Final X: Newark on Saturday does not begin with the ten best-of-three series that will determine the 2023 US World Team. Rather, the kickoff to the presentation will be the six individual bouts for “true third” — with the victors from these matches earning placement on the National Team.
National Team distinction carries significance. It stipulates that an athlete is, until the next Trials tournament at least, an officially recognized member of “Team USA”. There are perks, too. A monthly stipend is one of them. Game-changing money it isn’t, but considering how athletes have to scrape and scrap to make ends meet during their careers, something is better than nothing you might suppose. More importantly, National Team involvement tends to impart more resources, guaranteed invitations to training camps, and availability to attend overseas tours. It is also, put plainly, a badge of honor. National Team status sets athletes apart, and is a credential that shall adorn one’s resume throughout their careers.
Final X: Newark — True Third Previews
The True Third bouts will air beginning at 12:30pm on FLOWrestling
Of course, it is the moment at-hand in which everyone is interested. All six of the bouts on Saturday that will determine members of the 2023 National Team have one thing in common: prior history. In other words, they are all rematches from recent (and not-so-recent) competitions. However, while past results often prove useful when providing overviewing synopses, it is in this case wise to take a somewhat fresh approach. After all, both athletes and circumstances can change from year-to-year and event-to-event.
60 kg: Randon Miranda (Unattached) vs. Dylan Koontz (TMWC/Dubuque RTC)
Miranda defeated Koontz in the 2020ne Olympic Trials Qualifier but the outcome has gone in the other direction as of late, with Koontz coming away with tight wins at the ’21 World Trials and the ’23 Open, respectively. While all of three of these examples occurred at major tournaments, the setting for this one could play a role. Miranda, a multiple-time age-group World Team member, is not unfamiliar with having to perform in big-time environments. As far as their stylistic approaches, Koontz is a linear attacker on the feet and stout defender from par terre bottom. Miranda’s mechanics are well-known. He is a smooth, slick, and purposeful counter-scorer with a more varied arsenal. A lot of static is part of their story due to how their styles clash. It might not be high-scoring, but their time together on Saturday is expected to offer another compelling contest.
63 kg: Sammy Jones (Sunkist/CTT) vs. Dylan Gregerson (UVRTC)
They first did this dance four years ago. At the ’19 Trials, two-time World Team member Jones turned back Gregerson for the National Team spot and has defeated him twice since, with both victories having been recorded this very season. “Wildman Sam” is, as most are aware, keen on risky attempts and big scores, though he has tempered those tactics just enough to have enveloped a greater degree of consistency in his game. “Greco’s Son”, on the other hand, is quickly picking up where he left off prior to an injury that sidelined him last year. He is aggressive, too, and has improved in several key areas (most notable of which is par terre). Jones has thus far been able to keep Gregerson from chaining together points but one slip-up on his part in a close match could turn the tide. If it is high-scoring, the outcome is likely to be in Jones’ favor based on reputation alone.
72 kg: Noah Wachsmuth (NYAC) vs. Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP)
Hooker downed Wachsmuth at last year’s Open, but this was before the latter began going on a tear. Most remember Wachsmuth’s rise in ’22, don’t they? How he had not qualified for the Trials, then did so via “Last Chance”, with the domestic season ending with his making National Team for the first time? Ringing a bell? This is who Wachsmuth has become, and he went over Hooker in lopsided manner for third place at the April Open, as well. This does not mean that you dismiss Hooker, because such an exercise is both ridiculous and dangerous. Hooker, when healthy and appropriately motivated, remains a extremely viable threat. The difference is this: Wachsmuth’s career is still just developing, whereas Hooker is on the proverbial back-nine. Experience matters, which the Army officer has over his opponent, but hunger matters more. Which one has it?
77 kg: Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS) vs. RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC)
The elder statesman Perkins appreciates and respects Jacobson’s way of doing business, and came away impressed by the NMU representative following their first meeting in April of ’22 (a VSU win for Perkins). Fast-forward a month, and the script flipped with Jacobson emerging with his own tech win over Perkins. They have yet to collide this season, as both were felled by Aliaksandr Kikinou (Poway). The questions surrounding their match today are not complicated. Perkins’ health is certainly key. Few athletes have had to bite down on the type of injuries he has had; fewer still even compete with said injuries. Of course, you only hear about these things on this platform, since Perkins — who oozes with class — would never dare betray that type of info following a tournament. Jacobson, who just last week soared to a second-straight U20 World Team, is obviously in a different phase of his career. He is also a highly-ambitious and disciplined workhorse. Perkins is still ahead in terms of the small positional details that often dictate how action unfolds. He can switch from being a pusher/pummeler to making darting, angular attempts in a heartbeat. When he’s on, his long-legged gut is tough to stop, as well. Jacobson is the one on the rise, though. Everyone understands this. Given how both have looked this year coupled with their technical preferences and the stakes involved, tension is the order of the day with the second period looming large towards determining the outcome.
82 kg: Ben Provisor (NYAC/Viking WC) vs. Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm)
At the ’19 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, Stanghill rose to the occasion by advancing the to 87 kg the final opposite two-time Olympian Provisor, where he fell 5-0 with all five points coming in the first period. There have been changes dating back to that square-off. The weight category is one. Another is Stanghill himself. No longer a full-time athlete, Stanghill entered the ’23 Open after a two-year layoff, on a virtual whim, and battled hard all the way to third place. Look again, and now here he is, staring down the barrel of a National Team spot. It’s quite something. Provisor, he’s something, too. It is easy for observers to take into account Provisor’s recent pair of high-profile decision losses (first to Spencer Woods in the Open final, and then to Ryan Epps in the mini-tournament final) and figure that, perhaps, “Big Ben” has fallen off. Such talk is premature. Provisor’s ability to generate off-balances is still the best in the country and his par terre defense remains nearly impenetrable. The onus is on Stanghill to create motion and capitalize by any means necessary, even if that means a passive and/or step-out. Low-scoring it will be, but fun while it lasts.
130 kg: Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm) vs. Brandon Metz (ND)
Metz, full of promise and a potentially key component to the heavyweight picture in the US should he move forward in his career, has more than youth on his side against ’21 Pan-Am Championships silver Longendyke. He has also been riding a noteworthy wave this spring. Metz was on the brink of being eliminated from the bracket at the Open before he went on a backside run that was completed by his qualifying for the Trials — where he dropped his first-round bout to Daryl Aiello (Dubuque RTC) and eventually gained revenge in the third-place bout. All of this speaks to his immense competitiveness. Longendyke, he can be source of frustration simply because he is so skilled and experienced but, sometimes, the results haven’t followed. For whatever reason. These two do have a history, albeit a short one. Longendyke got past Metz in ’21. How much that factors into their appointment today is up in the air. Tricks of the trade reside with Longendyke, whose arsenal for a heavyweight is considerable. They will push and plod, which means that passivity — and taking advantage of such — is crucial. One legitimate offensive score from the feet for Metz could swing this one, and will have to if Longendyke is on his game.
Notice: Trying to get property 'term_id' of non-object in /home/fivepointwp/webapps/fivepointwp/wp-content/themes/flex-mag/functions.php on line 999