BREMERTON, Washington – Marine Corps Capt. Bryce Saddoris pulled off a clean sweep in the Armed Forces Wrestling Championships on Saturday and Sunday at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, winning all six of his matches and capturing the title of the Greco-Roman and freestyle formats.
The multiple-victory finish was the first time Saddoris has captured both titles in the event, winning the Greco-Roman genre in 2014 at Fort Carson, Colorado, finishing second in the freestyle.
Saddoris won the freestyle portion in 2013 at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, finishing second in Greco-Roman, which is now his go-to event.
What makes Saddoris’ title in the freestyle very notable is the fact that he has not consistently wrestled in the format, much less trained for the style, since he wrapped up a two-time, All-American collegiate career while competing for the United States Naval Academy.
“I haven’t wrestled freestyle for about five years. I only compete in the freestyle once a year at the Armed Forces Championships. There are some similarities, but the two styles are definitely different,” Saddoris said. “In Greco-Roman, we are taught to keep our hips in, and there is a lot of pummeling and using your opponent’s momentum. In freestyle, your hips are out. There is a lot of shooting and grabbing for legs.”
Even more impressive, Saddoris was not planning on competing in the freestyle at the Armed Forces Championships at all.
“One guy was not able to compete, and I did not find out until Friday morning,” Saddoris said. “It was just kind of a deal like – well, let’s get in there and grind it out. It made for a long weekend.”
Grind it out he did.
In the freestyle final on Sunday, Saddoris wrapped up a 3-0 record and claimed the championship with a 17-14, dogfight victory over Isaac Dukes of Army.
The score was back and forth the entire match, with the points knotted at 12-all. Saddoris came up clutch with a huge, four-point throw – taking a 16-12 lead.
After gaining another point, Saddoris let Dukes take him down and surrender two points late in the match with 18 seconds remaining.
“I took a takedown late. I didn’t want to give up anything big,” said Saddoris.
He also finished with a perfect, 3-0 record in the Greco-Roman tournament – finishing the weekend with an unblemished mark of 6-0.
The Greco-Roman final on Saturday was a much-more lopsided victory for Saddoris, blanking Jamal Johnson of Army with an 8-0 victory to claim the title.
“Winning both events was great. I have never done that at the Armed Forces Championships before,” said Saddoris. “But going in, the main goal was to win Greco. That is what I have been training for.”
Greco-Roman definitely takes precedence for Saddoris, as the genre is the only way to punch his ticket to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Saddoris is currently training in Colorado and will return to his home in North Carolina until March 4, and then he will travel to Germany to train with 66-kg (145-1/2 pounds) World Wrestling Championship title holder Frank Staebler, who defeated Saddoris in the 2015 World Championships quarterfinal.
In the repechage match, wrestling to advance to the bronze-medal match, Saddoris went in for a front headlock and collided with his opponent – fracturing the orbital bone in Saddoris’ left eye socket.
He was ahead on points at the time of the injury and running on all cylinders, but he could not overcome the setback – falling 5-4.
After multiple surgeries and still battling the effects of the injury, Saddoris says he back to full speed.
“I still see double sometimes when I look down, and bright light when I’m outdoors bothers me a little – but I honestly haven’t noticed any trouble when I’m wrestling. Greco wrestling is a lot about feel, and you always want your head up anyway,” Saddoris said.
Saddoris will spend approximately two weeks traveling to Germany and training, before returning home in the “latter half of March” for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on April 9 in Iowa City, Iowa, an event Saddoris calls “the deciding factor.”
Despite his injury and rehab Saddoris is still the No. 1 ranked wrestler by USA Wrestling in the 66-kg division – which is exactly where he needs to finish to qualify for the Olympics.
“Everyone comes out in an Olympic year, and all the guys who will wrestle at the trials had to qualify to get there – so everyone is really good and can’t be overlooked,” Saddoris said. “I just have to take one match at a time, stick to my training and game plan, and hopefully it all works out.”
Saddoris will have Elko County, USA Wrestling and much of the nation cheering him on as he attempts to pull off a truly-remarkable feat.
He will compete on April 9 at the University of Iowa Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a trip to the biggest spectacle of sports in the world on the line, the Olympics.