20-Year-Old Meldion Piñon Wins Gold in ASEAN Junior Wrestling Tilt
The Philippine Youth Wrestling Team, led by 20-year-old gold-medallist Meldion Piñon of the Quezon City Wrestling Team, secured a successful one-gold, three-silver, seven-bronze medal haul in the 6th Southeast Asian Junior & Cadet Wrestling Championships held May 3-5 in Suphanburi, Thailand.
An impressive 11 out of just 17 members of the team came away with a medal in the tournament for cadet (16-17 years old) and junior (18-20 years old) wrestlers, in a field that included 80 wrestlers from regional powerhouse Vietnam and 160 from home nation Thailand.
The result is a big improvement from the team's total of two bronze medals in the previous edition of the same championships last year.
Three-time national youth champion Piñon led the way for the Filipinos, as he swept through the 50kgs junior men's freestyle en route to the gold medal.
He dominated two hometown Thai opponents Sut Ti Pong and Thunsil Ninimuk via superiority in succession, closing both two-round matches with a six-point advantage in each round. Piñon then topped division favorite Le Aung Tung of Vietnam. The Vietnamese was trailing Piñon, 3-2, when he accidentally slammed his head onto the Filipino's knee, opening a gash on his eyelid and forcing a stoppage.
This will be the first and last time that Piñon will participate in the tournament as he is set to turn 21 next year.
Silver medallists Marlou Onrubia (55kgs Junior Freestyle) of Zamboanga City, Joshua Gayuchan of Ifugao (53kgs Cadet Greco-Roman) and Rosegyn Malabja (49kgs Cadet Women) of Baguio City all cleaned out their divisions before succumbing to opponents from Vietnam, the most dominant wrestling nation in Southeast Asia, and miss out on golds.
The bronze medal winners of their respective age and weight classes are Greco-Roman wrestlers Michael Jay Cater Sedano of Taytay, Vince Palanca of Mandaluyong City and Jefferson Manatad of Quezon City; freestylists Jerald Bosikaw of Baguio City, Ronil Tubog of Dumaguete City and Joseph Cañolas of Taytay; and female wrestler Kristine Jambora of New Era University.
"Vietnam again stamped its dominance in SEA wrestling, but we have again proven that we can beat some of their wrestlers, taking into account also our showings in the past biennial SEA Games. We are committed to turning the table and beating most of their wrestlers in the years to come," said secretary-general Karlo Sevilla in a Wrestling Association of the Philippines (WAP) statement.
"Our recent medal haul in the SEA youth wrestling competition augurs well for our coming stint in this year's SEA Games in Myanmar in December. Again, it's the law of averages at work: the more we send, the more chances of bringing home medals."
The WAP hopes to field a complete lineup in the December games and make the most of the opportunity to pounce on favorites falling short, like what happened with Piñon's rival in this tournament.
Sevilla also pointed to the example of two-time SEAG gold medallist Jason Balabal, who had very little expectations of him when he won his first international gold medal in the 2009 SEA Games.
"We get to field more athletes this SEAG in December, and we will definitely come home with more goods."
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