Alex Sancho (66 kg, NYAC-OTS) has been looking for that catalyst, that spark to propel him to the level he feels he belongs on. Especially with the country’s World Team Trials beginning to enter into the frame.
Sancho won the 66 kg gold medal today at the 2017 Grand Prix Zagreb Open in Zagreb, Croatia. In his final and throughout the entire scope of his three matches, Sancho maintained both stark poise and a calculated yet aggressive method of attack.
Standing across from him in the final was Mihai Mihut (ROU), a similarly young but experienced competitor who employed a mid-paced game that played right into the American’s hands. It was incumbent upon Sancho to dictate the tempo in the center. Mihut wanted to lace ties off of Sancho’s angles, prying inside on occasion. It was a feeling-out process, but there was no posturing — Sancho fixed his footwork so he could get to where he is most comfortable, seizing underhooks or taking deep overhooks and lasering his hips into the pocket. A passivity point came Sancho’s way early on, allowing for just a moment’s breathing room for him to wait for an opening that might mean something.
That came just a short time later. Sancho collected an overhook and instantly turned it into a vice, locking around Mihut with a devastating front headlock. Sancho brought his hips underneath and pulled it over through his arch for four points. The momentum was all his, the sequence giving him a 5-0 lead that became 5-2 heading into the conclusive period.
The second frame was going to be a matter of influence more so than merely control. Mihut had ground to make up, but whenever he ebbed his way into advantageous ties, Sancho beat him back with hustle in the exchanges. When he’s at his best, Sancho can be physical without sacrificing technical mechanics, keeping his stance and minding where he is on the mat. That did not mean he stopped working; despite a passivity point to Mihut in the latter stages of the bout, Sancho appeared every bit as eager enough to add onto his lead without exposing vulnerabilities. With the score at 5-3, the American chipped inside and pivoted off into varying angles without disengaging. Mihut didn’t wield much in the desperation department Sancho couldn’t handle. The match soon came to an end and Alex Sancho had earned the first overseas gold medal of his career.
Earlier in the day, Sancho blitzed Jurica Grbincek (CRO) via an 8-0 technical fall to set the stage for an important win he could build off of. Dusting it up with Mate Nemes (SRB) in the semifinals, Sancho found an opponent with the kind of skills, pedigree, and seasoning that aligned with his own. Nemes had begun to make a name for himself last year at the U23 European Championships, where he snagged a bronze. He also took home a medal from this very tournament, as well. The Serbian held a 1-0 lead when Sancho threw him from below for a dramatic four-pointer. Nemes knotted the score later on in the bout, but Sancho owned criteria based off of his throw, giving him the bout along with a memorable victory that launched him into the finals.
We will have a complete recap of the US performances at the 2017 Grand Prix Zagreb Open later, so stay tuned!
Alex Sancho (NYAC-OTS) — 66 kg, first place — 2017 Grand Prix Zagreb Open
WIN Jurica Grbincek (CRO) 8-0, TF
WIN Mate Nemes (SRB) 4-4 (criteria)
WIN Mihai Mihut (ROU) 5-3