This year’s Presidential election has been an utter nightmare. Not because of the candidates (though certainly there are feelings about that). They are who they are (then again, maybe not). It’s more because of how all of this has divided people. One thing that used to make America special was that whenever things looked bleak, everyone would band together and try to figure out how to fix the problem. That is not the kind of attitude we have seen over the last bunch of months. Instead, there is constant in-fighting between folks, fellow humans going at each other enraged and defending positions they themselves are probably not even all too sure about. It’s ugly.
I get it. There are perspectives and opinions. And the whole “this election may very well decide the future of our country” rhetoric may very well be true. But whatever happens tomorrow, whether the people you voted for won or lost, just make one promise — that from now on, all you will care about, all you will defend and nurture and expose…is Greco Roman wrestling.
From Sweden with love
After two weeks, the contingent of US Greco Roman wrestlers that traveled to Sweden for three competitions and training is heading home tomorrow. Northern Michigan goes over to Sweden and elsewhere every year just about, but this time it was a little different. There was more of a microscope on the results and the trip itself. People were interested simply because there has been a running narrative (especially here) that overseas experience is vital for the US program and so naturally, folks were a little more dialed in as to what was going on. Surely, they couldn’t be disappointed.
It all kicked off at the Klippan Cup, for it was here where Jordan Auen (59 kg, NMU-OTS) and G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC-OTC) set the tone by taking first. Auen specifically was a nice story. Here’s an athlete, somewhat fresh, who battled through a couple of tough matches (including one against early-Greco commit Jordan Martinez) but still managed to run through a tough opponent (Anton Rosen, Klippans BK) in the finals. Jesse Porter (75 kg, NYAC-OTS) only stuck around in Sweden for a few days, but managed to get some matches in at the Klippan Cup and came up with a bronze medal. And for all of the talent this dude has, you love to see that him mixing it up internationally.
Next it was the dual against the Klippans BK club team. If we are going to look at the dual meet as a whole, the US didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard with victories. There were only three to Klippans’ seven. But those three wins were difference-makers. Martinez employed a pressure-filled gameplan and kept finding ways to score. He also stayed on the pedal in the latter stages of the bout, which was important to see because the younger guys usually have a tendency to coast when they have a lead.
Alston Nutter (66 kg, NMU-OTS) actually wrestled pretty well at the Klippan Cup, going 2-2. In the Klippan dual, he locked up with Erik Persson and basically alpha’ed him around the mat. It started with a couple of step-out points, innocently enough. Eventually, Nutter began to find a rhythm with his ties, using his legs to create angles and transitions to set up scoring opportunities. Aside from nearly pinning Persson, the match was Nutter chipping and chipping and before long, he was out in front 8-0, which was the final score.
The third win of the day came from Michael Donato (NMU-OTS). Donato gave up a point early on and then proceeded to go after Liam Kristensson as if there was some personal vendetta to figure out. He was just all over him. Donato even chased Kristensson down to try and snag a bodylock. It looked like he wanted to scream “Stay still, it won’t be as bad if you just stay still!” Pressure fighters are fun to watch in any combative art but in Greco, they are even more pleasing. Keep your eyes on Donato.
The Malarcupen, which took place this past weekend, was the last competition of the tour. Tournament > dual meet > tournament, with training mixed in. 23 US wrestlers entered into the two-day tournament with 15 advancing to the second day. Strong numbers. Cadet Britton Holmes (69 kg, CO) was the story. Holmes is not a Fargo superstar, he’s not on everybody’s list of top prospects, but that’s okay. He didn’t seem real concerned about any of that nonsense when he went out and beat on seven opponents to earn his gold. Just goes to show — it’s easy to get enamored with all of the kids who stomp through the folkstyle-ish Greco Fargo offers, but when it comes down to it, front-head sprawls and spins don’t win matches against foreign opponents. Just ask Holmes.
Hancock impressed through his first couple of bouts as expected, tossing would-be challengers around with nary an issue. He made the final at 98 kilos, but didn’t even get the chance to put his game in gear. Leon Kessidis (Huddinge BK) was able to stop the momentum Hancock usually boasts in abundance and come away with a surprising 13-4 tech. Kessidis isn’t a joke; he’s been a National Team member for Greece and has been active on the Senior level for more than a minute. A loss here is actually a good thing for Hancock. The more international looks he gets at Senior, the better.
Austin Morrow (66 kg, NMU-OTS) probably deserved better. He was lights out on his way to the Malracupen final, dismantling five opponents in a row before being edged in the final 4-2 against Havard Jorgensen (Kolbotn Bryting). Morrow is fast, he has the tools, he likes to lift…there is a lot there. If there was a way to just teleport him to big tournaments to see what he could do, it’s likely the end result would be a fearsome force everyone at 66 in the US would have to think twice about. Hopefully, he gets that chance.
Fellow NMU’er Logan Kass (71 kg) wasn’t there to play around, either. Kass punched out three tech’s and a pin to advance to his final versus Simon Erlandsson (BK Pan), but that is where the fun ended. Erlandsson got going early and Kass couldn’t make up the ground. At the end, it was an 11-0 tech for Erlandsson, but it is nothing for Kass to sulk over. He defeated five guys, all dominantly, and now has some more ammo to add to the arsenal for when he bangs heads with the other monsters in his weight domestically.
Perhaps one of the coolest runs of the Malarcupen belonged to young Cadet Hunter Lewis (50 kg, WI). Fast as lightning, Lewis was all over the mat in his matches. He dropped his first bout of the tournament (the Malarcupen used a pool system), but that was to the eventual champ. From there, he wreaked havoc. Lewis wrestled with authority, going after kids with confidence in his skills and he never let up. A pin and three technical falls meant an overseas bronze from a strong tournament field. An eye-opener.
This is what the US can be capable of when there is support and resources behind the effort. Altogether, eight medalists (three golds, three silvers, and two bronzes) at two events across a couple of different age-groups is as successful as it gets right now. But it’s only a step. The entire experience of being in Sweden, training, and then having the competitions to look forward to is serious preparation for when these athletes are ready to take the next leap up. The US needs more of this, though it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Help is required.
The Bill Farrell/Non-Olympic Trials this weekend
So now it’s finally almost here. The unique, unprecedented Non-Olympic World Team Trials, a trials tournament like no other. Two weight classes, 71 and 80 kg, will be contested with the winner of the best-of-three final moving onto the Worlds in Budapest a little over a month from now. There are a lot of contenders, so don’t be fooled just by the names you know. The fact that it’s an open could mean that a surprise or two might pop up, also. Or it just might be chaos with bodies flying everywhere.
What is also important to note is that the Farrell/NYAC will be the first domestic Senior event under the new rule change. It is going to be interesting to see the pace of matches, as well as how the wrestling evolves when the scores are close late. There aren’t going to be the same amount of breathers and time-wasting stoppages. How are guys going to look? Who is going to be in the best condition? These are the questions that will be answered.
What’s coming up here
- We keep teasing it, but the Jim Gruenwald interview will finally be up this week. Seriously. You bet.
- Complete previews of the NYAC/non-Olympic Trials. One might include a well-known competitor chiming in.
- An all-new Coach Lindland’s Report — Once again, if you have questions, send them in.
- News about a reputable Greco Roman coach getting a nice promotion.