LAS VEGAS, NV — There certainly hasn’t been a lack of drama on the first day of the 2016 US Nationals/World Team Trials Qualifier. Big throws and big upsets punctuated a morning which saw a legend return, a new potential star emerge, and some of America’s top Greco prospects proving that the hype surrounding them is indeed justified.
Two WCAP teammates have raced to the front of the field, but it wasn’t always easy. Ryan Mango got off on the right foot blitzing through Kyndall Ruiz (NMU-OTS) to make the quarterfinal. There he met up with 1995 World Champion and 1996 Olympic silver medalist Dennis Hall (WGW), who came out of retirement specifically for this event. The 45 year old was successful earlier in the day when he defeated Jordan Auen (NMU-OTS) 13-4. The battle between Mango and Hall began slowly. Both athletes were light in their exchanges while Mango took a 2-0 lead. Hall then executed a four-point throw to jump ahead by two. That would not last.
In the second period, Mango turned it up, collecting points on takedowns and step-outs. Hall didn’t look to be fading so much as caught in between the pace. Mango’s speed disrupted any and all timing and what’s more, he knew it. Mango’s confidence now established, he continued piling it on to the tune of a 12-4 score, sending Hall into the consolation bracket.
Mango’s opponent in the semifinals was no cookie, either. Xavier Johnson had tech’ed Mike Fuenfinnger (Army/WCAP) and 2012 Olympic Trials runner-up Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) in back-to-back contests. Johnson’s performance overall today has been a revelation, which is why Mango’s destruction of him in the semis is all the more impressive. Mango took control right away, scorching Johnson 11-0 to lock down his place in the finals.
Meeting him there will be Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP). Tuma got past Tirso Lara 4-0 in a bout he really didn’t seem to have it all going on. Young Andrew Ibarra (NMU-OTS) was next and this time around Tuma fell into a groove, cruising to a 9-2 win.
His proceeding match looked to be even more compelling. Decorated collegiate and freestyle wrestler Zach Sanders (Minnesota Storm) showed startling poise for a Senior-level newbie. But unfortunately for Sanders, that would be the end of his title run, as Tuma brought forth an aggressive gameplan, essentially stopping Sanders in his tracks via an 11-0 technical fall.
In the semifinals, Tuma was pitted against 2016 Junior World bronze medalist and current Utah Valley redshirt, Taylor LaMont. Nursing a 7-1 lead, Tuma seemed to be well on his way to a berth in the finals. But in the second period, LaMont locked around Tuma while on the feet, which clearly bothered Tuma’s sore ribs. LaMont smartly took advantage of it, spinning around for two and then gutting Tuma over twice to take a criteria 7-7 lead. The situation for the WCAP wrestler appeared very much in doubt.
Following an injury time-out, Tuma found himself again. With 1:20 remaining, Tuma came away with a jarring four-point lift to retake the lead 11-7. LaMont made it a nailbiter once more at the end when he scampered around for two, but time ultimately ran out before he could do anything with it.
24-0. That’s Alex Sancho’s day so far.
Sancho (NYAC-OTS) exhibited the kind of dominance fans hope to see from an athlete of his magnitude. Three consecutive 8-0 technical falls over Northern teammate Travis Rice, Raymond Bunker (Marines) and another NMU wrestler, 2016 Junior World Team member Jamal DeArmond, elevated Sancho into the finals. It’s the guy on the other side of the bracket who had to scratch and claw a little bit.
2012 Olympian Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) was a substantial favorite heading in and for good reason. One of the most dynamic wrestlers in the country, Coleman is not only talented, but battle-hardened. He’d need to be in his second match of the day.
Jayson Ness (Minnesota Storm) like Zach Sanders, comes from a strong college folkstyle background, making his participation in this event both intriguing and questionable. However, after today, no one will be questioning anything Ness does. Coleman might have had the upper-hand when it came down to positioning, but Ness was all about the fight. He aggressively defended against Coleman’s scoring attempts and stayed in it as best he could. At the end, it was a 5-2 win for Coleman but as much of a moral victory as could be allowed for Ness.
In the semifinals, Coleman was back to his old tricks. A takedown followed by a modified salto put him up 6-0 against Jesse Williams (NYAC). Shortly thereafter, Coleman got behind Williams and arched him over for four and a quick 10-0 win, setting up another showdown with Sancho, who has beaten him two straight times (including at last month’s 71 kg Non-Olympic Trials).
Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) has been on it today.
Smith dominated Joshua Russo (Marines) in his opening bout 9-1. He then took it to NMU up-and-comer David Prado 8-0. In both matches, Smith was his typical forceful self though it was even more evident against Prado, as he worked to a 1-0 lead thanks to a passivity point before adding on another via step-out. And then another. And then another plus a caution-and-two on Prado. It was 5-0 and Smith hadn’t even dug in yet. Prado, who is a young, strong athlete, simply had problems with the tempo. The first legitimate attempt by Prado off of a lock led to Smith instantly countering and landing on top for two more points. One last step-out on Prado sealed the deal.
OTC resident athlete Cody Pack (Legends of Gold) was next. Smith would have to work in this one a bit more. Pack did an admirable job defending against Smith’s first gut attempts after a takedown. Another takedown by Smith put the bout at 4-0. A passivity point in front of yet one more Smith takedown, this time from a slide-by, increased the Storm wrestler’s lead to 7-0, which is how the match would end. Smith, in his fourth Open/National final, will be looking for his first win.
The time has started to come for Anthonie Linares (NYAC-OTS) to declare himself as a consistent, viable contender and it could be tonight. Linares cruised past Bradley Dolezal (Minnesota Storm) to kick things off in the quarters. Dolezal got the first point, but it was all downhill after that for the Storm competitor. Linares blasted a four-point toss to jump out ahead. Linares then used a takedown as a transition to nasty front-headlock to widen the gap to 8-1. One last front headlock attempt that saw Dolezal concede the position netted another two for a concise 10-1 Linares victory.
Linares enjoyed a nice tussle with eventual bronze medalist Chase Nelson (Bison WC) in his semifinal bout. This one had all the makings of another Linares windfall. It wouldn’t quite turn out that way. The NYAC representative was up four on a takedown and front-head turn. It was all ho-hum into the latter stages of the second period and then…chaos. Nelson was awarded a passivity point to narrow things up at 4-1. Nelson then followed with a bodylock attempt that Linares turned into a mega hip toss, only to have Nelson roll with him. The sequence yielded Linares four and Nelson two to make it 8-3. This was all with less than a minute left, mind you. A caution and two on Linares gave Nelson two more to make it interesting but ultimately, it wasn’t enough. Linares saunters into his first National final.
In the mood for another Kamal Bey/Jesse Porter match-up? Of course you are!
Porter (NYAC-OTS) earned his spot in the main event by surprising Kendrick Sanders (NYAC-OTS) in an action-packed semifinal bout. The two traded passivity points in the first. As the period wound down, Porter hit a beautiful headlock only to have Sanders roll through. The scoring goes four for Porter, two for Sanders, though it was Sanders who seemingly had the advantage as he worked a gutwrench. Once the effort got close to the edge, Sanders started his roll. As he did, Porter stepped over and collected two. 7-3, Porter.
In the second frame, Sanders got on his horse and attacked Porter, driving him out of the boundary. Porter landed on his stomach, giving Sanders two instead of one to make the score 7-5. With under :30 remaining, Porter was dinged for another passivity, putting Sanders within a point. Time was of the essence, perhaps for both wrestlers, but certainly more so for Sanders. A mere 20 seconds was left on the clock when Porter once again took the initiative. He moved in on a high dive that Sanders appeared to stifle. However, Porter adjusted and continued to power it over for a huge four points. Sanders challenged the sequence and lost, making it a 12-6 hole for himself and a significant upset victory for Porter.
Unlike Porter, Bey was not seriously challenged on his march to the title. His first match saw Caleb Crump (OTC) standing across the circle. This one was over in a mere 34 seconds. Bey unleashed a throw he came up short on, but received two for the hold. Next, he picked up four more off of a lift. And then when the action resumed in the center, Bey stepped in on a sharp duck-under for the match-ending points.
JayShon Wilson (Marines) didn’t fare too much better. A step-out point for Bey drew first blood. Soon after, Bey dumped Wilson straight to his back for four. Another four immediately after closed the book on this one, at just 1:18.
The semis provided Bey with a skilled, tough opponent who had defeated him before in Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm). Ortiz was involved in the “match of the day” with Dillon Cowan (Army/WCAP) earlier, a high-scoring affair that ended 21-14 in favor of Ortiz.
As soon as the whistle blew in this semifinal contest, there was something to prove. Bey quickly dipped in for an arm throw that took Ortiz off his feet, though Ortiz did manage to grab a handle long enough to come out of the scrum with two to Bey’s four.
Bey kept top position and worked another throw that gave him four more points. 7-2, Bey, plus an extra two from a caution on Ortiz to make it actually 9-2. They reset with Bey on par terre top, one of his major strengths and as is his wont, he made the most of the position, lifting Ortiz up and over for four more points. 13-2 and that’s a wrap. Bey will now face Porter in a Junior World Team final rematch with Porter looking to exact some revenge.
The finals will begin tonight at 6pm from the Westgate Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas with streaming available on FloWrestling.
2016 US Greco Roman Nationals/World Team Trials Qualifier
Day 1 Final Pairings
Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) vs Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP)
Alex Sancho (NYAC-OTS) vs Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP)
Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) vs Anthonie Linares (NYAC-OTS)
Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS) vs Kamal Bey (Sunkist)