It’s that time of year again when a large contingent of United States Greco-Roman wrestlers will be heading off to Sweden for some training and competition, and this current group is as sizable as ever. Just under three dozen athletes are part of 2017’s jaunt overseas that leaves on Wednesday and chances are, many of the names going will ring a bell or two.
It’s a healthy mix. On one hand, you’ve got your established age-group studs like two-time Junior World Teamer Randon Miranda (55 kg, NYAC/OTS), 2017 Fargo champs Hunter Lewis (55 kg, WI) and Peyton Robb (70 kg, MN), and one of America’s biggest prospects, ’16 Fargo Junior champ and 2017 U23 World Team Trials runner-up Tommy Brackett (84 kg, TN). But those names represent the mere tip of the ol’ iceberg. There are a lot of tough, capable competitors going on this trip.
On the other, emerging characters such as Britton Holmes (66 kg, NMU/OTS), Luis Hernandez (60 kg, OTC), Corey Fitzgerald (75 kg, NMU/OTS) and “Big” Nick Boykin (120 kg, OTC) are good examples of wrestlers who have been across the Atlantic and are making strides domestically, but still need to garner as much overseas mat time as possible in order to reach the next steps in their careers. The preeminent objective of adventures like this one for the US is helping wrestlers of all skill levels get that impossible-to-simulate experience against foreigners that unfortunately, doesn’t come around quite that often. However, since the US enjoys a strong working relationship with Sweden, opportunities like this one are now becoming tradition.
Some of the Principals Involved
Miranda, 20, does not require an introduction at this juncture. That’s what competing at a couple of World Championships in consecutive years will do for you. But it would be a disservice to limit Miranda’s impact to his making two Junior teams. It’s how he goes about his business folks need to understand. Miranda is progressing into the kind of competitor who can wrestle any way he needs to. If he has to open up and go on the attack, that’s just fine. It’s his wheelhouse against other 55’s. When he is clashing around on the Senior level at 59 kilos, where the opponents are often bigger and stronger, Miranda can set ninja-like traps that result in either scrambles or throws that seem to come out of nowhere. Kinesiology in motion, he tends to be.
A silver at the 2016 Austrian Open gave way to a gold at the same tournament earlier this year. Throw in the two straight golds at the Junior Greco World Duals along with his various other performances against international competition, and it’s easy to see why Miranda is thought of as such a big-time prospect. There is also an added wrinkle here. Come 2018, 55 kilograms makes its way back into Greco on the Senior circuit, the same weight class where Miranda has done most of his damage as a Junior, which is naturally something that has not escaped his attention.
“I’m weighing around 60 kilos right now without even dieting or watching my weight, so making 55 shouldn’t be a problem,” Miranda says. “I think it will fit really good for me. Wrestling at the weight I weigh in at and especially against guys like Ildar (Hafizov) and (Ryan) Mango, those guys are men, and I’m still maturing into my body. I think 55 is going to be fine.”
When it comes to the weight class, Miranda’s goals are two-fold. His primary objective is centered around seeing how far he can go at what is right now, the better-suited weight for him. But he also wants to be in the running for the Tokyo Olympic squad come 2020, and that makes having a long-term plan a necessity.
“Being this small, I really want to make a Senior World Team at least once,” explains Miranda. “But I think after a year of making 55, my body is going to want to grow, because it’s not going to be the most fun. Weight-cutting is weight-cutting. It won’t be bad, but I’ll have two years after this year until 2020 to get big enough for 60. If I weigh at least 65 kilos, I think at 60 kilos I’ll be fine.”
Miranda, who by now is a grizzled vet compared to many of the others going over to Scandinavia on Wednesday, is taking the trip instead of competing at next week’s Dave Schultz Memorial, where he could have made his Senior 55 kilogram debut. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. Miranda, though happy to get his passport stamped once again, certainly wouldn’t have minded staying back in the US for the Schultz’s introduction of the new weights and weigh-in format, but he didn’t find out the procedures for the event until after it was too late.
“It’s actually kind of funny, to be honest with you,” begins Miranda. “I didn’t know Schultz was going to have the new weights. So I was like, Alright, I’m planning on going to the Schultz, but then the Sweden trip came in. I didn’t go last year (to Sweden), so I thought that maybe I should go this time because they have a pretty good camp and two tournaments. I bought my ticket because Coach Rob (Hermann) had been telling us to make sure we booked. And then the next day, I saw that the new weight classes were going to be in effect at Schultz. In my head, I was like, Oh man, I could’ve went 55 kilos!
“I talked to Rob and Andy (Bisek) and I asked them what their opinions were. Rob said, ‘Well, you already bought your ticket to Sweden, why don’t you just go 60 kilos? You can eat, you can learn, and you can wrestle, Schultz will be there next year.’ I even talked to my dad and he said, ‘Try 60, next year you can worry about Schultz.’ So that is what honestly happened. I did want to go to Schultz because that would have been my first Senior tournament where if I placed well I might’ve been able to earn money. That was something, too, but then it was just, Why don’t I just go to Sweden? That’s what happened.”
None of this is to say that Miranda is any less motivated for what’s coming up the next couple of weeks. Part of what has helped the California native emerge on the national scene the past three years can be traced directly back to lessons learned in other countries. The methods and approaches preferred by foreign opponents have a tendency to rub off, and as most know, it is difficult to replicate those differences inside of the US. However, it is not only what he has to gain from international training why Miranda is such a big believer in heading overseas — it is how the entire country stands to benefit from these excursions, as well.
“There is just something about that international feel, especially for Greco,” Miranda quickly points out. “In Sweden, Greco-Roman is all they wrestle, they don’t wrestle freestyle. It’s how they pummel, how they teach, and how their practices are run. You always get a different feel and your body moves in different ways. Going overseas I think is something kids need to do, especially in America and for Greco. Britton Holmes, Benji Peak, and Alston Nutter, they are already on the international scene as young kids. They get different feels and can pummel better than some of the Americans who don’t know how to. They have more international experience and when they come back here, they have more to show everybody else. Then it passes on and that’s how the country gets better in general, with everyone passing on their knowledge.”
Fellow Wisconsinites and now-NMU teammates Alston Nutter (66 kg) and Benji Peak (60 kg) have been staying in Denmark going on two weeks, and they both made headlines immediately. Nutter blitzed through his bracket at the 2017 Bear Cup while Peak, in his first tournament back following labrum surgery, rang up a third-place finish in one of the most exciting bouts of the year. Now the pair will be reconnecting with the rest of the Americans making their collective way to Europe for this weekend’s Klippan Cup in Klippan, Sweden.
Another wrestler to look out for these next two weeks is NMU freshman Britton Holmes. Last year, Holmes, originally of Colorado, was a somewhat-surprising winner at the Malar Cupen, where he trucked through seven matches en-route to victory. He then took third at the Fargo Junior Nationals in July before coming up with a just-as-impressive bronze at the U23 World Team Trials earlier this month in Minnesota.
Brackett, now a senior in high school, is one of the most talked-about young Greco-Roman athletes who coaches can’t seem to get enough of. For starters, he is an enthusiastic workhorse. Also, Brackett maintains positional discipline better than most age-groupers, and hungrily seeks out underhooks that he actually uses to try and score with. But above all, he is reliable (and available). Here is a synopsis of Brackett’s activity level since April: second at the Junior Trials; second at the Pan Ams; third at Fargo (lost to Myles Wilson in the Fargo Junior quarters, and then came back to defeat Wilson for third); and three weeks ago, Brackett came in second to 2017 Junior World Champion Kamal Bey (Sunkist, world no. 18) at the U23 World Team Trials. Throw in the two trips overseas last year, and it’s not too difficult to see why Brackett keeps taking steps up the ladder.
Robb hasn’t gotten out there quite as much as someone like Brackett just yet, but give him time. A devastatingly effective and tenacious competitor, Robb sailed through the Junior Pan Am Championships and then crushed his way to the Fargo finals two weeks later where he defeated returning champ Anthony Artalona (CA). That he is part of this tour is superb. Robb is talented in all phases (and in all styles) of wrestling, and will definitely be seen as a mighty Senior prospect should he continue on down this road.
In 2016, Team USA finished second at the Klippan Cup with two champs, Jordan Auen (60 kg, NMU/OTS) and G’Angelo Hancock (130 kg, Sunkist, world no. 16 at 98 kg), who had just taken bronze at the Junior Worlds two months prior. 2017 U23 World Team member Jesse Porter (75 kg, NYAC/OTS) placed third at the event.
The US placed five wrestlers the next week at the Malar Cupen in Västerås. The aforementioned Holmes won on the Cadet side while Austin Morrow (66 kg, NYAC/OTS), Logan Kass (71 kg, NMU/OTS), and Hancock came in second in the Senior division (the event offers competition for multiple age groups). Hunter Lewis (50 kg, WI), who might be the most globe-traveling age-group wrestler of them all, came in third after notching three pins and a tech on the day.
2017 Klippan Cup — Saturday, October 28th – Klippan, Sweden
2017 Malar Cupen — Friday/Saturday, November 3rd-4th – Västerås, Sweden
*In addition, a dual meet between Team USA and Team Skåne Brottning will take place next week. More info on that will be released when it becomes available.
Team USA Greco-Roman Sweden Tour Roster
Avery Steldt (WI)
Hunter Lewis (WI)
Jon Massey (NMU/OTS)
Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS)
Austin Almaguer (WA)
Mason Hartshorn (NMU/OTS)
Luis Hernandez (OTC)
Erik Spence (NMU/OTS)
Dominic Damon (WA)
Logan Hatch (WI)
Riley Briggs (NMU/OTS)
Jake Drexler (WI)
Calvin Germinaro (NMU/OTS)
Britton Holmes (NMU/OTS)
Justin Lien (NMU/OTS)
Alston Nutter (NMU/OTS)
Benji Peak (NMU/OTS)
Sione Halo (WA)
Peyton Robb (MN)
Colby Baker (NMU/OTS)
Josh Anderson (NMU/OTS)
Carter Nielsen (NMU/OTS)
84 kg/85 kg
Tommy Brackett (TN)
Michael Donato (NMU/OTS)
Keaton Fanning (NMU/OTS)
Jacob Olson (WA)
George Sikes (NMU/OTS)
Spencer Wilson (NMU/OTS)
120 /130 kg
Nick Boykin (OTC)
Marc Leon (NMU/OTS)
Rob Hermann (NMU/OTS)
Lucas Steldt (WI/Combat WC)