Photos courtesy of Geoff Riccio; RiccioProductions.com
Last night the Beat the Streets “Rumble on the River” event, took place on Pier 17 in Lower Manhattan, with a picturesque view of the Brooklyn Bridge behind the competition. Members of USA Wrestling’s Men’s Freestyle team took on Cuba, while the USA Women’s Freestyle team faced competition from Nigeria. Also, mixed in were a couple of special challenge matches. A recurring theme throughout the evening, aside from the mat which was slippery because of humidity and the location of the event near the river, was that our best wrestlers were all in tight matches and had to overcome adversity to come out on the winning side. Here is a look at five things I learned from the event itself.
1) The king stay the king
Those were the words tweeted out by Jordan Burroughs shortly after winning his special challenge match against two-time world champion Frank Chamizo. I picked Burroughs to win and will continue to do so until the foreseeable future, until something significant changes. Even so, down 4-0, on a slippery surface, against one of the best defensive wrestlers in the world, I had my doubts.
Jordan had every reason to mentally “throw in the towel” circle and hand fight for three minutes, avoid injury and live to fight another day. He had the built-in excuses readily available. Anyone watching the dual meet saw how difficult it was to gain footing on the mat, he’s had multiple knee injuries in the past, the match doesn’t really count, he didn’t have the same weigh-in procedures as everyone competing on the rest of the card, it isn’t a sacred opportunity at adding another world or Olympic medal to his collection. The alibis were there for him to use and most fans would have bought them and given him a mulligan for an exhibition loss to Chamizo.
What makes him great, what makes him the king and why he “stays the king” is because he refused to give in under unfavorable circumstances. This was a match that, on the surface, does not affect his legacy. At this point, only world championships will add to it. But that’s exactly why this performance is important and does add to his greatness. He sucked it up during adverse conditions and found a way to overcome the mounting odds against him. The pride of avoiding a let down for the USA wrestling community, little children who buy his products, and grown adults who cheer his name, mattered more than saving himself for a match that “really mattered.” The kids who were watching the streaming coverage or lucky enough to witness the match in person, don’t grasp the enormity of winning a world title, but they can comprehend seeing their hero down on his luck, pulling himself up, dusting himself off and hitting a gigantic double leg on one of the world’s best and then grinning afterwards.
2) Kyle Snyder must be the calmest human in the world
I’d like to spend a day with Kyle Snyder and see if his demeanor on the wrestling mat carries over to everyday tasks. Does he kick his feet up and yawn during the high point of a scary movie? When his favorite team is down by a score with under a minute left is he biting his fingernails? If a police officer is behind him, lights activated, does he do the quick glance down to see how fast he’s going? After years of watching him wrestle it makes you wonder if any of these things would phase the three-time World/Olympic champion.
An interesting note about Kyle’s wrestling career is that he generally doesn’t dominate his most prominent competitors. There’s never a “Gable at the 72 Olympics” type performances. More often than not he is in a tight match, or even down by a few points, wears down his opponent and secures the win. In last night’s match with Reineris Salas Perez, Snyder fell behind the Cuban 8-2, while still in the first period. The most recent four points coming as Kyle was thrown directly to his back. Instead of storming back to the center of the mat to show everyone that he’s really ready now and that Salas poked a sleeping bear, Snyder did what he always does and coolly sauntered back to the middle of the mat, barely batting an eye and proceeded to chip away at the lead until he secured the winning takedown with about seven seconds remaining in the match.
3) Helen Maroulis can still get gritty
In the post-Yoshida/Olympics years, we have gotten accustomed to watching Helen Maroulis steamroll the competition. Her most recent world title in 2017 was earned by dominating the competition. None of her opponents made it out of the first period. In her match last night with Odunayo Adekuoroye, she was not able to get much offense going against her taller, long-limbed opponent. In fact, was on the defensive when Adekuoroye got in on a pair of low leg attacks, only to find Maroulis reaching across to counter with an ankle pick of her own. Helen did get a late takedown on a low single from a reattack, to widen the margin of victory to 4-1, but make no mistake about it; she needed to gut this one out. It’s no secret that Maroulis suffered a severe concussion while competing in India, and required quite a bit of time away from the mat to recover, so the time of the mat may have affected her performance. Will she be able to get back to her Paris 2017 form? Only time will tell. Until then, it’s good to know that when she needs to, she’ll be able to fight her way through ugly victories if the picturesque footsweeps do not return.
4) Princeton’s got a good one
Well, I knew that Princeton signed an excellent prospect when the inked two-time New Jersey state champion Patrick Glory. Patrick finished his high school career ranked 17th overall in the Class of 2018. After watching his match with Gavin Teasdale, that ranking might be way too low. Glory has never been known for his freestyle acumen, while Teasdale has made the Cadet world team. Over the past year, the pair had split bouts in freestyle with Glory picking up a win at Who’s Number One and Teasdale evening the score at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic. The prevailing logic heading into this match was that if Teasdale can convert his takedowns, he’d be successful. Gavin tends to be much more aggressive from his feet than Glory. What make’s the future Tiger’s 16-3 win so unique is that he was able to do what he does best (defense/scrambling) and then also added a new wrinkle, bringing offense into the equation. He took more committed shots in this match than in either of their two previous matches and was able to convert those attempts into scores. This match was billed as the rubber match between the two, however, don’t be surprised if we see Glory/Teasdale again deep in an NCAA tournament or World Team Trials.
5) Jordan Oliver gets a chance at the World Team
I know I’m probably out on an island on this one because there’s a new system in place with the World Team Trials this weekend and Final X in June. There was no “Last Chance Qualifier” like in prior years, so Jordan Oliver was not able to qualify for the Trials since he was suspended during the US Open. All of that being said, he defeated Olympic Champion Togrul Asgarov and intends on competing at a weight class, 65 kg, where we do not have a returning world medalist. I think that at some point, he’ll get an opportunity to wrestle his way onto the team. I’m not saying Oliver will win; there’s stiff competition with Joey McKenna, Jaydin Eierman and Logan Stieber and others vying for the spot, I’m just stating that he’ll get a shot. If Jordan were to go out June 9/10th and win the Mongolia Open and defeat some well-known opponents, will USA Wrestling say, “Good job, see you in 2019!”