On Thursday, 2016 Olympian Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC) earned his third career silver at the Pan Am Championships (and his fifth medal overall at the tournament, including a gold in 2015). As a whole, the United States performed very well. Powered by six medalists, the Senior Greco program captured its fifth-consecutive Pan Am Championships team title, edging Cuba by a single point to do so.
But the story surrounding the heavyweight star involved more than just where he stood on the podium. At last year’s Pan Ams, Smith locked horns with Oscar Pino Hinds (CUB) in his first match. Pino Hinds was not an unknown commodity — he had emerged victorious in 2016’s running of the event (Smith sat out) and nine months later scored an impressive bronze at the Golden Grand Prix. And a few months after that, Pino Hinds bullied through his country’s Granma Cup with nary an issue. Of course, it all came to a head at the Paris World Championships this past August, where Pino Hinds wound up taking third.
Their meeting in 2017 saw Pino Hinds get four points on Smith in the opening period thanks to a short double-underhook throw. The American pressured back into the fight and scored a takedown with under a minute left, but ultimately could not make up the difference, dropping the bout 4-2. Smith rebounded with a quick tech of Josue Encarnacion Ovando (DOM) to garner bronze later on in the day.
This time around, Smith powered his way into the 130-kilogram final after destroying Jose Henriquez (ESA) and Luis Barrios (MEX), respectively. For his part, Pino Hinds managed to hand fellow 2017 World bronze (and former countryman) Yasmany Acosta Fernandez (CHI) a lopsided loss in the semis.
As he stated last week, Smith wanted this match-up, or rather, one or both of the bronze-medal-winning duo. He got his wish. Unfortunately for Smith, their meeting a few days ago offered similar circumstances to 2017. Pino Hinds picked up a four-spot early in the bout and added another point via passivity in the second. Although Smith attempted to create more than his fair share of actionable openings throughout, he never once benefitted from a passivity call on the Cuban, thus falling short 5-0 and forced to settle for silver.
Following the tournament’s conclusion on Friday, Smith was kind enough to offer 5PM an assessment of both his performance and that of Team USA’s.
“It went well but the team had a hard time getting through it. We took some hard lumps as a team. Ryan (Mango) wrestled great. Max (Nowry) wrestled great, even though as you said, he was getting hosed a little bit. And by a ‘little bit’, I mean completely screwed. RaVaughn (Perkins) also wrestled great. RaVaughn looked like a beast. Ellis (Coleman) may have been a little tired, same thing with (Mike) Fuenffinger.
“As for my performance, I felt I wrestled well. The competition is never that great (at the Pan Ams) outside of three guys in my weight class. I wrestled well the first two matches. I was very patient, just waiting for my time to strike. In the finals match, the plan was exactly how I wrestled (Adam) Coon in the (US Open) finals — just stay tight, close the space, and keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing. He caught me really quick in the beginning and I thought I fought him really well on my feet. My pummel felt great. I felt strong and I didn’t get tired. What I’m doing is working against these guys, it’s just, you give him a four-point lead and he is going to take advantage. He’s so tall that it’s hard to get to his body and make him wrestle. But then, they kept calling me for my head being down. I felt like I was standing straight up, but it is what it is, and I move on. I am going to keep training and keep getting stronger. I’m just going to keep pushing.
“I’m proud of my team. I’m proud of what we’re doing. These guys are wrestling their asses off. They’re wrestling with heart and determination, and I am just proud of these guys for what’s going on. When all odds are against them and the referees are against them, and everything seems to go south, they keep fighting their asses off and pushing hard. As the Team Captain, it’s amazing to watch, so I am very proud of them and everything they’re doing. I’m just ready to roll onto the Trials and then the Worlds.”
2018 Pan American Championships — Team USA Medalists
55 kg: Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) — silver
63 kg: Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) — gold
72 kg: RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) — gold
82 kg: Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) — silver
87 kg: Ben Provisor (NYAC/NLWC) — bronze
130 kg: Robby Smith (NYAC) — silver