Friday afternoon’s best-of-three finals series lineup is now in place featuring a collection of well-known athletes who know how to rise to the occasion. The challenge tournament for the 2018 Senior Greco-Roman World Team Trials unfolded Thursday evening in Tulsa, Oklahoma and aired live in the US on FloWrestling.
2016 Olympian Jesse Thielke (63 kg, NYAC) is once again in position to make a World Team after emerging victorious over an inspired Xavier Johnson (Marines). If successful on Friday, it will seem like history is repeating itself. Thielke is set to do battle with Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) in a rematch of the 2013 Trials finals which saw the Wisconsin native snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But that was five years ago. The last time these two met, Mango ran right past Thielke in the US Open semis. However, the past needs to be compartmentalized for now because Thursday evening, Thielke was dazzling.
In the semifinals, he was able to capitalize on his first and only par terre chance of the bout against U23 World Team member Travis Rice (NYAC/OTS) by nailing three gutwrenches en-route to a 7-2 decision. Johnson held up his end of the bargain on the bottom half of the bracket by putting forth an electrifying performance at the expense of LilShawn Greedy (Army/WCAP). Johnson had his moments with Thielke, including coming close on an arm throw in the first period. But Thielke reversed position, snared a front headlock for two, and then grabbed another point on a step-out. Following a Johnson counter on a Thielke arm-throw attempt that looked good but didn’t score, it all came crashing down. Coming off an exchange, Thielke lasered to the body and dumped Johnson to his back to secure the fall.
The 72-kilogram challenge tournament final featured a showdown between 2017 World Team member Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) and 2013 Cadet World bronze medalist Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC/FLWC), who dropped down a weight class for this event. The customary heavy-pressure approach from Smith made a brief appearance in the opening period but its effectiveness seemed to be missing its usual punch. Chavez eagerly and adeptly navigated Smith’s forward movement by using some nifty movement of his own. A step-out point broke the ice for the Cornell All-American though a whopper of a four-point bodylock is what really changed the complexion of the contest. Up 5-0 in the first, Chavez never looked back the rest of the way. He will now prepare to square off against two-time Trials winner RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC), who is currently enjoying the hottest streak of his career.
American wrestling fans can’t get enough of Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC) these days, which is a good thing since they are about to get even more of the big man. Coon earned his spot in the challenge tournament final by engineering an 8-0 tech fall versus 2016 National Champion Toby Erickson (Army/WCAP), who is in his first tournament back following knee surgery. Standing across from Coon an hour later was U23 Trials runner-up David Tate Orndorff (UVRTC). Orndorff tried getting off on the right foot by pounding out a couple of arm throw attempts and he did his best to bring the fight. Coon is just too large, too agile, and too opportunistic to swing and miss against, and found little difficulty ending this bout early in the first period.
Of course, opposite Coon in the best-of-three heavyweight series on Friday will be 2016 Olympian/four-time World Team member Robby Smith (NYAC). Smith defeated Coon in two straight at the ’16 Olympic Trials and shut him out in April 5-0. Nevertheless, this is a collision course everyone wanted prior to Vegas and just as much this week. And regardless of what happens tomorrow, Coon will remain a busy man, as he is also scheduled to appear in the Final X event on Saturday in Pennsylvania.
Four Shots at Repeating
The aforementioned Smith was one of five holdovers from last year’s US World Team still in need of a challenge tournament win. Unfortunately for the Minnesotan, he is also the only one who didn’t advance.
— 2008 Olympian Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) carried a 1-0 lead into the second period versus teammate and National runner-up Mike Fuenffinger before he created a much-more cushiony 3-0 advantage thanks to a double-underhook slide-by. A subsequent two-point lift from Hafizov later in the frame proved too much of a mountain for Fuenffinger to summit, allowing Hafizov to earn his third-straight best-of-three finals appearance. Tomorrow, the WCAP wrestler will meet National Champion Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS).
— One of the most impressive performances in the challenge tourney finals came courtesy of Mason Manville (Army/WCAP). Following his 1-1 showing at the Paris Worlds last August, Manville was only able to get himself into one event, February’s Thor Masters Invitational where he went 0-2. He was forced to skip everything before and after that leading up to the Trials. Maybe the time away did him some good, because Manville has yet to be scored on in Tulsa. He grinded past Brandon Mueller (505 WC) 5-0 in the quarters, blitzed Cody Pack (NYAC/LOG) via 9-0 tech in the semis, and then he really turned it on against Open runner-up Peyton Walsh (Marines) to cap off his day at the office.
Doing business with Walsh, Manville enjoyed an early 1-0 lead when he spiraled a headlock for four. He kept coming. Walsh, one of the most gifted newcomers in the country, divvied around in the tie-ups scanning for ways to angle into scoring opportunities, but Manville stayed ready. Shortly before the break, Manville clamped down on a front headlock and spun behind to widen the gap to 7-0. Soon into the second it was all over. Manville darted inside, locked around Walsh’s body, and hoisted up a booming bodylock correct throw to seal it all up. On Friday, the 77-kilogram winner-take-all series will be a rematch of 2017’s, as reigning Junior World Champion Kamal Bey (Sunkist) awaits. Last year, Manville stuck with a game plan that called for heavy use of a two-on-one as well as aggressive in-fighting to down Bey in consecutive matches.
— While he’s still here, he might as well try to make some more Teams: Cheney Haight (82 kg, NYAC) stared down a 3-0 deficit to the always-tough John Stefanowicz (Marines) before he employed a measure of quick thinking to turn the tide. After receiving a passivity point in the second, Haight used his par terre chance to lock up a reverse lift. He began to cinch his hold– and then he hopped over — but instead of hosting it up, Haight simply pressured into Stefanowicz for a quick turn. Next, he kept the lock and rolled over for another pair, eventually triumphing 5-3. Haight and Stefanowicz also ran into each other in the Vegas Trials finals a year ago.
The superbly-talented Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) is next for the 33-year-old. Recent history says this will be an uphill battle. Speiller defeated Haight both in the 2015 Nationals and the 2016 Olympic Trials mini tournament. Incidentally, both of those bouts were at 75 kilograms, though weight/size will likely not be a factor for tomorrow.
— G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist) is on the doorstep of his second-consecutive Senior World Team after what started out as a contentious engagement with Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP). Sheridan opened the proceedings by coming really close on an arm throw, but Hancock deftly reversed and covered for two. That was it for the first period, Sheridan was hanging in there with the heavy favorite. The combatants pummeled tactically throughout the beginning stages of the second when Sheridan gave up step-out point he tried to avoid by tip-toeing at the edge. After a reset, Hancock scored on a go-behind. Another restart, and Hancock snapped and ambled backside for two more. With under a minute to go, the 20-year-old wrapped it all up with a big four-point lift. Marine Captain Daniel Miller will greet Hancock on Friday afternoon and it is one series that’s bound to set off fireworks.
Haze, Sancho, & The “Lone Wolf”
Sam Hazewinkel (55 kg, Sunkist) continued his head-turning return to competition on Thursday night by showing off the kind of speed and instincts that have defined his career. Facing off with 2018 U23 World Team member Dalton Duffield (NMU/OTS), Hazewinkel, in short order, unfurled a whistling correct-throw-arm-throw, a short bodylock, another arm throw — a restart — and then yes, one more sleek arm throw. When the dust settled, the former University World champ and multi-time National Teamer had accumulated 12 points in blitzing fashion, good for a first-period tech win over an undeniably talented opponent.
Waiting to be released from his cage Friday afternoon is fellow University World Champion Max Nowry (Army/WCAP). Hazewinkel dealt Nowry a pair of losses earlier in their careers but things were different in Vegas. Nowry, just now entering his prime, prevailed in their National final 10-3. For as sharp as Nowry has been all season, along with how deadly Hazewinkel has shown he can still be, the 55-kilogram series should make for some very compelling theater.
Alex Sancho (NYAC) and Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP) delivered a singularly entertaining, physical, and intriguing clash. They rammed into one another more than once, with Sancho in one instance requiring blood time to clean him up prior to continuing. Their styles didn’t mesh well, but for some reason, the match-up still worked. Tuma — who looked terrific back up at his original Senior weight — was nursing a 1-0 advantage into the second. He had been able to neutralize Sancho’s openness by plugging forward and going to occasional off-balances. Sancho would be heard from with time becoming a factor. From par terre, Sancho executed a cascading straddle gut for four, re-lifted for another two. and wound up the winner 7-2.
You know the deal by now. 2012 Olympian Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) fell to Sancho in the third-place/National Team match at the 2016 Olympic Trials and again in the semis of the non-Olympic World Team Trials seven months later. Coleman then scored a controversial victory over Sancho in the US Nationals before gritting and grinding his way to a 2-1 series win last April. There is no other rivalry currently available that has the potential to offer the tension, drama, and adrenaline this one does.
Patrick “Lone Wolf” Martinez (87 kg, NYAC) had a bye to the semis where an ever-improving Rich Carlson (Minnesota Storm) offered a tough effort, only to have Martinez open up in major way later on as he trounced to an 11-1 tech right before the buzzer. His dance partner in the final, 2016 National Champion Kevin Radford (Sunkist) was not as much of a stranger. Martinez defeated Radford in the fifth-place bout in Vegas last year, and while familiarity often plays a role in these bouts, there was something altogether different going on this time around. Martinez has emphasized offense this season, which along with a minor injury, is why he hasn’t competed as much as usual. The homework seems to be paying dividends. A caution-and-two on Radford represented the only non-offensive points scored for the Olympic Training Center athlete. Up 4-0 in the second, Martinez piled on with an extra-point step-out and a counter attack to the body that yielded four.
Looming in the shadows for P-Mart is none other than two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC). Provisor has taken the previous two matches against Martinez, including in the semifinals of the ’17 Vegas Trials. There are technical variables in play for 2018. Martinez’s insistence on trying to create more scoring opportunities, which is the result of desire as much as it is necessity given the rule-set, has allowed him to set the tempo at an increasingly higher pace. The bullish, bruising Provisor is in a similar boat. For years, Provisor could rely on his considerable horsepower and break guys down over the course of a bout. That method of operation is seemingly out of the picture now. Provisor came back from six-points down against Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) in the US Open because he knew he had to go on the attack. Should both of these athletes compete with the same degree of ferocity and urgency we’ve been seeing lately, everyone watching either at home or in the arena will get their money’s worth.
2018 Senior Greco-Roman World Team Trials
Friday, June 22nd
10:00am-12:00pm — Consolations
12:00pm-12:45pm — Best-of-three World Team Trials finals (Round 1)
12:45pm–2:00pm — Best-of-three World Team Trials finals (Round 2)
12:45pm-2:00pm — Third-place/National Team matches
2:00pm-2:30pm — Best-of-three World Team Trials finals (Round 3)
CHALLENGE TOURNAMENT FINAL RESULTS
55 kg: Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist) def. Dalton Duffield (NMU/OTS) 12-1, TF
60 kg: Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) def. Mike Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP) 5-0
63 kg: Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG) def. Xavier Johnson (Marines) via fall
67 kg: Alex Sancho (NYAC) def. Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP)
72 kg: Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC/FLWC) def. Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) 5-0
77 kg: Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) def. Peyton Walsh (Marines) 10-0, TF
82 kg: Cheney Haight (NYAC) def. John Stefanowicz (Marines) 5-3
87 kg: Patrick Martinez (NYAC) def. Kevin Radford (Sunkist) 11-0, TF
97 kg: G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist) def. Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) 11-0, TF
130 kg: Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC) def. David Tate Orndorff (UVRTC) 8-0, TF
2018 US Senior Greco-Roman World Team Trials Finals
*Returning World Team member
55 kg; Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) vs. Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist)
60 kg: Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) vs. *Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP)
63 kg: Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) vs. Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG)
67 kg: *Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) vs. Alex Sancho (NYAC)
72 kg: RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) vs. Jon Jay Chavez (FLWC)
77 kg: Kamal Bey (Sunkist) vs. *Mason Manville (Army/WCAP)
82 kg: Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) vs. *Cheney Haight (NYAC)
87 kg: *Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC) vs. Patrick Martinez (NYAC)
97 kg: Daniel Miller (Marines) vs. *G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist)
130 kg: *Robby Smith (NYAC) vs. Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC)