Two of the weight classes on display this weekend at the Bill Farrell Memorial International Open offer some interesting possibilities. At 59 kilograms, it is going to be up to the younger guys to show that they can pick up the slack following a couple of major departures (Spenser Mango and Jermaine Hodge). But that’s a good thing. Fresh blood means more blood. We like blood in this sport a little, literally and figuratively.
98 kilos is a different story. Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) took the 2016 Olympic Team Trials by defeating the one guy (Caylor Williams, Army/WCAP) who had dominated the weight comfortably for a few years. In fact, that journey started at this very event a year ago. G’Angelo Hancock has emerged as the hot name everyone is talking about but outside of he and Rau, there isn’t a lot of conversation regarding this weight otherwise. That needs to change.
Note: The complete list of entrants for the Bill Farrell/NYAC Open is not yet available. This page will be updated to reflect notable changes, so check back. Scroll to bottom for previews of other weight classes.
59 kg – The NYAC Open was once a showcase for the country’s lightest weights. America’s next generation looks poised to continue that tradition.
Sammy Jones (NYAC-OTS) There is little doubt that Jones has the physical tools to become a constant force at this weight. He’s compact without being squat; he’s strong without being rigid. Jones has also amassed a credible, lengthy competitive resume during his time at Northern. Another thing that he should be acknowledged for is that he can be ferocious. There aren’t a a lot of guys out there who can pounce on an opening like Jones does. Now that a couple of the division’s elite guys have moved on, a tournament like this could be a start for him as one of the nation’s most consistent medal threats.
Justin LaValle (Minnesota Storm) It seems like it was just yesterday when LaValle was battling it out with Jimmy Chase in that special wrestle-off. But wow, here we are, seven years later. College wrestling has come and gone. It’s a blur. Life changes, that whole thing. One thing that hasn’t though is that LaValle has wins inside of him that have yet to be properly extracted. You keep waiting for the breakthrough performance if for no other reason there are times this guy looks positively dynamite. More recently, he was forced into the Last Chance Qualifier for the Olympic Trials, but he made the most of it, defeating Junior World medalist Taylor LaMont. Still just 25 years old, there is good stuff here. But it’s time to see that stuff on a regular basis.
Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) As a two-time National Team member, Mango doesn’t need all the talk about walking in his brother’s shadow. It’s natural to wonder about, but it is also downplaying the very-real ability Mango has to offer on his own. He can zip levels, displays knockout power in all of his lifts, and can be difficult for any 59’er to keep up with. The only thing this athlete needs is continued immersion in the sport. We’ve already seen he has star potential and with the Golden Grand Prix right around the corner, who knows if this begins another legendary run for the family name?
Dalton Roberts (NMU-OTS) Two-time Junior World Team member Roberts is still a touch undersized at this weight, specifically at the Senior level. But he needs events like this in the absolute worst way. Roberts is always moving forward and the difference in his game now compared to a couple of years ago is striking. He seems to gain more confidence every time out and he’ll need it here with a deep field of older, bigger, and more experienced opponents staring him in the face. Roberts could use another year or so before Senior fits right, but that journey starts right here.
Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP) Tuma has been on a couple of Junior World teams but is another one who is looking to really make a mark on the Senior stage. He’s down a weight class for this event — intriguing. Tuma is a powerfully-built wrestler but he is also a bit short for 66, and height matters more in Greco than it did for him in folkstyle, which could be the motivation behind the weight change. Either way, you know you are getting a fight out of Tuma every time out and this new development may mean he has found something that works for him. It’s nice to see he’s competing.
98 kg – Depth is going to be a constant theme for this weight in the US. Anyone here going to fill in the gaps?
Orry Elor (NYAC-OTS) There’s no question about it, Elor is the kind of wrestler who at any moment, can turn the corner and have it all come together for him. It’s not hard to see why, is it? He was a bruiser as an age-group competitor and has had a moment or two since he has been with the older crowd. Elor is a plodder on the feet a little bit and that wouldn’t be such a problem if he was more proactive with his ties. He has the strength, he has enough experience. Is there something that has been holding him back? Get the shackles off this kid.
G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC) Trace back Hancock’s year since April and it is almost staggering. Third at the Trials; Junior World Team Trials champ; Junior Greco World Duals champ; University Nationals champ; Junior World bronze medal; Klippan Cup champ; and second at the Malarcupen this past weekend. Throw in training with the Olympic Team throughout the summer and what you have here is an athlete who is constantly on the rise doing all the right things. Everyone else in this bracket knows it, too.
Zach Merrill (Titan Mercury) This is where he belongs. Merrill could compete with the big boys at heavy, but he lacked the oomph necessary to do so successfully. He’d get his locks on occasion, sure. But he was giving up enough size to where it hurt him in exchanges that otherwise, should have went his way. Merrill just missed out on bronze last year at this tournament, but that shouldn’t be the case on Saturday. You’ll like this guy. Merrill dictates a pace and is hungry for contact. If this winds up being a good spot for him, he could eventually be considered a viable contender.
Daniel Miller (Marines) Miller dropped a close 2-0 decision to Cenk Ildem (TUR, world no. 4) at the Germany Grand Prix back in July and the shame of that is it was a bout not widely seen. Because Miller, who like Elor, has a solid amount of potential but also hasn’t climbed into the spotlight, is made for this weight class. Few 98 kilo guys present as looming of a presence so now, it is all about allowing this athlete the training and competitive chances to see what he is made of. 98 badly needs depth domestically and if Miller can answer that call, all the better.
Hayden Zillmer (Minnesota Storm) LaValle and Zillmer both made the Olympic Trials coming out of the same tournament, but it was Zillmer who got further, surprising 2015 World Team member Patrick Martinez (NYAC) to pick up bronze and a spot on the National Team. But that was at 85 kg. 98 is a bit of a different world. The good news for Zillmer is that he is an all-around wrestler who adapts and adjusts to positions so quickly, it is difficult to get him set in one place long enough to score. And he’s also as opportunistic as it gets. Zillmer will be in the medal hunt this weekend.