The US Seniors who participated in this weekend’s Jouri Lavrikov Memorial in St. Petersburg, Russia may not have felt like they had a point to prove, but after coming away with seven medalists including three champs, a statement was made nonetheless.
Patrick Martinez (85 kg, NYAC) earned the first international title of his career while both Dalton Roberts (59 kg, NYAC/OTS) and G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist) managed to come back strong on the heels of their U23 Worlds performances by clinching tournament victories. A returning Corey Hope (75 kg, NYAC) battled his way to a silver and two Marines — Peyton Walsh (80 kg) and Eric Fader (130 kg) — each checked in with bronze medals to help the US right the ship ahead of another talent-laden overseas event next week.
Martinez opened up his competitive season three weeks ago with a win in the US/Belarus dual meet and has been training in Europe ever since. The extra time overseas delivered the desired effect. On Saturday, Martinez picked up three wins to advance to Sunday morning’s final which resulted in a hard-fought decision win. The 27-year-old is happy to grab himself more hardware, but for now, his focus is directed more towards tacking on competition following what was a longer break than usual.
“Getting these matches in has satisfied my long overdue appetite for competition,” Martinez said afterwards.” I hadn’t competed since the World Team Trials, I’ve been in the laboratory honing my technique all summer and hitting the weight room hard. So it’s gratifying to see that time pay off in competition.”
Despite being approximately 4,300 miles away from their homebase in Marquette, Michigan, Roberts and Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS) still found themselves on a collision course. Both athletes picked up a pair of wins on Saturday, which meant that yet another showdown between the two was on the docket for yesterday. Similar to how things went down in early-October at the U23 Trials, it was Roberts who emerged with his hand raised once more. For Miranda, the silver represented his third-straight finals appearance this fall.
20-year-old Hancock has had to deal with questions lately pertaining to his new weight class after making the jump up to heavyweight earlier this fall. After a 1-1 showing in Poland two weeks ago, he began searching for answers. Hancock, like Martinez and several other Americans, stayed in Europe to get extra matches in as he continues to assimilate into the heavier weight class, and if his performance at the Lavrikov Memorial is indicative of anything, it’s that he is beginning to figure it out. Hancock won both of his bouts on Saturday to advance to the finals yesterday, where he came through with his first overseas tournament win at heavyweight.
Prior to this weekend, the last time Hope competed was in the third place/National Team match at the 2016 Olympic Trials. Injury then became a factor and a pronounced layoff temporarily derailed his momentum. After a lot of rehab along with grueling strengthening sessions to work himself back into shape, it was originally thought he would be returning in time for the Dave Schultz a month ago. That wound up not being the case. Instead, Hope’s comeback trail began in St. Petersburg on Saturday and resulted in an encouraging silver medal that he is looking to build on now that’s he active again.
“I’m not completely happy or at all content with how I performed this weekend,” said Hope. “Did I wrestle well and take second in an overseas tournament in Russia, in my first tournament back in almost a year and eight months? Yes, and that’s something to be proud of. But for me, it’s right back to focusing on what I can improve upon and adjusting the things I didn’t like about my wrestling even in the matches I did win.”
Walsh, a former NCAA qualifier during his collegiate career at Navy, went 3-2 over the weekend to sew up his bronze. One sequence in particular caught US Greco-Roman Operations Manager Gary Mayabb’s attention. Down by a point to a Russian opponent late in the second period on Saturday, Walsh improvised on an attack, hitting a duck-under that resembled a high-crotch in folk/freestyle. Of course, Walsh didn’t touch the legs, but rather, turned it into a go-behind that provided him with the match-winning takedown.
“That says a lot about how our guys can fight,” Mayabb offered. “Here’s a wrestler essentially saying, No, I’m not going to lose to you by a point just because you’re now refusing to engage. It was almost like a high-crotch, or a super-duck, or whatever you want to call it, and Walsh took the initiative to create points because that’s what he had to do.”
Right there with Walsh was Fader, the massive young upstart who spent a good portion of his 2016-17 tacking on meaningful experience at several international camps and tournaments. In order to secure his spot for medal contention on Sunday, Fader executed a dynamic lift on his Russian counterpart that not only yielded the scoring he needed, but also made a mighty impression on Mayabb.
“I wish you could have seen this,” Mayabb said. “Eric was working so hard and when he got the position, everyone was chanting Lift! Lift! Lift! He got his lock and really worked to get him up, and it was a big score for him. I was happy to see that.”
Most of the US Greco-Roman Seniors who competed at the Jour Lavrikov Memorial will now be heading to Finland for this coming weekend’s Arvo Haavisto Cup. The complete roster and other pertinent event information regarding that event will be available in the Monday Roundup later today.
2017 Jouri Lavrikov Memorial, St. Petersburg, Russia
TEAM USA RESULTS (records included next to placing)
Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) — gold, 3-0
Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS) — silver, 2-1
Patrick Ramirez (NMU/OTS) — dnp, 1-1
Colton Rasche (Marines) — dnp, 0-1
Ray Bunker (Marines) — 5th, 2-2
Logan Kass (NMU/OTS) — dnp, 0-1
Corey Hope (NYAC) — silver, 3-1
Colby Baker (NMU/OTS) — dnp, 0-1
Corey Fitzgerald (NMU/OTS) — dnp, 0-2
Peyton Walsh (Marines) — bronze, 3-2
Carter Nielsen (NMU/OTS) — dnp, 0-2
Terrance Zaleski (Marines) — dnp, 1-1
Patrick Martinez (NYAC) — gold, 3-0
George Sikes (NMU/OTS) — 5th, 2-2
Daniel Miller (Marines) — dnp, 0-1
G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist) — gold, 3-0
Eric Fader (Marines) — bronze, 2-1