A quick reference guide to the five Greco-Roman best-of-three series at Final X: Rutgers beginning at 12pm ET on Saturday (June 8th) and airing live on FLOWrestling.
Session I (12pm ET)
*US Open Champion who earned bye
87 kg: *Joe Rau (TMWC/Chicago RTC) vs. Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC)
Rau: — 2014 Senior World Team member; 2014 University World Team member; two-time US Open Champion; 2016 Olympic Trials Champion; 2015 Grand Prix Zagreb Open gold
Provisor: — Two-time Olympian; two-time Junior World Team member; 2017 Senior World Team member; three-time US Open Champion; 2017 Pan Am Championships gold
Final X: Rutgers marks the third time that Provisor and Rau are meeting in a Senior World Team Trials final, and the fourth time overall. Rau defeated Provisor in ’14 at both the SR and University WTT; Provisor turned the tables in ’17, sweeping Rau in two matches. Last year, they combined for 24 points in an electric Open final that saw Provisor down six early only to prevail 14-10. At the Nationals in April, Rau edged Provisor in the semis via criteria 1-1.
82 kg: *Kendrick Sanders (NYAC/OTS) vs. John Stefanowicz (Marines)
Sanders: — Two-time US Open Champion; two-time Dave Schultz Memorial gold; two-time Bill Farrell Memorial/NYAC Int’l gold
Stefanowicz: — Two-time Armed Forces Championships gold; two-time World Team Trials runner-up
Sanders has been considered one of the best overall Greco-Roman wrestlers in the United States for nearly a decade and has attained National Team status multiple times to go along with his variety of other domestic successes. As for Stefanowicz, the past two seasons plus have brought with them the biggest strides of his career and include a runner-up performance to Cheney Haight (NYAC) at the ’17 Trials. In the semifinal of the US Open against “STEF”, Sanders’ reverse lift accounted for the brunt of his offense in the 7-3 decision victory.
55 kg: *Max Nowry (Army/WCAP, world no. 12) vs. Brady Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC)
Nowry: — 2012 University World Champion; two-time US Open Champion; two-time Pan American Championships gold; 2012 Olympic Trials runner-up
Koontz: — 2018 Junior World Team member
Although Koontz has exactly one Senior-level tournament under his belt, it was a big one — the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament last month in Raleigh where he went on a tear before eventually downing ’18 U23 World Teamer Dalton Duffield (NYAC/OTS) in two straight. On the flipside is Nowry, long in experience and achievement, and also, activity. After recovering from a pair of hip surgeries, the 29-year-old returned in time to win Armed Forces, the Pan Ams, and the US Nationals.
67 kg: *Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP, world no. 14) vs. Jamel Johnson (Marines)
Coleman: — 2012 Olympian; three-time Senior World Team member; two-time Junior World bronze; five-time US Open Champion
Johnson: — 2012 University World bronze; 2018 Grand Prix of Spain silver; 2018 Haparanda Cup silver; 2019 Dave Schultz Memorial gold
Aside from Rau and Provisor, no two athletes on the card know each other better than Coleman and Johnson, who were teammates and training partners for a semi-brief period with WCAP. Coleman is currently thought to be at or near his apex. He has made the past two Senior World Teams and has competed very well against several high-profile foreigners. Johnson hasn’t been too far behind. Following his departure from WCAP in favor of the All-Marine Team, he has earned a handful of overseas medals and should be riding high due to his stellar run through the bracket in Raleigh. There is a small sample size of recent history for the pairing: at the Armed Forces C’Ships in February, Coleman got on top and gutwrenched Johnson for the tech.
Session II (6pm ET)
77 kg: *Kamal Bey (Sunkist, world no. 5) vs. Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm)
Bey: — 2017 Junior World Champion; 2018 Senior World Team member; 2017 U23 World Team member; three-time US Open Champion; two-time Dave Schultz Memorial gold; two-time Bill Farrell Memorial/NYAC Int’l gold
Smith: — 2014 University World silver; 2017 Senior World Team member; three-time Pan Am Championships gold; 2016 US Open Champion; 2016 Olympic Trials runner-up; 2019 Dave Schultz Memorial gold
In the preview on FLO, the wording to describe Bey/Smith reads “it doesn’t get much better than this for Greco.” The reason why is not just because it is a huge match-up featuring two incredibly talented and dedicated athletes who keep knocking down one achievement after another. It also has to do with their approaches. Although different by design, both Bey and Smith never stop trying to attack, which was evidenced in full when they brought the house down in Vegas six weeks ago. While all of the Final X: Rutgers series have something important to offer, it’s this one right here that has captured the collective imagination of the mainstreamers. The best part is neither wrestler has to do anything (too) differently. All they have to do is be themselves and fans will go home happy.