Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier Greco-Roman preview

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | March 03, 2016, 9:09 a.m. (ET)
Three-time World Team member Jordan Holm, shown making a big throw at the 2015 U.S. Open, will compete for the USA at 85 kg.

For three days, TheMat.com will post a preview for each style for the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier, which will be hosted at the Dr. Pepper Arena in Frisco, Texas, March 4-6. We will do one daily in the order in which each style will be contested in Frisco.

We started with women’s freestyle yesterday, which will be held on Friday, March 4 and yesterday previewed the men’s freestyle competition, which is set for Saturday, March 5. Today, we feature the Greco-Roman competition, which is scheduled for Sunday, March 6.

Countries may only enter athletes in weight classes where they have not yet qualified for the Olympics. The champion and runner-up in each weight class will qualify their nation to compete at that weight class at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in August.

At the 2015 World Championships, the United States qualified two weight classes (75 kg, 130 kg). Cuba has qualified at two weight classes (59 kg, 130 kg). None of the other Pan Am nations have earned a spot in the Olympics to date.

Team USA will have four entries in this competition. We will do a preview of each weight class competition below.

59 kg/130 lbs.

Team USA will be represented here by Ildar Hafizov, a 2008 Olympian for Uzbekistan who has become an American citizen and competes with the Army program. Hafizov has no previous Pan American experience, as he only in the last year became a member of the USA team. He has a win over Army teammate and two-time Olympian Spenser Mango during this season, and has looked good in some international events.

Cuba will not have an entry here, because they qualified this weight class through the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas last September. There are no athletes in this weight who have a UWW World ranking based upon the February rankings.

Last week at the Pan American Championships, two of the athletes in this field won medals, runner-up Ali Soto of Mexico and bronze medalist Jancel Gonzalez of the Dominican Republic. Winning a bronze medal wrestling up at 66 kg last week was Raiber Rodriguez of Venezuela.

Soto was a Junior World bronze medalist in 2012. Gonzales was a 2010 Pan American Championships champion, and has won 11 Pan American Senior medals in his long career.

Andres Montano of Ecuador was a 2015 Pan American Games champion. Diego Ribeiro of Brazil was fifth at the 2013 World Military Championships. Canada’s Steven Takahashi has won Pan American medals, but that was in freestyle.

59 kg/130 lbs. (12 possible entries)
Diego Ribeiro Romanelli (Brazil)
Steven Takahashi (Canada)
Cristobal Torres Nunez (Chile)
Andres Taborda Torres (Colombia)
Jancel Pimentel Gonzalez (Dominican Republic)
Andres Montano Arroyo (Ecuador)
Gorge Gonzalez Batis (Honduras)
Ali Soto Macias (Mexico)
Alex Pineda Marin (Panama)
Jose Magallanes Durand (Peru)
Ildar Hafizov (United States)
Raiber Rodriguez Orozco (Venezeuela)

Hafizov’s past Pan Am results: None
2016 Pan Am Championships medalists: 2nd – Soto (MEX), 3rd – Gonzalez (DOM); 3rd at 61 kg – Rodriguez (Venezuela)

66 kg/145.5 lbs.

Talented young RaVaughn Perkins is the USA entry here. He has no past Pan American experience. His recent gold medal at the 2016 Dave Schultz Memorial and at the 2012 New York AC International shows he can compete well against top competition.

There is only one athlete in this weight in the February UWW World rankings, Wuileixis Rivas of Venezuela. Rivas won the gold at the 2015 Pan American Games and was a 2014 Pan American Championships champion. He also competed in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Cuba is represented by Miguel Martinez, who has won the last three Pan American Championships gold medals, and was named Outstanding Wrestler in last weekend’s Pan Am Championships in Frisco, Texas. He competed for Cuba at the 2015 World Championships but did not reach the medal rounds.

Besides Martinez, three other athletes in the field won Pan American Championships bronze medals last week, Manuel Lopez of Mexico at 66 kg, plus Jose Sanchez of Ecuador and Jefrin Mejia of Honduras, both at 71 kg. Lopez has won two Pan American medals, but also has international medals at the Bill Farrell in the USA, plus events in Greece and Puerto Rico. Peru’s Mario Molino is a past Pan American Games bronze medalist and was a two-time Pan American Cadet champion.

66 kg/145.5 lbs. (12 possible entries)
Joilson De Brito Ramos (Brazil)
John Yeats (Canada)
Jair Cuero Munoz (Colombia)
Miguel Martinez Palacio (Cuba)
Edward Polanco (Dominican Republic)
Jose Sanchez Betancourt (Ecuador)
David Choc Huoc (Guatemala)
Jefrin Mejia Sambula (Honduras)
Manuel Lopez Salcero (Mexico)
Mario Molina Cortez (Peru)
RaVaughn Perkins (United States)
Wuileixis Rivas Espinoza (Venezeuela), World No. 16 ranking

Perkins’ past Pan Am results: None
2016 Pan Am Championships medalists: 1st – Martinez (Cuba); 3rd – Lopez (MEX); 3rd at 71 kg – Sanchez (ECU); 3rd at 71 kg – Jeffrin (HON)

75 kg/165 lbs.

The United States qualified for the Olympics at this weight class when Andy Bisek won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas. They are the only Pan American nation that qualified already for Rio.

The only Pan American athlete in the February UWW rankings is veteran Juan Escobar of Mexico. His best major performance was eighth place in the 2014 World Championships. He boasts five career Pan American medals, including a pair of bronze medals at the Pan American Games.

There are six medalists from last weekend’s Pan American Championships entered this week. Some wrestled at 75 kg last week and some were at 80 kg. Silver medals went to Puerto Rico’s Luis Centeno at 75 kg and Argentina’s Maximillano Prudenzano at 80 kg. There are four bronze medalists from last week entered, Alvis Almendra of Panama and Luis Avendano of Venezuela, who were at 75 kg, plus Enrique Cuero of Ecuador and Carlos Munoz of Colombia, both who were at 80 kg. Panama’s Almendra was a Pan American Games silver medalist last summer.

Cuba brings Yurisandi Hernandez, who was fifth in last week’s Pan American Championships and has won a pair of Granma Cup silver medals down in Cuba.

75 kg/165 lbs. (12 possible entries)
Maximillano Prudenzano (Argentina)
Angelo Marques Moreira (Brazil)
Shawn Daye-Finley (Canada)
Claudio Gamboa Zuniga (Chile)
Carlos Munoz Jaramillo (Colombia)
Yurisandy Hernandez Rios (Cuba)
Enrique Cuero Ortiz (Ecuador)
Juan Escobar (Mexico), World No. 19 ranking
Alvis Almendra Jimenez (Panama)
Renzo Garcia Mendoza (Peru)
Luis Centeno Rodriguez (Puerto Rico)
Luis Avendano Rojas (Venezeuela)

2016 Pan Am Championships medalists: 2nd – Centeno (PUR); 2nd at 80 kg – Prudenzano (ARG); 3rd Almendra (PAN); 3rd – Avendano (VEN); 3rd at 80 kg – Cuero (ECU); 3rd at 80 kg – Munoz (COL)

85 kg/187 lbs.

Team USA will be represented by three-time World Team member Jordan Holm, who has won Pan American Championships bronze medals in 2011 and 2013. Holm boasts a variety of medals at international events in recent years, including a gold last year at the highly respected Hungarian Grand Prix.

None of the athletes in this weight were in the February UWW rankings. Cuba brings Alan Vera, who won last weekend’s Pan American Championships at this weight. Vera was a bronze medalist at last summer’s Pan American Games.

Two other medalists from last week are in the draw, Mexico’s Alfonso Leyva, who claimed a silver, and Venezuela’s Yorgen Cova, who took a bronze. Ronnison Brandao of Brazil won the Grand Prix of Paris this year and last year’s South American Championships, and has won international medals in Cuba and Brazil.

85 kg/187 lbs. (9 possible entries)
Ivan Burtovoy (Argentina)
Ronisson Brandao Santiago (Brazil)
Alex Brown Theriault (Canada)
Cristian Mosquera (Colombia)
Alan Vera Garcia (Cuba)
Alfonso Leyva Yepez (Mexico)
Luis De Gracia (Panama)
Jordan Holm (United States)
Yorgen Cova Pulido (Venezeuela)

Holm’s past Pan Am results: ‘13PAC (3rd), ‘11PAC (3rd)
2016 Pan Am Championships medalists: 1st – Vera (CUB); 2nd – Leyva (MEX); 3rd – Cova (VEN)

98 kg/216 lbs.

Joe Rau will represent the USA at the Pan Am Qualifier this week, after a strong season so far. Rau made the 2014 World Team down at 80 kg, but has gone back up in weight and competed well, including wins over Caylor Williams, who has made the last three USA World Teams. Rau won the Pan American Championships in 2015, so he has faced a number of these athletes before.

Rau had a No. 19 World ranking in UWW’s February rankings. The other ranked wrestler is Cuba’s Yasmany Lugo, who came in at No. 20. Lugo won last week’s Pan American Championships, and boasts six career Pan American Senior titles, including the gold at the 2015 Pan American Games. Although he has not medalled at a Senior World Championships, Lugo was a 2009 Junior World champion.

The other medalists from last week’s Pan American Championships were silver medalist Luillys Perez of Venezuela, and bronze medalists Oscar Loango of Colombia and Kevin Mejia of Honduras. Perez has won four Pan American medals, including a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games. Mejia, a 2011 Cadet World bronze medalist, has three Senior Pan American medals, and numerous age-group Pan American medals.

Davi Albino of Brazil has had some positive results, including a gold at the Brazil Cup, a bronze at the Pan American Games and two fifth-place finishes at the World Military Championships.

98 kg/216 lbs.(8 possible entries)
Davi Albino (Brazil)
Alex Thoms (Canada)
Carlos Garcia Escuti (Chile)
Oscar Loango Solis (Colombia)
Yasmany Lugo Cabera (Cuba), World No. 20 ranking
Kevin Mejia Castillo (Honduras)
Josef Rau (United States), World No. 19 ranking
Luillys Perez Mora (Venezeuela)

Rau’s past Pan Am results: ‘15PAC (1st)
2016 Pan Am Championships medalists: 1st – Lugo (CUB); 2nd – Perez (VEN); 3rd – Loango (COL); 3rd – Mejia (HON)

130 kg/286 lbs.

The United States and Cuba will not be competing this week at heavyweight, as both nations are already qualified for the Rio Olympics. World and Olympic champion Mijian Lopez of Cuba was second at the 2015 Worlds in Las Vegas, and Robby Smith of the USA came in fifth, both meeting qualification standards.

With Lopez and Smith out of the picture, this weight class becomes wide open. There are two medalists in the field from last weekend’s Pan American Championships, silver medalist Eduard Soghomonyan of Brazil and bronze medalist Luciano Del Rio of Argentina.

Soghomonyan, who was fifth in the 2010 Junior World Championships for Armenia, has been competing for Brazil since early 2015, and has already won six international medals for his new country. Del Rio has competed in both Greco-Roman and freestyle for Argentina, with his best performances featuring silver medals at the South American Championships and the Trophe Milone in Italy.

Andres Ayub of Venezuela won a silver medal at the 2015 Pan American Games, and competed in the 2012 Olympic Games. Josue Encarnacion of the Dominican Republic was a 2015 Pan American Games bronze medalist. Edguardo Lopez of Puerto Rico competes in both freestyle and Greco-Roman, with his best Pan American Greco finish being a bronze medal back in 2013.

One thing is for sure. The Pan American continent will have at least four heavyweights in the field at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. This week, we find out what other nations will join the USA and Cuba at the Games.

130 kg/286 lbs. (10 possible entries)
Luciano Del Rio (Argentina)
Eduard Soghomonyan (Brazil)
Charles Thoms (Canada)
Andres Ayub Valenzuela (Chile)
Josue Encarnacion Ovando (Dominican Republic)
Randy Lambert Martinez (Honduras)
Luis Roman Barrios (Mexico)
Rodolpho Waithe Marin (Panama)
Edgardo Lopez Morell (Puerto Rico)
Erwin Caraballo Cabera (Venezeuela)

2016 Pan Am Championships medalists: 2nd – Soghomonyan (BRA); 3rd – Del Rio (ARG)

Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier Rosters by nation

Pan American Olympic Games Qualifiers entries by weight class