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Tim Hands of 5 Point Move breaks down everything you need to know about the Greco-Roman matchups at Final X: Lincoln.
The best case scenario was that Rutgers would present a tough act to follow.
But guess what? Final X: Lincoln’s slate of Greco bouts might be even better.
Sat. June 15 | 12PM & 6PM CT
The five remaining spots on the 2019 US Greco-Roman World Team will be on the line this Saturday at the Devaney Center and the athletes gunning for the top prize offer just as much firepower as what was available in Jersey last weekend.
In some cases, even more. Like at 63 kilos.
63 kg: Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) vs Xavier Johnson (Marines)
The two most explosive athletes on the card -- and two of the most explosive wrestlers in the US, period -- are Mango and Johnson. Mango, both a two-time Open champ and Trials runner-up, has created distance between himself and his brother’s shadow to become a no-doubt-about-it star of the sport. Then there is Johnson, who is in the midst of his third year as a true full-timer and has already amassed a handful of impressive international medals and is coming off of a brilliant performance at the Trials Challenge Tournament.
There will be scoring. Probably lots of it. Mango uses his compact, powerful frame to quickly find high dives and bodylocks, while Johnson can dart in on body attacks, too, but it’s his straight lift from par terre where he really makes his money. Neither are of the pretentious sort; meaning, you likely won’t see a lot of prolonged pummeling and negligible changes in position. They’re looking for bombs, which is always what the people want -- and why this series has ‘crowd-pleasing headliner’ written all over it.
72 kg: Ray Bunker (Marines) vs Alex Mossing (Air Force RTC)
The entire point of the Trials format in the US is to serve as a proving ground. And there are no two Greco athletes in Lincoln who have more to prove than the servicemember tandem of Bunker and Mossing.
Both endured rocky paths to start their (still young) careers and entered the Senior level without a lot of fanfare. For Bunker, who came in with next to nothing in terms of relevant Greco experience near the dawn of the current quad, it has been all about an intense desire to catch up with the rest of the field. Mossing, on the other hand, is almost a blue chip by comparison. He competed as a youth and grew to become a solid wrestler for DI Air Force. But despite Mossing’s U23 Trials win in ‘17 and Bunker’s rise up the Greco ranks more recently, the opportunity that awaits on Saturday dwarfs anything else they’ve both ever accomplished.
In this matchup, Bunker is the immovable object as well as the irresistible force. He bullies, he pressures, and punishes opponents who dare cede position. Of the two, Mossing is more scoring-friendly and can generate counters, scrambles, and throws if within arm’s reach of viable attacks. They are going to clash with passion, Mossing has just as much fire as Bunker. But this series seems destined to turn into a slugfest regardless of who can implement their respective game plan(s).
97 kg: G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist, world no. 3) vs Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP)
Who is looking for a massive underdog to root for?
If so, that would be Sheridan, who got his start at Senior in the 85-kilogram category and bumped up to 97 last year with the advent of same-day weigh-ins. It was the right choice. At 97, Sheridan’s career has skyrocketed and he is now a consistent threat at every National-level tournament. So much so that he has been in every domestic final since his debut in this weight class. But his work is cut out for him. He is cognizant of that fact. Hancock has taken out several of the biggest names in the sport over the past three seasons, spends more time in Europe than he does the US, has three straight wins over Sheridan, and will rightfully be seen as a World medal candidate should he prevail on Saturday.
Hancock’s biggest strength is his penchant for launching bodylocks. He can go traditional over/under, drag to the side and come from an angle, or simply just dig in underhooks and arch. His par terre work from top is equally high-caliber. Though, Sheridan is not without some weapons. He is incredibly strong, possesses a huge gas tank, and can whammer people with headlocks that score easy four’s. They’ll duke it out in the trenches, but eventually, adjustments will have to be made. For Sheridan to triumph, that means delivering the performance of his life.
60 kg: Mike Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP) vs Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP)
With Hafizov and Fuenffinger, it is an opportunity to observe the most technically-proficient lightweight in the country (Hafizov) and a superb well-rounded wrestler who has vastly improved the past two seasons (Fuenffinger). What this series also has to offer is familiarity. Fuenffinger and Hafizov are training partners who have traded wins in big matches recently (‘18 US Open semis, ‘19 Schultz final, and ‘19 Open final), and to ignore that degree of intimacy would be foolhardy entering a stage as grand as this one.
Hafizov is classical. He can navigate to two-on-one’s or pummel for underhooks like nobody’s business. Whatever he does, stout positioning (hips in, good posture) is almost always sustained. An array of throws are at his disposal on the feet because of this. Fuenffinger’s arsenal has expanded in kind, but given his background, is more apt to improvise and create counters and scrambles. They are fast movers who like a quick pace and these matches could swing wildly in one direction or the other. Close scores favor Fuenffinger, wide margins favor Hafizov.
130 kg: Adam Coon (NYAC/Cliff Keen, world no. 2) vs Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist)
Rutgers had its main event with Patrick Smith versus Kamal Bey. For Greco in Lincoln, that honor gets passed to Coon and Schultz, and you know what? They deserve it.
After falling just short of his attempt to make the Trials finals in both disciplines for the second year in a row, Coon has had the luxury (or responsibility) of focusing only on Greco. The last time he truly honed in on this style, he shocked the World in Budapest. But against Schultz, victory is certainly not assured. At just 18 years of age, the incoming freshman at ASU (who was a Cadet Greco World Champion, Junior World bronze, and medalist at however many other age-group events) has been everywhere and actually holds more international experience than Coon. It’s crazy, but it’s true.
It is hard not to constantly picture Coon’s over/under bodylock playing a major role in this series as a hold, but will it be an actual scoring technique? Because there is no doubt Schultz has game-planned for it. The youthful star doesn’t have an edge in size or strength, but he might when it comes to sheer Greco athleticism. Although Coon is a three-style marvel, it is Schultz who has demonstrated more scrambles (though the majority of that is at age group). He is also, obviously, adept at floating over gutwrenches.
Coon can overwhelm Schultz early and deploy that bodylock en-route to a sudden victory. But they’ve got three matches penciled in, not just one. Schultz will be heard from, bank on it. And he is also not the returning World silver medalist, so all the pressure resides in the other corner. Expect a tactical dogfight that sees the tension build and build. If it can do that, it will be great for the winner -- and great for the sport.