The 2017 Pan-Am Greco-Roman Championships in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil held earlier today represented an important competition for Team USA. For one thing, a number of the Americans are also 2017 World Team members — which means how they finished here would have a direct linkage to where they (might) appear in their respective brackets at the World Championships. Secondly, right now it’s imperative for the program to add on medals whenever and wherever possible. Considering the recent success the US has had at the Pan Ams over the last few years, it seemed like those objectives were in reach. And sure enough, they were.
Following a chaotic first attempt at getting the tournament in on Friday, Team USA finally hit the mats early Saturday morning with eight athletes still alive. However, one of the country’s best young talents, Kamal Bey (75 kg, Sunkist, world no. 18), actually did not compete, defaulting out to Carlos Adames Palmer (DOM). Yesterday, Hayden Tuma (66 kg, Army/WCAP) lost his first and only bout to Honduran Gorge Nick Gonzalez Batis 8-0. That left it up to the remaining six to try for medals in what was an overall successful mission.
Two-time Olympian and 2017 World Team member Ben Provisor (NYAC) got started in the 85 kilogram bracket with a domineering 11-0 technical fall win against Jose Moreno Bustos (CHI). This was a case of a relentless Provisor who is healthy and motivated. He was overpowering. After taking a 1-0 lead on a step-out, Provisor widened the margin to 3-0 when he locked up a front-headlock on Bustos and then snapped it up, as if to give up on the hold. His strength was so great that the upward momentum caused Bustos to lose his balance and fall to the mat, where Provisor quickly collected two. It would be that story throughout; Provisor dictating the action with a brutal pummel game and Bustos having no choice but to stay on his heels. A takedown and gut combo led to a 5-0 advantage before two step-outs. The end arrived in the second period. Provisor swooped in on Bustos and violently tossed him at the edge for four to make it 11-0.
It was a similar tale for Provisor in the semifinals versus Carlos Munoz Jaramillo (COL). After jumping up 2-0 early in the first, Provisor was awarded two points via caution on Jaramillo for grabbing the fingers. In the second, Provisor used a left side underhook on Jaramillo and bulldozed him down and out for two more and 6-0 cushion. A takedown with a little over two minutes remaining sealed the deal, sending the American onto the finals.
The 85 kilo finals was the outlier of the day for Provisor. Facing off with the tall, lean Daniel Hechavarria (CUB), this was to be a bout predicated upon grinding inside work and few meaningful offensive chances. Despite Provisor appearing to control the tempo in the early stages of the match, it was Hechavarria who received the first passivity point. Shortly thereafter, Provisor got around on the Cuban for two points, and that would wind up being the clincher. Hechavarria picked up another point in the second frame but Provisor held the criteria, thus winning the 2017 Pan-Am Greco-Roman Championships, his first such title.
Smith with three
Fans interested in seeing how Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) would do in his first tournament since clinching the World Team spot at 71 kilograms got what they wanted. Smith was aggressive and sharp in picking up his third Pan Ams gold, winning both of his bouts via technical fall. Smith began in the semifinals on the top part of the bracket and met up with Fernando Vincente Gomez (MEX) in what has become a typical performance for the Storm wrestler. A forced step-out and a takedown made it 3-0 to crack this one open. Smith would follow up before the break with another step-out point to increase the gap to 4-0. You could see where this was going — Smith was finding underhooks nearly at will and summoning positions he is altogether too strong in for him to stumble. The second period saw two more Smith takedowns for an 8-0 tech, moving him to the finals.
Against Luis Alfre De Leon (DOM), it was more of the same and it didn’t last too long. Once again, Smith brought heavy pressure, working his tie-ups and prodding apart inside for openings. Up 1-0, Smith got behind De Leon, planting him belly-first to the mat. From there, it was virtually academic. Smith clasped around for a gutwrench and took it over three times for a 9-0 tech to secure the victory.
Cheney Haight too tough to stop
One of the things that makes two-time World Team member Cheney Haight (80 kg, NYAC) such a special Greco-Roman wrestler is that he can win any kind of battle you want to throw him in. Give him a tense, close, physical test of wills, and he’ll stay poised long enough for you to make a mistake. If you want to try and bring the heat or even worse, merely lean in on him, then these affairs can have a habit of being over very quickly. On this day, Haight subscribed to the latter methodology to conduct business.
Like Patrick Smith, Haight kicked off his day in the semifinals. Standing across was Enrique Cuero Ortiz (ECU). He wouldn’t be around for more than a couple of minutes. Once the feeling-out process was over (and a slip on an arm throw), Haight locked around Ortiz and twisted him down to his back for four. It was almost over. Ortiz rolled to his stomach while Haight maintained his lock around the body. He knew what to do with it. Haight then proceeded to gut Ortiz over twice for four points and a quick, convincing 8-0 tech. The 80 kg final was next.
Johan Batista (DOM) didn’t fare any better. At 32, Haight is still the owner of one of the best arm throws in the sport and he has passed the stage where he even requires a series of setups to snag one most of the time. Batista leaned, exposed his arm, and in a flash there it was, a 4-0 lead for Haight. With a little over two minutes left, Haight got over-unders on Batista, driving him straight to his back for two more. Gathering a trap-arm gutwrench, Haight found no trouble turning Batista over for the match-ending points. The win gives Haight his second-consecutive Pan-American Greco-Roman Championship.
Hancock comes close, takes bronze
Newly-minted 2017 US Senior World Team member and 2016 Junior World bronze medalist G’Angelo Hancock (98 kg, NYAC, world no. 18) was not given any cookies in this tournament. His quarterfinal match placed him with Kevin Mejia Castillo (HON), a decorated athlete who also happened to own two straight wins over the 19-year-old star. Consider that mini-streak a thing of the past. The difference in Hancock from last winter to now is evident every time he saunters into the circle, as Castillo would soon find out. Right away, the youngster decided where and how the action would unfold and neatly swapped angles on his tie-ups to stay in position. It was just a matter of time before an opportunity would present itself and when it did, Hancock pounced with a bodylock takedown at the boundary to jump out ahead 3-0. Two additional points thanks to another Hancock takedown bolstered the lead to 5-0. There was no more scoring after this, the second period a series of in-fighting Hancock was in charge of every step of the way.
The 98 kilogram semifinals could have served as the main event. Hancock was pitted against 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalist Yasmany Lugo Cabrera (CUB, world no. 2) and if successful here it would have meant two wins over Olympic medalists inside of seven months. Unfortunately for the US, it didn’t turn out that way.
Hancock gave up an early takedown to Cabrera to fall behind 2-0. However, Cabrera would soon be penalized for a caution and two to knot the score, though he still held criteria. Later in the first period the Cuban received a passivity point and it was a lead on points he would not relinquish.
The dagger perhaps came on an offensive attempt by Hancock. Knowing he was going to have to put up points, he walked into one of his signature bodylocks, his back to the edge. You could feel it coming, you’ve seen this too many times now. But instead, Cabrera adjusted once his feet were off the ground and landed on top of Hancock, picking up a pair of points and stretching his tally to 5-2. A passivity point went to Hancock towards the end but that was as close as he would get, ushering him off to the bronze medal round.
Rebounding in style is always important, particularly at marquee overseas events and that’s what Hancock (and the man below) did here. When there is a medal on the line, the stakes are raised even further. To clinch his bronze, Hancock got going in a hurry and Thomas Barreiro (CAN) didn’t have time to get situated. A 1-0 passivity knock provided the initial cut, though the wound grew exponentially larger from there. It was a takedown for two; then Hancock locked around and lifted up a whopping reverse lift for five; and that was it. A big-time 8-0 tech and a Pan Ams bronze put a cap on an all-around strong day for Hancock.
Robby being Robby
Just as Hancock was forced to, 2017 World Team member and 2016 Olympian Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC, world no. 20) was called upon to bounce back. The odd thing, of course, is that Smith actually had his first match yesterday and was stuck having to keep his gameface on. Naturally, that wasn’t a problem for him. Smith was pulled back into the tournament and the medal round when his Friday opponent Oscar Pino Hinds (CUB) advanced to the finals. In the bronze medal match, Smith delivered and then some. Versus Josue Encarnacion Ovando (DOM), he got to work immediately and busied himself in the ties. A warning rang in on Ovando, but that wouldn’t wind up playing a role in this contest. Smith wrapped up a front headlock and arched it over for four. He held onto the lock and rolled it over twice more for the quick tech. Smith had taken silver twice previously at this event along with a gold in 2015. This is his first bronze at the Championships (he bronzed at the 2015 Pan-Am Games).
Ryan Mango’s day ends in frustration
There is little doubt, if any, that Ryan Mango (59 kg, Army/WCAP) is one of the premier Greco-Roman athletes in the country. A precious few can do what he does and the only problem with that is, unfortunately, he doesn’t do it enough. It was a back-and-forth first match for Mango against Andres Montano Arroyo (ECU) that witnessed a two-point arm throw by Montano and then a Mango takedown. Mango gave up a step-out point and then another to fall behind 3-2 at the end of the first. Another pair of points went to Montano via Mango step-outs in the closing period, although a late Mango takedown narrowed things to 6-4, but time was out before he could mount a comeback.
This put Mango into the repechage bracket and he brought fort a vintage performance, the kind of showing that puts all of his skill and power on full display. A 1-0 lead quickly turned into a 5-0 advantage when Mango tossed Cristobal Torres Nunez (CHI). He then bodylocked Nunez for a huge four to secure the win in the second period.
It was Dicther Toro Castaneda (COL) for bronze and eventually, what was likely a frustrating defeat for the WCAP competitor. A Mango takedown looked like it was going to carry some positive momentum to start it off. But a subsequent lift attempt by Mango that resulted in a two-point exposure call for Castaneda put a halt to the pleasant feelings. Mango found himself down in par terre next where he gave up a four-pointer to fall behind 6-2. He’d cut into that lead and make it 6-4 and then juice Castaneda to his back for four to temporarily go out in front 8-6. A Castaneda takedown led to a turn and the momentum had by now had completely swung the other way. The end result was a 10-8 loss for Mango, who misses out on a Pan-Ams medal.
- It was another good day to be a US Senior Greco-Roman athlete — Team USA won the 2017 Pan Am Championships followed by Cuba in second and Brazil in third.
- Team USA recorded nine technical fall victories on the day with Patrick Smith and Haight responsible for four of them.
- Provisor was the only US champion to have three matches.
- The country’s five medals today pushes the total overseas count for 2017 up to 15 with six golds, one silver, and eight bronze.
- The event began at 7am local time in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil to accommodate the women’s freestyle tournament, which was also scheduled for today.
- Bey’s forfeit was reportedly the result of an illness.
2017 Pan-Am Greco-Roman Championships USA Results
59 kg — Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP), 5th
LOSS Andres Montano Arroyo 6-4
WON Cristobal Torres Nunez (CHI) 8-0, TF
LOSS Dicther Toro Castaneda (COL) 10-8
66 kg — Hayden Tuma (Army/WCAP), dnp
LOSS Gorge Nick Gonzalez Batis (HON) 8-0, TF
71 kg — Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm), 1st
WON Fernando Vincente Gomez (MEX) 8-0, TF
WON Luis Alfre De Leon (DOM) 8-0, TF
75 kg — Kamal Bey (Sunkist), dnp
INJ. DEFAULT Carlos Alberto Adames Palmer (DOM)
80 kg — Cheney Haight (NYAC), 1st
WON Enrique Javier Cuero Ortiz (ECU) 8-0, TF
WON Johan Antonio Batista (DOM) 8-0, TF
85 kg — Ben Provisor (NYAC), 1st
WON Jose Antonio Moreno Bustos (CHI) 11-0, TF
WON Carlos Andres Munoz Jaramillo (COL) 8-0, TF
WON Daniel Gregorich Hechavarria (CUB) 2-2 (criteria)
98 kg — G’Angelo Hancock (NYAC), 3rd
WON Kevin Mejia Castillo (HON) 5-0
LOSS Yasmany Lugo Cabrera (CUB) 5-3
WON Thomas R Barreiro (CAN) 8-0, TF
130 kg — Robby Smith (NYAC), 3rd
LOSS Oscar Pino Hinds (CUB) 4-2
WON Josue Encarnacion Ovando (DOM) 9-0, TF