Europe wrestling - Day 1
Wrestlers give it their all for a shot at medaling
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 15, 2019
WIESBADEN, Germany -- Proven champions, seasoned contenders and promising newcomers shared the mat Friday at Clay Kaserne Fitness Center as the 2018-19 DODEA-Europe wrestling championship meet opened its two-day run.
The brackets for the higher weight classes, as per usual, were underpopulated relative to the 12-wrestler fields for the smaller classes. The bracket at 195 pounds featured just seven wrestlers, reduced from an already limited roster of eight by a pre-meet injury scratch.
Connor Boyer, reigning Division I champion Stuttgart’s entry in the slight 195-pound bracket, said he was “disappointed” when he learned he’d have two byes across the five preliminary rounds. After a big pinfall win in the morning’s first round, Boyer was sidelined until he notched a fourth-round pin in the early evening.
“I got all hyped up, then I’m just sitting here for four hours,” Boyer said.
While his opportunities were limited, Boyer’s wins were part of a strong day for Stuttgart, which is seeking its sixth straight European crown. All three of the Panthers’ reigning European champions, including 138-pounder Benjamin Fielding, 145-pounder Sean Smith and heavyweight John Carroll, went unbeaten Friday, as did returning 106-pound runner-up McKinley Fielding.
Ramstein, the 2018 runner-up and Stuttgart’s projected toughest competitor this year, has 28 wrestlers in the tournament compared to the Panthers’ 22. And the Royals’ top guys led the way Friday, as returning European champions Andres Hart and Conner Mackie went undefeated.
Mackie is part of a 126-pound bracket that ranks as one of the toughest in recent DODEA-Europe history. The 12-wrestler field features two 2018 champions in Mackie, who won at 120 pounds last year as a member of the Kaiserslautern Raiders, and Wiesbadey’s Atreyu Allen, the reigning 113-pound winner. The bracket also includes Munro Manning, the Sigonella star who fell to Allen in an 11-3 major decision in last year’s 113-pound title match.
Those two faced off again in a Friday preliminary bout, producing one of the best matches of the day’s four rounds. Allen edged Manning 3-2 in a grueling rematch.
“He had a lot more drive in him this time,” Allen said of Manning.
Allen knew he was in for a challenge with the glut of elite talent at the top of his weight class. That knowledge fueled him through a long winter of preparation.
“At practice I would work just that extra little bit harder because I had that mindset,” Allen said. “I have to give it my all.”
While established performers fared well on Friday, so too did some new contenders.
Ankara’s Roberts Swart was perfectly comfortable Friday despite a limited resume of DODEA-Europe matches to date. The junior, his school’s only entry in the tournament, won all four of his matches in the 145-pound bracket and was unfazed by the expanded talent pool in Wiesbaden.
“It doesn’t change anything. I just see this as the same meet, just a normal meet,” Swart said. “Just a lot more people.”
The meet continues Saturday morning with a fifth and final round of preliminary matches, followed by semifinals, fifth and third-place matches and a slate of 14 European championship bouts.
Ethan Gumabon of Naples wraps up Sigonella's Dylan Estes in a 106-pound match on the first day of action at the DODEA-Europe wrestling championships in Wiesbaden, Germany, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019. Gumabon won with a pin.
MICHAEL ABRAMS/STARS AND STRIPES