While Patrick Martinez (NYAC) takes a much-deserved break following his second year in a row representing this weight at a World Championships and enjoying a spot in the World Team Trials based on that fact, the rest of the roughnecks at 80 are given the green light to step it up. The biggest names here, like Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP) and Cheney Haight (NYAC) will be welcoming in a few next generation athletes interested in little else but knocking them off, and there is more than one wrestler showing up who has the capability to do that. The best always need a challenge and at 80 kilos that’s not going to be hard to find.
US Nationals Preview – 80 kg
Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP) As everyone surely knows by now, Anderson is a brutal pummeler with an engine that never falters. It’s his gift to the world. There is no such thing as “due” in wrestling, it’s not baseball, though Anderson profiles like an athlete who is. A runner-up at four World Team Trials, he is still looking for that one shot after having come oh-so-close on a couple of occasions. The 2015 Pan Ams Championships gold medalist is also not a kid, but that isn’t necessarily an indication of anything. At 32 years of age, he looked every bit the machine he always is at the 2016 Non-Olympic Trials, where he defeated the man below to reach the finals.
Cheney Haight (NYAC) Haight took fourth in New York, losing first to Anderson 1-1 on criteria in the semis before dropping another criteria decision, this time to Barrett Stanghill in the consolation semifinals. But bless his heart, Haight got back in the game immediately, accompanying Team USA to Baku up a weight at 85 for the Golden Grand Prix. He lost in the first round to Sultan Beybala Ismayilov (AZE) and was done for the day. At the Clubs Cup last week, Haight put in some good work, going 3-3 with one of those losses being to 2015 World Champion Selcuk Cebi (TUR) via a close 3-1 score. Haight turns 32 at the end of the month but like Anderson, pay that no mind for now.
Ryan Hope (Cliff Keen WC) Originally tabbed for the 2016 Greco Nationals at 85 kilograms, his usual weight recently, Hope is flipping the script. He’s going to be a pretty sizable 80 kilo guy at this point in his career if this is where he is going to try and make the World Team. Firmly entrenched up in Michigan with Cliff Keen, Hope brings a patient, technical approach buoyed by an intense readiness for heavy inside clashes. He’s also been active lately. Hope earned a bronze medal at the Vantaa Cup ahead of another strong showing the next week at the Haavisto. Throw in a bronze at last year’s Schultz and it’s easy to see Mr. Hope is starting to hit his stride.
Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm) Fresh off a fourth-place finish at the NYAC, this former NMU beast-in-the-making is now with the Minnesota Storm and that is a great landing spot for him. Stanghill entered into legit Greco training while still in high school, having completed his high school coursework online in order to attend Northern early. He also got a prolonged taste of foreign flavor due to his time in Armenia, where he trained for a few months. As a competitor, Stanghill used to be a little more linear but looks to have ironed some of that out. His gutwrench is nothing to mess with, either. A big strong kid who has progressed nicely, Stanghill is going to be a serious contender going forward.
Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC) Chavez was a brilliant age-group wrestler who amassed four Fargo national titles, including an Outstanding Wrestler award as a Junior in 2013. A Cadet World bronze medal followed. Cornell came calling after high school but really, Greco is the best place to put his considerable talents to proper use. Even as a Cadet, this is a wrestler who understood that positioning matters, and that knowledge has helped him stay afloat against older, more seasoned competition. He also has mini-rivalry with Stanghill; the two went at it at the 2014 Junior Trials with Chavez prevailing 2-1 in that best-of-three. He also defeated Stanghill for third in NYC last month. He could be in the running here.
Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP) Myers was runner-up to Martinez at the 2015 US World Team Trials and earned a bronze in the same event the previous year. In 2016, he took second to Corey Hope (NYAC) at the Schultz. So he’s been close before and a lot of that has to do with the brand of wrestling he brings. Calling a Greco Roman wrestler “physical” is kind of redundant, but Myers is one of those guys who gets heavy on the head, can execute wicked snaps, front headlocks, and provided he has the clearing, big-time throws. There is little doubt Myers will be in the middle of the chaos this weekend as he aims to improve on last year’s eighth-place performance.