Knock another one off the list for “The Bad Guy” of US Greco Roman wrestling.
On Sunday, Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) continued his momentum from the 2017 Schultz Memorial and carried it to another gold, this time at the Granma Cup in Havana, Cuba. Speiller put some work in to acquire this gold medal, though not as much work as usual. That’s because he enjoyed an automatic bye to the 80 kilogram final, where he met up with Cuban prospect Antonio Duran. Speiller, 23, rocketed off to a fast start before eventually holding on for a 7-6 victory.
The win on Sunday marks the fourth consecutive for Speiller and he has two tournament titles to show for it. That the Granma Cup gold only required one contest to nail down doesn’t make any difference to him. “I was excited,” Speiller says. “Only one match and it’s the finals? I like that.” What is more important than the hardware he flew home with is that it is all coming together for him at the right time. After taking second to two-time World medalist Andy Bisek (Minnesota Storm) at the Olympic Trials last April, Speiller went on to win his third University National championship in early-June. Following that event, he began what became an eight-month hiatus. The time away gave Speiller the chance to assess what it is he’s running towards.
“I have to say, going through adversity both on and off the mat and the daily struggles of a normal human being and how to go about it is going to make you wiser and more perseverant,” explains Speiller. “Having that time off made me want to win even more, just reflecting back on where I came from and where I want to be. I definitely think having that time away validates my performances and results. It works for some people and it doesn’t for others. For me, it has made my driving force that much more driven.”
It’s a tough point to argue with. Speiller has never had any trouble generating a response from the crowd. Regularly referred to as one of the most exciting Greco-Roman wrestlers in the country and yet, one of the most polarizing, he was back to his old tricks at the Schultz, chasing down throws and lowering his level to dart in on attacks to the body. The tournament in Colorado Springs was his first time back on the mat and after bumping off former World Team Trials finalist Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP) via technical fall, Speiller fought past two foreign opponents — Shoei Yabiku of Japan and Mahmoud Sebie (EGY), with the latter having competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
His foray into Cuba for the Granma Cup was a solo adventure, but a required one given that time is of the essence, what with April’s World Team Trials hovering in the foreground. It was only one bout, but from the sound of things, the action unfolded in classic Speiller fashion.
“The match began and he pushed me out,” Speiller begins casually. “I guess they tried calling me for fleeing the mat or two for a takedown he didn’t get. It was 2-0 and then I lateral dropped him to his back, working for the pin, and I decided that I didn’t want him to get pinned so easily.” The decision to not continue pushing for the fall could have proven costly had it not been for Speiller’s uncanny ability to scramble.
“As he was on his back, I tried lifting him up like Hayden Tuma did to (Ryan) Mango but unfortunately, he countered,” Speiller continues. “My lock was loose and as I was lifting him up from off of his back and going for the throw off the back arch he almost countered it. We got into a scramble and I ended up coming out through the back of his legs and getting a trapped-arm gut after the flurry scoring two from there. They went to the video review and it was 5-3 after that. My coach wanted me to throw the block, I said, No, I’m winning. They started the match again. I hit a slide-by, a shuck, and take him down again and it was 7-3 going into the second period.”
We go to the second period, I attempt a duck-under and as I was going towards his hips he got a takedown on me, it’s 7-5 now. There is about a minute left in the period. I got a passivity call against me, 7-6, and from there just lots of pummeling and that was all she wrote.”
With the win secured, Speiller can now set his sights on making the Senior World Team, which would be his first. The 75 kilogram class he will be competing in is full of top-level talent. 2014 US National champ and two-time Schultz gold medalist Kendrick Sanders (NYAC-OTS), 2016 Junior World Team member and National champ Kamal Bey (Sunkist), and 2016 University National champ Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS) are all set to throw down in what is likely to be the most watched weight of the tournament.
The challenges ahead are not lost on Speiller, but his confidence is understandably riding high. It’s not just the wins, although they have something to do with it. More than anything, his outlook is the result of a culmination of his experiences. The successes, the failures, the personal struggles, and the triumphant return to what he is most passionate about. The way Speiller sees it, he’s on a mission and anyone standing in his way would do well to recognize that.
“I feel like I am on an undefeated streak right now and I want to keep that going. I am more than back, I’m better than ever. Anyone who approaches me on the mat should be fearful because I’m a human weapon right now and there’s something special going on with me. I’m going to ride this train as long as I can and keep doing exactly what I’ve been doing.”
Whatever he is doing has been working so far. Say what you want but sometimes, the bad guy knows best.