Over the past 12 months, the USA Wrestling has seen many of its wrestlers produce on the international stage. The following lists what WIN considers the Top 10 most significant moments in American freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling since June 1, 2012.
In this week’s WIN eNews, WIN is, in reverse order, announcing moments 6 to 10. The Top 5 moments will be announced in WIN’s May 22 eNews.
10. McKnight, Keddy and Rey win Pan Am freestyle golds, as the USA takes the team title in Panama — The United States had three individual champions and six medalists, and won the team title at the Pan American Championships in men’s freestyle on April 7, 2013.
Claiming individual titles for Team USA were Mark McKnight (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC) at 55 kg/121 lbs., Phil Keddy, Iowa City, Iowa (Hawkeye WC) at 84 kg/185 lbs. and Zach Rey, Hopatcong, N.J. (Lehigh Valley AC) at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.
“The guys did an awesome job today. They wrestled hard and smart. We were very close to having seven finalists. Coach Mike Duroe and I are extremely proud of these guys. It has been a pleasure being a part of this great group of young men,” said U.S. coach Chris Bono.
9. Doctor & Marine win U.S. Open in Greco-Roman — It wasn’t the first time John Wechter and David Arendt competed at the U.S. Open before capturing titles at 211.5 pounds and heavyweight, respectively, at the 2013 Nationals in Las Vegas.
But it had been a while since they competed.
Wechter, a former Michigan State collegiate wrestler, had not competed at the U.S. Open since 2009. Between then and now, he spent his time as a 33-year-old orthopedic surgeon resident in Minneapolis … where he eventually started training again for the Minnesota Storm club which excels in preparing Greco-Roman wrestlers.
“One thing I’ve learned is that it is a really big mental game,” said Wechter, who defeated Ryan Halsey for the title. “I had to have a plan and stick to it. Once I started thinking about all those things like who remembers or respects me, that’s when it gets bad. I trust in God and everything I do with my plan, everything will turn out well.”
Meanwhile, Arendt spent two tours of duty in Afghanistan since last competing at the 2009 World Team Trials.
“I love the opportunity that I can do this,” said Arendt, who defeated Erik Nye — who upset 2012 Olympian Dremiel Byers earlier in the tournament — in the finals. “It shows the people serving overseas are good but don’t have the opportunity to do this. I do this for those guys … so they have someone to look to and say, ‘He’s been here too and comes back and succeeds on the mat.’ ”
8. Unseeded Kellen Russell wins U.S. Open — No wrestler won more matches at the 2013 ASICS U.S. Open in Las Vegas than Kellen Russell, the former two-time (2011 and ’12) NCAA champion from Michigan. Because he was not seeded, he first had to win three matches in the qualifying tournament on April 18, then added four more wins on April 19, including a 0-1, 2-2, 1-0 victory in the finals against Jordan Oliver, the former two-time NCAA champ from Oklahoma State. Oliver reached the finals with a 1-0, 0-1, 1-0 victory over former World Team member Brent Metcalf.
7. Ellis Coleman’s Flying Squirrel illustrated in ESPN The Magazine — It was a move — where a wrestler leaps over the head of his opponent and grabs his foe with a reverse gut on the way down — that Coleman executed at the 2011 Junior Worlds in Greco-Roman. Over a year and a half later, ESPN The Magazine illustrated the move by the 2012 Olympian — combining a series of photos — and published the move in their January 24, 2013 issue.
6. Pirozhkova and Gray win World gold medals — The summer of 2012 did not end on a high note for Elena Pirozhkova or Adeline Gray, former World medalists, who failed to make an impact at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Pirozhkova competed in just one match and lost at 138.75 pounds, while Gray did not make the team at 158 pounds (one of just four Olympic weights for women and up one weight from where Gray normally competed).
But fortunately, FILA offered a World Championship in women’s freestyle in late September in Sherwood, Canada, where each wrestler won a gold medal.
Gray, a World bronze medalist in 2011, pinned Canada’s Dorothy Yeats in the finals at 67 kg/147.5 lbs. Pirozhkova, a World silver medalist in 2010, downed Bulgaria’s Taybe Yusein 2-1, 2-5, 1-0 in the finals at 63 kg/138.75 lbs.
The top five USA/International stories of 2012-13 will be announced May 22.