POSTCARDS FROM AUSTRALIA
American Samoa is being represented in the 2012 Senior Oceania Wrestling Championships (January 27- 29), with wrestlers from the American Samoa Wrestling Association (ASWA), as well as those who are of Samoan descent and have been training off-island. The championships are taking place in Sydney, Australia, and are the first stage of the Olympic qualifier for the 2012 Olympic Games to be held in London, England this summer.
Head coach for Team American Samoa is Ethan Lake, who is also president of the ASWA, is sending ‘postcard’ updates to the territory — via-email — and asks to please, “Keep us in your prayers”.
SECOND DAY OF COMPETITION: 9 MEDALS, WHICH INCLUDE 2 GOLDS
Today's competition (Saturday, Jan 28th) was all about Greco Roman (Olympic style) and the inaugural Grappling and Combat Grappling (Non-Olympic styles).
Greco Roman, or just Greco as most call it, is the second of two international wrestling styles in the Olympics. Greco is in fact, the first and original wrestling style in the modern Olympics.
In Greco, wrestlers are not allowed to use the legs for advantage, meaning you are not allowed to grasp them or touch them with your hands. You are not allowed to use them for blocking or tripping or for any type of advantage toward your opponent. In other words, Greco is all about the upper body— it is mainly about the upper body throws.
The wrestling competition was again fierce all day today. Once again, much like the previous day, the Australian and New Zealand wrestlers with immigrant surnames appeared to dominate many weight classes. Regardless of this fact though, Team American Samoa continued to secure more medals on day two.
The time appeared to move by much faster on this day. With no Cadet categories for Greco, Bruce Scanlan moved up a whole age division to the Juniors in order to compete in Greco. Bruce fared well despite the age difference and was able to secure a bronze medal at 74kg by pinning Rengiil Wong Ueki of Palau in the third period. Bruce had the final say with Ueki after his narrow loss the day prior for the Gold.
Tuigamala Iosefo, who was wrestling for Team American Samoa at 74kg in the Senior division, was unable to wrestle today due to injuries sustained during the Freestyle competitions earlier. Though the injuries were nothing serious, they were enough to advisably keep him from competing today as Greco Roman wrestling is known for its high throwing.
Caleb Scanlan kicked off American Samoa's first Combat Grappling with a bout against New Zealand’s number one Grappler in the nation. Combat Grappling is essentially the same as amateur MMA. Caleb’s bout went the full distance with Caleb striking hard and making some good contact. However, he was not able to pull off the win against New Zealand’s best. Caleb went on to secure the silver medal for American Samoa.
Sam Fulton who took one for the team the day prior wrestling up at 120kg for Freestyle, came down to 84kg for Greco to represent American Samoa in the senior category. With Greco not being his primary style and with the intense matches he endured the day prior, Sam was unable to get the Gold in the Senior Greco matches and later had to pull out due to injuries; however, he was able to secure two Silver medals at 90kg; one for Grappling and the other for Combat Grappling.
Travis Nua was able to secure Bronze medals in the same weight categories just behind Sam. Since Grappling and Combat Grappling are not Olympic styles, countries were allowed to enter more than one athlete in each.
Based on the luck of the draw, Carl (CJ) Floor Jr.’s first match of the day was with Western Samoa’s top wrestler at 96kg. Both came out with determination but it was CJ who showed who the better wrestler was, beating Samoa early on in the competition. CJ then progressed on throughout the day, eventually meeting up once again with Priscus Fogagnolo from Australia, this time in the Semi-finals. Priscus (or ‘Spartacus’ as Team American Samoa nicknamed him) was again, CJ's toughest match of the day. Like many of the Senior Gold medalists in these Oceania Championships, Priscus's skills and strength comes from being within the prime age for wrestling which is between 28-34 yrs old. Whereas CJ and most of Team American Samoa are either under the sprouting age for the senior division or right on it which starts at 21 yrs old. Despite all his efforts, CJ was unable to bring Priscus down making the way for Piscus to take Gold.
Sonny Gaoa, once again did not disappoint anyone except his opponents on this second day of intense competition. Sonny dominated his weight class in the Junior age division which is age 18-20yrs. He wasted no time getting through the day. Sony wrestled fast and furious. His swift and aggressive attacks secured him the Team’s and possibly the Championships fastest pin at 23 seconds. Sonny wrestled Australia in the Championship match for Gold and Silver, pinning his opponent with ease, locking in American Samoa's First Gold of the Day and Sonny’s second of the Championship Tournament..
Finishing the day off for Team American Samoa, Lia Mata'afa was able to earn Gold medals in Combat Grappling and Grappling only, since Greco Roman does not have female wrestling categories.
Australia dominated this year’s Senior Gold medals with their prime aged and experienced wrestlers and imported talents while New Zealand followed behind them with a few Senior Gold medals of their own. In spite of not having secured a Gold medal in the Senior Age division for the Olympic style categories and despite having the youngest senior team at this year’s Oceania Championships and Olympic Qualifiers, Team American Samoa topped all the other Pacific Island Nations in the medal count with over 18 medals including 3x Gold medals in the Junior age division in the Olympic style categories and 2x Gold Medals in the Senior age division in the non-Olympic style categories. The medal count easily ranks Team American Samoa third behind the two much larger nations. The only other two Senior Gold medals for the Oceania Championships not awarded to Australia or New Zealand went to Palau in Men’s Freestyle 120kg and Guam in Women's Freestyle 63kg.
Most of the Oceania countries took notice of the young nature of Team American Samoa and most had commented with their own predictions of American Samoa dominating not only the island nations but all of Oceania in the future when the team's young senior and pre-senior athletes mature into their prime age of domination which is between 28-34 yrs of age (in the next 4-8 yrs.)
Team American Samoa's medal count for day 2 of competitions:
9 Medals = 2 x Gold, 4 x Silver, 3 x Bronze
66kg Caleb Scanlan 1 x Bronze (Combat Grappling)
74kg Bruce Scanlan 1 x Bronze (Greco)
84kg Travis Nua 2 x Bronze (Combat Grappling/Grappling)
96kg Sonny Gaoa 1 x Gold (Junior)
120kg Sam Fulton 2 x Silver
73kg Lia Mata'afa 2 x Gold (Senior -Combat Grappling/Grappling)
With the second day of competition behind us, the third and final day of competition is Beach Wrestling. Beach wrestling is a new style added to the FILA styles of wrestling just a few years ago with the possibility of adding it to the Olympic Games as a way to gain more interest and viewership in wrestling during the Olympics. Despite the fact that wrestling is one of the world's oldest sports and one of the original Ancient Olympian sports, it continues to struggle in popularity taking a back seat to more famed sports such as football, rugby, basketball, tennis, golf and many others.
Stay tuned for the final day of wrestling and the wrap of the Oceania Championships.
Thanks – Ethan
(P.S. Ethan is back in American Samoa, as of yesterday — but will continue to bring us Sunday’s Beach Wrestling and final standings, including medal count.)