Traveling man James Green to return home to Lincoln to seek third U.S. World Team spot
James Green at the 2017 Pan American Championships. Photo by Richard Immel.
Just days after winning his first U.S. Open title in Las Vegas, he won gold at 70 kg/154 lbs. at the Pan American Championships last weekend in Brazil.
With barely any time to unpack his bags, Green, who trains in Lincoln, Neb., is off to another competition, leaving for New York City on Sunday to compete at Beat the Streets in a USA vs. Japan dual.
“It seems like a lot when you’re going back-to-back, but when you’re on top of things, it’s not that bad.” Green said. “I pack my bag and then when I come home, I wash everything in that bag and put it right back in. It’s fun to travel and it keeps me busy, but I like it. I feel like I can put things together and it gives me a chance to look at things and work on it in competition.”
So far, the 2017-18 season has been filled with successes for the former Nebraska wrestler, contrary to the ups and downs he faced in 2016.
After winning a World bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas, Green looked to do the next big thing—win an Olympic title. However, 70 kg, the weight class he owned, was not an Olympic weight, thus forcing Green to tackle a new weight at 65 kg/143 lbs.
The weight change proved to be too much at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials and Green fell short, not placing.
“Going down to 65 kilos really put wrestling into perspective,” he said. “Whatever I needed to do to make the team, I was going to do. Like any wrestler should do, you go out onto the mat like it’s your last match and give it all you’ve got because the opportunities won’t be there forever. Although 70 kilos is not an Olympic weight, I’m going to try my hardest to make every World Team in between. I’m going to be the best at 70. That’s my weight and I want to keep it that way as long as I can.”
Shortly before the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the international wrestling federation United World Wrestling announced there would be a 2016 World Championships scheduled for December with all the non-Olympic weights in each style to be contested, including 70 kg in men’s freestyle.
The Trials took place in November in New York City in conjunction with the Bill Farrell International. Because of his 2015 World bronze, Green earned a bye to the best-of-three finals, where he was confronted by Jordan Oliver.
Winning in two-straight matches, Green won a spot on another World Team and a chance to represent the U.S. in Budapest, Hungary.
At the World Championships, Green went 2-1, recording a technical fall over Gitnomagomedov Gadzhiyev of Azerbaijan, before defeating Georgia’s Davit Tlashadze, 4-1. In the quarterfinals, he went up against Rashid Kurbanov of Uzbekistan but lost a tight match, 3-3, on criteria.
With Kurbanov failing to make the finals, Green was not afforded the opportunity to wrestle back for bronze.
This year, Green already has two major tournament wins under his belt.
In late-April, he blazed through the competition at the U.S. Open to pick up his first Senior national title.
As the No. 1 seed, Green opened his tournament with back-to-back-to-back technical falls, taking out Grant LaMont, Jake Sueflohn and Dylan Ness to move to the semifinals.
There he faced 2017 NCAA champion Jason Nolf of Penn State, whose offense is nearly impossible to stop in folkstyle.
Green took a 3-1 lead into the second period, largely in part to a thrilling takedown while on the shot clock.
Halfway through the second, Green extended his lead to 7-1 with a big four-pointer on the edge of the mat.
With only 35 ticks on the clock, Nolf, down 9-3, forced himself back into the match with a takedown to bring the deficit to only four. Nolf fired off another shot to run Green off the mat for another point. At the buzzer, the Nittany Lion hit Green with an inside trip for two, but it was not enough as Green walked away with a 9-8 win and a spot in the finals.
The finals pitted Green against familiar foe Nazar Kulchytskyy, the three-time NCAA Div. III champ and freestyle specialist.
Putting the first points on the board was Green, who took down Kulchytskyy with a low-ankle attack.
Late in the first period, Kulchytskyy was put on the shot clock but was unable to score, resulting in one point for Green. Just one second after the shot clock expired, Green earned another point on a step out for a 4-0 lead at the break.
The only point scored in the second period was from Kulchytskyy, who benefitted from Green being put on the shot clock.
The 4-1 win for Green secured an automatic bye to the finals of the World Team Trials, set to be held in Green’s backyard, Lincoln, Neb., on June 9-10.
“I would love to see Nolf or Nazar in the Trials finals because those guys kept it close with me and I would like to get another opportunity to expand myself against them. They pushed me and I’m pushing them. It’s really a matter of wrestling how I wrestle and doing what I do best. Whoever comes through the challenge bracket, I’m going to be ready for.” Green said.
Days after winning the national title, Green boarded a plane to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, for the Pan American Championships.
He wrestled Sunday at 70 kg and showed no mercy to his foreign foes, outscoring the competition 40-0.
To open the tournament, Green moved past 2015 Pan Am champ Mauricio Sanchez Saltos of Ecuador, before taking out Dominican Republic’s Julio Rafael Rodriguez Romero and Brazil’s Lincoln Messias Moreira Dos Santos to get to the finals.
There he faced four-time Pan Am finalist Luis Isais Portillo Mejia of El Salvador, who he made quick work of in a first-period tech to win his first Pan Am gold.
Next up is the Beat the Streets Benefit in New York City, where Green will have another opportunity to get his hands on foreign opponents.
Scrambling from Lincoln, Neb., to the Big Apple has its perks, though. Green, originally from Willingboro, N.J., will be reunited with friends, family and a familiar fan base back on the East Coast.
“This is going to be my first time wrestling at Beat the Streets,” he said. “I’m excited that it’s in Times Square because I’m close to family and friends, and there are even some fans from the East Coast that will be supporting. Being in front of a home crowd is exciting because they know you and they want to see you do well. It’s also great to have the opportunity to put on a show.”
While Green has stayed busy with competition after competition, his eyes are on the prize in Lincoln at the World Team Trials.
“It’s big. I wrestled in college here in Lincoln, and it’s been a while since I’ve wrestled in Devaney (Sports Center),” he said. “Having the opportunity to be back in that atmosphere is going to be fun. Not only am I looking to represent Nebraska well but ultimately I’m looking to represent the United States.”
Even though he’s sitting out until the finals, Green is determined to keep his focus and study his competition once a challenge-bracket champion has been named.
“Being able to sit out until the finals allows you to dial in a little bit more on getting the task done,” Green said. “I’m really confident going in. I’ve been working hard on my defense and it’s just a matter of getting my offense going and making sure I stick to what I do best, which is getting takedowns and leg laces. I’m looking forward to competing for my spot on the team.”