Season 4, Column 8: Team USA takes a dare & titles; The SoCon in Spring; & TX Roadtrips, back on track

DAMN THE TORPEDOES & THE DISEASE

Either through dogged determination or willful ignorance Team USA headed straight into a CDC threat Level 4 area and found themselves embedded in Covid-19 ravaged Guatemala City, Guatemala this week for the Pan American Championships. 11 2021 American Olympians made the trip which started with a bang for Team USA. 6 of the Red, White and Blues upper-body bangers made the Greco-Roman finals on the 1st day of competition. Americas GR guys earned 2 Golds and 4 Silvers. Sadly, for fans of American GR star G’Angelo Hancock (numerous, enthusiastic and passionate) and this column(1 passionate, several enthused, less numerous) the 97kg 2021 Olympian was a Guatemala City no-show. Messages to his coach/guest of this column TC Dantzler and Hancocks interview clips curated by TrackWrestlings Kyle Klingman gave no answers to this question. Hopefully Hancock is good to go for Tokyo. As a whole, the U.S. cleaned house. On day 2 America won every weight class, picking up 3 more Mens Greco Roman Gold medals and 4 in Women’s Freestyle. The All-Marine team duo of 77kg Peyton Walsh (Instagram @ p8onbw25) and 87kg John Stefanowicz (Twitter @ StefanowiczJohn) along with 2X Olympian Ben Provisor helped the USA to the Greco Roman title, more than doubling the total of 2nd place Brazil. Provisor competed at one of the non Olympic weights, 82kg, BTW. A very cool side note: the 30 year old Provisor (Twitter @ b_provisor74) will be a college freshman this upcoming season at NAIA wrestling power Grand View. Provisor plans to beef up Grand Views Greco Roman cred as a coach and help them win back the NAIA title as a competitor. (1) Reality TV show, anyone? Speaking of reality TV, howzabout “The REAL bad-ass Ladies of USA Wrestling?” Theres YEARS of scripts here, folks. Theres years of amazing results to celebrate as well, but it’s going to be tough to better this particular Pan Am medal haul. Ten weight classes, ten uber-talented American female freestylers, ten medals. 9 Golds and a Bronze. What, you wanted fries with that? The Ladies put on a 2004 USA Olympics Softball type of performance, smokin’ everybody from North Nunavut to Tierra Del Fuego, Chile. Maybe the ultimate performance was by 50kg Sarah Hildebrandt, who won her sixth Pan Am title. Shes gone Gold across 3 different wt classes, BTW, because she CAN. And did. Or perhaps 53kg Ronna Heaton had the biggest W. The multiple time age class World Medalist, beaten 10-0 early on in the tournament, fought her way to the finals. There she avenged her loss, this time beating her opponent from Ecuador 9-6 to bring home Gold. On the same day as the ladies heroics, and with limited notice for one and a new wt. class for the other, the mens FS stars went two for two. Former NC State AA Tommy Gantt (Twitter @tgantt74kg) won Gold at 79kg with one weeks notice to compete. Not to be outdone the NJRTCs very own “Handsome” Nate Jackson tried out his new 92kg wt class. Fits just fine, thank you, as HNJ blitzed the field for another USA Gold. The final day of competition was all Mens FS with 8 USA competitors in action. Who all made the Finals. And who ALL won Gold. The US domination was complete. Virtually every American won by technical fall, indeed most of the matches were shutouts. Theres excellent wrapups online at the USA Wrestling website, but the very best news about Americas colossal crushing of everybody at this tournament will come in a few days. When EVERYBODY wearing the Red, White and Blue lands safely and tests negatively.

SO COOL, SO HOT, SOCON

Apologies to Intermats marvelous new full time SoCon correspondent Raquel Gallardo (whose excellent conference yearlong review graced the Mat Talk Online newsletters May 22nd edition) theres a nibble or three of noteworthy conference stuff that lands right here, right now….

Bellarmine made some moves in this, their first Division 1 post-season. The biggest by far was waving goodbye to the only Head Coach in the programs history. Spencer Adam’s 5 year run as architect and leader of Bellarmine Knights Wrestling ended this week. Rather, a press release from the University somewhat telling in its briefness told the story. AD Scott Wiegandt, quote: “I have accepted his (Walkers) resignation. A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.” It just seems sudden. 2 Knights, Alex Rivera and Devan Hendricks, tried out for the Junior Nationals in late April. Both competed at 74kg in Freestyle and the two combined for a 4-4 record. Their school, a private, 4 year Catholic college in Lexington, KY, hit the big boy brackets of college wrestling this year. They first spent a successful 4 year stint in Division 2 competing in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. Their in season story was highlighted in Season 4, Column 2, released April 11th.

Campbells been a busy bunch since the Camels 174lb Austin Murphy had a Bloodround bow-out at this years NCAAs. 141lb Jr. to be Shannon Hannah finished Top 8 at the 65kg Freestyle Junior Nationals. Hannah, an FHSAA State Champ for Coach Larry Walkers (2) Lake Gibson Braves, was a SoCon Tournament finalist in his 1st season for Campbell after transferring from the assassinated program at Old Dominion. Super senior 184lb Andrew Morgan, who chose to wait out an excruciating eligibility decision this season, stepped into a deep 86kg class at Sr. Nationals and earned a fine 7th place finish. @GoCamelsWrestle has been teasing big news for Morgan for a while now, but Campbells rock solid 174-285lb lineup returns intact for next season, so….Graduate Assistant? Assistant Coach? Broadcaster? Hmmm. A big surprise popped when redshirt senior 157lb Ben Barton entered the transfer portal and came out a Lock Haven Bald Eagle. Barton’s Campbell campaigns were twice ended by injury, but he made the SoCon Tournament three times and earned 2 trips to the NCAAs. Also out of Buies Creek, Austin Kraisser, who’ll take his final season in Ames as an Iowa State Cyclone. The middle of 3 Kraisser brothers to wrestle for Campbell, Austin posted three 20 plus win seasons for the Camels but had limited action this year. Of note, the school staged a fundraising event targeted at raising 100 Thousand dollars to keep their “super” seniors (those eligible to return despite 5th year status due to this season not counting). Morgan, Barton and Kraisser all fit that bill along with 149lb Josh Heil. At least Heil is back for next season. A number of Campbell underclassmen are transferring out as well. The real capper on the Camels season was in the classroom as the team took the #15 spot in the National GPA rankings.

THE GLAD, THE SAD, & 2 BAGS OF UGLY

The loooong Covid lockdown for the Scribe and wife ended with a glorious return to the TX road trip life so enjoyed prior to March of last year. The hurt of last Springs canceled coastal vacay was washed away by a 3.5 hour sojourn from San Antonio down I-37 to S/E TX through Flour Bluff into Corpus Christi & on to the JFK Causeway to Padre Island National Seashore. The largest continuous barrier Island in the world (3) runs some 70 miles ending just above the Mexican border. Its driveable across most of its length and protected by massive sand dunes and the National Park Service. Endangered Kemps Ridley Sea Turtles nest there and 150-plus bird species inhabit it or use the Flyway overhead. The dunes support a vast ecosystem from soil and sand protecting grasses to wandering and wary packs of coyotes. THE most prevalent, friendly, colorful, occasionally annoying and consistently messy visitor, however, is the Island Enjoyer. A subspecies of Homo Sapien, Beachus BelongsToUs treats this rare, gorgeous incredible natural wonder much like its full time neighborhood. Speeding? Oh yes. Alcohol? Yup. Interactions of a metal+rubber+unawareness>wildlife type? Indeed. However, despite all these things, the Seashore remains a TX must see. The sunsets are stunning, the sunrises more so. Flocks of gliding pelicans passing low and slow nearby. Skimmers, Seagulls, and Plovers in droves holding court on the edge of the surf. The waters endless ebb and flow revealing, then covering a myriad of lifeforms as they battle the tides and bury themselves in the safety of the wet sand. Sad was there as well because, on the National Seashore, the Wild is not hidden. The stark reveal of Natures true face was shown this trip by a powerful pair of CaraCaras (4) ripping apart the remains of a magnificent blue heron. And there is ugly, but that seems a strictly man made phenomenon. The wife and the Scribe spent an hour or more over the 2 day stay clearing the site of previous “users”, filling 2 large orange trash bags. The thought here is that a “bag a day” surtax should be assessed for the right to access this seascape wonder. That’s for others to decide. The decision here is that the trip was a joy and will remain a special Lone Star state memory.

See you next month!

Ted Carreras

(1) Coach Omi Acosta and his Life University Running Eagles, who wrested the title away from the 9x champ Grand View team this Spring, just may have something to say about that. LUCHA!

(2) Walkers Twitter @lgwrestlingwalk is the go-to site for all good FHSAA wrestling stuff and down home common sense. Mix and match with @coach_themass66, Auburndale Wrestling Coach Antonio Thomas, for the real real on sports, food battles, music and life as it is. They are the Crockett and Tubbs of Polk County, FL, wrestling, it says here.

(3) Its Texas. What did you expect?

(4) The Caracara, a large Falcon more native to Mexico and points South, is a gorgeous and aggressive carrion-eater that can and will run off vultures more than twice their size. The Scribe and bride once observed one defiantly claiming an entire deer carcass in a San Antonio field.