When the latest Monday Roundup started making the rounds, it was “unclear” whether or not the US would be sending a roster to Cuba next month for the Granma Cup. A day later, it has been confirmed that indeed they are. In fact, the group of Greco athletes making the trip is actually quite substantial.
Slated to compete for the first time since May of last year is four-time World/2016 Olympic Team member Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC/Chicago RTC). Smith underwent a significant shoulder repair in the fall and was cleared to resume practicing on January 1. This will not be a first-time experience for the soon-to-be 33-year-old. Smith’s first appearance at the Granma Cup came in ’13, where he finished 7th. The next year, he earned bronze behind Cuban living legend Mijain Lopez and ’17 World bronze Yasmani Acosta Fernandez (CHL).
In a unique twist, Smith will be joined in Cuba by ’19 Junior World bronze Peyton Omania (67 kg, CYC/MSU). There is a mentoring tree present between Smith and Omania. Both athletes were reared for Greco competition by Mark Halvorson at the Community Youth Center in Concord, California. Smith is seen as a brother-figure to National Teamer Lucas Sheridan (97 kg, Army/WCAP); and Sheridan takes on that role for Omania. Smith and Omania did appear in the ’18 US Open together, but the Granma Cup represents the first time they will compete in the same international tournament.
Another athlete who has been on the shelf and will be making his season debut in Cuba is Alec Ortiz (77 kg, Minnesota Storm). Known as “The Gunslinger” for his risky, scoring-friendly style, Ortiz endured a severely torn knee prior to the ’18 Dave Schultz (ACL, MCL, and meniscus). He returned to practice in the fall, but was not yet ready to compete, hence his absence from the December Nationals.
Northern Michigan University Greco wrestlers will have their say in the tournament, as well.
’18 Cadet World Team member Dominic Damon (67 kg), one of the country’s best young prospects, is set to enter his second “major” Senior international tournament after participating in Thor Masters last year. Riley Briggs (77 kg) — who like Smith and Omania was coached by Halvorson at CYC — has garnered a lot of valuable experience over the past two seasons and will be looking for some more solid Senior-level looks. Colby Baker (67 kg), Nate Grimes (77 kg), and Trace Schirmers (97 kg) are on similar paths. Baker and Grimes are familiar with foreign events and Schirmers is beginning to develop. All three have logged time overseas and will be called upon to take steps up the national ladder as this quad comes to a close.
Depending on the year, the Granma Cup/Cerro Pelado International is hit or miss in terms of participation. For recency’s sake, the ’18 running of the event was well-attended — but that year, the Granma Cup was part of United World Wrestling’s “Ranking Series”. The winter prior, as well as last year, did not offer the same numbers, with several brackets offering only three or five competitors. However, given the strength of Cuba’s program along with delegations from other stout countries, it also isn’t a tournament anyone takes lightly.
Serving as the coach for the US contingent in Cuba will be ’96 Olympian Derrick Waldroup, who works with several Greco athletes at his RISE academy in Humble, Texas.
2020 Granma Cup
February 11-12 — Havana, Cuba
TEAM USA ROSTER
Colby Baker (NMU)
Dominic Damon (NMU)
Peyton Omania (CYC/MSU)
Riley Briggs (NMU)
Nate Grimes (NMU)
Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm)
Trace Schirmers (NMU)
Robby Smith (NYAC/Chicago RTC)