Here Comes Hancock: Sassari Greco Preview

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Tim Hands of 5 Point Move previews the next Greco-Roman rankings series event, the Sassari City Open.

Tomorrow morning in Sassari City, Italy, G’Angelo Hancock (97kg, Sunkist Kids) will look to further stamp down his place among the planet’s best at the 2019 Matteo Pellicone Memorial, the third of United World Wrestling’s four “Ranking Series” events this season.

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May 23 -25 | 4:00 AM Eastern Time

Hancock seems to like these tournaments, judging by how he performed in the first two.

It was back in February when the US delegation swooped over to Croatia for the Grand Prix Zagreb Open. Hancock won his first two bouts with what you might call “relative ease” over Iranian Abolfazi Seyedmahdavi and ‘17 Asian Championships silver Kim Seung-Jun (KOR), respectively. The road to the finals was halted by Ilya Borisov (RUS), who had also defeated Hancock in Zagreb two years prior. But there was a nice recovery; in the bronze round, Hancock came back against Adam Varga thanks to a clutch Korean front headlock in the second period.

Two weeks later came the Hungarian Grand Prix, one of the more prestigious international events each year, and made even more so due to its “Ranking Series” designation. Hancock had Kim again, this time in the round-of-16. And he starched him, quickly. The road steepened from there.

Hancock earned back-to-back one-point decisions to reach the finals, where he faced University World champ Fatih Baskoy in a rematch of the 2017 Paris Worlds qualification round. They went back-and-forth. Hancock had taken an early lead via passivity, but those things never hold, nor are they designed to. Baskoy got his own point in the second period before quickly adding two more from a scramble off the edge. But on the very next restart, Hancock hustled behind Baskoy and alpha’d him to the mat for a takedown.

Just to win the Hungarian Grand Prix is big, but those “Ranking Series” points added a nice twist. Between his bronze in Croatia and his gold from Hungary, Hancock netted 30 points, good for third in UWW’s top-20 at 97 kilos. Of course, his ranking then dipped following the European Championships, though Hancock’s silver at the Pan Am Championships last month returned him to his previous spot at #3.

What Does Italy Have to Offer Hancock?

One glance at the brackets for the Matteo Pellicone Memorial shows you two things:

1. The participation is not as high as originally anticipated across all of the weight classes, but especially the Olympic weights. There is not one bracket that approaches the magic number of 20, an important little footnote because 20 or more athletes means ten extra Ranking Series points as opposed to eight (11-19 wrestlers) or six (less than 10 wrestlers).

2. Even with that, Hancock’s weight is STACKED.

If the current list of registrants at 97 holds up (and we’re getting close to game time), here are some of the names Hancock may have to deal with.

Balazs Kiss (HUN, world #9) - 2009 World Champion, two-time World bronze

Cenk Ildem (TUR) - 2016 Olympic bronze, two-time World bronze, 2006 Junior World Champion

Nikoloz Kakhelashvili (ITA) - 2015 Junior World Champion, 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix bronze

Mihail Kajala (SRB) - 2018 World bronze, 2013 Golden Grand Prix gold

Armen Grigoryan (RUS) - 2019 Henri Deglane Challenge silver

Hancock only holds relevant experience against two of the athletes listed above, Ildem and Kakhelasvili. In 2016, Hancock defeated Ildem at the World Wrestling Clubs Cup 2-1, but that was mainly because the Turk was penalized for a caution-and-two after hitting Hancock in the groin.

As for Kakhelashvili (who is originally from Georgia, in case that’s not obvious), the American earned a narrow decision en-route to victory at the ‘18 Pytlasinski Cup last summer.

Hancock has never competed against Kiss, though they’ve trained together a bunch. And even now in his mid-30’s, Kiss still possesses steely patience in the tie-ups that can bog down any opponent’s offense, and that lift of his is as potent as ever. Grigoryan doesn’t get out much, he’s buried in the Russian depth chart, but does everything right. Hancock versus Kajala would be a most-welcomed match-up. It would be physical to the hilt and likely pretty suspenseful, particularly if they’re close in the second period. Then again, Hancock might just bomb him and be done with it.

How much does this event matter for Hancock?

Tons.

Why?

Because it is going to serve as a stop-gap before Final X. Hancock had the Pan Ams and US Open in consecutive weeks, took a very tiny breather, and then hit Europe for some additional training. While however or whatever he does at the 2019 Matteo Pellicone Memorial holds importance to some extent, at least in terms of compiling more points, those same points will not matter if Lucas Sheridan (Army WCAP) downs Hancock at Final X: Lincoln next month.

This is an athlete who feeds off of high-level competition and has now reached a stage where he depends on a steady diet of it to keep sharp. If there is anything the Matteo Pellicone Memorial has to offer Hancock and the US program on Thursday, it is most certainly that.

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Senior Nationals are a few weeks away, and registrations are finally starting to pick up. In the last 24 hours, the Sunkist Kids and Titan Mercury registered a bunch of athletes, and these brackets are starting to get deeper. Check out all of the currently registered athletes and their rankings. We used our domestic men's and women's freestyle rankings as well as greco rankings from Timmy Hands at 5 point move.

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