More matches, more medals.
The US Greco-Roman Seniors have had a productive morning thus far at the 2017 Grand Prix Zagreb Open, in Zagreb Croatia. Four wrestlers — RaVaughn Perkins (71 kg, NYAC), Jesse Porter (75 kg, NYAC-OTS), Kamal Bey (80 kg, Sunkist), and Toby Erickson (130 kg, Army/WCAP) have earned bronze medals while Alex Sancho (66 kg, NYAC-OTS) came away with a berth to the finals.
Sancho burst through the door in the quarterfinals, racing past Jurica Grbincek (CRO) 8-0. But it was the following match in the semis that provided Sancho with one of the biggest wins of his career thus far. Mate Nemes (SRB) is an experienced, skilled competitor who has plied his trade at the highest level for the last several years. On paper, this was a daunting challenge and the match itself was predictably tight. Nemes held a 1-0 lead when he hawked over Sancho. Sancho, in a flash, pulled Nemes over and to his back for four big points and a 4-1 lead. The drama piled on from there.
In the second frame, Sancho was the recipient of a caution-and-two penalty for what presumably was him coming in with his head. Nemes certainly sold it like a pro regardless. The margin now 4-3, Sancho had to stay sharp. Nemes did knot the score to make it interesting, but Sancho held criteria and on top of that, never stopped working. The Miami native attempted to break through Nemes’ ties and get to the body, managing to stay out of trouble while doing so. The whistle finally blew, giving Sancho a great win and a spot in the finals, where he will meet up with Mihai Mihut (ROU).
2017 Grand Prix Zagreb Open highlights so far
The action kicked off at 9:00am in Zagreb (3:00am EST). At 59 kilograms, neither US representative was able to crack through the opening round. One of last week’s gold medal heroes, Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) had trouble getting his offense going in the right direction and dropped a 4-0 decision to Ivan Lizatovic (CRO). Sammy Jones (NYAC-OTS) did not have the same issue. Against Andrey Tsaryuk (ISR), Jones held a 9-7 lead after one period. But in the second Tsaryuk turned the tables to jump ahead 13-10. Jones was very close to getting the win, however. With virtually no time remaining, Jones jumped up and latched onto a front-headlock and threw it over. It looked like it might have slipped in just before the buzzer. Unfortunately, the ref waved off the US challenge, insisting time had run out, giving Jones a hard luck loss in an exciting bout.
Perkins has his hands full, but that is a good thing. The 71 kilogram field at the 2017 Grand Prix Zagreb Open was deep with competitors, giving the American plenty of opportunity to get some mat time in. Perkins seemed to have a little more juice going for him this morning and against tough opposition. In his first bout, Perkins won 4-0 over Gregorz Wanke (POL) to throw things into gear. His trajectory was disrupted in the next bout, as Dominik Etlinger (CRO) picked up the points when he needed them most, downing Perkins 7-0. But he would rebound right away. Perkins was aggressive and sharp against Serbian Aleksa Erski, as he rolled him down and out for an 8-0 technical fall.
That put Perkins in the bronze medal match against Jeongguen Lee (KOR). There might not have been any high-flying antics but Perkins clicked right just the same. Lee, a charging, dynamic athlete, wanted to push the pace against Perkins, but that was a strategy that worked the other way around. Perkins held court as the taller, more dominant athlete and worked into tie-ups that accentuated his strengths. The flurry of points didn’t come, but a couple of passivity points went to Perkins as he netted a solid 3-1 win for a well-deserved bronze medal.
One of the most exciting matches of the day came from one of the country’s most exciting stars. Kamal Bey, up a weight for the second week in a row, won his first match in the 80 kg class via fall over Yuya Maeta (JPN). In his semifinal bout, greeting him was 2016 Olympian Bozo Starcevic (CRO, world no. 11), the last man to defeat two-time World medalist Andy Bisek. Bey tried his best to bring the fireworks against the seasoned vet Starcevic but had difficulty stifling the Croatian’s offensive attempts, losing 10-2. But boy, did Bey do his best to make up for it.
Wrestling for bronze, Bey faced off with the very experienced four-time German Senior World Team member Michael Wagner. After a short feeling-out process, Bey fell behind 2-0. A step-out point closed the gap and that’s when the intensity was ratcheted up. Bey landed a huge four-point throw and from there it was just a matter of time. The 19-year old held Wagner in place and eventually, the referee signaled for the fall, giving Bey his second consecutive medal on the trip.
Toby Erickson (130 kg, Army/WCAP) got back to his winning ways, as well. Erickson scored a dominant tech fall over Stepan David (CZE) to open up his morning. In the proceeding bout, two-time World University Champion Balint Lam (HUN) employed a pattern of front-headlocks to spin-behind’s to rack up the points en-route to what had to have been a frustrating tech fall loss for Erickson. But much like Bey, Erickson dusted himself off in style. Arata Sonoda (JPN), who has appeared on US shores before, most recently at the Dave Schultz Memorial in February, provided a stiff worker for Erickson to battle with, but the WCAP wrestler kept to his game nicely, emerging with a clean 2-0 medal-clinching victory.
Jesse Porter (75 kg, NYAC-OTS) probably would have liked to get some more matches in but he’ll have to settle for third place just the same. Porter fell to Japan’s Soh Sakabe 2-1 in a tactical battle. Due to a limited number of competitors at this weight, Porter did not have a wrestle-off for bronze.
- Ben Provisor (85 kg, NYAC, world no. 20) almost earned a trip to the podium. Provisor won his first bout, lost his second to Viktor Lorincz (HUN, world no. 4) on two passivity points, defeated teammate Kevin Radford (Sunkist) via criteria 2-2, and then fell in the medal round 10-0 to Ivan Huklek (CRO).
- So did Hayden Zillmer (98 kg, Minnesota Storm, world no. 19). Zillmer tech’ed out Donde Pesut (SRB) before losing to Daniel Gastl (AUT) 5-1. He came back with a nice victory over Felix Radinger (GER) 5-3. In the hunt for bronze, 2014 World University Champion Ivan Nemeth (HUN) turned back the Storm competitor 3-1.
- Popular US Greco-Roman veteran and 216 US National Champion Cheney Haight (80 kg, NYAC) went 2-2 on the day, making it to the bronze medal match.
- 2016 Junior World bronze medalist G’Angelo Hancock (98 kg, NYAC, world no. 18) was impressive against 2014 Spanish Grand Prix gold medalist Adam Varga, earning a 5-1 win. Things didn’t go as smoothly in the next round for the 19-year old star, as he dropped a 12-4 technical fall to 2016 World University bronze medalist Ilya Borisov (RUS).
- Team USA was missing five wrestlers who appeared last week — Hayden Tuma (59 kg, Army/WCAP), Ellis Coleman (66 kg, Army/WCAP), Patrick Smith (71 kg, Minnesota Storm), Patrick Martinez (80 kg, NYAC), and Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC). As reported previously, Tuma endured an impacted wisdom tooth last week while Coleman had his shoulder injured by Edgaras Venckaitis (LTU). Patrick Smith returned to Sweden for coursework responsibilities. Martinez and Robby Smith were held out of competition today due to what are thus far, undisclosed reasons.
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