Match Breakdown: John Smith vs Stephan Sarkisyan
John Smith doesn’t really need very much introduction. Objectively the best freestyle wrestler to come out of the United States, one of our best coaches internationally and collegiately, and the pioneer of the low single. He was an olympic champion twice and world champion four times, with the current US record for world level gold. Stephan Sarkisyan met him in the finals of the 1989 world championships (or the 1988 olympic finals, according to the comments?) , and I’ll be taking a look at that match today. Scoring and periods were slightly different at that time, as without scoreboards it seems it is from the time when matches had three two minute periods, and were best of three, and takedowns were worth 1 rather than 2. Exposure and push out remains the same as modern rules. I’ll be frank, those rules were in place long before I was born, so I’m guessing the ruleset based on other matches from the time period. So, I’ll be breaking the match down score by score as with the other freestyle matches.
It’s no secret what John Smith did. Low single, elbow control high crotches. He could scramble with the best. Off the whistle, the first distinction between John and Stephan is the movement. John is immediately moving, level changing and faking. Stephan is trying to handfight, and controls the center well, but as he attempts to snpa John, Smith ducks with elbow control and tries to go behind, forcing Stephan to circle outside, and Smith walks back to the center as Stephan gets up. Smith begins faking again, stepping his lead leg forward and slightly out and level changing. This might be considered a bad habit by many, but John’s gift of speed and understanding the distance of the match makes it an effective way to keep your opponent reacting and unsure of when the next shot is coming, and in wrestling you always want to make your opponent REact rather than act. So as another reset comes due to heavy hands, John Smith bounces on the outside, changes levels and almost gets to a leg. A fantastic sprawl from Sarkisyan allows Stephan to attempt to score from a front headlock, but Smith gets control of an elbow and drags out, and as the two circle eventually Smith forces Stephan down to claim a takedown. Smith starts to work for a leg lace, but no avail, and no big deal.
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Stephan is once again controlling the center, walking Smith down. He does manage to get hands on John, but the world champion simply clears and circles back in, avoiding both the step out and any control tie Sarkisyan attempts. John fakes again, this time Stephan attempts a reattack, sweep stepping in an attempt to find a single leg, but Smith steps out and finds himself with a chest wrap, Sarkisyan getting his hips up and away in an effort to keep his weight on his feet, to avoid being snapped down further. However, he reaches for a leg, and Smith jumps on the opportunity, circling his legs out of Sarkisyan’s reach and getting behind, and uses the body lock he now has to throw Stephan, securing four points if not five (ref out of frame, no visible scoreboard). Smith tries to turn Stephan with a trapped leg and wrist, but the re stands them back up.
After the reset, Smith gets outside, Sarkisyan controls the center again. This time, Stephan adjusts, rather than trying to keep a collar he punches an underhook deep as he walks Smith down. The best control tie of the match, but Smith again posts, and circles back to the center. Stephan walks him down again, gets to the underhook again, but John’s defense has been consistent and so far infallible: keep the underhooked elbow tight to your body to prevent a shot on that side, and post to the other side as you circle to prevent a reattack. Returning to the center again, John isn’t faking as much,and a third underhook for Stephan as John reaches for a collar or inside tie. John again circles out, keeping his head in much better position than most would with an underhook that deep. Stephan walks him down as they approach the edge, and Smith briefly fakes, and finally shoots another low single. He ends up in the backdoor position, as Sarkisyan secures both ankles and John has a hand hooked to each of Stephan’s knees. John decides to commit to one leg, and as he brings Stephan to one side to keep him on one hip, attempts to circle towards Stephan to score. Sarkisyan is keeping the far ankle, and gets John’s shoulder outside his hips, allowing him to get to his feet and attempt to go behind, but John has a lock on Sarkisyan’s leg and won’t let go. Eventually, Stephan breaks the lock and scores his first takedown of the match with a go behind. Initially attempting an armbar to turn, but the ref tells him to release that lock as he was making it a chicken wing (taking the shoulder beyond its natural range of motion) and is forced to stand back up.
Stephan wastes no time at the whistle. Walking John down again, he snaps Smith down, and as John prepares to hand fight again Sarkisyan level changes beautifully, hitting a clean double to score a second takedown. He again attempts the arm bar, but chicken wings it and the reset is called.
John finds his rhythm again, faking and level changing more frequently. Sarkisyan meets the picked up pace, attempting a shot, and upon Smith’s downblock, continues to pressure as he punches in another underhook. He has an overhook as well, and as he walks John towards the edge, Smith ducks the overhook side, and gets to a bodylock, and attempts to put Sarkisyan on his back for four or even a pin. However, Stephan gets an inside hook and attempts to throw John. I can’t see how this exchange was scored, but I’ll assume since as John gets up he points to his own chest and looks at his corner, that it was at least a takedown for Stephan.
Smith Wins, unsure by how much
As the match comes to a close, you see an example of how dominant Smith was. He was rarely in danger throughout the match, and you can see similar styles throughout all the Oklahoma State University champions that have come through his program. Outside of attending a camp in Oklahoma, you can learn from John using our instructionals from the legend himself, Championship Wrestling Fundamentals Cowboy Offense, and Championship Wrestling Fundamental Cowboy Defense. The term fundamental may scare off advanced wrestlers, but the best in the world are good at fundamental techniques, not long impossible sequences. I know personally a lot of the videos here can change how you view the fundamental movements of wrestling, and instantly improve your game. Don’t pass up this opportunity to learn from one of the American Greats from the comfort of your home.
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