The end-of-year opportunity to justly recognize the United States’ top Greco-Roman athletes has at last arrived.
Not unlike 2020, ’21 was a different, and at times, difficult year for competitors. Although most events of substance were eventually held, many were not. Travel was, and by and large remains, restricted, thus hindering the ability for international wrestlers to engage in the type of workrate that normally comes part and parcel with their careers. But — just as the abbreviated season from a year ago still managed to bear fruit, ’21 offered its own collection of highlights duly deserving of formal acknowledgment.
Five Point Move presents three annual awards to this effect: Athlete of the Year, Outstanding Individual Performance, and Impact Performer. Voting procedures are in place for only the first two, as Impact Performer is based entirely on competitive results gleaned internationally.
ATHLETE OF THE YEAR VOTING PROCEDURES
Qualifying factors responsible for determining Athlete of the Year candidates are as follows:
- Current year’s US Senior World/Olympic Team.
- US Senior National Champion.
- US Senior World/Olympic Trials Champion.
- Minimum of one Senior international medal.
- Junior/U23 World medalist.
The fan vote is tasked with determining the top five candidates by midnight (ET) on January 4. Once voting ends, the 5PM AOTY Voting Committee will then select the winner from the top five as decided by the open fan vote.
If fans would like to vote for an athlete who is unlisted on the ballot below, they can do so by writing in their selections to email@example.com.
2021 5PM AOTY VOTING COMMITTEE
Joe Betterman — Multi-time US National Team; 2007 World Team member; Colorado USA Wrestling Chairman
Rulon Gardner — 2000 Olympic gold medalist; ’01 World Champion; ’04 Olympic bronze medalist
Jim Gruenwald — Two-time US Olympian; three-time World Team; two-time Pan Am Championships gold; head coach, Wheaton College
Dennis Hall — 1995 World Champion; ’96 Olympic silver medalist; ’94 World bronze medalist
Sam Hazewinkel — 2012 Olympian; ’18 World Team ’08 University World Champion; multi-time US National Team
Jim Martinez — 1984 Olympic bronze; ’85 World bronze
Justin Ruiz — 2005 World bronze; multi-time US National Team
Paul Tellgren — Former US National Team member; 5PM Contributor
Joe Uccellini — New York State Greco-Roman/freestyle developmental head coach; founder of Curby 3-Style Wrestling
2021 OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE
Outstanding Individual Performance isolates the efforts of one Greco-Roman athlete at a single event. Candidates are determined according to subjective but relevant contextual parameters.
- Highlighted performance represented a breakthrough or milestone achievement for the athlete or;
- A signature win, either over a foreign or domestic opponent, was included, or;
- Athlete overcame perceived odds or adversity.
- Athlete had to have placed at said event.
- Senior events only.
Outstanding Individual Performance is decided entirely by fan vote. Voting is available from now until 12:00am on January 4.
Sammy Jones: US World Team Trials (9/11/21 — Lincoln, NE)
“Wildman Sam” — consistently one of the highest-scoring lightweights in the country — put it all together in a big way this past September when making his first Senior Team. A University World bronze in ’14 along with having thrice been a Senior National runner-up, Jones entered the ’21 WTT as the presumptive favorite and delivered by tallying 26 offensive points across three matches.
Xavier Johnson: Pan-American Championships (5/27/21 — Guatemala City, GUA)
Wall-to-wall the most dominant effort by a US athlete at an international tournament this calendar year. “X” recorded one competitive decision win in Guatemala, a 7-3 nod over durable Peruvian Nilton Soto Garcia. He blew the doors off of everyone else. En-route to gold, Johnson totaled four wins with three tech’s and a CSPM that positively jumps off the page — 12.6. In other words, Johnson averaged nearly 13 points per bout in Guatemala, which is almost as absurd as the number of throws he executed.
Peyton Omania: US World Team Trials (9/11/21 — Lincoln, NE)
Although ’19 Junior World bronze Omania was anything but anonymous heading into the ’21 Trials, his eventual run to the top in September rocked the sport. Such is what happens when the vanquished were a reigning National champ in Hayden Tuma, a fellow former Junior medalist and Olympian in Jesse Thielke, and the reigning Olympian, Alex Sancho. Omania’s energy, angles, and relentless attacks represented the keys to victory, and also made for exceedingly entertaining theater.
Alex Sancho: US Olympic Team Trials (4/3/21 — Fort Worth, TX)
The 13 months that preceded Sancho’s triumph over domestic rival/teammate/friend Ellis Coleman in the best-of-three Olympic Trials final were indeed turbulent. In March of ’20, Sancho secured 67 kilograms on behalf of the US for the Tokyo Olympics, which he did by advancing to finals of the Pan-Am Qualifier. Then, the year-long postponement; next for Sancho was a major pectoral tear that required surgery. He had only barely begun to have his sea legs back underneath by the time Fort Worth rolled around. Yet he persevered and came up clutch on the grandest domestic stage available.
Jamel Johnson: Pan-American Championships (5/27/21 — Guatemala City, GUA)
If the ’21 Pan-Ams wind up becoming Johnson’s last appearance at an international event, he and his admirers will be able to rest knowing that the effort dripped with determination. Johnson was supposed to win, so his earning of Pan-Ams gold was not a surprise. But in his second match, Johnson’s knee popped, and the situation was serious enough to where thoughts of injury-defaulting entered his mind. He of course decided to plow ahead. Johnson, whilst clearly hobbled, bit down hard and survived for a 7-3 decision over Carlos Peralta (GUA) before just enough offense helped seal the deal in the final at the expense of Gerardo Montes (PER).
Alec Ortiz: US Nationals (5/1/21 — Coralville, IA)
Ortiz’s National title defined “breakthrough”. A constant contender, and one whose ledger is littered with shootout wins and losses, Ortiz’s best domestic moments have unanimously transpired over the second half of his career. A Senior “stop sign” had previously proved elusive despite strong showings, but the wall finally fell down for the popular Stormer in May.
Jesse Porter: US Olympic Team Trials (4/3/21 — Fort Worth, TX)
A redundancy it would be to point out the list of names with which Porter faced off in April, for the 77 bracket at the Olympic Trials was seen by many as the nation’s strongest field. But Porter, a three-time U23 World Teamer, was overlooked entering the tournament as the focus resided on various potentially scintillating match-ups elsewhere. Apparently he did not receive the memo. Porter went through Corey Hope (NYAC), ’18 World Team member RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC), two-time World Team Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm), and — with a nice touch of controversy at the very end — Peyton Walsh. An unforgettable gauntlet.
Braxton Amos: US Olympic Team Trials (4/3/21 — Fort Worth, TX)
Amos was not expected to make a sizable impact at the Olympic Trials. Like Porter, Amos wasn’t even qualified for the event until the week prior. And aside from a solid few matches at the October ’20 Nationals, it was easy to wonder if he would find certain positions and in-match mechanics overwhelming. The opposite was true. Amos took a stun gun to Greco’s American consciousness with his march to the Trial finals by chipping, fighting, and scrambling for offensive chances so many take for granted. The result spoke for itself, as did the Junior bronze later in the summer.
G’Angelo Hancock: World Championships (10/9/21 — Oslo, NOR)
The very moment Hancock defeated Kiril Milov (97 kg, BUL) in the World quarterfinal assured his candidacy for OIP. Oslo for Hancock started with a 5-0 blanking of Ibrahim Tigci (TUR) that, in almost any other tournament, might have wound up a VSU. Milov, silver from three years ago, was to offer a stiffer test — even if Hancock had success against the Bulgarian on the U23 level. The score changed this time, but the outcome did not. Hancock was then seemingly in control in the semifinal opposed by Alex Szoeke (HUN), that is until the officials got involved and the thing went haywire. All of the noise was dismissed in time for the bronze round, where Hancock was on the cusp of dishing out a drubbing to Peter Oehler (GER) before an injury to the latter forced a second period stoppage. The American was going to win, anyway, and the World hardware could not have been more deserved.
Cohlton Schultz: US World Team Trials (9/11/21 — Lincoln, NE)
It would behoove the audience to appreciate, under a clear lens, Schultz advancing to his first Senior World Team. For starters, Lincoln once again put on display the calm, controlling brand of competitive maturity that played a role in Schultz earning three age-group World medals. The matches in September weren’t easy; Brandon Metz (130 kg, Bison WC) and Tanner Farmer (NYAC/IRTC) both insisted on trying to bang it out in the ties without yielding much ground, and Jacob Mitchell (Army/WCAP) took one of the three bouts in their final series. Schultz did cap the affair with an emphatic tech, but the method of victory was just a small pixel in an otherwise large and impressive picture.
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