WATCH: Ten Greco-Roman Pan-American Finals
Monday, May 9, 2022 - 15:09 By Eric Olanowski & Vinay Siwach
ACAPULCO, Mexico (May 9) --- The United States and Mexico's Greco-Roman squads went toe-to-toe for the team title on the grounds of the palm-tree-lined Mundo Imperial in sunny Acapulco. But it was the Stars and Stripes that closed out the Pan-American Championships with the team title after claiming a quartet of champions compared to Mexico's solo tournament winner. Cuba rounded out the top three in the team race after winning a trio of titles.
Brady Koontz (USA), Randon Miranda (USA), Samuel Lee Jones (USA) and Patrick Smith (USA) reached the top of the podium in four of the first five weights, helping the Red, White and Blue finish the tournament with 165 points -- 17 points ahead of host Mexico.
Despite only having one gold medalist -- Daniel VICENTE (MEX) -- Mexico medaled at six of ten weights and ended the tournament in second place with 148 points.
Cuba brought five wrestlers to Mexico and reached the finals in all but one weight class. Yosvanys Pena Flores (CUB), Daniel Hechavarria (CUB) and Oscar Pino Hinds (CUB) were victorious in their gold-medal matches, helping the tiny Greco-rich island-nation finish in third place with 101 points.
Here are the ten matches that helped determine the team race in the western Mexican port city.
55kg: Brady Koontz (USA) vs. Axel Salas Esquivel (MEX) - Round 2
Koontz won the 55kg title with his second-round win over Axel SALAS ESQUIVEL (MEX). He scored a pair of gut-wrenches from par terre and led 5-0 at the break. In the second period, Koontz scored when Salas failed to complete a head-pinch exposure, before adding a takedown to finish the bout 9-1.
60kg: Randon Drew Miranda (USA) vs. Samuel Gurria Vigueras (MEX)
Samuel GURRIA VIGUERAS (MEX) lit up the arena with his high-flying style, including in the final against Miranda. Unfortunatly, he had to settle for a silver as the USA wrestler finished the match one step ahead.
The two were involved in a 20-point slugfest in the final with Gurria being egged on by the vocal Mexican fans. But it was Miranda who kept the action going in the first period and was giving the advantage.
He awarded two points as Gurria tried to defend and score a reversal from par terre but committed a leg-foul. He was again put in par terre and Miranda scored four points from two chest-wrap exposures. He then had Gurria in a headlock looking to finish the bout but ended up picking up two. He landed on his back in danger in the same motion, giving up two as well and the score read 9-2. It was initially scored four points for Gurria but the USA successfully challenged the call.
They were involved in another two-and-two situation in the second period before Gurria launched a big headlock for four. A reversal gave Miranda a 12-8 lead and it remained that till the end.
"That was a lot of points," Miranda said after the match. "He was looking to score as he was in his hometown and with that, he brought in the energy."
Miranda suffered a loss in the final at the '21 edition of the Pan-Ams but was focused enough to win it this year. Despite getting stuck in a few situations, he trusted his game plan to pull off the win, which he thought was critical.
"I think staying composed [made the difference]," he said. "I had a little bit of gameplan, not give him too many openings for him as he caught me a couple of times but that was the goal -- to not get caught."
After ascending to the top of the podium, Miranda can definitely take pride in the win, a warm-up before he enters the USA World Team Trials in June.
"I have to work on some of the stuff for the world team trials for the World Championships," he said. "But I am definitely proud of this and this means that I am training good and hard."
63kg: Samuel Lee Jones (USA) vs. Jose Rodriguez Hernandez (MEX)
USA's world team member Jones defeated Jose RODRIGUEZ (MEX) with 2:08 on the clock to win his first Pan-Am title. After scoring a stepout and point from passivity, he launched Rodriguez for two four-point throws from body locks to win the bout 10-0.
67kg: Julian Horta Acevedo (COL) vs. Kenedy Moraes Pedrosa (BRA)
Tokyo Olympian Julian HORTA ACEVEDO (COL) won his first senior Pan-Am title by beating Kenedy MORAES PEDROSA (BRA), 5-0, in the 67kg final.
His opening action to go behind and score a takedown on the edge earned him two points before another point was added for Moraes' passivity. He scored a gut-wrench from par terre to lead 5-0 and survived the remaining time to win the gold.
"I feel proud," Horta said. "The work we are doing is good. I managed the bout tactically well to win. This was my second Pan-Am tournament for me and now I start the preparation for the Olympic cycle with the Bolivarian Games in July."
72kg - Patrick Smith (USA) vs. Edsson Gutierrez (MEX) - Round 2
Smith was the USA's fourth gold medalist as he remained undefeated in the 72kg Nordic bracket. The bout which made the difference came against Edsson OLMOS (MEX). Smith won that bout 4-2. This was Smith's third Pan-Am title and fifth medal overall.
77kg - Yosvanys Pena Flores (CUB) vs David Elias Choc Huoc (GUA)
Pena's bouts were not high scoring but his run to the gold were controlled wins. In the final, he was awarded a point for Choc's passivity. He managed to score a four-pointer from par terre, then added two more points. Choc scored a reversal and then a point in the second period but that was not enough.
82kg: Daniel Vicente Gomez (MEX) vs. Reinier Jimenez Terry (GUA)
Local star Daniel Vincente handed Reinier JIMENEZ TERRY (GUA) a 1-1 defeat, avenging the loss against the Guatemalan wrestler from the morning session. He had suffered a 10-1 loss to Jimenez in the early rounds but he avenged that when it mattered the most in the gold medal bout. Vincente and Jimenez exchanged inactivity points in either period of the final with the Mexcian winning 1-1 on criteria.
Vicente's 1-1 win over two-time Pan-Am bronze medalist Jimenez in the 82kg final helped Mexico stay ahead in the team title race.
87kg: Daniel Hechavarria (CUB) vs. Johan Antonio Batista (DOM)
Cuba's second or three golds went to two-time U23 world medalist Gregorich, who defeated Batista with two stepouts and three guts from par terre. The Tokyo Olympian now has two Pan-Am titles, four years after he won the first.
97kg: Kevin Mejia Castillo (HON) vs. Juan Conde Ibanez (CUB)
History-maker Kevin MEJIA CASTILLO (HON), who became the first wrestler from Honduras to win a Pan-Am title last year, gave himself a birthday present by defending his 97kg Pan-Am title.
Winning the gold without giving up a single point in the tournament only made it more memorable for him.
"I am really happy," Mejia said. "I never thought I will be a two-time Pan-Am champ. I thank my trainers who are always with me. Winning was hard here."
The 24-0 scoreline in his three bouts includes an 8-0 win over Juan CONDE IBANEZ (CUB) in the gold medal bout. He began with a four-point move from par terre and then scored another exposure to lead 7-0. He finished the bout in two minutes and 21 seconds with a stepout.
But to take the next step and win medals on the world stage, Mejia says that he needs better training.
"I need to prepare more [to win at Worlds]," he said. "Better training in Europe is important to have better results"
Apart from the three remaining Greco-Roman weight classes, women's wrestling will also begin Friday with four weights in action.
130kg: Oscar Pino Hinds (CUB) vs. Eduard Soghomonyan (BRA)
Oscar Pion Hinds could not have asked for a better return to Greco-Roman after trying his hand at freestyle for the last three years.
In 2019, he won the silver medal at the World Championships at 130kg but has since wrestled freestyle. Despite qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, he had to vacate the 130kg spot for the four-time Olympic champion Mijain LOPEZ (CUB).
As the new Olympic cycle begins, Pino is expected to remain at 130kg and lead Cuba's 130kg charge. He took the first steps in that direction by winning the Pan-Am gold in Acapulco, Mexico.
Outscoring his opponents 29-2 on Thursday, Pino won his fourth Pan-Am title and the first since 2018 to remain undefeated in the four editions of the competition.
A relieved Pino said he was happy to be back to his natural Greco-Roman style after trying and winning the gold only made the return sweeter.
"I am very happy," Pino said. "For 2-3 years [four] I didn't wrestle in Pan Am as last time was in Peru. But I am back to Greco-Roman and I feel good. I also became the champion on return so very good."