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Timmy Hands of 5 Point Move recaps the biggest happenings in the Greco world from Final X: Lincoln.
In a way, the lead story for Greco coming out of Final X: Lincoln is the exact same for men and women’s freestyle: World Team selection has been completed. Each style added the second half of their respective rosters, and now their National programs can get to work on executing training plans for both the Pan Am Games in August -- as well as the World Championships in September.
But for the newly-minted 2019 Greco-Roman World Team, the result of Final X: Lincoln brought with it an additional footnote. Returning World silver Adam Coon (130 kg, NYAC/Cliff Keen) and G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist), ranked second and third according to United World Wrestling, respectively, both got the job done Saturday night, guaranteeing the US two top-4 seeded athletes in Nur-Sultan. And that is all there shall be.
While freestyle has three who will enjoy a top-4 seed with a possible fourth (depending on what happens between top-ranked Kyle Dake and Alex Dieringer), and the women boast four, Greco is stuck at two. Kamal Bey (77 kg, Sunkist) entered Rutgers last week ranked #5 with a decent shot of moving into the coveted top-4, since Russia will replace Alex Chekhirkin (world no. 3) with World/Olympic star Roman Vlasov, thus losing the spot (seeds do not carry over to other athletes from the same nation). But -- Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) out-hustled and outlasted Bey in their thrilling three-match series, leaving Hancock and Coon as the lone remaining possibilities on the Greco side.
The seeds at the Worlds, still in a pseudo-experimental phase it would seem, are equally about optics as they are separating bracket headliners from one another. An athlete’s ranking is the driving force behind this effort on the part of United World Wrestling, and while it may not matter once seeds are locked in and the action begins in Kazakhstan, it very much matters to the US Greco-Roman program. To have two athletes sitting at or near the top come September lends credibility to the cause, which for Hancock and Coon, means hopefully qualifying their weight classes for the Tokyo Olympics.
How’d They Do It In Lincoln?
Hancock Downs Sheridan In Two Straight
Lucas Sheridan’s (Army/WCAP) impressive 2018-19 domestic campaign came to a crashing halt thanks to Hancock on Saturday, as the 21-year-old wrapped up the series in two consecutive bouts. In Match 1, Hancock raced out to a 4-0 lead when he countered a Sheridan arm throw attempt and turned it into a takedown/gut combo. Hancock later added a takedown via bodylock, and then another early in the second to walk away with an 8-0 tech.
The second bout was their most competitive to date. Sheridan cranked a headlock that forced Hancock to step-out, which opened the scoring. Hancock snuffed out a second headlock try to pick up two, and then tacked on three more when he countered an arm spin for takedown points. Sheridan lost an additional point due to a denied challenge, but got the point back with a step-out in the conclusive period. However, Hancock remained upright the rest of the way and held firm for the 5-2 decision.
Coon Overcomes Schultz But Had to Work For It
Most of the exchanges on the feet between Coon and 2017 Cadet World Champion Cohlton Schultz were even. If anything, Schultz held an edge in positioning through much of their time together Saturday night, including the beginning phase of Match 1. Schultz was controlling the ties, for the most part, and then dug his own grave by reaching for a headlock that Coon had no problem sitting back on before turning Schultz for exposure three times en-route to a quick tech.
Most encouraging was that Coon’s gutwrench is how he sealed up Match 2, as well. The former University of Michigan star led 3-1 in the second when he wrapped his loooong arms around Schultz’s midsection and torqued him over for another pair of points. Schultz is not easy to gut but Coon got it done, twice. For the big guy to advance in Nur-Sultan, having a lock he’s confident in is of a high priority.
Hafizov Unleashes Big Offense to Make Second US World Team
It was Army vs Army at 60 kilograms where Ildar Hafizov and Mike Fuenffinger battled for the fifth time over the past year. Fuenffinger defeated Hafizov in the ‘18 Open semis, Hafizov got him back in the ‘18 Trials mini tournament and again at Schultz in January, and then it was Fuenffinger once more at the Open final this past April. They also work out together and know each other quite well, giving this series an added element the others in Lincoln did not share.
But familiarity breeds contempt when World Team spots are at stake. Hafizov used the first passive in Match 1 to grab two from a gut and four from a mini lift, thus surging ahead 7-0. Thing was, Fuenffinger was far from out of it. In the second period, he picked up a passive point and four from a bodylock to narrow the deficit to just 7-5. It was tense in there for a second, but Hafizov stayed out of trouble the rest of the way.
Match 2 did not last very long. Again having been rewarded with the first par terre, Hafizov rolled a gut for two, and then went conventional on three more rotations to put a bow on the proceedings at just 1:51 into the bout. With the win, Hafizov makes his second US World Team (2017) and his fifth World Team overall (including three for Uzbekistan).
The Two First Timers
When Ryan Mango (63 kg, Army/WCAP) competes, one thing you are almost always guaranteed of is big offense. Against Xavier Johnson, that is maybe the only way to win. The Marine offers a high degree of potency in his own right, which is why so many figured this to be a high-scoring series. And it was.
Johnson owned a 2-0 lead entering the second period of Match 1 and was looking for more with a body attack. But Mango, in an incredible display of athleticism, scrambled up and away and reversed position. From top, he collected Johnson in a trap-arm gut and ran the thing to kingdom come, ending what was a tight, tension-filled bout prematurely on the strength of 12 straight points.
History didn’t quite repeat itself in Match 2, but it was close. This time, Johnson was able to get to his side lift after the first passive chance, scoring four. Mango brought it closer with a step-out -- and then just like in Match 1 -- opened the floodgates in the second period. Johnson got knocked for passive himself and Mango took immediate advantage, netting four from a lift. That put the score at 6-5, and that is where it stayed until time ran out. An electrifying performance for one of the country’s most outstanding athletes.
At 72 kilograms, Ray Bunker (Marines) capped an incredible (and unlikely) domestic season by shutting down talented Air Force wrestler Alex Mossing in consecutive bouts. Match 1 was a grinding affair, and those types of contests favor the Marine. Bunker earned a passive and two step-outs as he pressured and plowed to victory 3-1.
Mossing brought more heat with him for Match 2, but Bunker was ready. He landed on top of an early Mossing attempt for two, grabbed a passive, and then a step-out for a 4-0 advantage before the second period. A fleeing call on Mossing following another step-out made the score 6-0, and Bunker, just relentless all day (and all season long) got himself one more step-out to wrap it all up at 7-0. No other US wrestler has enjoyed a breakout season like Bunker’s, making his showing in Lincoln one both he and the fanbase will long remember.