Beauperthuy tops Okoli in featured Senior finals at record-setting Beach Nationals

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | May 20, 2017, 9:15 p.m. (ET)
Ike Okoli (left) and Gabe Beauperthuy (right) had a classic finals battle in the unlimited weight class, with Beauperthuy winning in overtime. Photo by Patricia Fox.

CAROLINA BEACH, N.C. – The championship finals that everybody wanted to see became a reality. Two of the most successful athletes in USA Wrestling’s Associated Styles program made their way to the Senior Unlimited finals at the 2017 Beach National Championships.

Coming through the top side of the bracket was Beach World bronze medalist Ike Okoli, who was also a double champion at this year’s Veterans Nationals in Las Vegas.

His finals opponent from the bottom half of the weight class was Gabe Beauperthuy, who has competed for Team USA in World Championships in both Grappling and Belt Wrestling, boasts Veterans National titles of his own, and also has a number of Beach wrestling achievements.

Their showdown in the 7-meter ring lived up to expectations. Neither athlete could open up the other for a successful attack, and the score was tied 0-0 after the three-minute regulation. Both athletes, who respect each other and are on friendly terms, agreed to wrestle a sudden-victory overtime to determine the winner.

Although it was not timed, the overtime lasted as long as regulation, before Beauperthuy was able to get a throw by to get behind Okoli and score the winning takedown, for a 1-0 victory.

“I had to just stay heavy on Ike. The guy is so strong, so big and he carries his weight well. Hopefully, I broke him first before he broke me. It was like a throwby. It was enough to win. I am happy and honestly thankful. He is a tough, tough person.

It was a record turnout for a USA Wrestling Beach National Championships, with a total of 206 entries in all division. Included were 34 Senior men competitors and four in the Veterans division.

The other three Senior champions all captured their first Senior National titles.

At 70 kg, Michael Peters of the Road Dawgs WC, an Illinois native who competes for Div. II power Maryville University, was able to defeat Kevin Birmingham of the Greensboro RTC for the national title.

“It is a new style for me. I figured I would try it out. And it is really fun also. I am from Illinois. I just finished my first year down at Maryville University at St. Louis. I like wrestling. I didn’t get to wrestle much during the season, so I am trying to wrestle in the offseason and this seemed fun,” said Peters.

Shelton Sales, an MMA fighter who also wrestled in high school and college, and now coaches youth wrestlers in North Carolina, claimed the title at 80 kg. Sales defeated Kyle Brooks of Crystal River in the championship finals after competing with dominance throughout his bracket.

“We have come here the last few years. We brought a good little squad here to try it out. It is fun, and all the kids enjoy it. It is a learning experience using upperbody and wrestling in the sand. As coaches, we try to stay active so we jumped on it. Josh Stanley, the head coach, won it the first year. I had a chance to come here and I like to do combat. I had an MMA fight last Saturday, and I knew I wanted to come here to compete, being fresh and being ready, to compete and be around all of it. It is a way of knocking the rust off and always training to get better,” said Sales.

At 90 kg, Justin Harrell, who is an NCWA national qualifier for ECU, won a best-of-three series in two straight over Kyle Ogan of Edgewater. Harrell came from behind to win the first match of the series. When Ogan did not appear for their second bout, Harrell won by forfeit to sweep the series and claim the national title.

“I kind of got hit with a throw real early, so I went back to my technique, which is a blast double. I hit him with my blast, then got him with my shuck for the second takedown. This is the first time I have done (Beach Wrestling) at a tournament. I have done it in high school at Bob Guzzo’s camp at Myrtle Beach. We did beach wrestling at his camp,” said Harrell.

This event will help set the U.S. Beach World Team for 2017. United World Wrestling has not yet announced the site or date of the Beach World Championships, but is expected to be in Europe in the early fall. The top three in each weight class will have the opportunity to compete on the World Team.

There were also four Veterans wrestlers who competed on Saturday. In addition to claiming individual titles, all four wrestled a number of exhibition matches. Champions were Travis Kirby of Warrior Wrestling (Div. A-light), Tomas Gonzales of Pope / Fort Bragg Wrestling Team (Div. A – heavy) and Peter Wirs of The Pennsylvania Wrestling Club (Div. E).

For the first time, a team award, the Beach Cup, was given for the top club in the Senior and Veterans divisions. Taking home the inaugural Beach Cup for the adult divisions was the Pope AFB/Fort Bragg Wrestling Team.

At Carolina Beach, N.C., May 20, 2017

Senior Results

70 KG/154.3 lbs
1st Place - Michael Peters of Road Dawgs WC
2nd Place - Kevin Birmingham of Greensboro RTC
3rd Place - Austin Roper of Benedictine College
4th Place - Travis Kirby of Tahlequah
1st Place Match - Michael Peters (Road Dawgs WC) dec. Kevin Birmingham (Greensboro RTC)
3rd Place Match - Austin Roper (Benedictine College) dec. Travis Kirby (Tahlequah)

80 KG/ 176.4 lbs
1st Place - Shelton Sales of Unattached-NC
2nd Place - Kyle Brooks of Crystal River
3rd Place - Chase Payne of Mat Masters
4th Place - Mark Burkart of Warrior Wrestling
1st Place Match - Shelton Sales (Unattached) dec. Kyle Brooks (Crystal River)
3rd Place Match - Chase Payne (Mat Masters) dec. Mark Burkart (Warrior Wrestling)

90 KG/198.5 lbs
1st Place - Justin Harrell of Unattached
2nd Place - Kyle Ogan of Edgewater
Round 1 - Justin Harrell (Unattached) dec. Kyle Ogan (Edgewater)
Round 2 - Justin Harrell (Unattached) won by injury default over Kyle Ogan (Edgewater), 0:00

90+ KG/unlimited
1st Place - Gabe Beauperthuy of Colorado USA Wrestling
2nd Place - Ike Okoli of NB Elite Wrestling
3rd Place - Charles Daniels of Independent
4th Place - Tyrique Nolen of Blue Ridge Wrestling Club
1st Place Match - Gabe Beauperthuy (Colorado USA Wrestling) dec.Ike Okoli (NB Elite Wrestling), 1-0 ot
3rd Place Match - Charles Daniels (Independent) dec.Tyrique Nolen (Blue Ridge Wrestling Club)

Veterans results

Veteran A - Light
1st Place - Travis Kirby of Warrior Wrestling
2nd Place - Joseph Tortorici of Strizki Landing Wrestling

Veteran A - Heavy
1st Place - Tomas Gonzales of Pope / Fort Bragg Wrestling Te

Veteran E
1st Place - Peter Wirs of The Pennsylvania Wrestling Club