Granma y Cerro Pelado

United States, Cuba Trade Blows In Freestyle At Granma y Cerro Pelado

By Richard Immel

HAVANA, Cuba – Pan American rivals Cuba and the United States traded punches throughout the opening day of freestyle wrestling at the Granma y Cerro Pelado.

The two nations combined to have 13 wrestlers qualify for the finals, the United States with 7 and Cuba with 6. Four of tomorrow’s gold-medal matches will pit individuals from the United States and Cuba opposite one another.

Two-time bronze medalist at the World Championships Yowlys BONNE RODRIGUEZ (CUB) dazzled with a barrage of high-amplitude moves on his way to the 61 KG finals.

He opened with impressive wins over American foes Anthony RAMOS (USA) and Darius LITTLE (USA) before silencing last year’s Pan American champion Dabian Quintana (CUB), 7-4. Bonne Rodriguez will meet 2017 Dave Schultz Memorial International bronze medalist Cody BREWER (USA) for the title.

Alejandro VALDEZ TOBIER (CUB), bronze medal winner from last year’s World Championships in Paris, won both of his bouts by 10-0 scores to qualify for the 65 KG finals. Standing opposite the experience Cuban is international newcomer Robbie MATHERS (USA), who himself looked sharp with two technical superiority wins.

A pair of past Pan American champions will face off in the 70 KG gold-medal match. 2015 Pan American champion Jason CHAMBERLAIN (USA) and two-time Pan American champion Franklin MAREN (CUB) are the last two standing at this weight class.

The remaining United States versus Cuba final comes at 57 KG with 2014 Pan American champion Zach SANDERS (USA) taking on returning Cerro Pelado bronze medalist Alexei ALVARES (CUB).

Rio Olympics champion and two-time world champion Taha AKGUL (TUR) posted decisive shutout victories over Sean MOLLE (CAN) and Ceron FRANCISCO (USA) to sail to the 125 KG finals. Ben DURBIN (USA) earned the right to face Akgul tomorrow after upending returning Cerro Pelado champion Yudenny ALPAJON (CUB) in the semifinals, 4-2.

At 74 KG, London Olympic bronze medalist Livan LOPEZ AZCUY (CUB) looks to defend his Cerro Pelado title against 2017 Grand Prix of Paris bronze medalist Kubilay CAKICI (GER). Lopez Azcuy, who is a three-time medalist at the World Championships, won both of his bouts today by technical superiority.

The final Cuban in the gold-medal mix is two-time Pan American champion Yurieski TORREBLANCA (CUB) at 86 KG. Torreblanca escaped an 8-0 deficit in his opening contest by pinning Pedro CEBALLOS FUENTES (VEN). 2012 junior world champion Achmed DUDAROV (GER) is the final hurdle for Torreblanca.

U23 world bronze medalist Ty WALZ (USA) rode the momentum of a 12-2 victory over three-time world medalist Reineris SALAS (CUB) to the 97 KG finals. He will face fellow American Hayden ZILLMER (USA) in the finals. Zillmer won four international medals in 2017, but they all came in the Greco-Roman style.  

2017 Ion Corneau champion Gabriel STARK (GER) will battle Husseyin GUNDUZ (TUR) in the final round of the 92 KG round-robin bracket with the winner earning gold.

The Granma y Cerro Pelado tournament will conclude tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. local time with the freestyle wrestling finals. Complete results and a live stream of the event can be found at



57 KG

Gold: Zach SANDERS (USA) vs. Alexei ALVARES (CUB)

Bronze: Aso PALANI (CAN) vs. Eddie KLIMARA (USA)

Bronze: Pedro MEJIAS (VEN) vs. Joey DANCE (USA)

61 KG


Bronze: Anthony RAMOS (USA) vs. Dabian QUINTANA (CUB)

Bronze: Johnni DIJULIUS (USA) vs. Shelton MACK (USA)

65 KG

Gold: Alejandro VALDEZ TOBIER (CUB) vs. Robbie MATHERS (USA)

Bronze: Brandon DIAZ (MEX) vs. Lazaro CARBONEL (CUB)

Bronze: Dillon WILLIAMS (CAN) vs. Anthony ABIDIN (USA)

70 KG

Gold: Jason CHAMBERLAIN (USA) vs. Franklin MAREN (USA)

Bronze: Mario MASON (USA) vs. Hunter STIEBER (USA)

Bronze: Kevin HENKEL (GER) vs. Luis ROCHEZ (HON)

74 KG

Gold: Livan LOPEZ AZCUY (CUB) vs. Kubilay CAKICI (GER)

Bronze: Jean PERALTA (CHI) vs. Yoan SULEUETA (CUB)

Bronze: Nestor TAFUR (COL) vs. Jevon BALFOUR (CAN)

86 KG

Gold: Achmed DUDAROV (GER) vs. Yurieski TORREBLANCA (CUB)

Bronze: Pedro CEBALLOS FUENTES (VEN) vs. Martin OBST (GER)

92 KG

Gold: Gabriel STARK (GER) vs. Husseyin GUNDUZ (TUR)

97 KG

Gold: Hayden ZILLMER (USA) vs. Ty WALZ (USA)

Bronze: Erik THIELE (GER) vs. Nathan BURAK (USA)

125 KG

Gold: Taha AKGUL (TUR) vs. Ben DURBIN (USA)

Bronze: Luis VIVEWEZ (VEN) vs. Yudenny ALPAJON (CUB)

Bronze: Sean MOLLE (CAN) vs. Ceron FRANCISCO (USA)

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)