USA Greco

NATIONAL FINALS: Late-Match Heroics From Sheridan; Ildar OW; Thielke, Peak, & Vera Stand Tall

ildar hafizov, 2022 us open
Ildar Hafizov -- Photo: Tony Rotundo

Khymba Johnson (97 kg, NYAC) was only nine seconds away from the biggest victory of his career. Luke Sheridan (Army/WCAP), meanwhile, was on the cusp of experiencing both a sizable disappointment considering the stakes, as well as his first-ever loss to Johnson. :09. Nine tiny ticks. That’s all there were hanging in the air separating one drastic outcome from another.

But then Sheridan just went for it.

not all roads lead to gold, jim gruenwald

The finals of the 2022 US Open began at 5:00pm local time from the South Point Hotel in Las Vegas and aired live on FLOWrestling.

Johnson, a National runner-up at 85 kilograms back in ’16, picked up the first points by popping his head out of a Sheridan headlock attempt. The proceeding par terre failed to yield additional points and the pair would spend most of the opening period’s remainder jockeying for position. The second frame saw Sheridan come out fresh and eager, and pounding away in fleeting ties hoping to make something happen. What did happen, was passivity. Johnson went prone, Sheridan had a decent run on a gutwrench, but Johnson defended and they returned standing. Time had begun to disappear from the clock with neither athlete gaining much of a discernible advantage on the other, though perhaps Sheridan was more purposeful in his work-rate.

With just under a minute left, the officials confirmed a second passivity on Johnson. Sheridan once again achieved his lock — only his chance to snare a turn was cut short. So, back up they were for the presumptive fight to the finish. Johnson, holding a criteria lead, did not appear to be wilting, and the onus was also not on him to somehow fabricate a meaningful scoring opportunity. That responsibility fell solely on Sheridan, who kept his feet and hips moving urgently behind his clutches inside of their static.

Just when it seemed that Johnson would indeed survive to collect his first Senior National title, Sheridan leveraged his left underhook and looped over the top of his adversary’s shoulder with his right arm. A high over/under it was, and Sheridan did not hesitate to pour through the motion and throw Johnson. Immediately, the sequence had scored four points, giving Sheridan a 6-2 lead. The fall was called soon after, a formality, and practically inconsequential. Sheridan — who had begun his last-ditch bodylock with :09 on the board — was the one who had at last broken through with a Senior Open crown.

Thielke, Hafizov, Peak, & Holmes

In one sense, Jesse Thielke (63 kg, Army/WCAP) already had a National title. When an athlete wins a Senior Trials, which Thielke has done thrice thus far, that is in fact a step above National tournament honors. One could also factor in the two-stage process of ’15, when Thielke prevailed in the “first phase” National bracket but was subsequently defeated by his eventual coach Spenser Mango for the World Team spot.

Quibbling over semantics does not move the ball forward, of course. Sunday night saw Thielke, at least for vernacular’s sake, accomplish this cornerstone objective. His opposition, Aidan Nutter (NYAC/NTS) had experienced a fine tournament, also, in this, his maiden US Open voyage. But the final was all Thielke, who took the first-period par terre and roped an elbow-to-elbow gut from pillar to post for the 9-0 stoppage.

Ildar Downs Black; Peak with #2, But Ogunsanya Impressive

Two-time Olympian Ildar Hafizov (60 kg, Army/WCAP) made quick work of surging Northern Michigan prospect Max Black thanks in large part to a lack of pretense. Hafizov, 33, is, for one, extraordinarily experienced; he is also a supremely confident scorer whose reliance upon a well-honed arsenal of go-to’s is difficult for opponents of any ilk to reconcile.

So, Black will learn from this.

But it was all Ildar on Sunday, with a takedown and eventual par terre serving as the prelude to destruction. From top, Hafizov went to his modified lift before running a turn in order to secure the 9-0 VSU.

Looking for his second title was “Mr. Fantastic” Benji Peak (72 kg, Sunkist/NTS), and he got it, but not in the one-sided manner most had likely anticipated.

Squaring off opposite West Pointer Pete Ogunsanya, Peak drew first blood with a step-out point. But that occurrence did not unleash momentum, for Ogunsanya answered back shortly thereafter with a surprising toss at the edge for two. They prodded through the ties with few vivid clearings for either to exploit. Towards the latter stages of the first period, Peak drove Ogunsanya down and out to net two more points along with a 3-2 lead heading into the second.

Ogunsanya was dinged for passive early into the conclusive frame, allowing Peak the opportunity to do what he has done so often the past two years: earn a finish. He gathered his lock for a lift and walked to the edge for an amenable launching angle, but Ogunsanya was able to avoid damage and gain the reset. The next best chance for Peak was on its way. Dueling over/under’s it was, with both athletes selling out for a possible throw. Peak seized the initiative by appropriately stepping in and planting before executing a near-textbook bodylock off the line. After the score was awarded, Peak briefly required medical attention as he had landed on his right shoulder.

He was in good enough condition to continue, and eventually recorded his second step-out of the contest. Up 8-2, and with less than a minute to go, the match appeared to be, essentially, over in Peak’s favor. And for all intents and purposes, it was. Except, Ogunsanya was not ready for the bell. Instead, he managed to uncork a loose salto as time expired. The victory goes to Peak, who was competing for the first time since last September’s World Team Trials finals — but the Greco program may have a new viable prospect on its hands in the form of Ogunsanya.

Holmes Joins First-Timer’s Club

A year ago, Alec Ortiz (77 kg, Minnesota Storm) summitted the domestic mountaintop for his first National title. He was part of the conversation again this weekend, too, but on Sunday it was Britton Holmes‘ (Army/WCAP) turn to join the club.

nifty takedown from a two-on-one put Holmes ahead 2-0 early, and he would add to his margin, but not before Ortiz necessitated time-out for a light amount of ketchup. From passive/PT, Holmes gutted Ortiz, for what initially appeared to be two clean rotations; on the back-end of the sequence, Ortiz — at the edge — reached over and caught Holmes on his back. On the breakaway, Ortiz hastily lassoed a front headlock to race out in front 6-5.

More points were expected in the second period, one way or another. But only one scoring action would transpire, and it happened to provide Holmes with all he needed to walk off the mat triumphant. Ortiz, he remained busy by engaging hard in what were fast becoming tension-building tie-ups. And he had cracked open a lane, as well; only, just as he started to make his move towards the body, Holmes quickly adjusted on the attempt and landed on top to garner four. Ortiz blitzed, clubbed, lunged, and breathlessly attacked to the whistle — but there would be no further scoring and Army had their fifth champ of ’22.

Provisor & Vera

Matches between two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (82 kg, NYAC) and Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) are beginning to dominate the narratives entering domestic events. They have now actually only met four times. The physicality on display is why observers are drawn to their showdowns, which have been remarkably tight. Scores are not easy to come by in upper-weight-land.

Woods was the beneficiary of the opening passive/PT. From top, he went to work for a turn, but Provisor remained pasted. That script flipped in the second. In a “turn and not get turned” game, Provisor is one of the best, and he took advantage of his PT chance by raking Woods twice for four points. A late spin-behind takedown for the “Alaskan Assassin” closed the gap to 5-3, but Provisor held strong the rest of the way to come away victorious.

The story was similar at 87 kilograms, where ’21 World Team member Alan Vera (NYAC) needed only one shot from par terre to defeat ’18 U23 World Teamer George Sikes (NYAC/NTS), who was appearing in his first Open final. Vera, as proficient as it gets from top PT, gutted Sikes twice and closed with a bomb of a side lift for his second US National title (’20).

Notes:

  • Only seven of the ten scheduled finals were contested.
  • Hafizov was named Outstanding Wrestler.
  • Three finals bouts ended via technical fall.
  • NYAC won the team title yet again despite Army’s overall dominance from the semifinal round onward.
  • More notes, along with “Undercover Stars”, will be available in the forthcoming Monday Roundup.

2022 US Open Finals Results

55 kg: Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) def. Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) via forfeit
60 kg: Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) def. Max Black (NYAC/NTS) 9-0, TF
63 kg: Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP) def. Aidan Nutter (NYAC/NTS) 9-0, TF
67 kg: Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) def. Lenny Merkin (NYAC/NJRTC) via forfeit
72 kg: Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS) def. Pete Ogunsanya (West Point WC) 9-6
77 kg: Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP) def. Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm) 9-6
82 kg: Ben Provisor (NYAC) def. Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) 5-3
87 kg: Alan Vera (NYAC) def. George Sikes (NYAC/NTS) 9-0, TF
97 kg: Luke Sheridan (Army/WCAP) def. Khymba Johnson (NYAC) via fall
130 kg: Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist) def. West Cathcart (NYAC/IRTC) via forfeit

Third-Place Results

55 kg: Drew West (IL) def. Jacob Cochran (NYAC/NTS) via fall
60 kg: Dylan Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC) def. Mitchell Brown (Air Force RTC) 8-0, TF
63 kg: Corbin Nirschl (MWC) def. Ty Lydic (Knights WC) 8-0, TF
67 kg: Alston Nutter (Sunkist/NTS) def. Peyton Omania (CYC/MSU) 8-0, TF
72 kg: Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP) def. Brody Olson (NMU/NTS) 5-0
77 kg: Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS) def. Jack Ervien (Viking WC) via fall
82 kg: Ryan Epps (Minnesota Storm) def. Tommy Brackett (Gator) 4-3
87 kg: Timothy Young (IL) def. Christian DuLaney (Minnesota Storm) via fall
97 kg: Haydn Maley (Roseburg Mat Club) def. Brady Vogel (Dubuque WC) 8-0, TF
130 kg: David Tate Orndorff (TMWC/Ohio RTC) def. Courtney Freeman (Marines) via fall

Fifth/Sixth

55 kg: Camden Russell (MWC) def. Dominic Robertson (All-Navy) 8-0, TF
60 kg: Phillip Moomey (TMWC/Spartan RTC) def. Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP) via forfeit
63 kg: Logan Savvy (NYAC) def. Nick Leonetti (NMU/NTS) 9-0, TF
67 kg: Nate Moore (NCO) def. Morgan Flaharty (NYAC) via fall
72 kg: Eddie Smith (Pickaxe) def. Ryan Wheeler (Colorado Mesa WC) via forfeit
77 kg: Tyler Eischens (CARTC) def. Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP) via forfeit
82 kg: Ty Cunningham (MWC)/Jake Fisher (Curby 3-Style)
87 kg: Austin Craig (All-Navy) def. Sione Halo (GHWC) 10-5
97 kg: Chad Porter (Sunkist)/Guy Patron (Dubuque WC)
130 kg: Kaleb Reeves (Eastern IA WC) def. Malcolm Allen (LOG) 11-8

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