The funny thing about youth is that it tends to come with a lack of preconceptions, at least when we’re talking about sports. How many times have you watched the playoffs in either football or baseball and one of the announcers on TV says something like, “They’re young enough not to know better, which is what makes them so dangerous!” There is some truth to that. Youth doesn’t care how many Olympics you’ve been to or how many highlight videos your throws have been featured on. No, youth wants to conquer, now, and in spectacular fashion.
That’s what we’re starting to see at these three weight classes. 75, 80, and 85 kilograms aren’t stocked with a cavalcade of veterans anyway, but there are enough established presences here who should probably watch their backs in 2017 because as we probably all have learned by now, nothing is guaranteed.
US Greco Roman Wrestlers To Watch in 2017 — 75 kg-85 kg
75 kg — While everyone adjusts to what a Bisek-less future indeed looks like, a group of beasts are salivating in the background at the opportunity to carry the flag in one of the world’s deepest weight classes.
The manner in which Kamal Bey (Sunkist Kids) stomped through the Nationals last month is tough to forget about. Chances are, several wrestlers are having trouble removing it from their memories, as well. While we still haven’t been treated to a Bey/Kendrick Sanders (NYAC-OTS) showdown, right now there is enough competition at this weight to keep things interesting for everyone else involved. Plus, there is a wildcard here that people might be overlooking.
Alec Ortiz (Minnesota Storm) Dating back to the Bill Farrell in November, Ortiz’s last four losses have been to Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP), Storm teammate Patrick Smith, Bey, and Sanders, with the Bey match being the only one in which he lost big. Aside from that, Ortiz is an aggressive, capable scorer with the toughness to back it up. His bout with Dillon Cowan in Vegas was a sight to behold, but it wasn’t a revelation — Ortiz has been someone who could be in the mix already and if he gets the chances he needs to blossom further, 2017 might wind up being the leap up the ladder he’s been waiting for.
Also worth a look…
Jesse Porter (NYAC-OTS) The early returns on Porter as a Senior competitor are positive. Without a doubt. But in order to keep in line with his sometimes-stunning wrestling ability, he has to be willing to take more risks. If he does, Porter could leave some of the other guys in the dust.
Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) One of the more confounding wrestlers at any weight, Manville mixes moments of absolute brilliance with head-scratching hesitancy. It’s like he doesn’t know how good he can be, which would be a shame if true.
Dillon Cowan (Army/WCAP) Boy, did he have a rough time in Vegas. It’s worth throwing out, though — for now. The bet is Cowan recovers from a disastrous National tournament to rediscover his groove and disrupt some of the younger guys’ flight path.
Corey Fitzgerald (NMU-OTS) The book on Fitzgerald is still in the early chapters but there is plenty on the pages. His ongoing development will be key and likely supplemented by an appearance or two overseas. Bookmark Fitz for later, you’ll be coming back to this story.
80 kg — It’s nice to be motivated and all but seriously, you might not want this work
As of now, this is the home of “The Big Three” — reigning two-time World Team member Patrick Martinez (NYAC), 2011 World Team member and two-time Open champ Cheney Haight (NYAC), and 2016 Pan Am Championships gold medalist Jon Anderson (Army/WCAP). Three guys who could beat each other on any given day. That’s not so much of a problem for them, but it is for anyone else who might feel like hopping into this shark tank.
Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm) The greatest threat to the enterprise is Stanghill. Some might say it’s the man (or kid?) below, but Stanghill himself has already shown he is rising to the occasion since graduating from Northern. It’s not because he beat Haight in NYC, though that didn’t hurt. It is because we are at a stage now where Stanghill is roughing heads up without remorse. If he can beat you, he is going to dominate you, and that is exactly how you can tell someone is gearing up for prime-time.
Also worth a look…
Jon Jay Chavez (NYAC) Uber-talented and accomplished as an age-grouper, Chavez, who owns a few wins over Stanghill going back to Juniors, is a smooth operator with both cunning and explosiveness. He’s also a major upset away from being recognized in full. That’s going to come soon.
John Stefanowicz (Marines) Simply put, he needs to be out there more. Stefanowicz is strong and very agreeable to heavy exchanges, but is missing some mechanical elements someone with his makeup needs to have. If he travels a little it’ll do wonders.
Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP) With a couple of major runner-up appearances in his past, all that good stuff still has to be there. Somewhere. Word is Myers had a hand injury at Vegas, so let’s see if there is a rebound at Schultz next month.
Sergio Guerrero (NMU-OTS) The good news for Guerrero is that he can overwhelm less-experienced opponents. The bad news is that he is one of those opponents to the more established guys here. But everyone likes a guy who is willing to throw, so start there.
85 kg — Raise your hands: Who thought 85 would become interesting again so soon?
So much for conventional wisdom.
Two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (NYAC) was expected to run through the Nationals and instead, got turned back by Khymba Johnson (NYAC-OTS) in the semifinals. Kevin Radford (Sunkist) was not expected to do much else other than look like a guy who “could be good” someday. Funny how things work out. Provisor will likely come back strong for April, that’s kind of his thing. But there is no sense of formality in the proceedings any longer. What could have been seen as a barren landscape just a month ago has now turned into a hotbed of activity.
Kevin Radford (Sunkist) It is a little cliché to put a newly-minted National champ at the top, but Radford is now going to be under a microscope until further notice. The reason? Well, going from fringe contender to winning a title is a pretty eyebrow-raising accomplishment, wouldn’t you say? Radford admitted that he came back from the Clubs Cup in Budapest recognizing components of the sport he didn’t quite get earlier. Now look at the result. If this was all “for real”, then his establishment as a legitimate problem for everyone else at 85 is a gift we should all be thanking him for.
Also worth a look…
Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) There’s really no one here that Sheridan hasn’t beat or can’t beat. He has to make the rules work for him more. Sheridan possesses big-time pop and if that starts playing itself out on the feet, then yikes.
Ryan Hope (Cliff Keen) Has yet to take out the Provisor’s and Sheridan’s of the world but other than that, there are not many other scalps to collect. Entering what might be his best years physically, Hope can put something together in ’17 that jumpstarts his career.
Dan Olsen (UNA) The only thing missing from Olsen’s profile is a prolonged stint at a regional training center or somewhere else he can plunge himself into Greco full-time nonstop. Imagine this guy surrounded by other viking warlords? Scary.
Jeff Palmieri (NYAC) Please don’t be too surprised if a year from now, we’re talking about Palmieri as a top guy at 85. He’s scraggly, he’s awkward, tries to, you know, actually throw guys, and puts up a fight every time out. He might not be ready to win big, but you’ll remember his name.