By Cody Goodwin
The DI previews Sunday night’s Greco-Roman best-of-three finals matches.
60 kg: Joe Betterman (Sunkist Kids) vs. Ellis Coleman (NYAC)
Betterman entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed in this weight class. He rightfully won the class last year at the 2011 World Team Trials, and has claimed the U.S. Open Championship in three of the last four years. Betterman was also the man at 60 kilograms at the Olympic Team Trials in Las Vegas in 2008. His calm style and stagnant facial expressions make it difficult for his opponent to read him, and his gut-wrench is one of the tightest out there.
Coleman entered this tournament as one of the youngest in the bracket at 20 years old, but was also inked down as the dark horse to possibly make the team. His feisty style makes him difficult to control, and he’s arguably the most explosive wrestler in the tournament. Tack on the fact that Coleman has defeated Betterman in both of the bouts in which they’ve met, and there should be no doubt that tonight’s best-of-three series will be one for the ages.
74 kg: Aaron Sieracki (Army) vs. Ben Provisor (Sunkist Kids)
Sieracki is a seasoned veteran. Tonight’s finals won’t be his first go-around — he has been within an earshot of sporting the Team USA singlet twice. He placed second at the World Team Trials in 2006 and second at the 2008 Olympic trials. The Wisconsin native has continually been near the top of the totem pole in the United States, but has yet to break through into the world scene. At age 36, his time could be dwindling quickly.
Provisor, on the other hand, is alive and young at 21, and will get his second consecutive shot at making Team USA. He lost in three matches last year at the World Team Trials finals, and has returned for an even stronger campaign this year. Provisor won the 2011 U.S. Open and placed second at the 2011 Pan-American Games. With his family and fan-section in the crowd, he’ll be put to the test tonight with a man who bests him in age by 15 years.
96-kg: R.C. Johnson (Sunkist Kids) vs. Pete Gounaridis (Sunkist Kids)
Johnson is the 2012 U.S. Open Champion at this weight class, and it was dubbed his to lose from the get-go. His par terre offense is one to watch, as he’s known to lock up a tight gut-wrench and end the period in an instant. He doesn’t shy away from big lifts and throws. Johnson sported the Red, White, and Blue singlet in 2009 as part of the World Team, and will be the favorite for tonight’s best-of-three series.
Gounaridis is out to avenge his 2009 loss to Johnson at the World Team Trials. His motivation also comes from this past year, when he placed second to Johnson, again, at the U.S. Open Championship. Gounaridis is an exciting wrestler, and has the capability to put up big points when everything part of his game-plan is clicking on all cylinders. He’ll need it tonight if he plans to finally jump the hurdle that is R.C. Johnson.
DI reporter Cody Goodwin was a three-time all-Missouri wrestler and won a state Greco-Roman championship in high school. Follow him on Twitter.