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|Pan Am Sombo qualifier brings sport back into USA Wrestling at American Univ. in Washington DC|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
USA Wrestling is back in the Sombo business.
A variety of experienced Sombo athletes, wrestlers with an interest in the sport and other martial artists came together for the first USA Wrestling competition in Sombo in more than two decades.
The Pan American Championships Sombo Qualifier was held at American Univ. in Washington, D.C. on May 6. The winners of the competition have the opportunity to compete at the Pan American Sombo Championships in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, May 30 - June 2.
FILA, the international wrestling federation, again recognized Sombo as a form of international wrestling in 2005. From 1966 through 1983, FILA sponsored international Sombo competitions, but abandoned the style in 1984.
Sombo is a composite style of jacket wrestling originally developed in the former Soviet Union. It was also taught as form of hand-to-hand combat for unarmed self-defense. Sombo is an acronym for the Russian phrase meaning "Self defense without weapons."
Steve Biedrycki, 41, a high school assistant coach and a club coach at the Next Level Wrestling Club, has returned to Sombo after more than 20 years. He was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps team, competing in the two international styles. Biedrycki placed second in the Olympic Team Trials in Greco-Roman (losing to Shawn Sheldon in the finals) and reached as high as No. 2 in the national rankings in freestyle, as well.
While in the Marines, Biedrycki was also a Sombo competitor. He won a Sombo World Cup title, and was one of only a handful of U.S. Sombo athletes to beat a Soviet competitor at a major competition. He left the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990 and has been involved in wrestling ever since, but is just getting back into Sombo.
"To be honest, I have been watching the Ultimate Fighting Championships (UFC)," said Biedrycki. "I saw the submissions on TV. I was training somebody else, but I was competitive. I have a little bit of the fire still inside."
Biedrycki placed second in the tournament, winning his first match by grand superiority, but dropping the final bout by a 9-5 margin in a very active and competitive battle with Jordan Lipp.
Shaun Scott, 57, a veteran of Sombo and other styles of wrestling, won his weight division in a tough best-of-three series over Michael Harris. The opening match went to Harris on a submission, but Scott came back to win the final two bouts, 4-1 and 1-0.
"I used to have a club in the late 1980's. My team won the national sombo tournament and placed at the national wrestling tournaments. People got married and went onto other things. I got high in the rankings, but I always felt I had unfinished business. Many guys I had beaten at one time got onto World Teams with USA Wrestling," said Scott.
"I moved to the Virgin Islands. It was a goal to wrestle in the World Championships, and I got to compete in one in freestyle and two in Greco-Roman. Sombo keeps me in shape. Every once in awhile I got a team together and we competed. I keep thinking I'll retire. I always wanted to fight everybody out there. I also like to represent the older crowd. If you want to do something, you can do it."
Another veteran wrestler in both of the Olympic styles, Eric Albarracin of the U.S. Army, competed in his first Sombo matches. Albarracin has been nationally ranked in both freestyle and Greco-Roman and also wrestled in college. He came to Washington, D.C. immediately after competing in the Northern Plains Regionals in Waterloo, Iowa, winning a Greco-Roman title and qualifying for the World Team Trials. He got on a plane immediately, and arrived only hours prior to the first matches.
"I saw this online on Monday. I bought a ticket from Cedar Rapids to come here. I feel real good out there.," said Albarracin. "I have a new position at Fort Carson. I am in the office in charge of combative sports, the Army's martial arts program. This will give credibility to the program and to the wrestlers. This was a challenge for me."
Albarracin won the title at his weight class, winning two different styles in two different time zones over a weekend.
A pair of U.S. Marines who are currently nationally ranked in Greco-Roman, also captured their weight classes: Lance Corporal Jeremy Pederson at 84 kg/185 lbs. and Captain Frank Workman at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.
Qualifying for the chance to compete at the Pan American Championships were:
- Eric Albarracin, Colorado Springs, Colo. at 55 kg/121 lbs.
- Matt Morkel, Washington, D.C. at 60 kg/132 lbs.
- Jordan Lipp, Washington, D.C. at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.
- Ryan Hall, Arlington, Va. at 74 kg/163 lbs.
- Jeremy Pederson, Quantico, Va. at 84 kg/185 lbs.
- Shaun Scott, Millersville, Pa. at 96 kg/211.5 lbs.
- Frank Workman, Quantico, Va. at 120 kg/264.5 lbs.