The ten United States Greco-Roman athletes who will compete on tomorrow’s Final X: Stillwater card met the media earlier on Thursday as part of a press conference that involved participating wrestlers from the other disciplines.
Unfortunately, little interaction was offered to the Greco contingent, save for USA Wrestling Director of Communications Gary Abbott doing his letter-best to set the table during the panel introductions. The overwhelming majority of soundbites on the part of the Greco-Roman athletes were derived from Abbott’s efforts.
The biggest verbal splash was made by “Mr. Fantastic” Benji Peak (72 kg, Sunkist/NTS, 5PM #2). He was the “trash talk” outlier of the group, which should come as no surprise given the NMU rep’s ability to engage an audience.
It began with three-time World Team member Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm, 5PM #1) responding to Abbott’s intro question that centered around if Smith takes a different approach to training and competition at this stage of his career.
Smith: “With every year as your career progresses, you are constantly making little adjustments. Your whole career is trial-and-error, and you are making tiny adjustments and trying to tweak them to the point when you are trying to peak and have your best showing. I still feel like I haven’t had my ultimate best performance yet. That’s why I’ve been here for a while and still going after it.
“Every year, you should be taking a slightly different approach. Change the wheel. But maybe you take a little bit of a different approach. If you’re not doing anything different, nothing changes. Nothing changes.”
Abbott: “At this point, are you feeling good heading into Final X?”
Smith: “Yeah, I am. I really feel like I’m wrestling the best I ever have and that’s why I’m still here. I’m excited that I get to compete on a cool stage with a really great opponent, and hopefully it’s awesome to watch.”
The microphone was then passed to Peak, who was prompted by Abbott to explain if his exciting style of wrestling was always a part of his skill-set.
Peak: “I was bred to do this [expletive]. I’m here to kick butt, and he’s over here telling me that he’s been changing stuff up. But every time he goes to Worlds, he goes 0-1. So, I don’t know if he has really changed a whole lot. And tomorrow I’m going to put him on his head twice, and I’m hoping I can do it in under a minute. I’ve got a couple of bets that both of my matches go under a minute, and I’m excited.”
Mark Bader of FLOWrestling then cracked a joke that referred back to the ’19 Final X: Rutgers press conference, when Kamal Bey (77 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #3) likened himself to a Ferrari and Smith to a Honda. Bader asked Smith, “what kind of car would you say Benji is?” He subsequently followed up with “thoughts on him putting you on your head twice in a row.”
Smith: “Yeah, I kind of end up in these situations quite a bit, huh? Yeah, the car. I’m going to leave that to Kamal, so ask him in New York. He’s pretty good at the car thing. The PT Cruiser is no more, though. RIP to the $80 PT Cruiser, the ‘Cruiser Bruiser’.
“I’m happy he’s confident. I’m happy he’s ready to go because when two guys both think they are going to win, you’re going to have a really awesome match and I think we’re excited to have that. But I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.”
Match 1 of the best-of-three between Smith and Peak is slotted fifth on tomorrow’s Final X: Stillwater card. The action begins at 3:00pm ET and can be viewed live on FLOWrestling. Smith defeated Peak in two straight matches back in September at the ’21 World Team Trials but the pair have not faced one another since that tournament.
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