Spenser Woods during his semifinal win at the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier, securing the 87 kg Greco-Roman Olympic quota for Team USA.
Robbert Wijtman, CSC Photography

Spenser Woods during his semifinal win at the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier, securing the 87 kg Greco-Roman Olympic quota for Team USA.


Woods, Vera and Schultz earn Greco-Roman Olympic quotas for Team USA

by Richard Immel, USA Wrestling

ACAPULCO, Mexico – Team USA picked up three weight class quotas for the 2024 Olympic Games in Greco-Roman wrestling thanks to compelling performances from Spencer Woods at 87 kg, Alan Vera at 97 kg and Cohlton Schultz at 130 kg.

The trio of upper weight athletes each passed his pressure-packed semifinal test on Wednesday evening at Hotel Mundo Imperial in Acapulco, Mexico, giving the U.S. the most Greco-Roman Olympic qualifying spots earned of any country at the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier.

No singular performance was more impressive than Woods’ run through the 87 kg bracket, which culminated with a stunning 6-3 decision over 2020 Olympian, two-time U23 World medalist and four-time Pan American champion Daniel Gregorich Hecavarria of Cuba.

The match began with Woods giving up a cheap, would-be slip throw that was confirmed a takedown for Gregorich Hecavarria. He held strong underneath on multiple occasions in the first period, stepping over a gut wrench to keep the score within reach at the break, 3-2. Once he got his chance on top, Woods pressed hard with his par terre lift, earning a defensive leg foul that proved to be the match winner. After a lost challenge from the Cuban corner tacked on a final point, Woods sailed through the finish line.

Woods began his day with a first-period pin against Ariel Alfonso Rodriguez of Honduras. The U.S. Army WCAP soldier-athlete is proving to be a bright spot on the U.S. Greco-Roman scene after making his first appearance at the Senior World Championships last year in Belgrade, Serbia, at 82 kg, before moving up to 87 kg and winning the U.S. Senior Nationals held last December in Fort Worth, Texas.


Moving up in weight appears to have paid off for Vera as well. The Cuban-turned-American was dynamite on Wednesday—both of his wins came with an apparent ease one wouldn’t expect at such a demanding event.

After a timely, 10-0, technical fall over Max Madrid De Leon of Panama to open the day, Vera nearly pulled off the same feat against 2016 Olympian Luillys Perez Mora of Venezuela. Just over one minute into the semifinal contest, Vera was presented with par terre and made the most of it. He collected two gut wrench exposures followed by a lift and toss. After a brief challenge from the Venezuela corner, the score stood 7-0 in favor of Vera. It was easy going for the rest of the contest, Vera claiming a 7-1 final.


A three-time age-group World medalist and recent Pan American Games silver medalist, Schultz remained on track to make a splash at the Senior level this summer. He earned three victories on the day, including a one-point win over two-time Pan American Games medalist Moises Perez Hellburg of Venezuela in the semifinals. The 2-1 match was never really in doubt for Schultz, who earned his fourth win over Perez Hellburg dating back to last November, and third in the past two weeks.


Dropping heartbreakers in the semifinal round, falling one win shy of bagging the Olympic quota for Team USA, were Tokyo Olympian Alejandro Sancho at 67 kg and Pan American Games champion Kamal Bey at 77 kg.

It was a slow start for Sancho against 2023 Pan American Games silver medalist Nestor Almanza Truyol of Chile. He trailed 3-0 at the break after giving up a passivity point and turn. Once he gained the top position, Sancho forced a low gut wrench lift, was caught on his back and pinned with two minutes left in the bout. The result was a flip from last week’s Pan American Championships, which Sancho won, 3-1.

It looked like the stars would align for Bey after he ousted five-time Olympic and World medalist and 2014 World champion Arsen Julfalakyan of Argentina, 4-2, in the quarterfinals. However, Bey was tripped up by veteran opponent Jair Cuero Munoz of Colombia, 6-4. Bey was in control heading into the second period with a 4-0 lead. Credit the tenacity of Cuero Munoz to come back with several crafty exchanges and earn his second win over Bey in as many weeks.

Two-time Olympian Ildar Hafizov dropped a tough one on Wednesday morning in the quarterfinal round to Kevin De Armas Rodriguez of Cuba, 7-3. Hafizov was forced to par terre in the first period and was dinged for defensive leg foul while defending a lift. He fell in a 7-0 hole as a result and couldn’t navigate his way back despite heavy effort. De Armas Rodriguez reversed a 7-5 loss to Hafizov from the Pan American Games final held last November.

The U.S. Greco-Roman team has one more opportunity to earn Olympic quotas at 60 kg, 67 kg and 77 kg in May at the World Olympic Games Qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey. Expect the U.S. Olympic Team Trials champion at each of these weight classes to make the trek.


The Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier resumes at 10 a.m. (CT) on Thursday with the six women’s freestyle Olympic weights. The U.S. has three athletes in action—Dom Parrish at 53 kg, Kayla Miracle at 62 kg and Amit Elor at 68 kg. The all-important semifinal round, where each winner earns an Olympic quota for her country, is set for 5 p.m. (CT).

The U.S. audience can watch this event live through FloWrestling—Monthly and annual subscription options are available. Brackets and updated results can be found on UWW Arena.

For those unable to tune in live, USA Wrestling will provide continued coverage from Acapulco on TheMat.com and its various social media platform. Add to the conversation using #WrestleAcapulco.