Granma y Cerro Pelado

Cuba's Sanchez Brings The Boom To Open Cerro Pelado Women's Tournament

By Richard Immel

HAVANA, Cuba – Home-nation representative Yudari SANCHEZ (CUB) was magnificent on the first day of women’s wrestling at the Granma Y Cerro Pelado, earning three early-stoppage wins at 68 KG.

It was a quick, first-period fall over Saidy Loena CHAVEZ (HON) for Sanchez to begin the day. She then reeled off technical fall victories over Soleimy CORABALLO (VEN) and Yariannys MARIN (CUB) to position herself a single win away from the gold medal.

Sanchez, a junior world silver medalist and U23 world bronze medalist last year, takes on Diana MIRANDA (MEX) in tomorrow afternoon’s session. Miranda was a fifth-place finisher at the 2015 World Championships and will no doubt be a tough out for Sanchez.

Many expected returning junior world runner-up and three-time Cerro Pelado champion Lianna MONTERO (CUB) to walk to the 57 KG title. However, Montero was upset in her last-of-four round-robin matches by Maria FERNANDA (CUB), 4-1.

Montero, a recent Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix bronze medalist, completed her tournament with a 3-1 record. Both Fernanda and 2016 Pan American bronze medalist Alejandra ROMERO (MEX) can finish 3-1 with wins tomorrow and force criteria to determine the 57 KG champion.

Cuba has two more women who are the only undefeated wrestlers left in their respective round-robin brackets. Returning Cerro Pelado silver medalist Milaimys MARIN (CUB) can take the 76 KG gold with a win over 2017 junior Pan American champion Mabelkis CAPOTE (CUB). Similarly, Hangelen LLANES (CUB) needs a win over 2018 Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix bronze medalist and six-time Pan American medalist Yakelin ESTORNELLA (CUB) to finish unscathed.

The remaining four weight classes, while also round-robin in nature, will feature pseudo gold-medal matches between unbeaten women tomorrow.

Two-time Pan American champion and London Olympian Kelsey CAMPBELL (USA) impressed with a pair of shutout wins at 59 KG. Next, she meets up with the talented Dayselis RODRIGUEZ (CUB), winner-take all.

At 53 KG, three-time Pan American bronze medalist Betzabeth Angelica ARGUELLO VILLEGAS (VEN) seeks perfection against Amanda HERNADEZ (CUB). Arguello Villegas finished in fifth place at the Rio Olympics.

Dual Cuba-on-Cuba finals round out the list of gold-medal contenders in women’s wrestling. 2016 junior Pan American champion Yusneylys GUZMAN (CUB) will battle last year’s Cerro Pelado bronze medalist Leanne MENDOZA (CUB) at 59 KG. Lesser known Cubans Yayneli SANZ (CUB) and Laura HERIN (CUB) will vie for the 55 KG crown.

The women’s wrestling day two session will begin at 2 p.m. local time on Tuesday. Complete results and a live stream of all the action can be found at


Granma y Cerro Pelado

Akgul Flawless In Granma y Cerro Pelado Freestyle Finals

By Richard Immel

HAVANA, Cuba – Rio Olympic champion Taha AKGUL (TUR) accented a flawless Granma y Cerro Pelado tournament with a workmanlike 11-0 victory over United States foe Ben DURBIN (USA) to claim 125 KG gold.

Akgul, a two-time champion at the World Championships, scored three takedowns and two turns for the decisive win in the final freestyle match contested  in Cuba. He finished with three wins over the two-day competition, outscoring his opponents by a combined 32-0 tally.

Turkey earned a second gold medal from Husseyin GUNDUZ (TUR) at 92 KG. Gunduz ousted 2017 Ion Corneau champion Gabriel STARK (GER) in a dramatic final, 2-1.

Host-nation Cuba accumulated four champions on Thursday, led by technical fall wins in the finals from returning world bronze medalists Yowlys BONNE RODRIGUEZ (CUB) at 61 KG and Alejandro VALDES TOBIER (CUB) at 65 KG.

Bonne Rodriguez trailed high-paced American Cody BREWER (USA) 6-0 early in the first period after giving up two initial takedowns, one feet-to-back. The Cuban star methodically went to work for 16-staight points and the gold medal.

It was a quick heat for Valdes Tobier, who synched up multiple inside trips in the early going against Robbie MATHERS (USA). After the initial flurry of action, Valdes Tobier was declared the winner, 10-0.

Other champions for Cuba were past Pan American champion Franklin MAREN (CUB) and Yurieski TORREBLANCA (CUB). Both men won tight finals contests, Maren a 1-1, criteria win over 2015 Pan American champion Jason CHAMBERLAIN (USA) and Torreblanca a 6-2 decision on 2012 junior world champion Achmed DUDAROV (GER).

A last-second challenge overturning a call on the edge of the mat gave Kubilay CAKICI (GER) a superb win over London Olympic bronze medalist Livan LOPEZ AZCUY (CUB) for the 74 KG gold. Lopez Azcuy appeared to have the match won, but a last-ditch effort saw Cakici capitalize on a takedown with under five seconds remaining.

The United States secured gold medals from Zach SANDERS (USA) at 57 KG and Hayden ZILLMER (USA) at 97 KG. Sanders turned a 1-0 second-period deficit into a 6-1 victory over Alexei ALVARES (CUB) courtesy of persistent offense. Zillmer notched a low-level takedown and two leg laces to seal the gold, 6-0, over fellow American Ty WALZ (USA).

Complete results and archived matches from the 2018 Granma y Cerro Pelado tournament can be found at


57 KG

Gold –  Zach SANDERS (USA)

Silver – Alexei ALVARES (CUB)

Bronze – Aso PALANI (CAN)

Bronze – Pedro MEJIAS (VEN)

61 KG


Silver – Cody BREWER (USA)

Bronze – Dabian QUINTANA (CUB)

Bronze – Johnni DIJULIUS (USA)  

65 KG

Gold – Alejandro VALDES TOBIER (CUB)  

Silver – Robbie MATHERS (USA)

Bronze – Brandon DIAZ (MEX)

Bronze – Anthony ABIDIN (USA)

70 KG

Gold – Franklin MAREN (CUB)

Silver – Jason CHAMBERLAIN (USA)

Bronze – Hunter STIEBER (USA)

Bronze – Kevin HENKEL (GER)

74 KG

Gold – Kubilay CAKICI (GER)

Silver – Livan LOPEZ AZCUY (CUB)

Bronze – Jean PERALTA (CHI)

Bronze – Nestor TAFUR (COL)

86 KG

Gold – Yurieski TORREBLANCA (CUB)

Silver – Achmed DUDAROV (GER)

Bronze – Martin OBST (GER)

92 KG

Gold – Husseyin GUNDUZ (TUR)

Silver – Gabriel STARK (GER)

Bronze – Don MCNEIL (USA)

97 KG

Gold – Hayden ZILLMER (USA)

Silver – Ty WALZ (USA)

Bronze – Nathan BURAK (USA)

125 KG

Gold – Taha AKGUL (TUR)

Silver – Ben DURBIN (USA)

Bronze – Yudenny ALPAJON (CUB)

Bronze – Sean MOLLE (CAN)