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Pro Wrestling, Pain, and Signs!

Posted by Anthony Sansonetti on September 24, 2015 at 1:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Pro wrestling, pain, and signs....

        As I have mentioned in previous articles, I was dealing with a hip injury and contemplating retiring from competition in early 2014. There I was in May with my hip getting worse day by day, even with rest and medicine. I remember one afternoon I went food shopping, I was walking through the parking lot and my hip/leg just gave out and I was on the concrete. I was able to struggle back to my feet somehow and managed to walk with a shopping cart to keep me from falling again. I was really worried because there was no warning, my leg just gave out, and I was scared it would happen again. Over the next few weeks I fell downstairs, upstairs, in the shower, on the mats in training, in the kitchen...yeah, I fell just about everywhere I went! Competition is now out of the question! I just want to be able to walk ok again and maybe to be able to train. I was becoming depressed due to lack of exercise, I felt like an old horse with a lame leg, and thought that maybe someone should just come and put me out of my misery! Weeks of unrelenting pain went by and I was way too proud and a little too stupid to get myself back to the Dr. What happened next was a sign in the form of a call that came out of nowhere and that I didn't expect......

    I consider myself to be a rational and intelligent person, but sometimes I feel a 'sign' appears, and I throw logic and reason out of the window, and follow my instincts, like I am drawn to do something. A short back story of an example of this, back in 2010 I was asked to compete in the British Sambo Championships. I had not made up my mind on whether i would compete or not, and i was weighing the pros and cons, especially as no american had ever won a gold medal in Sambo at the British Open. My good friend Rob stopped by the gym as training was starting one night. He asked me if I was going to go and do the British tournament and i told him I didn't make up my mind yet. I told him i was waiting for a 'sign'.... just as i said that, at the exact same time, I turned on the radio and...... "London Calling" by 'the Clash' was playing. That was my sign! I decided i was going and immediately called the US team coach to inform him. I came back with 2 medals in 2 different divisions, Gold and Silver. i believe in signs!

    Back to 2014, I'm injured, limping, falling, feeling sorry for myself like a big baby. I remember the moment, I was sitting there in horrible pain, and the phone rings....'unknown number'. I usually don't answer unknown numbers, but I was doing absolutely nothing, and I had a strong feeling I should answer the call.

    "hello" I said. "Anthony Sansonetti? hi it's Dan Kanagie From the North American Catch Wrestling Association". "Hey Dan, How are you?" I had competed in Dan's organization's catch wrestling championship in 2013 and won 1st place in the Open weight division, becoming the East Coast Champion. "I'm good Anthony, the reason I'm calling is that you won the East Coast Championship, and we have a guy in San Diego that won the West Coast championships twice. We would like to unify the title for a North American Heavyweight Champion, the first time in 100 years." I replied "sounds interesting so far Dan" thinking to myself...how can I do this?...I can't even walk!....I'm going to have to tell him no.... Then Dan said "we want to do it in NJ, August 30th, in the humid summer heat, in a warehouse with no air conditioning. the match will be three, 15 minute rounds, winner must win 2 of 3 rounds, either by pin or submission." I said 'Dan, that sounds pretty good" again thinking....I can't do this...I'm done!... old!....broken and lame...go hide under a rock and die....but don't get invloved in this...you can't even train!..... "Dan, who is the opponent?" Dan replied " A guy names Luis Ojeda, he's a wrestling coach in the San Diego area, a catch wrestling instructor, he's also competed in some other forms of wrestling like swingen (swiss wrestling), and some other things, he's 6'4 and will probably have to cut weight because he won't be able to come in over 225 lbs" ......6'4? cut weight to 225lbs? i'm 5'10 and 205 lbs without cutting weight!....and what the hell is swingen??.....just tell him noooooo!!!!!....

  I said "Well, Dan, I am intruged, and it sounds pretty awesome...." "oh" Dan interrupted.... "I forgot to mention that there will be a $1000 prize purse split 70/30 to the winner and loser. We want to make it a real pro wrestling championship, in a wrestling ring, a non-worked (scripted) match that they used to do before pro wrestling became a show. Do you have an interest in doing the match? Do you need a couple od days to decide?". "No, Dan....I don't need any time to decide. I'm in. Let's do it!". my thoughts.....what?!?...you can't do this!...your leg! Your hip!....you haven't bee training...you will get hurt!....Shhhhhhh!!!!!! I am a martial artist... a warrior..... I have dedicated my entire life to this craft..... I believe in myself! My mind will lead, my body must follow! I will fall 7 times....to rise 8....Get hurt!? I am hurt! If I die, let it be in the ring chasing a dream, pursuing greatness! Not withering away feeling sorry for myself. Rise!!!!!!!!!

  Maybe a little dramatic, but it was the catalyst I needed to get up and get my health in order. I needed a mission to set my mind on. This was going to be a very difficult task with my pride and reputation on the line.

The Match, toughness, and inner strength



I got myself to the Dr ASAP. MRI, Xray, and then hip injectons. The injection was supposed to take a few days to begin working. 7 days later I had no change. I was in horrible pain and worried that the match would not happen. On the 8th day, massive relief in my hip! A few days later and i was 90% better. the injection, if it was to work, could last up to 6 months. i started to train as much as possible. I had to prepare to do 3, 15 minute rounds with 1 minute break between rounds. I didn't think the rounds would last more than 5 minutes without a pin or submission. in catch wrestling yuo can win by 3 second pin if you pin both of your opponents shoulders to the mat. I felt i had the submission advantage and that Luis migth have the pinning advantage. In any case iw as training for the longest possible outcome. i was wrestling 15 minute rounds with a fresh opponent every 5 minutes. my conditioning was at an all time high by mid august, I felt like a machine that did not tire out. i was ready!


On August 30th, 2014, in a hot sweaty gym in Lawrenceville, NJ, I wrestled Luis Ojeda for the North American heavyweight Catch Wrestling title. I weighed in at 205 lbs, Luis Ojeda at 225 lbs which was the max he could weigh in. There was a few hours between weigh ins and match time, so he probably rehydrated back to 230 lbs or 235 lbs. I was giving up at least 25 lbs and 6 inches in height, my 5'10 to his 6'4. Luis Ojeda is a pretty big dude, he exudes confidence, and you can tell by the look in his eyes that he is a tough guy, not in the tattoed tapout wearing way (no offense to tapout and tats!) , well just look at his mugshot in the poster above! I also believe in myself and have a pretty good game face. I don't get nervous or scared when i compete, i get excited! No place else I would rather be!!!!



The match starts, Luis is taller and stands very upright, almost daring me to shoot in for his legs. I refuse, although smaller than him, I do have a very strong grip and strong forearms. i decide to wrestle with him standing for control of the neck, underhook and overhooks. my plan is that being bigger and maybe not used to NJ humidity, that he will get tired if I make him work faster than he wants. Within 2 minutes we are completely covered in sweat, and gripping is almost impossible. We hit the ground and I defend from bottom turtle position. Luis tries a few turnovers, but I defend well. he tries a few nasty cross faces ( if you don't know what that is, turn your chin to touch your shoulder as fast as you possibly can, repeat every 10 seconds ) A few times he kneels on my achilles tendon to set up a leglock, but I adjust. he is cautious to try and take my back for the choke, he seems to be content riding (keeping his weight on my back) and waiting for me to get frustrated and make a mistake. Somehow 15 minutes goes by and neither of us has a pin or submission, round 1 draw. I am 100% recovered after the 1 minute break, I feel if i keep him active he will tire. I have to avoid being in the bottom turtle position....he is able to rest there and i don't want to carry his weight on my hip/back.


Round 2. We upper body wrestle pushing each other all over the ring. At one point Luis has a bodylock while i'm trapped in the corner, i am certail my spine is going to crack, but i calmly defend and adjust. My spine stays intact. i make a mistake and am caught in the bottom turtle position. minutes go by....Luis smashes me with a crossface, almost like a strike/punch....he apologizes... i say "sorry? don't be sorry! i like it! That's all you got?" that leads to a series of cross faces but I keep laughing them off. I think he is getting frustrated. I am stuck in bottom turtle....too many minutes down here, at least 8 minutes with him riding, my back is going numb from his weight, between the crossfaces and kneeling on my achilles he is not letting me rest, i'm constantly breaking his grip or defending something. i'm playing it cool.....but I'm frustrated...but I sense he is too. Round 2 ends as a draw! last round detemines a winner, must get a pin or submission.


Round 3. In between rounds I look over and smile at him. He is more tired. My lungs feel good but my grip is shot from handfighting with him. My back and hips are numb. I still feel more ready for round 3 than him. I try to attack harder for control of his neck or an arm. massive amount of sweat. he is taller and heavier, I try to push the pace but he knows what he is doing and I am forced to play his slower game. I don't remeber how or what, but yet again i end up in bottom turtle. More of the same, crossfaces, turnover attempts, kneeling on my achilles, I try to create scrambles to reverse without getting pinned, but he moves just enough to keep me in bottom turtle. It's torture. I have lost contact with my body, i can't explain it any better than that, everything was telling me to quit...demons..the voices of failure and self doubt. i needed strength, someplace deep in my mind or outside of it. I thought of my father, who passed away in 2002, he wrestled and would be proud of me, but not if I gave up now. He was in my head. I thought of my son who is 1 and a half, who never met his grandfather, what kind of legacy would it be to break now? What kind of father would I be if I quit? Was that how i was raised? Do iw ant to raise my son to fail? They deserve better. I won't be broken. I might lose, I might die, but i will not be broken. 15 minutes go by. Round 3 is a draw!


They were not prepared for us to wrestle 45 minutes without either of us getting a submission or pin. They quickly decide, 1 more round of 15 minutes, if no pin or submission, they will declare a winner based on that round. The criteria for judging is not stated but it doesn't matter.


Round 4. More of the same of how we started first 3 rounds, but much slower, we are both exhausted. Somehow we scramble on the ground, and he is behind me in turtle position. 10 minutes have gone by. 5 minutes left, i fear they will give him the match for being a little more active than I am. i have a decision to make.... i can defend for 5 more minutes and let them decide and most likely lose the match, or, I can take more of a risk, which will be good if it works but might get me pinned if it doesn't. I didn't want to lose by decision, so I made the best attempt I could to create a scramble, but Luis adjusted and I was caught in a pin and lost the match.


55 minutes of wrestling and torture. I gave it everything I had. I did not quit. i came up short, but in a match like this, there is no loser. i beat my demons. I beat my injured hip. What was impossible to do in may, I went and did in August. I thought I was old and washed up, but I reached a level of conditioning i did not think was possible. I learned a lot about myself. For those 55 minutes I was truly alive. It was an unbelievably amazing experience!


My family and Luis's family all went out to eat afterwards. He's a good guy and we became friends. We have a bond and mutual respect for each other after such a long, grueling match.


“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

― Theodore Roosevelt





USA Sambo Championships

Posted by Anthony Sansonetti on September 24, 2015 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

USA Sambo Championships - April 2014 - Philadelphia

        In April 2014 our combined Youth and Adult Sambo team entered the USA Sambo Championships. I'm proud to say that Team Renegade is now home to another 5 national champions! Our team took home a combined 14 medals, 5 Gold, 5 Silver, and 4 Bronze. The level of competition was for the most part higher than the Arnolds in the previous month. Overall, it was an incredible day, and I'm just so proud of how hard the team trained and the results of the tournament!

My injury update and competition retirement

   I decided to compete at the USA Sambo Championships even though my injured hip was becoming progressively worse. I won the USA Sambo open in 2013 (masters -100 Kg division), but I was mostly healthy then. I was somewhat able to get through training leading up to the tournament, but on the day of the event I was feeling awful. I could hardly stand without pain or warm up properly. All things considering, I did ok and won a few matches, winning Silver in the -100 Kg masters division and Bronze in the -100 Kg seniors division. I did the best I could do with the injury I had. it wasn't so much the pain, I can deal with that, but the inflammation in my hip was so severe I was losing strength and feeling in my leg, to the point that I could not even do a leg extension 2 times on my injured side with 30 lbs. I left this tournament with 2 medals, and with the feeling that is was time to retire from active competiton and that my best days were behind me. I had a good run, I won plenty of medals and awards including the US Sambo champion in 2013, and the british Sambo champion 2x (2010 and 2013). perhaps it's time for a new chapter in my life and to focus on teaching and coaching....time will tell.

'The Arnolds' Sambo Tournament 2014

Posted by Anthony Sansonetti on September 14, 2015 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The Arnolds Sambo Tournament - March 2014 - Columbus Ohio

     In November 2013 I started to develop a mixed team of children and adults to take on 2 Sambo tournaments in 2014. In March was the be the Arnolds Sambo tournament as part of the Arnold Schwarzenegger Martial Arts Festival held every year in Columbus, Ohio. The other tournament we were looking forward to was the USA Sambo Championships sceduled for April in Philadelphia. There hasn't been much of a chance for kids to compete in Sambo in the U.S. in recent years, so everyone was very excited to take part in the training and preparation. I had a team of 10 that we were to take to Ohio and compete. Having such a large team, with many of them competing for the first time, I decided to not compete and focus on coaching. I was also dealing with 2 injuries and thought it was best to rest and heal. On to the competition, we brought a team of 10, we took 8 Gold Medals, 1 Silver, and 1 Bronze! Everyone performed very well and I felt this was a good stepping stone to prepare for the USA Sambo Championships held next month, where the competition should be a little more fierce.

Injuries and getting old!

   I mentioned that I was dealing with 2 injuries in early 2014. I am very stubborn when it comes to getting medical help. I prefer to let things have a chance to heal on their own. Sometimes this strategy works, other times it delays getting well. I hurt my knee pretty badly in December 2013, it swelled up and was painful. After 2 months without the pain or swelling going down it was time to get in checked out. I had my knee drained, which helped tremendously, but was still swollen and I had to avoid making contact with the ground for several more weeks. it is very difficult for a Sambo instructor, or any grappler to avoid hitting their knee on the ground, actually, It is just about impossible, and this delayed healing further. This was not such a big deal, as I had a worse injury. I started to get tremendous pain in my hip, so much so that it was becoming difficult to pick up my 1 and a half year old son without pain. Learning from my previous mistake with waiting to see a Dr. for my knee, I made an appointment to get my hip checked out. After an evaluation and MRI I was diagnosed with Femoral Acetabular Impingement  http://www.hipfai.com/ . The Dr. prescribed anti inflammatory pills and for me to be rechecked if it got worse. The pills didn't work, I started to get worse and decided to just deal with the pain. How bad could it really get anyway?

2013 Year in Review part 4

Posted by Anthony Sansonetti on January 11, 2015 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

        One of my competition goals for 2013 was to compete in the Sambo World Championship. It was scheduled to be help in late October in Burgas, Bulgaria. After winning both the USA and British Championships earlier in the year, I felt it was a good time to make a run at the Worlds. I was feeling fast, strong, and confident, and my mind was on training and competition every day. I was training with my team on Long Island, plus also making trips into manhattan to New York Combat Sambo where I would train with my long time friend and Sambo coach Stephen Koepfer and his stable of fighters. Over the previous year I was training more in Judo, and making trips upstate to train at the Jason Morris Judo Center. Jason Morris, for those that don't know, is a 4 time Olympian, he won a Silver medal at the 1992 Olympics, and he was also the USA Olympic coach. The Judoka that train at JMJC are among the very best in the country, many move away from home to live and train there in the hopes that they will one day fullfil their Olympic dreams. It is not recreational Judo, it is hard, tough training, with the best. This also helped my development tremendously as there is so much crossover between Judo and Sambo.

   So there I was, in mid July, wanting to get ready for the World Chamionship in 3 months. The big problem I had was that there were not many Sambo tournaments to compete in. I didn't like the fact that I would have to wait 3 months to compete again.

Catch Wrestling in Philadelphia

I saw an advertisement for a late August Catch Wrestling Tournament in Philadelphia. I figured it would be good experience as i am very familiar with Catch Wrestling and have trained many fighters to compete in it in the past.

       I did well at the catch tournament. I won a Silver Medal in my weight class, but then went on to win the Openweight division, winning the Frank Gotch award and becoming the Openweight East Coast Champion. Not a bad day at all!

Canadian Catch Wrestling and Freestyle Sambo Championships

    The following week on September 7th, was the Montreal Freestyle Sambo Tournament and also the Canadian Catch Wrestling Championships. I decided to compete in both. Long Island to Montreal is about a 6 hour drive through beautiful and scenic upstate new York. I decided to leave early in the A.M. to avoid trafiic through NYC. As I was packing my gear for the trip, my son who was almost a year old, was being changed in the other room and had fallen off the bed. He had quickly crawled away and fell, he is so fast! He had a bloody nose and bump on his head. I have seen many people bleed before, I have seen horrible broken bones, but this was the first time I saw my son bleed and it really bothered me. I stayed calm, stopped the bleeding, we called the Dr, and the baby was fine. I drove up to Montreal the next morning, calling home often to make sure my son was ok. I felt nervous and stressed about the baby falling, and it kept my mind occupied most of the time. Usually when I compete I am in a great mood the day before, I truly get excited about being on the mat and competing. This was different though, I was stressed and conflicted, and feeling guilty I was not with my son (even though he was fine). The day before the competition I was crossing the street in Montreal and a car came speeding around a corner and almost hit me, I immediately slammed my hand down on the car as it passed by. That type of behavior is very unusually for me. Normally, I would just hold my hands up in a "WTF?" manner. The driver didn't stop, which is good, as I would probably be Blogging from a Canadian prison right now. I was too stressed, conflicted, turmoil, starting to feel in a dark place. it could have been that I competed just one week prior and maybe I needed to rest more to let my nervous system calm down. The next day, I was not really "on" during competition. My mind was wandering. I still did good on the day, I won Silver in Freestyle Sambo, Bronze in my weight class in Catch Wrestling, and also Silver in the Open Weight Division. I even had a 20 second victory by heelhook in the Open Weight Division, and I also beat a 260 lbs BJJ Blackbelt. I think I did good in spite of myself. I could have done better and that bothered me. I was unusually tired during the matches. After the tournament, my friend Stephen Koepfer, who ran the Sambo tournament, complimented me overall, but said I looked a little slower than I normally do. I take criticism well, considering I am writing this a year and a half later and still remember it!!

Final thougths on 2013

   After Montreal I decided not to go and compete in Bulgaria. I had too many other issues to deal with. Both time and money were factors as well. Although, when I look back on it, 2013 certainly was a great year! I went to New Orleans, the Arnolds, England, Sicily, and Montreal. I won some medals and a few Championships! Every tournament I did, I finished in the top 3. I made new friends, strengthened friendships with old friends, and I tried my best to do all I could for the people I loved to most!

"I will strive for perfection, knowing that "perfection" is the realization that it does not exist. I accept this.....and go forward bravely." - Me

2013 Year in Review Part 3

Posted by Anthony Sansonetti on December 30, 2014 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Touring and training in Sicily

       The day after competing in the British Sambo Championship I flew from London to palermo for a week of touring Sicily. Before i went to the British, I wanted to plan a trip to a place or country I had never been. Both of my Grandmothers are Sicilian so I decided this would be a good place to visit. I found a very cheap flight (less than $100) from London-Stansted  Airport to Palermo. I had planned to travel alone, but when I mentioned the trip to my brother-in-law Dave, he was interested in going as well. So it went like this me- New York, London, win some Sambo medals, Palermo. Dave went Boston, Dublin, drink some beers, Palermo. I arrived several hours before Dave and had to make my way to the hotel. This was my first time to Sicily, and I had expected something different in my head. I expected it to be like scenes out of Godfather Part 2 or from one of my favorite movies Baaria. I expected pick pockets, mafiosa, and old women wearing all black mourning attire. It was not like this at all, but I am not sure what description would do it justice. The best way to decribe Palermo in one word is intense! Everyone, everywhere, it all comes at you like actors and scenes on a movie set. People there just seemed just so full of life and intensity, maybe they are all just a reflection of the city itself which is rich in history and over 2700 years old. I took the the bus from the airport to the center of palermo. I was quite sure the bus driver was trying to get into an accident, as he was serving in and out of traffic and cutting off people in a way that makes New York City cabs seem calm. I quickly learned that the most dangerous thing in Palermo is walking across a street. Later that day I met up with my brother-in-law and decided on what to do.


       We had planned a week long tour, but we knew it would be impossible to see everything as Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean sea. We split up for a day as I wanted to take the train to Cefalu, which is the town where my Grandmother's family is from. Cefalu is very different that Palermo, it is a smaller town that is now a summer tourist hotspot. Overlooking the town is a gigantic rock, called La Rocca. I climbed  La Rocca to the top where there is an ancient fortress, which took about 3 hours in sandals and 90 degree heat. The view from the top is amazing andw ell worth the walk. I couldn't help but imagine that many of my past relatives climbed this mountain and saw the same view. Cefalu is an amazing and beautiful place, it was hard to imagine why anyone would want to leave.

     The next day we took a 4 hour train ride to Agrigento, which is famous for having some of the best ancient Greek ruins outside of Greece itself. We toured the "Valley of the Temples", it was very interesting to see these old structures and I find ancient history fascinating. That being said, after an hour or 2, it is done and time to move on. There is not much to do in the town of Agrigento, so rented a car and drove a few hours along the southern coast to out next destination, Modica.

      This city is another tourist spot that Italians like to visit in the summer. Modica sits in the part of Sicily that is famous for it's Baroque architecture. Modica, like most places in Sicily that I visited is very laid back and friendly. People were just very nice. We burnt out the clutch on our rental car driving the incrediblly steep and narrow hilly streets Modica. Our car was stuck in a narrow hilly street away from any touristy areas or stores. There were just apartments and not many people around. People realized we were in trouble and came out from their apartments to help. Soon it seemed a crowd of 50 or more people were out in the street and on their balconies. After they helped us get our problem fixed, they cheered as we made it back up the steep hill and drove away. They were very helpful and friendly people. From Modica, we did day trips to Siracusa and some of the surrounding beach towns.

     On one of the last days I decided to visit Ragusa, and train at the only Sambo gym in Sicily. A.S.D. City Gym is run by Alfio Nifosi. Alfio has  represented Italy and competed in Combat Sambo at the World Championships. Wherever I travel I try to visit a Martial Arts gym and share techniques. Alfio had invited me to train and had informed me that because it is summer many of his students are on holiday, and it would just be a small group training. We had a good training session and exchanged techniques. The atmosphere in his gym is very friendly and the his students are all very good. Nobody spoke English and I don't speak Italian, but we still got along well and had a great time training. my visit later made the local newspaper in Ragusa. Here is the article.

   Overall my trip to Sicily was amazing. It was great to swim in the sea, especially after just competing a few days before in England. I did not talk about the food or the cafes in Sicily. Why you might ask? Because I can write about that for 3 more pages! I grew up in a very italian American household with incredible food, so I have experienced really good home cooked Italian meals. So I am a tough critic. let's just say everything in Sicily was incredible! Pasta, fish, and Pizza were all amazing, everywhere I went. The best Cannoli i ever had in my life was at a small cafe in Licata. A year later and I am still dream of it!  The cafes all had great espresso, both in restaurants and cafes in Sicily, you are never rushed to order or to leave. They truly treat you like family everywhere. Give me their Espresso..Pizza...Gelato, all day, everyday!