NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Wow.
The finals of the 2018 Bill Farrell Memorial held at the New York Athletic Club was a lot of things, but boring certainly wasn’t one of them.
On a night when seven Americans reached the top of the podium, there were a few who stuck out in particular. Match results are important; they serve as a measuring stick for performance everyone can understand. But even more vital are drama and adrenaline, which is how this tournament will likely be remembered.
And it all started with the man voted the event’s Outstanding Wrestler, Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS). Originally slated to compete at 55 kilograms, Miranda opted to go up to 60 at the last minute in effort to get more mat time. Of course, also at 60 kilos resided NMU teammate and fellow two-time Junior World Team member Dalton Roberts, who had defeated Miranda on four previous occasions entering action on Friday.
Roberts had been successful against Miranda in the past primarily due to his pressure-heavy attack. That approach was there for Roberts throughout the day, and so were the points, as he collected a pair of dominating wins over Mason Hartshorn (NMU/OTS) and Devin Hester (Marines). For what it’s worth, Miranda scored similarly lopsided victories over both wrestlers, as well.
On Friday, the difference lied in the fact that it was Miranda who struck first. He clamped a front headlock on Roberts and rotated the hold for four midway through the first period. Another pair of points followed shortly thereafter. Late in the second and down by three, Roberts had a chance for a lift from par terre but ran into trouble attempting to hoist it up. Roberts had one more shot with time running out and converted on a takedown to cut the deficit to one. Miranda bit down and held his ground defensively, walking away triumphantly in a 6-5 thriller that also represents his biggest domestic victory to date.
Tuma, Bunker, & Sancho
Miranda getting the nod for Outstanding Wrestler was well-deserved and appropriate, considering the mountain he had to summit in Roberts. But just as strong of a case could have been made for Hayden Tuma (63 kg, Army/WCAP), who went unscored upon across his four bouts today.
Competing for the first time in 11 months, Tuma carried three lights-out performances into the finals where he quickly obliterated Hasan Mustafa (EGY). The WCAP combatant assumed command by forcing Mustafa to play back into his tie-ups. Tuma got a look at a front headlock but the Egyptian ambled out before there was anything doing. Eventually, Mustafa was rung up for passive and Tuma quickly pounced on the opportunity. He nailed a lift for four and then another of the straddle variety, and that was effectively that. Egypt wanted a challenge. It was denied. Tuma with a throttling 9-0 tech over a game opponent in what was a wall-to-wall impressive day at the office for him.
They don’t give out awards at these events for “Most Improved”, but if they did, the trophy would go to Raymond Bunker (67 kg, Marines). At the 2016 US Nationals, big-time talent Jessy Williams (NYAC) didn’t struggle all that much throwing a tech on Bunker in the consolation bracket of that tournament. Not that Bunker breezed through Williams this afternoon — far from it — but he did grind his way to one of those wins every athlete likes to notch on their comeup.
Williams actually started to get in a groove position-wise early on but Bunker’s refusal to yield is what turned the tide, specifically when he walked into double-underhooks. He didn’t score from there. However, Williams had to react, which inevitably proved to be a premier catalyst for the initial passivity/par terre of the contest. From top, Bunker patiently locked for a lift and lumbered Williams to the edge for a throw that netted two. Williams wanted to drum up some offense after that, the problem was Bunker just kept employing steady pressure that never ceased to dictate the tempo. Another passive on Williams in the second frame adjusted the score to 4-0 in favor of Bunker, who earned his first Senior international gold with the decision.
In a rematch of the 2016 Non-Olympic Weight World Team Trials final, Alex Sancho (72 kg, NYAC) and Chris Gonzalez (NYAC) delivered a white-knuckle finish that would’ve been the talk of the tournament had the 77 kilogram final not stolen the show. All three of their matches 18 months ago were nail-bitingly close and it was the same way in this affair. One reason why these two match up so well with each other is their stylistic differences. Sancho, the wide-open wrestler who scans for holes to exploit; Gonzalez, the technical brawler who displays excellent balance while coercing his opposition into uncomfortable places.
Gonzalez picked and pecked enough to get rewarded with the first passive, though he came up empty on the proceeding lift attempt. Back on the feet and the script didn’t deviate with both athletes unable to break through with meaningful offense.
Gonzalez owned a 1-0 lead in the second when an arm drag by Sancho led to his first passivity point. One of the most proficient par terre wrestlers in the US, Sancho dug for a side lift only to have Gonzalez bottom out. A follow-up try at a high gut was also defended. Gonzalez, down on criteria, boosted his pace enough for the officials’ liking and a subsequent passivity was called on Sancho with only :14 left to go. It was near bedlam and Sancho, displeased with the call, had no other choice but to go haywire with whatever little time was left. At the whistle, Sancho bounded up for “Flying Squirrel”, causing Gonzalez to scramble out from the center. He then went hot after Gonzalez towards the edge, who stepped out just as time expired. A crazy ending to a very tight, tension-filled match.
Bey & Porter Bring the House Down; Sheridan Returns for a Milestone
Kamal Bey (77 kg, Sunkist) and Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS) don’t know how to disappoint an audience, especially when matched up together. It started on the Junior level, carried over last year, and here we all were again, treated to an offensive explosion, that despite its brevity, left a lasting impact.
They know each other well — maybe too well. Such is the price of a rivalry. 2017 World Champion Bey did what he nearly always does. As soon as the whistle blew, he blitzed in on a high dive. Porter was more than ready for what was coming. There was zero hesitation. Bey made contact at the waist, and Porter instantly weaved inside and bombed a beautiful counter lateral for four. The NYAC gymnasium erupted in a roar. More volume was on its way. Porter tried to keep Bey on his back, lost the position, but kept his lock. He then went for a lift. As he tried to bring it down, Bey scrambled and reversed for two. Porter, not willing to concede, rose and looked to reverse on his own scramble. Bey felt Porter over his back, latched on, and walloped him down for five.
This was all in the first 1:04 of the bout.
But the pace slowed, as it tends to following a chain of such immense action. Bey entered the second period carrying the same 7-4 advantage he built up in the first, so Porter had some work to do. And he knew it. The endgame was not going to arrive by chipping a point here, a point there. He went for it all when Bey broke inside off an exchange. Porter wrapped over Bey’s head and tried to coax him to the floor in a modified cement mixer. Unfortunately for him, Bey was already adjusting on contact, catching Porter on his back. Once Porter bellied down, Bey decided to try and end it — which he did — with a correct throw off the edge. The victory gives Bey his second gold of 2018, along with his second straight Bill Farrell Memorial title.
New weight class, no problem
Since he broke onto the Senior circuit roundabout two and a half years ago, former Junior World Teamer Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) has always been thought of as one of the biggest 85 kilo competitors in the country. Oddly enough, the same can still be said of Sheridan, even though he is now wrestling a full weight class up.
The last time Sheridan was healthy enough to ply his trade was at the 2017 World Team Trials, where he placed fourth. A broken sternum and a long recovery period put him on the shelf for quite a while and even leading up to today he had only trained, seriously trained, for about a week. If you watched what he did today, there’s no way you would have guessed that.
Sheridan headlocked and flattened Phillip Barreiro (CAN) in his first bout, grinded past a very composed and technical Enock Francois (NYAC) in the semis, and then ran right over an unsuspecting Park Jae-woo (KOR) in the finals. It all came about very fast. Sheridan, appearing solid as a rock at 97 kilograms, took advantage of the first passivity to roll two gutwrenches en-route to a 5-0 lead. Park was there to work, he wasn’t going to just mail it in, so he went for a headlock. Sheridan snuffed that right out for two more points and assimilated the position into one more gutwrench to go up 9-0. Korea challenged, and lost, adjusting the final score to 10-0. Sheridan placed third at this event in 2016. His win on Friday makes it both his first Bill Farrell and Senior international gold.
- Williams Baptist College got on the board with its first-ever Senior medalists in Sean Sesnan (55 kg) and Duncan Nelson, who defeated NMU’s Hunter Kelly 15-5 in the 67-kilogram bronze match.
- Joe Rau (87 kg, Minnesota Storm) fell to Mohamed Mustafa (EGY) in the semis but bounced back with a tech over multi-time National Teamer Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP) for third.
- In other Storm news, Barrett Stanghill, back down at 82 kilos, went at it with teammate Rich Carlson for bronze, prevailing 5-1. Stanghill and Carlson also ran up against each other in the best-of-three U23 World Team Trials finals this past October.
- NYAC won the team race with 17 points followed by Egypt (12) and the Marine Corps (9).
- Prior to the finals, Khymba Johnson (87 kg, NYAC) and RaVaughn Perkins (72 kg, NYAC) were announced as the 2018 Jacob Curby Award winners.
2018 Bill Farrell Memorial Final Results
55 kg: Elijah Varona (Garage Boys) def. Sean Sesnan (WBC) 8-0, TF
60 kg: Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS) def. Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) 6-5
67 kg: Raymond Bunker (Marines) def. Jessy Williams (NYAC) 4-0
72 kg: Alex Sancho (NYAC) def. Chris Gonzalez (NYAC) 3-2
77 kg: Kamal Bey (Sunkist) def. Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS) 13-4, TF
82 kg: Alexander Kikiniou (BLR) def. Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) 9-0, TF
87 kg: Mohamed Mustafa (EGY) def. Cheney Haight (NYAC) via fall
97 kg: Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) def. Park Jae-woo (KOR) 10-0, TF
130 kg: Ham Mustafa (EGY) def. Donny Longendyke (Minnesota Storm) 5-1