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Tim Hands of 5 Point Move runs down the top 5 Greco moments of Final X.
There were a LOT of big moments for Greco fans at the 2019 Final X Series, but what were the biggest? What were the most important techniques or sequences that resulted in how each series was won or lost?
Such a provocation might appear steeped in subjectivity, and that’s fair; fans and athletes tend to see things differently depending on rooting interest. But in this case, there is little doubt that no matter how you slice Greco’s debut at Final X, these five snapshots in time stand out as the most pivotal.
5. Nowry fives Koontz, crowd eats it up
Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP, world no. 12) needed ten years to make his first Senior World Team, and in Brady Koontz (TMWC/ORTC) found himself opposite a worthy young opponent who kept it close in Match 1. Action was unfolding similarly in Match 2, except with more points. Koontz had a 5-2 lead late in the first period when Nowry picked up a takedown and followed with a gut to surge ahead 6-5. He wasn’t done yet.
Soon into the second, Nowry again scooted behind Koontz, locked a suplex, and airmailed for a big five points and an 11-5 cushion. There were still two minutes left to go after this, but the bout was effectively over because Nowry wasn’t going to be stopped.
4. Coon calmly defends Schultz headlock to pound out a tech
Young Mr. Cohlton Schultz, he of the Cadet World title two years ago, was doing a fine job of digging underhooks and moving 2018 World silver Adam Coon’s (NYAC/Cliff Keen) feet around in the beginning stages of their first bout in Lincoln. It was hard to miss. But it was also soon rendered inconsequential.
That’s because Schultz had perhaps a little too much confidence while wrangling a head-arm tie. He next went for a headlock that completely changed the momentum of this bout and the series at large. Before Schultz could even hope to finish the maneuver, Coon easily popped his head out, covered for the takedown, and then proceeded to wrap up Match 1 by running a gut for three turns. The dual-style monster put a bow on the series in the next round with a 5-1 decision.
3. Rau’s buzzer beater
Two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (87 kg, NYAC/NLWC) and Joe Rau (TMWC/Chicago RTC) were mired in one of those familiar grind-it-out struggles most expected leading up to Rutgers. This is what they’re known for -- close scores, usually not a lot of points, and plenty of physicality. In Match 1, Rau had received the first passive, but couldn’t score. Provisor was rewarded with the second passivity point, and he too came up empty from par terre top.
Since Provisor’s passive point arrived last, he held criteria moving into the waning seconds of their opening contest and appeared on his way to victory. But then with just :03 left on the clock, Rau made a break for it. Literally. He dashed in on Provisor and hurried him out of bounds to come up with the match-winning point just as time expired. A breathtaking finish, particularly given the stakes involved.
2. Mango’s crazy scramble that flipped the script
Xavier Johnson (63 kg, Marines) owned a 2-0 lead against Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) in the second period of Match 1 and wasn’t satisfied. He pummeled to double underhooks and had begun to elevate his lock. You figured he was about to score at least two, if not four more points and coast through the remainder of the bout. But just as Mango’s feet left the surface, he adjusted and nearly reversed position. Johnson tried staying with the hold, and there was Mango again, hip-heisting all the way to the other side before winding up on top.
From there, Mango went to work, collecting Johnson’s left arm in a trap-arm gut and banging out a string of exposure points that not only washed away a 2-0 deficit, it resulted in a lopsided tech win. Mango was forced to engineer another comeback in Match 2, thus sweeping the series, but it was this sequence in the first bout that propelled him to victory.
1. Smith pounces on Bey to effectively seal Final X’s most exciting series
The series between Patrick Smith (77 kg, Minnesota Storm) and Kamal Bey (Sunkist, world no. 5) more than lived up to the hype that was the result of their Open final back in April.
Both athletes won their matches in the manner most anticipated. When Bey prevails, it’s usually by a wide margin, and as such, his 11-2 tech win in Match 1 wasn’t a shock. Smith doesn’t adhere to the same degree of dynamism, it’s his nonstop brawling that does the trick, so a 2-1 nod seemed about right. But more importantly, Smith’s approach took a toll on Bey. He had worn the phenom down in their first ten minutes together inside the Rutgers Athletic Center, a fact that became vividly clear by the time the second period of Match 3 rolled around.
Bey actually had a 3-2 advantage at the time of his reckoning, but Smith was the fresher athlete. He was pounding away, snapping, pummeling, chugging his feet. And then an opportunity presented itself. Smith was about to receive a passive point, which would have given him the edge on criteria anyway, but he wanted more. So he exploded forward on Bey and drove him off his feet for four enormous points. There were still two thirds of an entire period available for Bey to make something happen, and he clashed inside with requisite urgency. When Bey’s on, the lights can go out in an instant. But Smith’s four held up till the end, delivering the popular Minnesotan perhaps the finest hour of his career thus far.
Bonus: Bunker’s post-match speech
After defeating Alex Mossing (Air Force RTC) in two straight matches, Final X champ Ray Bunker (Marines) injects an inspirational element into the proceedings, shouting out the Marine Corps before calling his mom onto the mat and crediting her with his success.