2014 LAS VEGAS: Senior Open Greco-Roman preview

By Richard Immel USA Wrestling | April 13, 2014, 11:46 a.m. (ET)
Robby Smith, fifth at the 2013 World Championships at heavyweight, is among the top favorites in Greco-Roman at the ASICS/Las Vegas Senior Open Championships this week.

A new era of Greco-Roman wrestling is upon us as new weight classes and rules have been implemented into the sport, creating the most exciting form of Greco-Roman to date.

Eight weight classes will now be contested in Greco-Roman at the 2014 U.S. Open held in Las Vegas, Nev. These eight weight classes will be substantially higher than their freestyle counterparts, allowing competitors to be bigger and stronger than ever before.

One interesting dynamic to this particular competition is seeing who will emerge victorious as competitors will shuffle due to the new weight classes. The speculation of who will compete where will finally be answered this weekend in Las Vegas.

Spectators will witness a bevy of stars in the Greco-Roman field, with all of the 2013 World Team members back on the mat.

The U.S. did not come away from Budapest with a medal, but did see improvement with bright stars like Jesse Thielke and Andy Bisek making strong runs at the Worlds in addition to veterans Spencer Mango and Robby Smith wrestling what many consider their best tournaments to date.

U.S. Greco-Roman Rankings, April 2014

59 kg/130 lbs.

The lowest weight class in Greco-Roman competition now stands at 59 kg, up from 55 kg one year ago. This increase in weight creates a new dynamic for Greco-Roman competitors. Smaller men must increase in size while giving more of an opportunity for those who competed at the higher 60 kg last year to transition down to the bottom weight. This might prove to be the most exciting weight class of them all at the Open.

Two-time World Team member Joe Betterman will look to continue a strong 2014 season after transition down to 59 kg. Betterman won the last three U.S. Opens at 60 kg and is looking to make it four in a row. Betterman claimed the gold at the Dave Schultz Memorial Invitational with a win in the finals over two-time Olympian Spenser Mango. He also has gold from the NYAC International and fifth place finishes at the Nikola Petrov International and Heydar Aliev FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals.

Spenser Mango will continue his quest for dominance at the lowest weight class, as he shoots for his fifth straight U.S. Open title. Mango has been No. 1 at 55 kg for the U.S. since 2008. Mango earned gold at both the Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup and NYAC International this season. He comes off a fifth place at the 2013 World Championships, his best finish ever. He won silver at the Schultz Memorial, and was fith at the Nikola Petrov International this season.

2013 World Team member Jesse Thielke may drop down from 60 kg. He showed some talent and toughness at the World Championships, placing eighth in his first Senior World event. Thielke was a Junior World bronze medalist during his age-group career. Thielke wrestled his first varsity season of NCAA competition at 141 lbs. for the University of Wisconsin.

A two-time All American for Stanford, Ryan Mango was second to Thielke at the 2013 World Team Trials at 60 kg. It is rumored that Mango will compete in freestyle this season as to not conflict with his brother Spenser’s goals. If he enters in Greco, he has finalist abilities. Also in contention at 59 kg will be U.S. Army WCAP stars Nate Engel and Max Nowry, both of whom have seen great success at the 55 kg in recent years, earning spots on the Greco-Roman National Team. 2013 FILA Junior World Team member Isaiah Varona will also contend.

66 kg/145.5 lbs.

The only weight class to carryover from the 2013 season for Greco-Roman, 66 kg will also be provided more depth due to the new weight class arrangements. The top contender for the Open title is 2012 Olympian Ellis Coleman, who has joined the the U.S. Army WCAP program. Coleman finished second at last year’s World Team Trials to his Olympic teammate Justin Lester, also of the U.S. Army WCAP. At the 2013 World Championships in Budapest Lester was forced to withdraw for medical reasons, affording Coleman the opportunity to compete. Coleman is a two-time Junior World bronze medalist and defending U.S. Open champion at 66 kg.

A relative newcomer to the Greco-Roman scene, Bryce Saddoris of the U.S. Marines will pose a large threat. He won the 2013 Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup and took second at the 2014 Dave Schultz Memorial. He earned NCAA All-American twice while competing for the U.S. Naval Academy.

The U.S. Army WCAP has another strong contender in last season’s U.S. Open runner-up Marco Lara, one of the most experienced athletes in this weight class. Ravaughn Perkins impressed at this year’s Dave Schultz Memorial International earning victories over ranked wrestlers Brian Graham and Devin Scott on his way to a bronze medal. Brian Graham and Jamel Johnson both placed in the top four last year at the Open and are looking to fulfill that potential once more. Johnson is a past University World medalist.

71 kg/156.5 lbs.

With a limited number of events since the weight class changes and not much participation by U.S. athletes at 71 kg, there is still much uncertainty about who will be competing here in Vegas. This weight class will be competed only at the World Championships and not the Olympics.

Expect a battle between the top two ranked wrestlers at 71 kg, Justin Lester and Kendrick Sanders.

Lester is two-time World bronze medalist for the U.S. and three-time U.S. Open champion. Lester won the World Team Trials in 2013 but was unable to compete at the World Championships due to medical reasons. Lester placed eighth at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. He finished in sixth place at the Open one year ago at 74 kg, but went down to 66 kg to earn his World Team spot. The 71 kg class might be the perfect place for Lester at this time of his career.

Sanders has started this season off strong since moving up in weight. He boasts first place finishes at the Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup and Dave Schultz Memorial. He won all his matches at the Jack Pinto Cup, going 4-0. At the 2013 World Team Trials Sanders wound up in third place behind Lester and Coleman at 66 kg.

Olympic Training Center resident Bo Beckman has emerged as a top contender after he placed second to Sanders at the‚ÄąDave Schultz Memorial. Beckman has made the transition down from 74 kg and has shown improvement this season.

75 kg/165.35 lbs.

The 75 kg weight class will see many of the same players as the previous 74 kg weight class. 2013 World Team member Andy Bisek is the class of 75 kg. He has earned gold in four international tournaments since competing at the World Championships, including the Granma Cup, Dave Schultz Memorial International, Haavisto Cup and NYAC International. He also boasts a bronze medal from the 2013 S.A. Lavriko Championships held in St. Petersburg, Russia. Bisek was also a World Team member in 2011.

2013 World Team Trials runner-up Jon Anderson will be looking to return strong. Anderson has taken some time off since last season but competed at the Armed Forces Championships in March, tuning up for this event. Anderson placed third at the U.S. Open last year.

Jake Fisher is looking to rebound after a disappointing end to last season falling short at the World Team Trials to Anderson. He also had a tough NYAC International where he did not place. Since the start of 2014, Fisher won a silver at the Dave Schultz Memorial with his lone loss coming to Bisek. He is a past World Team member and brings great experience to his wrestling.

Tanner Andrews will be in the mix after an impressive NYAC International performance, where he beat three ranked wrestlers including Fisher on his way to bronze.

The young star Geordan Speiller is ready for a breakthrough performance. He finished in second place at the Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup and in third at the Dave Schultz, after a strong age-group career.

80 kg/176 lbs.

The 80 kg weight class in the second non-Olympic weight in Greco-Roman. This weight will be hard to predict due to lack of competition by U.S. wrestlers since the weight class’ inception in 2014.

The U.S. Army WCAP will once again look to be the top of the class as Aaron Sieracki will look to take home the gold in Las Vegas. Sieracki won the gold at the 2014 Armed Forces Championships. Sieracki has been a World Team Trials and Olympic Team Trials runner-up in the past

Robby Neill has competed both at 75 kg and 80 kg in 2014 leaving some uncertainty to his competition plans. Neill finished with the silver medal at the 2014 Armed Forces Championships.

The lone competitor for the U.S. at 80 kg at the Dave Schultz Memorial International was Curt Calovecchi who finished 1-3 in his round robin bracket at the event. Young Caleb Smith has tested himself at the Senior level in recent seasons and could be in the mix. This weight class will truly be a test grounds for young athletes who are seeking to make their mark in Greco-Roman.

85 kg/187 lbs.

This bracket in Las Vegas will be a brawl from start to finish, led by tournament favorite 2013 World Team member Jordan Holm. Since a solid World Championships performance Holm has continued his domestic domination, earning gold at both the Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup and Dave Schultz Memorial International. He also has a silver medal at the 2013 Haavisto Cup and a bronze medal at the 2014 Granma Cup to his credit this season. Holm won both the World Team Trials and U.S. Open last year.

2012 Olympian Ben Provisor has made the transition up in weight from 74 kg. Provisor finished third at the World Team Trials last year in addition to a first place finish at the 2013 U.S. Open. Most recently Provisor won the NYAC International last November. It is still uncertain as to whether or not Provisor will compete in Las Vegas due to injury.

2013 World Team Trials runner-up Peter Hicks is looking to gain ground. Hicks finished in third place at the U.S Open last year and has a second place finish at the Dave Schultz Memorial International to his credit this season. Hicks’s lone loss on the year is a 5-0 decision to Holm in the finals of the Dave Schultz.

Also in the mix at this weight will be Mark Stenberg, Zac Nielson and Courtney Meyers. Nielson has been a U.S. Open runner-up twice. Stenberg has been a high national placewinner in recent seasons, and had an impressive age-group career. Meyers, a U.S. Marine, has improved in recent years and often competes up a weight. Josef Rau has shown abilities at this weight class, but also competes up at 98 kg at times.

98 kg/216 lbs.

There has been a constant back and forth at the 98 kg weight class over the past year. This season someone will look to solidify the top spot in this weight.

Top of the list is 2013 World Team Member Caylor Williams who was dominant at the World Team Trials last June. Since competing at the Worlds in Budapest, Williams made the transition to the U.S. Army WCAP program. Williams was fifth at the U.S. Open and third at the Pan American Championships last season.

Last year’s U.S. Open champion John Wechter will challenge, should he compete again in Las Vegas. Wechter took some time off last season but did make a return at the Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup taking home the gold medal.

Marcus Finau was runner up at the 2013 World Team Trials to Williams and scored a third place finish at the U.S. Open last year. He finished in third at the 2013 Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup and fifth in both the Granma Cup and Haavisto Cup this season.

Also in the mix at this weight will be Darren Burns and Pete Gounaridis. Burns was fourth at the U.S. Open a year ago and has been a consistent challenger. Gounaridis has been ranked as high as No. 2 on the Greco-Roman National Team in the past, and has proven the potential to reach the finals. Also watch Patrick Carey and Donald Simmons, both who are veterans of the Greco circuit.

130 kg/286.6 lbs.

The big men have seen a substantial increase in their weight as 125 kg moved up to 130 kg for 2014. Robby Smith seems to have solidified his place on top in the heavyweight division after breaking through with a win at the 2013 World Team Trials, followed by taking fifth at the World meet.

Smith is more confident than ever, having placed first in four major international competitions since competing at the Worlds. He earned gold this season at the Dave Schultz Memorial International, S.A. Lavriko Greco-Roman Championships, Haavisto Cup and NYAC International.

Top competition for Smith will come from David Arendt Jr. of the U.S. Marines. Arendt won the U.S. Open last year before falling to Smith in the finals of the World Team Trials. This year Arendt won the Minnesota Storm Holiday Cup and took second at the Dave Schultz Memorial and S.A. Lavriko Greco-Roman Championships, losing again to Smith in the finals of both tournaments.

Erik Nye, Toby Erickson, Parker Betts and Dremiel Byers will also be in contention in Las Vegas. Byers, a two-time Olympian and three-time World medals, lost his grip on this weight class last season. His return this year included a loss to Arendt at the Dave Schultz Memorial. Nye was the U.S. Open runner-up last year, and has been a consistent challenger for Smith and Arendt in recent seasons. Erickson, a past Junior World medalist, and Betts both have strong age-group backgrounds. Sam Stoll, eighth at the Open last year, won a Junior World bronze medal in 2013.

A few top contenders may be competing in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. Past NCAA All-American for Central Michigan Jarod Trice has emerged as a threat, posting strong results since graduating from college last year including a third place finish at the NYAC International. Tyrell Fortune, No. 2 on the freestyle ladder, placed sixth at the U.S. Open in Greco-Roman last year.

2013 Senior Open Greco-Roman Results

55 kg/121 lbs.

1st – Spenser Mango, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Max Nowry, Wheeling, Ill. (New York AC/USOEC), 3-0, 1-0
3rd – Nate Engel, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Nikko Triggas, Moraga, Calif. (New York AC), 0-2, 2-0, 2-0
5th – Dmitry Ryabchinsky, Brooklyn, N.Y. (New York AC/USOEC) tech. fall Christian Nielsen, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP), 6-0, 6-0
7th – Josh Sandoval, Scottsdale, Ariz. (Scottsdale) dec. Jeffrey Wara, Hill AFB, Utah (Air Force WC), 9-1, 1-5, 7-5

60 kg/132 lbs.

1st – Joseph Betterman, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Marco Lara, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP), 2-1, 1-0
3rd – Jesse Thielke, Germantown, Wis. (Badger WC) dec. Jamel Johnson, Greensboro, N.C., (U.S. Army WCAP), 3-0, 6-0
5th – Ryan Mango, St. Louis, Mo. (Stanford – unattached) dec. Eric Chandler, Greensboro, N.C. (YES Wrestling), 3-0, 1-0
7th – Julian Gunnels, Kansas City, Mo. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Jason Chudzinski, Albany, N.Y. (USOEC), 1-3, 2-0, 1-0

66 kg/145.5 lbs.
1st – Ellis Coleman, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) dec. Kendrick Sanders, Homestead, Fla. (New York AC/USOEC), 0-3, 4-0, 2-1
3rd – Brian Graham, Platte City, Mo. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Ben Sanchez, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC), 3-0, 3-0
5th –. Santonio Thompson, Mooresville, N.C. (YES Wrestling) dec. Devin Scott, Burnsville, Minn. (Minnesota Storm), 5-0, 0-6, 1-0
7th – Nick Alvarez, Miami, Fla. (USOEC) dec. Johnathan Bozarth, El Paso, Ill. (USOEC), 0-1, 1-0, 1-0

74 kg/163 lbs.
1st – Ben Provisor, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) dec. Jake Fisher, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm), 1-0, 2-0
3rd – Jon Anderson, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Tanner Andrews, North Aurora, Colo. (New York AC/USOEC), 2-1, 7-0
5th - Josh Castellano, Wood Dale, Ill. (USOEC) won by injury default over Justin Lester, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP)
7th - Santiago Martinez, Orlando, Fla. (Florida Jets) inj. dft. over Geordan Speiller, Oviedo, Fla. (Florida Jets)

84 kg/185 lbs.
1st – Jordan Holm, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Zac Nielsen, Zimmerman, Minn. (Minnesota Storm/USOEC), 3-0, 1-0
3rd – Peter Hicks, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Josef Rau, Chicago, Ill. (Minnesota Storm), 2-0, 1-0
5th – Kyle Deberry, Tucson, Ariz. (Sunkist Kids) inj. dft. Mark Stenberg, Lockport, Ill. (New York AC/USOEC)
7th – Donald Simmons, Camp Lejeune, N.C. (U.S. Marines) dec. Terrell Walker, Chesapeake, Va. (Air Force WC), 2-0, 1-0

96 kg/211.5 lbs.
1st – John Wechter, Minneapolis, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Ryan Halsey, Oceanside, Calif. (No Mercy School of Wrestling), 1-0, 0-1, 1-0
3rd – Marcus Finau, Ewa Beach, Hawaii (New York AC/USOEC) dec. Daren Burns, Boone, N.C. (AppState RTC), 3-0, 0-2, 2-0
5th – Caylor Williams, Greensboro, N.C. (U.S. Army WCAP) dec. Pete Gounaridis, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP), 1-0, 3-0
7th – Patrick Carey, St. Paul, Minn. (Minnesota Storm) dec. Charles Fish, Camp Lejeune, N.C. (U.S. Marines), 1-0, 0-6, 4-0

120 kg/264.5 lbs.
1st – David Arendt, Jr., Camp Lejeune, N.C. (U.S. Marines) dec. Erik Nye, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP), 1-0, 0-1, 0:52
3rd – Robert Smith, Colorado Springs, Colo. (New York AC) dec. Dremiel Byers, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army), 1-0, 1-0
5th – Toby Erickson, East Helena, Mont. (New York AC/USOEC) inj. dft. over Tyrell Fortune, Portland, Ore. (Grand Canyon WC)
7th – Jake Kettler, Anoka, Minn. (Patriot Elite WC) dec. Sam Stoll, Kasson, Minn. (Team Unit), 2-0, 2-0

Outstanding Wrestler – Ellis Coleman (New York AC), 66 kg

Div. I Team Standings
– 1. U.S. Army WCAP, 71; 2. New York AC, 68

Div. II Team Standings – Minnesota Storm, 35; 2. Sunkist Kids, 7