Council Bluffs natives had reason to celebrate on Friday night as two Lewis Central High School alums came away with victories at the first Victory Wrestling Challenge at Ralston Arena in Omaha, Neb.
Trent Paulson and George Ivanov both won their bouts in their co-main events to send the 1,200 fans home with something to smile about. Paulson beat Missouri alum Nick Marable, while Ivanov, who also wrestled locally at Nebraska-Omaha for two years, beat Gennady Kolesnikov.
Initially slated for 12 bouts, injuries kept Paulson's twin brother Travis from competing, but eight bouts were held in an MMA-style freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling event.
"It was a great event. The fans, the music, the raised platform. It's just an exciting environment to wrestle in," said Trent Paulson following his victory. "They had lights, fog, it was one of the coolest wrestling environments I've ever wrestled in and it's not even for a world title or for a World Team. It was done right."
The Victory Wrestling Challenge used two U.S.-based modification to the international wrestling rules. The first was unlimited overtime in case of a tie score after regulation. The second was using a 10-point technical superiority in both Greco-Roman and freestyle instead of the seven-point differential used internationally.
Fans didn't have to wait long to see it in action as Nebraska alum Josh Ihnen scored two points on a counter exposure 90 seconds into overtime to beat Evan Brown 3-1 at 96kg/211 pounds. Both wrestlers had sound credentials coming in as Ihnen was an All-American at the University of Nebraska, while Brown was a Division III national champion at the University Dubuque.
Brown took an early 1-0 lead in the first period on a passivity point, while Ihnen tied it in the second period in the same manner. Brown tried to use a front headlock to roll Ihnen through, but Ihnen caught Brown on his back for the winning points.
"It's awesome leading this off and just being here." said Ihnen "I work full time and this is a great opportunity."
Deron Winn followed up with a win also at 96kg when he earned an 11-0 technical superiority victory over Ty Copsey. Winn, training with the Cyclone Wrestling Club based at Iowa State University, started strong with a trademark blast double and built a 6-0 lead heading into the second period. Another big double on the edge earned Winn three points for a 9-0 lead. Winn finished things off with a takedown on the edge at 4:58.
Another Nebraska alum picked up a victory in the night's third bout as Ridge Kiley defeated Omaha native Eli Dominguez 7-5 at 74kg/163 pounds. Kiley opened up a 7-2 lead before Dominguez, a Division II All-American at Nebraska-Omaha, came back with a pushout and a takedown.
Montell Marion returned to the Midwest and picked up a 5-2 victory over Raufeon Stots at 66kg/145.5 pounds. Marion, a three-time All-American at Iowa and two-time NCAA Division I finalist, traveled to Omaha from College Park, Md., where he trains with the Terrapin Wrestling Club at the University of Maryland. Stots, a two-time Division II champion at Nebraska-Kearney, took an early 1-0 lead with a pushout, but Marion tied it up with a pushout of his own late in the first period. In the second, Marion scored his first takedown countering a deep shot by Stots to gain control. Stots closed the gap to 3-2 after a passivity point. Marion finished the bout with a go-behind takedown with 20 seconds to go for the final count.
In the night's lone Greco-Roman bout, Justin "Harry" Lester of the U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program earned a dominating 10-0 technical superiority win over Omaha's Esai Dominguez at 74kg/163 pounds. Lester, who started his career at Iowa State University in Ames before shifting full-time to Greco-Roman at Northern Michigan University, hit a big three-point throw and then followed it up immediately with a two-point gutwrench. Lester built a 7-0 lead after another takedown and then scored the final three points on a high dive bodylock where he lifted Dominguez and put him to the mat for three points.
"This is a great atmosphere," said Lester. "I loved wrestling in front of (the fans in Omaha) and thank you for supporting Victory Wrestling."
Joe Elllenberger is no stranger to Ralston Arena. The Division II All-American from Nebraska-Kearney has fought in eight MMA Victory Fighting Championship events and made his return to the wrestling mat on Friday night. The return wouldn't be a victorious one as Nebraska alum Rob Sanders picked up the win 11-4. Ellenberger took an early 2-0 lead with a takedown, but Sanders built a 7-4 lead before tacking on a late takedown and an exposure to end the bout.
George Ivanov made a successful return to the Omaha area with a 9-2 win over Gennady Kolesnikov at 84kg/185 pounds. Ivanov wrestled at nearby Lewis Central High School in Council Bluffs, Iowa and was a two-time Division II champion at Nebraska-Omaha. He transferred to Boise State after UNO cut its wrestling program. Ivanov was never in trouble. He's currently with his college coach helping out his first college coach, Mike Denney, at Maryville University in St. Louis, Mo.
"I felt like it was Rocky IV wrestling against the Russian," Ivanov, a native Bulgarian, joked. "I'm hoping you guys enjoyed this, I had a blast," said Ivanov.
Kolesnikov recently came to the U.S. from Moscow, Russia and he trains at the Cyclone Wrestling Club at Iowa State University.
Trent Paulson ended the night with a 4-2 win over Nick Marable in the event's co-main event. Paulson, who like Ivanov wrestled at Lewis Central, fell behind 2-0 after a Marable double leg takedown but came back to take the lead on a three-point throw. He tacked on a final point with a second-period pushout.
"I'd say if you have an opportunity (to participate in Victory Wrestling Challenge), take advantage of it. It pays well, they take care of the athletes. They put us up in the hotel and it's just an elite level event," said Paulson.
Victory Wrestling Challenge
Ralston Arena - Omaha, Neb.
November 22, 2013
96kg/211 pounds - Josh Ihnen dec. Evan Brown 3-1, OT.
96kg/211 pounds - Deron Winn tech fall Ty Copsey 11-0, 4:58.
74kg/163 pounds - Ridge Kiley dec. Eli Dominguez 7-5.
66kg/145.5 pounds - Montell Marion dec. Raufeon Stots 5-2
Greco 74kg/163 pounds - Justin "Harry" Lester tech fall Esai Dominguez 10-0, 2:37
74kg/163 pounds - Rob Sanders dec. Joe Ellenberger 11-4
84kg/185 pounds - George Ivanov dec. Gennady Kolesnikov 9-2
74kg/163 pounds - Trent Paulson dec. Nick Marable 4-2