With the Bill Farrell/NYAC event in November officially being announced as the World Team Trials for the non-Olympic Weight World Championships (set for Hungary in December), a couple of unsurprising names have confirmed their participation — RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) and Patrick Martinez (NYAC).
Perkins, who made the US World Team in 2014 but wound up being suspended from competing due to testing positive for a diuretic, enjoyed a bounce-back year in 2016. After winning the Dave Schultz Memorial in January, Perkins survived a grueling three-match series in the finals of the Olympic Trials against Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm). He then competed at the 1st OG World Qualifier in Mongolia, where he was one win away of nailing down a spot in Rio. At the 2nd OG Qualifier a couple of weeks later, Perkins advanced to the quarterfinals before falling to eventual silver medalist Ruslan Tsarev (KGZ). Overall, the native Nebraskan went 6-4 between the two qualifying tournaments but was unable to secure the 66 kilogram class for the US Greco Roman Olympic Team. The non-Olympic weight World Championships serve as another shot for Perkins to represent the US.
“Not making the Olympics, it kind of crushed me, but the opportunity to make this World Team motivated me. Me winning the World Team Trials in 2014 and not being able to go, me winning the Olympic Trials this year and not being able to go, all that stuff motivated me. And not having to qualify at three different tournaments, I can just go to the World Team Trials and focus on the Worlds.” As such, Perkins has been shoring up parts of his game since coming back from injury ever since he started zeroing in on the non-Olympic Trials.
“The main thing I have to focus on is par terre. I had guys lifting me at 66, so I have to really focus on my par terre at 71. Not that I’ve been hit with big moves in par terre, but I don’t like being lifted and you still get two for a correct throw. I know it’s going to take some time, but it’s mostly what I’ve been doing and I can say my par terre has gotten a lot better.”
Another newfound wrinkle in Perkins’s training has been the addition of a weight lifting routine, which he devoutly adheres to. However, picking up the weights originally began as a rehabilitative effort more so than a training mechanism, though it has helped with his move up in weight. “The only reason I really started lifting more was because I had a fractured spine,” notes Perkins. “I couldn’t be on the mat so I started lifting. I got with the strength training coach and he put together a great program for me and I liked it a lot. Everyday I kept feeling like I was getting stronger. I kept going up in my weight with my squats and it kept getting easier and easier. I fell in love with it so much and that’s when I needed to put a plan together. I’m feeling stronger on the mat and I’m loving the weight room right now.”
In Martinez’s case, it took a recent turn of events to steer him back towards competing at the World Team Trials. Martinez was a World Team member last year at 80 kilos and took fourth at the Olympic Trials at 85 kg. He then made the 2016 University World Team in June and subsequently competed at both the Pytlasinski International and the Spanish Grand Prix. Martinez earned bronze at those events, which saw him enter the UWW rankings for the first time. The University World Championships were supposed to be next on the horizon but unfortunately, USA Wrestling decided to pull the plug on the trip due to security concerns. Martinez was all set to re-focus his efforts on staying at 85 kg, but that changed with the recent news.
“I had been on the fence all summer (regarding the non-Olympic Trials) and the cancellation of the University Worlds solidified my decision to go down to 80 kilos and defend my spot,” says Martinez. “That’s where I feel the best at, 80 kilos, so why not go back down and give it a try against the best in the world who I’ve wrestled against all summer and feel that I’m able to compete at that weight class with them?”
It also bears mentioning that the non-Olympic Trials at the Farrell ignite what is going to likely be an extraordinarily busy stretch for some of the US Senior Greco Roman athletes. The Greco portion of the tournament takes place on Saturday, November 12th. The Golden Grand Prix Final in Baku, Azerbaijan pops up just two weeks later and then the non-Olympic weight Worlds two weeks after that. So for both Perkins and Martinez, that would potentially mean a lot of matches in a relatively short amount of time. But it’s a situation they are indeed interested in.
“I’m excited about those three tournaments being back-to-back,” Martinez affirms. “I like competition. I’m not one of the wrestlers who likes to pick and choose when they wrestle. I want to wrestle as much as I can, that’s how I get better. So I’m excited to wrestle in the Trials, wrestle at the Golden Grand Prix, and then immediately two weeks later or whatever, wrestle at the World Championships in Budapest. That’s an advantage for me, I don’t know about other wrestlers, but I thrive on the competition.” Perkins is equally upbeat about the prospect of getting on the mat so often in a compressed time-frame.
“You know I am into it. I wrestled in the Olympic Trials and then I wrestled in Mongolia and Turkey. I’m all for it. I love fighting for what I love, which is a gold medal. Since the guys who went to the Olympics aren’t allowed to compete at the non-Olympic weight Worlds, I might see those guys at the Golden Grand Prix, so I would love to wrestle at all three events.”