With a few days of distance to breathe out, the United States now begins to move away from its just-completed Senior Greco-Roman World Team Trials and instead shift towards the actual preparation for the 2018 World Championships, set for October 25th-28th in Budapest, Hungary. The first part of that process is right around the corner, as all of the newly-minted World Team members are expected to converge on Eagle Creek, Oregon for a conditioning/team unity camp early next month.
One of the themes being brought up following the conclusion of Friday’s finals was “turnover”, primarily because only two World Teamers from 2017 (Ellis Coleman, 67 kg and G’Angelo Hancock, 97 kg) managed to repeat. While it’s true that half the squad is comprised of first-time Senior World Team members, it certainly isn’t a group full of mere neophytes.
- 55 kg — Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist) — A National Team member throughout the scope of his entire Senior career prior to (temporarily) stepping away. Hazewinkel also boasts a 2007 Open title as well as a gold medal from the University World Championships (2008).
- 60 kg — Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) — Two Junior World Teams (2015, ’16), was a U23 World Team member last year, and has earned numerous international medals since becoming a Senior, including a gold in Russia last December and a bronze from Cuba’s Granma Cup two months later.
- 72 kg — Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC/FLWC) — A Cadet World bronze medalist (2013) and two-time Junior World Team member (2014, ’15).
- 77 kg — Kamal Bey (Sunkist) — Reigning Junior World Champion. Moving on…
- 82 kg — Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) — Two Junior World Championship appearances (2012, ’13) and one University (2013).
- 130 kg — Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC) — Coon did win a World title as a Cadet some years ago in the other style, but he also participated in Greco and competed well as a Junior, earning a bronze at the 2014 event in Croatia.
The relative “freshness” of the above six pairs nicely with the experienced four athletes below.
- 63 kg — Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG) — Counting the Olympics and his multiple years on the Junior level that yielded a bronze (2012), 2018 marks Thielke’s seventh overall World Team selection.
- 67 kg — Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) — Two Junior World bronze medals, an Olympian in 2012, and just sewed up his third Senior World Team spot on Friday.
- 87 kg — Patrick Martinez (NYAC) — Come October, Martinez will be competing at his third Senior World Championships in four seasons.
- 97 kg — G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist) — Junior World bronze medalist in 2016, and with Coleman, one of the two holdovers from last year’s Senior squad.
In total, six of the eight returning World team members did not repeat, leading some to imply that their exclusion could be construed as sort of negative. While it is surely a negative for the athletes who are unable to make it two World Teams in a row, it is not for the US program. A good National program features highly-competitive weight classes. Depth is not just a weight class offering a lot of competitors. Instead, it is a weight class offering at least a handful of athletes who are capable of taking over the top spot. That’s what we saw on Friday.
Five & Five
Five obvious and undercover impressive performances from the Senior Trials.
5 Obvious Athletes
- Roberts might have had a bye to the finals, but defeating both a returning World Teamer and one of, if not the most technically polished and experienced athlete in the country has to count for something. Roberts fell to Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) in Match 1, came back with a big tech in Match 2, and sealed up Match 3 with a 4-3 decision.
- He likes Hungary: when Thielke made his first Senior Team in 2013, the World Championships were held in Budapest. Five years later, Thielke is headed back to the “Pearl of the Danube” after defeating Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) in two straight — the same wrestler Thielke had to get past in the finals of the 2013 Trials.
- Bey’s sweep of Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) in the 77-kilogram final was noteworthy for three reasons: 1) It was one of only two finals rematches from last year (Coleman/Alex Sancho was the other); 2) Bey flipped the script and won; 3) He ended the second match, a tech, with a lightning-quick, innovative duck-to-dump-off no one has really ever seen before. Except maybe from him.
- Chavez, who lost to Bey in the semifinals of the Open at 77 kilos, is the only athlete to have moved down in weight for the Trials and emerge victorious. Somehow, some way, Chavez was able to translate all of his movement and positioning without looking depleted. Before Chavez ever had the opportunity to face RaVaughn Perkins (72 kg, NYAC) in the best-of-three, he downed 2017 World Teamer Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm). His positioning and pace were masterful against both Smith and Perkins, and Chavez eagerly chased down scoring opportunities each step of the way. Weight-cutting has become more and more discouraged, especially with the new weigh-in-procedures, but Chavez figured out how to do it right.
- Before Eric Fader (130 kg, Marines) did it in 2017, Coon was the last domestic opponent to score offensive points against Robby Smith (NYAC), which happened at the 2016 Olympic Trials. A lot has been made of the Coon/Smith result from Friday, but Coon’s effort on Thursday deserves mentioning, too. In the challenge tournament, he picked up a pin and two techs. If you count those matches and combine them with the two against Smith plus the two Coon participated in at the freestyle event on Saturday, the Michigan native had seven high-level bouts in three days. Not normal.
5 Undercover Athletes
- Prior to the best-of-three finals, Manville went untouched through the challenge tournament, blanking Brandon Mueller (505 WC), Cody Pack (NYAC/LOG), and Open runner-up Peyton Walsh (Marines) by a combined score of 23-0 with two of this victories coming via tech. Manville, who began his scholastic career at Penn State following the Paris Worlds, only competed in one other event this season, which was Thor Masters in February where he went 0-2.
- William Baptist College 55’er Sean Sesnan went 1-2 in Tulsa, but that lone victory was a jolting 7-7 criteria win over US Senior Open semifinalist/U23 Trials runner-up Jabari Moody (NYAC). Moody blew Sesnan away in Akron earlier this month but Sesnan wouldn’t be denied Friday morning and poured it on through the second period to come away with the biggest win of his young career.
- Terrance Zaleski (Marines) was not expected to present too many problems for the 82-kilogram field but he showed a lot of intensity in his game that was previously obscured. He opened with a victory over Jake Fisher (Curby 3-Style), fell to eventual mini tourney champ Cheney Haight (NYAC), and turned back stout prospect Carter Nielsen (NMU/OTS) before Fisher got him back in the third-place bout.
- Fellow Marine Xavier Johnson (63 kg) avenged a couple of recent losses that represented his strongest domestic showing to date. Seeded seventh (inexplicably), Johnson had to get past Sammy Jones (NYAC/OTS) in the quarters — which he did in a hectic 15-14 victory that was one of Thursday’s best matches. After Thielke blitzed him in the consolation bracket, Johnson edged U23 World Teamer Travis Rice (NMU/OTS) 1-1. If you recall, Rice overcame two six-point deficits to defeat Johnson in the U23 Trial finals three weeks ago.
- 2016 National Champion Kevin Radford (Sunkist) was on fire Thursday before Martinez put a halt to all of that in the mini tournament final. But Radford regrouped and then some on Friday with a big win over Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm) to make his first US National Team.
- The average age of the 2018 US Senior Greco-Roman World Team in October will be exactly 25-years-old — a full year younger than the average age of 2017’s WT members. This in spite of “cool old guy” Hazewinkel’s presence on the Team.
- Speiller earned a National title at 174 lbs before he finished up at the University of Central Florida two years ago. The collegiate sanctioning body for which he did so? The NCWA.
- One of the nation’s most successful full-time Senior programs in history, Minnesota Storm, does not have a World Team member for the first time since 2007.
- Athletes representing Northern Michigan’s Olympic Training Site in Marquette accounted for one champ (Roberts) and four total National Teamers — Dalton Duffield (55 kg), Roberts, Randon Miranda (60 kg), and Jesse Porter (77 kg).
Spenser Mango Q&A
Army/WCAP assistant Spenser Mango, who is also serving as one of the 2018 Senior World Team’s co-head coaches along with Zac Dominguez, took time out on Saturday morning to give his appraisal of the Trials tournament and explain what he sees as his primary role.
5PM: The tournament in and of itself, what did you like about the event, the action?
Spenser Mango: I think a lot of guys were going out there trying to score points. They were really trying to open up and put points on the board, and that’s what it is going to take to try and come back with a World medal.
5PM: One of the prevailing themes when you were selected as the World Team coach was how you’re not far removed from competition and would be able to relate to the athletes. So when you get a glance at the roster as it is currently constituted, do you have anything in your mind already when it comes to training plans, communication, and things of that nature?
Mango: I was actually really excited. It’s my first time being a coach at the World level and so it’s the chance to share insights and all of the little things I’ve learned over the years, especially when it comes to the smaller guys. I’ve competed against every single one of the first three weight classes. Now I’m on the other side and it’s a chance to help as much as I can to prepare these guys to be successful at the Worlds. I have match experience against a lot of the guys in their weight classes and I’m just looking to help in any way I can.
5PM: Does that make a significant difference at this level? We talk about lightweight and upper-weight athletes, lightweight coaches and upper-weight coaches. Is it that much of an x-factor?
Mango: I feel like it is. Some of the techniques and things at the lighter weights really don’t work at the heavier weights, and vice-versa, some of the things that work at the heavier weights don’t work for the light guys. I think it’s great to have coaches who have wrestled around those weight classes and know the different techniques that could be successful for an athlete in a particular weight class.
5PM: We spoke to Sam Hazewinkel. He said he wants you to definitely be in his corner and that he’s really looking forward to you being one of his coaches considering how many years you two go back. He also intimated that he thinks you owe him because there had been occasions where he helped you cut weight overseas. Response?
Mango: (Laughs) Yeah, you know, I’m excited to work with Sam. We were in the room for years together, working out and competing against each other. Now I can kind of sit back and work with him and try to help him with some of the stuff that I feel he can improve on, and also, hopefully take some of the stuff he does really well and make it a little bit better. I think it’s going to be a really good situation. After years and years of competing, we really got to know each other.
WRESTLERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Your (somewhat) weekly dose of inspiring words, knuckleheaded antics, or thought-provoking questions from your favorite US Greco-Roman athletes and coaches.
NMU’s first Senior World Team member since 2010.
Hard to believe 2018 is his first, but here we are.
All praise to God. I do not know if God intervenes in who wins what ;but I do know God gave me my abilities and gives me confidence that win or loose he holds me in his hands.
— Sam Hazewinkel (@SamTheHaze) June 22, 2018
A lot in common, except, you know…overall length.
Second gauntlet in a row.
I ain’t ask no one for nothing! I took the harder way!
— G’angelo Hancock (@OlympicKidd) June 23, 2018
How the National Team coach kicked back after Friday’s festivities wrapped up.
Opinion from the Mediterranean.
Observation #2: Greco WTT atmosphere was electric. The kids from the junior duals were lined up for Bey and the Coon/Smith showdown. This and the fact that all the finals were full of high scoring attacks. Conclusion: Big Win for Greco. Build off of this
— Curby3StyleWrestling (@joe_uccellini) June 23, 2018