and George Mason University grad Sahid Kargbo (Patriot Elite). The two initially met this year at the Senior Trials with Kargbo racing out to an early lead before Sancho stormed back thanks to his potent par terre offense, ultimately taking the bout 12-6. This time around, things went quite differently. For their first match of the series, Sancho didn’t even let Kargbo reach second gear, as he used two of his patented lifts to drum up eight quick points, resulting in an 8-0 tech. Match 2 did not deviate too much from Match 1, although it was Kargbo who made an impact first.

At the whistle, Kargbo reached up and in to lasso a whopping headlock that was good for four. However, Sancho responded immediately. As soon as he found his feet, he locked around Kargbo and tossed him for his own four. The bout was :23 old. From top, Sancho clasped and stepped up to begin his lift sequence, though he couldn’t hoist it up high enough for four. He still took it over for two, giving him a 6-4 lead. With just over a minute left in the first, Sancho struck again by pulling Kargbo in and launching him off the edge for another four-point throw. The second period didn’t see the same amount of scoring. There was none, in fact. Kargbo, a fine wrestler with legitimate Greco-Roman skills, couldn’t convert attacks into points but he kept trying to get something going. For his part, Sancho did what he had to do to control the pace whilst still searching for those windows he’s known to exploit. The final score read 10-4 and Sancho, at last, had made a World Team.

“I came in with some confidence,” Sancho said later. “I started really sluggish in the morning because I didn’t really get a good warm-up in. I started my first three matches slow, but it ended up being a good tournament, I ended up winning it.”


Maybe tonight was the night when Jesse Porter reached behind him, grabbed that big stone he’d been carrying around on his back, and tossed it to the side. For the last 18 months, Porter’s abilities have been widely recognized and admired, and he has also provided tremendous entertainment on whenever possible. It just hasn’t translated into an opportunity for a World medal. That is a concern no longer.

Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC) is another gifted young competitor and what’s more, he also owned a pair of recent wins over Porter coming into this evening’s best-of-three series. That this wouldn’t even reach a third bout is a testament to just how “on” Porter was when it counted the most.

The tension wasn’t exactly white-knuckle yet, but it wasn’t far off as Chavez and Porter greeted one another in the center for Match 1. They fought for position with Chavez observing a deep base and Porter flashing in and out on occasion from the ties. The OTS athlete lowered in for a high dive and nearly got deep enough for a lock, but Chavez was able to stay in his stance and simply check back into the ties. Eventually, Chavez would receive the first passivity point of the match and the first period drew to a close with no further scoring.

One minute went by in the second. Then two minutes went by in the second. The tempo was both measured and sporadic. Most importantly, there was a lack of offense. Another passivity point came Chavez’s way but then something happened — Porter got to the body and attempted a throw. It didn’t yield any points but a lightbulb must have turned on. Because after the restart, Porter seized on Chavez with an arm throw, Chavez scrambled, and in the ensuing flurry, Porter bombed a four-point bodylock. He stayed with it, kept his lock, and snagged two more off of a correct hold. Chavez’s corner challenge the call, and lost, making the score 7-2 with Porter moving into Match 2 in the driver’s seat.

Everything about the way the second bout of the series seemed to be unfolding was eerily reminiscent of the one before it, the exception being that Porter was the recipient of the first passive point. A 1-0 advantage escorted him into the conclusive period, but more offense would be necessary to bring this all the way home.

A missed arm throw that Chavez capitalized on for a takedown put Porter behind by a point. That wasn’t the end of it. Chavez also tacked on another via passivity and led 3-1 with a minute remaining. But once again, Porter was there to bring forth some late-match heroics. He bulldozed in on Chavez, locked, and uncorked not one, but two high-amplitude correct throws in a row. Chavez, the wondrous athlete that he is, practically cartwheeled through both of them. Porter kept position and for good measure, scored on a more conventional correct hold off the edge to cap his scoring blitz at six straight points. Not enough seconds on the clock were around for Chavez to work with and Porter managed to stave off any last-ditch efforts to sustain command. At the end of it all, it was 7-3 win that means Porter is headed off to Poland next month.

“You know, I knew I was going to have a good tournament,” said Porter. “I trained really hard for this tournament, just two weeks and a half going at it every single day, working on my technique, working on my weaknesses, and the biggest part of my success I’d say for this tournament, is mindset. It’s all up here for me (motions to his head). I had to keep telling myself all week, ‘I’m number one, I’m the best, you’re the guy to beat.’ I kept doing that every single day. It’s mentality, it’s all up here.”


Just like Porter and Chavez, NMU alum Stanghill and Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm) have also traded paint in competition, and at the University Nationals, to boot. The Minnesota Storm stablemates met in the finals in Akron, with Stanghill winning 5-2. Given the fact these two train together and also, that Carlson is starting to establish his place as a top-flight contender, the competitiveness displayed between the duo was not too dissimilar from what happened back in June.

Carlson likes a busy pace, as does Stanghill, so the clashing was heavy to set this series off. Stanghill needed a moment following a bump of heads, but he cleared the cobwebs quickly and after the reset, found an underhook he used to get around Carlson and take him to the floor. Once in position, Stanghill gutted Carlson over for another deuce. 4-0, Stanghill. Carlson was doing a good job of maintaining inside pressure, the problem was that Stanghill stayed steady as he patiently deflected any attempts until it he felt an opening to move. That came a minute into the second, as he once again caught Carlson in a vulnerable position that he took full advantage of with a takedown at the edge. Stanghill the winner of Match 1 on the strength of a 6-0 score.

If there is one thing Carlson had to know going into Match 2, it was that he would have to convert his pressure into points and avoid falling prey to Stanghill’s secondary attacks. He seemed to have the right approach to start off, because Carlson was a ball of intense energy in the ties, fighting fiercely to dig his way in. But there was Stanghill — again — this time with a beautiful arm drag that pulled Carlson right in front of him and down to the mat. 2-0, Stanghill. Shortly after, a passive point came Stanghill’s way to widen the margin to 3-0.

The second period saw Stanghill in a good place to be. He had the lead and time was on his side. That put the onus on Carlson to make up the deficit. He charged forward in spots and went to his snaps, short-drags, and anything else that offered a handle. Stanghill didn’t relent, but he also didn’t have to overextend. This was his. And he saw it through the rest of the way to nail down a place on his very first World Team, something that certainly wasn’t lost on him afterwards as he recalled the path that led him here.

“I thought I could make it to this spot after I won Universities,” Stanghill admitted. “I went up to Northern Michigan and trained with Coach (Andy) Bisek, Hermann, and Ivan Ivanov. He showed us some stuff with the Bulgarian Bags and it got me in really good shape, and then I came back to Minnesota and (Dan) Chandler really fine-tuned me.”


When Smith won the Junior World Team Trials in April, the victory kind of came with an asterisk. 2016 Junior World bronze medalist G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist, world no. 16) had earned the right to forgo the Trials and enter into a special wrestle-off against the tournament winner and eventually defeated Smith two matches to none in Akron. So in other words, Smith had already won a Trials event before today, but it didn’t make him a World Team member.

He won’t be needing an asterisk after what he accomplished tonight.

Smith made quick work of teammate Spencer Wilson in the semifinals and he didn’t require a whole lot of time against Anthony Riopelle, either. Smith unfurled an arm throw attempt that Riopelle looked to defend only to have Smith come out the back to pick up two. From there, he clamped around for a gut and briskly rolled Riopelle over three times for an 8-0 tech that took all of :24.

Match 2 lasted a little longer, but unfortunately for Riopelle, the result wasn’t much better — though he did show a glimpse of the power and precision fans can look forward to in the future. As Smith pried in with a left underhook and moved to slide in his right arm, Riopelle blasted him to the mat with a four-point headlock. When they got back to their feet, Smith held onto a front headlock he found the leverage to roll through with to knot the score. Following a reset, there it was again, another Smith front headlock. 8-4, Smith. With just under :90 remaining in the first, Riopelle dropped down for a high dive that while fast, did not penetrate in far enough. This allowed Smith to essentially catch him coming in. He coerced Riopelle directly to his back and waited for the signal from the official. Smith wins Match 2 via fall, his second such victory on the day.

“I was really in shape and I felt like I could dominate today and I did,” Smith said. “Let me tell you how tough that is. You know, you practice with the same people every day, those two people (Wilson and Riopelle) I practice with every single day. They know my game plan, I know their game plan, so it’s hard to think of something to do or feel them when they know exactly what you’re going to do. You have to come up with a whole different plan versus what you usually stick to.”


  • All four finals series for Day 1 ended in two matches.
  • Two of the winners are 23 (Sancho and Stanghill) and the other two are just 19 (Porter and Smith).
  • Each finals match was won with offensive points with two coming via technical fall.
  • Day 2 begins at 9:00am CT/10:00am EST and can be viewed live on

2017 US U23 Greco-Roman World Team Trials Results — Day 1

66 kg: Alex Sancho (NYAC/OTS) vs. Sahid Kargbo (Patriot Elite)
Match 1: Sancho def. Kargbo 8-0, TF
Match 2: Sancho def. Kargbo 10-4

75 kg: Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC) vs. Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS)
Match 1: Porter def. Chavez 7-2
Match 2: Porter def. Chavez 7-3

85 kg: Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm) vs. Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm)
Match 1: Stanghill def. Carlson 6-0
Match 2: Stanghill def. Carlson 3-0

98 kg: Blake Smith (NMU/OTS) vs. Anthony Riopelle (NMU/OTS)
Match 1: Smith def. Riopelle 8-0, TF
Match 2: Smith def. Riopelle via fall (1:13)

Third-place results

66 kg: Britton Holmes (NMU/OTS) def. Travis Rice (NMU/OTS) 2-1
75 kg: Curt Calovecchi (NMU/OTS) def. Mason McDaniel (Southern Illinois TC) 8-0, TF
85 kg: Matt Reed (Tiger WC) def. Richard Robertson (BRTC) 6-5
98 kg: Haydn Maley (Unattached) def. Trent Osnes (Marines) 11-2, TF


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