For some, it was business as usual. But for others, what happened at the University Greco Nationals signified further proof of steps being taken in the right direction. It all took place earlier today at the Louis & Freda Stile Athletic Field House in Akron, Ohio. Run in tandem with the Cadets, the University portion of the event brought out a mix of established stars and hot prospects looking to lock up spots on the age group’s World Team.
At 59 kg, Dalton Roberts (NMU-OTS) started off his day by trucking through both Bill Prochniewski (Patriot Elite) and Jake Bellis (Medlin Trained) on the strength of two dominant tech fall victories. But it was the semifinal bout which would prove to be his stiffest test. Facing off against former Missouri standout Alan Waters, Roberts found himself behind the eight ball deep into the second period. A curious scene soon developed. As time wound down with Roberts in desperation mode, Waters was hit with a caution. And then another. And another. You don’t usually see this kind of thing at a national tournament, but Waters essentially cautioned himself right out. Roberts, to his credit, brought the heat all match long, but that’s kind of his thing. This is how he put it:
“A lot of people would say my semis match was a fluke or is luck. You can’t beat hard work. You push the guy the whole match, he gets three cautions in the last four seconds, that’s not my problem, it’s his.”
Of course, the day didn’t end there for Roberts. He had a little matter to take care of in the name of Trey Andrews (Grit Athletics), last year’s runner-up. What was expected to be a tense best-of-three turned into a coronation for the Michigan native, as he asserted his presence early and often, sweeping the finals in two matches (10-2 tech and 6-3, respectively). The victory also means that Roberts is now on two separate World Teams to cap his 2016 season: He clinched a berth on the Junior squad back in April.
Austin Morrow (NYAC/NMU) didn’t come to Akron just to get some matches in. Instead, he wrestled an aggressive, inspired tournament to take the crown at 66 kg. Other than a criteria win over Jamel Johnson in the semifinal, Morrow didn’t leave a whole lot of doubt on the mat. In his best-of-three final, stablemate Jessy Williams was waiting for him. Williams, a hard-nosed talent who is still developing, just couldn’t match the firepower Morrow had going for him. Two technical superiority wins later gave Morrow the 2016 University Greco Nationals title.
One athlete who keeps showing that he is deserving of a watchful eye is Jesse Porter (NYAC/NMU). Porter is a capable, explosive prospect who needs a launching pad to show what he’s really about. He found one today. Porter had little trouble marching his way to the finals, and just a little more once he got there. The rugged Colin Schubert (NMU-OTS) advanced through the bracket fairly briskly himself but when it came down to it, Porter wasn’t going to be denied, as he downed Schubert in two straight to earn his spot on this year’s World Team at 75 kg.
When you’ve been a Senior World Team member like Patrick Martinez (NYAC), the University Greco Nationals is kinda sorta a tournament you have to win. You don’t necessarily have to look untouchable doing so, but you don’t want to go out there and potentially slip up against lesser-experienced foes. The only thing is, residing in the 85 kg bracket along with Martinez was Hayden Zillmer (Minnesota). Zillmer took third at the 2016 US Olympic Trials and defeated Martinez in the process. Martinez did his part. He blitzed through Brandon Marshall (NMU-OTS), Jordan Newman (Askren Wrestling Academy), and Kevin Radford (Sunkist Kids) to reach the final. Zillmer wasn’t as fortunate – Khymbakhy Johnson (NYAC/NMU) downed Zillmer in an air-tight 3-2 affair in the semifinals. Martinez fought hard for a 2-1 decision in his first match with Johnson, but broke out the big guns in the second, storming to an 8-0 win and a place on a US World Team in consecutive years.
“I really wanted to wrestle Hayden Zillmer, that’s the main reason why I came here, to wrestle him,” Martinez said. “I made my first World Team last year and that was big, wrestling at home in Las Vegas, so I’m excited to wrestle for the US again overseas in Turkey. You know it’s not the Olympics, but my time will come.”
Another wrestler whose time seems to be coming is G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC). Very recently, this was a high schooler with all the promise you hope to see in a Greco athlete. But now, the potential everyone originally noticed has come busting through at the seams. Hancock earned a place on the US National Team when he placed third at the Trials, but he has been positively dominant in the Junior ranks. Because of his star power, he entered the University Greco Nationals as not only a favorite in the 98 kg class, but also as someone who would put on a show. In typical Hancock fashion, he would do just that.
Hancock threw and turned opponents on seeming whims, displaying athletic tools that usually take years to develop. As such, he had little problem running through the bracket where in the final, Orry Elor (NYAC/NMU) stood by. It wouldn’t be a great ending for Elor, who won this tournament last year. Hancock was all over him right away, opening up and piling on points en route to an 8-0 tech. The second match played out similarly to the first. Elor wanted to slow down Hancock and find some mechanism to begin his own offense. But all it takes is a tiny crack for something big to present itself. Hancock charged through an Elor attempt and found his own lock. As they say, the rest is academic. Hancock pinned Elor 36 seconds into the second period. Like Roberts, Hancock will now be on two World Teams this year.
“This tournament for me was ‘be tough'”, explained Hancock. “Because I’m coming up, I’ve got the World Championships in France and now I’ve got another World Championships in Turkey for University, and I think at this point I got to be tough. I’ve got to be mentally strong and realize that no matter what happens, my positioning is what matters most.”
2016 University Greco Nationals Final Results
1st – Dalton Roberts (NMU-OTS)
2nd – Trey Andrews (Grit Athletics)
3rd – Isaiah Varona (NYAC/NMU)
1st – Dmitry Ryabchinskiy (NYAC)
2nd – Sammy Jones (NYAC/NMU)
3rd – Jamel Sharp (Packer Wrestling Academy)
1st – Austin Morrow (NYAC/NMU)
2nd – Jessy Williams (NYAC/NMU)
3rd – Jamel Johnson (Marines)
1st – Alejandro Sancho (NYAC/NMU)
2nd – Anthonie Linares (NYAC/NMU)
3rd – Alex Mossing (Air Force Academy)
1st – Jesse Porter (NYAC/NMU)
2nd – Colin Schubert (NMU-OTS)
3rd – JayShon Wilson (Marines)
1st – Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets)
2nd – Barrett Stanghill (NYAC/NMU)
3rd – Nick Becker (Grizzly Wrestling)
1st – Patrick Martinez (NYAC)
2nd – Khymbakhy Johnson (NYAC/NMU)
3rd – Hayden Zillmer (Minnesota)
1st – G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC)
2nd – Orry Elor (NYAC/NMU)
3rd – Jacob Kasper (Blue Blood Wrestling)
1st – Matt Voss (Patriot Elite)
2nd – Parker Betts (Minnesota)
3rd – Nolan Terrance (Buffalo RTC)