USA Greco

Haze, Chavez, P-Mart, & Coon Power Through Turbulent 2018 Trials Finals Series

2018 us greco-roman world team trials
Photo: Tony Rotundo

The procedures for the 2018 US Senior Greco-Roman World Team Trials saw the reintroduction of a two-stage process. It is was a format based on providing athletes with an added incentive to compete at the US Open, for winners there received a supposed all-important bye to the best-of-three finals that took place earlier today in Tulsa. A bye to any Trials best-of-three series is to be seen as a hefty advantage for what are already-formidable competitors.

That line of thinking, certainly after today, can now be regarded as “almost half-correct.”

Four US Open champions who enjoyed clear passage to their respective weight-class finals pulled it out, while six other Greco-Roman athletes survived Thursday’s mini tournament in effort to emerge victorious this afternoon. Just as noteworthy, five World Team members from a year ago were unable to repeat, chief among them one of America’s longest-tenured and most successful figures in the sport.

The best-of-three finals matches at the 2018 US Greco-Roman World Team Trials took place on Friday and aired live in on FloWrestling.

Former Junior World medalist Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC), even in absentia, had been considered by many the second-best heavyweight in the US going back several years. Meanwhile, Robby Smith (NYAC) hadn’t taken a loss on domestic soil since the beginning of the previous quad. Throughout his time at the top of the ladder in this country, Smith has only been pressed by American opponents on a couple of occasions. So when Coon — coming off a long Greco hiatus and a grueling collegiate season to boot — entered the Open, the expectations surrounding his chances were tempered, at least around regular Greco-Roman observers. There was never any doubt pertaining to Coon’s potential, but his time away along with the fact he also (for some reason) participates in the other more-popular style of wrestling, did not lend too much credence to the idea that he would be able to slay the biggest dragon once and for all.

Cliché as it might sound, Coon has made some critical adjustments.

When they collided in the Open final just shy of two months ago, Smith — re-energized and more powerful thanks to his weight-training routine — bullied Coon around the mat for most of the six minutes, eventually prevailing 5-0. During the course of that bout, Smith consistently walked right into the taller Coon’s clutches to find double underhooks that he used as a sort of steering wheel.

The 2016 Olympian did not have the same opportunities on Friday. Coon, apparently having learned a valuable lesson, engaged Smith whilst searching for his own tie-ups, a strategy he could not employ in April. In Match 1, the first passive/par terre went in the Wolverine’s direction, though a proceeding turn attempt failed to yield further points. Later in the opening period, Smith clamped around Coon with what looked like a promising bodylock. But just as he went back to arch, Coon wriggled to the side and landed on top for two. Smith did have a shot to turn it all around in the second frame when he was awarded a passivity point. But Coon stayed glued to the surface and survived the rest of the way to hand Smith his first individualdomestic defeat in half a decade.

Match 2, the one that as far as today is concerned will go down in the history books, began with a Smith look at an arm throw that didn’t connect. On the whole, Smith seemed to seize control early on. He was busier inside and forcing Coon to weave back into the pummel. Smith then lassoed around Coon in effort to negotiate a score. He kept the hold, did Smith, and nudged forward on the boundary. But it was Coon who capitalized, as he pivoted inside with an overhook and hipped Smith out for a point. Soon enough, Coon was penalized with a caution-and-two, leading with the head. The restart had Smith continuing to burrow inside and Coon doing his best to remain upright through each mini exchange.

Coon, perhaps remembering what led to his success in Match 1, netted a far-side underhook and clasped around the opposite side to march Smith off the line. The score read 2-2, but Smith still owned criteria. From then on, it was a firefight. There was no question the athletes were beginning to wear. When two large humans are repeatedly ramming into one another with the possibility of achieving World glory at stake, energy stands as a priceless commodity.

Still, they weren’t slowing down, and Smith, unrelenting in his pursuit of a decisive third bout, violently wedged from one tie-up to the next as Coon pried for his own favorable positions. It was a race to the wire. 45 seconds…30 seconds…20 seconds… The crowd, they were starting to whoop and holler but they probably weren’t entirely sure why. Coon lumbered out of an exchange and with :17 remaining, he made his move. He looped an over-under clinch and wrung his fingers together. Smith wanted to stay planted on his base but he was being coerced backwards. Coon — and there was no choice, he absolutely had to make this count — twisted his bodylock and corkscrewed Smith onto his back. The sequence scored four, but that hardly mattered. Smith was flat anyway, and the fall arrived in a concurrent blink.

Virtually immediately following his touchstone performance, Coon was whisked away to the airport so that he could hop on a plane to Pennsylvania for tomorrow night’s freestyle Final X event. As for Smith, the popular four-time World Team member, it is assumed that he will merely go back to the drawing board. In 2017, the 31-year-old all-but-committed to continuing on through the remainder of the quad.

Hazewinkel Outsts Nowry, Jon Jay Silences Doubters

Entering this season, the 55-kilogram weight class was expected to belong to Max Nowry (Army/WCAP), the former Olympic Trials finalist and University World Champion who had spent the four years prior as a gifted-but-undersized participant at 59 kilos. After securing a spot on the National Team last year, Nowry’s candidacy to represent the United States in 2018 seemed as close to a sure thing as it gets. And perception didn’t change when multi-time National Team member Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist) rejoined the fold at the US Open. Hazewinkel, who at 35 years of age is still incredibly quick, tested Nowry in their National final, but the latter still came out on top 10-3.

Hazewinkel got on the board first in Match 1 thanks to an arm throw that yielded a generous four points from the officials. Nowry had landed on his side and clear of danger, but the WCAP coaches chose not to throw the challenge brick. Nowry struck back eventually and knotted the score with a takedown and subsequent lift, but Hazewinkel possessed criteria by virtue of that four-pointer in the opening stanza and waltzed into Match 2 in the driver’s seat.

The arm throw was Hazewinkel’s weapon of choice on Thursday and in both finals matches today = understatement. Hazewinkel jolted a two-point variation early into Match 2 and then uncorked a four-point arm throw along with a step-out soon after to deliver Nowry a 7-0 deficit. He wasn’t finished yet. Just before the break, Hazewinkel sealed up his first-ever Senior World Team spot (can you believe it?) with one more four-point arm throw a minute into the second period.

An argument could be made that RaVaughn Perkins (72 kg, NYAC) was the biggest favorite of the afternoon heading into his best-of-three series opposite Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC/FLWC). Entering action today, Perkins’s 2018 record was 12-1 with nearly all of his victories coming via tech fall. Chavez, a runner-up at the 2017 U23 Trials, was not exactly an afterthought. Between his age-group credentials, longstanding Greco-Roman skill-set, and all-style wrestling ability, he is a force to be reckoned with. All that being said, Chavez dropped down in weight for this tournament, and while he performed brilliantly on Thursday, it wasn’t unreasonable to still anticipate a Perkins triumph here, especially given how dominant he has been recently.

And sure enough, Perkins asserted himself right out of the gate in Match 1, dumping Chavez over with a straight-on bodylock and converting two consecutive trapped-arm gutwrenches to walk away with a brisk tech. This was intended to be the script and it played out similarly to most of Perkins’s bouts this season. But — they wrestle three bouts in these Trials finals, and Chavez saved his best for the back-end pair.

In Match 2, Chavez picked up four in the first period and Perkins benefitted from a caution-and-two in the second to tie it all up, though criteria wasn’t in his favor. The pace picked up in the last minute. Perkins found double underhooks, and he tried to twist into rotation while moving Chavez to the line. To his credit, Chavez never panicked. Instead, he stayed engaged, circled back in, and forced Perkins out for a point. On the heels of a gritty 5-4 Match 2 win, Chavez had all of the sudden seized the momentum.

Not that it was going to come easily in Match 3. How could it, especially with Perkins having a shot from top par terre? But Chavez managed to defend and moved into the break down by only a point. Moments after the second period began, Chavez exhibited some deft athleticism by shooting Perkins over the top with a beautiful hip toss that resulted in a 4-1 lead which expanded to 6-1 when Perkins was banged for a caution for using his leg to fight out from bottom. The proceeding par terre didn’t go anywhere and a restart was in order. So was an uptick in urgency for Perkins, who was intensely pursuing Chavez around the perimeter.

The native Nebraskan scored a takedown off the edge to narrow the gap to 6-3. Another reset, and Perkins once again got on his horse and clambored behind a fleeing Chavez — who was dealt a caution. 6-5 Chavez with under a minute to go. Perkins, now in full-on desperation mode, went right after Chavez and tried getting a handle around the body. Chavez bucked, bit down, and backpedalled as time expired. Perkins asked for a challenge, he and his corner insisted that Chavez had fled. It was all for naught, and Chavez, who would have been seen as a strong contender for the 77-kilogram crown, makes his first Senior World Team an weight class lower.

Martinez Stuns Provisor; Coleman Over Sancho

Before this year, Patrick Martinez (87 kg, NYAC) had already made two Senior World Teams (2015, ’16), quite the accomplishment for an athlete who just started his full-time career in 2014. On the other end of the spectrum is Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC), who along with being a two-time Olympian is as much of a “lifer” as this nation tends to offer. The two had met several times prior to Friday with Martinez always providing a stiff test but unable to break through.

But as they say, the past is the past.

Martinez is likely to remember the third World Team Trials victory of his career as the most satisfying one yet, not just because of who he defeated, but how. Martinez took the first battle in the best-of-three by relying on some opportunistic offense en-route to a surprisingly-wide 6-0 decision. Match 2 brought with it a predictable grind as the wrestlers traded passivity points with Provisor earning his tick in the second frame to tie the series at one apiece.

Provisor, compactly-powerful and a freight train to deal with when he comes forward with a purpose, bull-rushed Martinez off the edge early in Match 3. Often, this type of action has served as a tempo-setter for Provisor. Opponents become weary of his charge as matches go on and Provisor uses that to open up more scoring attempts. Martinez did no such wilting. Provisor sustained heavy pressure in the exchanges, Martinez responded in kind, and this whole thing wound up becoming the fist-fight it was always destined to be. Neither athlete betrayed glaring vulnerabilities leading to the second period that would suggest an offensive explosion was about to commence. It’s just not how bouts between these two are painted.

A minute into the second, Provisor was banged for passivity. Martinez thought about a lift but went to a collapse-gut. Provisor hardly budged. Back on the feet and the brawling continued. Feverish they were, the prospect of a caution enough to motivate both to duke it out in the trenches. Provisor dipped and darted with off-balances but Martinez kept his base and fired off in the pummel. As time wound down, the only question was if Provisor would somehow come up with last-gasp score. He couldn’t. Holding the center, Martinez never stopped answering back and persevered to punch his ticket to Budapest.

Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) and Alex Sancho (NYAC) offered the only rematch from the 2017 Trials finals, although their three bouts today were strikingly different compared to what took place last year. A total of 13 grinding points were scored between Coleman and Sancho in their best-of-three series a year ago. Friday, they combined for 26 — with 20 of them attributed to Coleman.

But it didn’t start off so one-sided in Coleman’s favor. If anything, quite the contrary. Sancho was awarded the first passivity/par terre chance in Match 1 and received two on leg-foul call on Coleman. When they reset from par terre, Sancho gutted Coleman for two more and a whopping 6-0 lead. Coleman inched back into the discussion later on by gaining a passive point and two from a Sancho caution, but he was in a 0-1 hole entering their second bout nonetheless.

Offense and plenty of it followed for Coleman, who ran away with a 9-0 tech in Match 2. Conventional wisdom suggested that a tense struggle was on the menu in the third-and-decisive contest. That has been the pattern. Instead, it was all over quickly, a Sancho headlock attempt the turning point. The NMU alum didn’t have the leverage and Coleman easily brushed off the maneuver to swoop behind and he wasn’t about to let his good fortune go to waste. Next, he expertly snared Sancho’s opposite wrist and notched it across to secure a trapped-arm gut. Coleman then rolled Sancho out in what just might be his most glittering Trials performance to date.

The Rest

— Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) wanted to make two World Teams this season. But after falling to teammate Randon Miranda in the U23 Trials finals three weeks ago, that objective was no longer within reach. However, Roberts had a solid backup plan. As a 2018 Senior National Champion, Roberts had the luxury of waiting out a challenge tournament that saw returning World Team member Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) claw his way into action this afternoon. Hafizov escaped Match 1 with a 4-3 decision only to have Roberts score an impressive tech fall to keep the series alive. In Match 3, Roberts executed a bodylock takedown in the second period to take a 4-1 lead. Hafizov responded with a takedown of his own soon after, but it wasn’t enough. With the win, Roberts confirms his place in a World Championships event for the fourth year in a row — but his first as a Senior.

— 2016 Olympian Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG) was one of Thursday’s “must-watch” competitors and carried the moniker over into this afternoon. In a rematch of their Trials final five years ago (and US Open semifinal from April), Thielke bested 2018 National champ Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) in two straight by scores of 12-6 and 6-4, respectively.

2017 Junior World Champion Kamal Bey (77 kg, Sunkist) wanted to make his first Senior World Team more than exacting a measure of revenge over Mason Manville (Army/WCA), but he’ll take ’em both. Manville did find success in Match 1 by utilizing an effective pressure-heavy approach but Bey came on strong late to steal a 5-3 decision. Match 2 was a complete 180, as Bey turned a 2-0 lead and ballooned it to 6-0 on a high dive off the edge. The Olympic Training Center athlete closed the show with minute left in the opening period thanks to a lightning-fast submarine high-dive that netted four.

For as skilled and athletically-talented as Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) is, it’s hard to believe he will be making his first appearance at a Senior Worlds this year, but here we are. For the 82-kilogram finals series, Speiller met up with Cheney Haight (NYAC), vanquishing the two-time World Teamer 7-2 in Match 1 and 8-0 in Match 2.

— G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist) was given a spirited challenge courtesy of Daniel Miller (Marines). Leading to their finals series this afternoon, Hancock couldn’t have been more dominant, as he racked up three tech wins over Roy Nash (NMU/OTS), Kevin Beazley (Cliff Keen), and Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) respectively. Miller, who is one of the most improved competitors in the US the past two seasons, brought the fight every step of the way. But what makes Hancock so special is that he can score when he needs to. The 2016 Junior World bronze medalist was behind Miller 6-0 in Match 1 when he picked up four on a throw, instantly climbing back into the thick of things. They were knotted at eight deep into the second period when criteria-holding Hancock scored a takedown and step-out to sew up an 11-8 decision. In Match 2, Hancock used a takedown and two-point lift to build the bridge for what became a series-clinching 6-3 victory.

Notes:

  • As mentioned at the top, five of the US National Champions who earned byes to Friday’s finals were defeated (Nowry, Mango, Perkins, Provisor, and Smith).
  • Only two holdovers from the 2017 squad are going to Budapest — Coleman and Hancock.
  • Four of the ten finals required all three bouts to determine a champion — Roberts/Hafizov at 60 kilos, Coleman/Sancho at 67, Chavez/Perkins at 72, and Martinez/Provisor at 87.
  • Of the 24 finals series matches, seven ended via tech fall. There was only one pin (Coon over Smith in Match 2).

2018 US Senior Greco-Roman World Team

55 kg: Sam Hazewinkel
60 kg: Dalton Roberts
63 kg: Jesse Thielke
67 kg: Ellis Coleman
72 kg: Jon Jay Chavez
77 kg: Kamal Bey
82 kg: Geordan Speiller
87 kg: Patrick Martinez
97 kg: G’Angelo Hancock
130 kg: Adam Coon

2018 World Team Trials Finals Series Results

55 kg: Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) vs. Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist)
Match 1: Hazewinkel def. Nowry 4-4 (criteria)
Match 2: Hazewinkel def. Nowry 11-0, TF
Hazewinkel wins series 2-0

60 kg: Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) vs. Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP)
Match 1: Hafizov def. Roberts 4-3
Match 2: Roberts def. Hafizov 10-2, TF
Match 3: Roberts def. Hafizov 4-3
Roberts wins series 2-1

63 kg: Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) vs. Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG)
Match 1: Thielke def. Mango 12-6
Match 2: Thielke def. Mango 6-4
Thielke wins series 2-0

67 kg: Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) vs. Alex Sancho (NYAC)
Match 1: Sancho def. Coleman 6-3
Match 2: Coleman def. Sancho 9-0, TF
Match 3: Coleman def. Sancho 8-0, TF
Coleman wins series 2-1

72 kg: RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) vs. Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC/FLWC)
Match 1: Perkins def. Chavez 8-0, TF
Match 2: Chavez def. Perkins 5-4
Match 3: Chavez def. Perkins 7-5
Chavez wins series 2-1

77 kg: Kamal Bey (Sunkist) vs. Mason Manville (Army/WCAP)
Match 1: Bey def. Manville 5-3
Match 2: Bey def. Manville 10-0, TF
Bey wins series 2-0

82 kg: Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) vs. Cheney Haight (NYAC)
Match 1: Speiller def. Haight 7-2
Match 2: Speiller def. Haight 8-0
Speiller wins series 2-0

87 kg: Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC) vs. Patrick Martinez (NYAC)
Match 1: Martinez def. Provisor 6-0
Match 2: Provisor def. Martinez 1-1 (criteria)
Match 3: Martinez def. Provisor 1-1 (criteria)
Martinez wins series 2-1

97 kg: Daniel Miller (Marines) vs. G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist)
Match 1: Hancock def. Miller 11-8
Match 2: Hancock def. Miller 6-3
Hancock wins series 2-0

130 kg: Robby Smith (NYAC) vs. Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC)
Match 1: Coon def. Smith 3-1
Match 2: Coon def. Smith via fall
Coon wins series 2-0

National Team Matches

55 kg: Dalton Duffield (NMU/OTS) def. Britain Longmire (Team Nevada) 8-0, TF
60 kg: Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS) def. Mike Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP) 10-1, TF
63 kg: Xavier Johnson (Marines) def. Travis Rice (NMU/OTS) 1-1 (criteria)
67 kg: Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP) def. Jamel Johnson (Marines) 6-2
72 kg: Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) def. Eleazar Deluca (Florida Jets) 7-2
82 kg: John Stefanowicz (Marines) def. Jake Fisher (Curby 3-Style) 7-0
87 kg: Kevin Radford (Sunkist) def. Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm) 8-0, TF
97 kg: Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) def. Kevin Beazley (Cliff Keen WC) 9-4
130 kg: David Tate Orndorff (UVRTC) def. Dom Bradley (Sunkist) 6-5

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