BY RICHARD IMMEL, USA WRESTLING
SALVADOR DA BAHIA, Brazil – The 2017 Pan American Beach Wrestling Championships was held at Stella Maris Beach recently with a record-setting 60 matches being contested in the unique international wrestling style.
Sam Jones, a Thomas High School graduate and All-State wrestler his senior year was the lone U.S. competitor in the field. Jones who is now a teacher at Monacan, competed in the 70 kg/154 lbs. bracket, going 0-3 on the day. He took on opponents from Ecuador, Colombia, and Brazil.
“I didn’t wrestle as well as I wanted to, but I still had fun,” Jones said. “It’s the international camaraderie here. You see these guys helping each other up out of the sand. That’s really inspiring. That’s the best thing about it.”
Athletes from eight Pan American nations, were entered in the tournament. Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the United States and Uruguay were all represented. There was a total of 39 wrestlers who competed, 27 men and 12 women.
This marks only the second Pan American Beach Wrestling Championships, with the other having been held in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2015. Ike Okoli of Columbia, S.C. is the only American medalist at this event, taking gold two years ago.
The 2017 Beach Wrestling World Championships are tentatively scheduled for August. A location has yet to be determined.
Americans interested in trying their hand at beach wrestling may do so at the U.S. Beach Wrestling Nationals being held in Carolina Beach, N.C. on May 19.