For the second week in a row, there is good news — and then there is bad news.
First, the bad: on Friday, the Japan Wrestling Federation announced that they would not be sending a delegation to the 2020 Senior World Championships scheduled for next month in Belgrade, Serbia. In a statement, the federation claimed that “information has been confirmed that the new coronavirus infection is re-expanding in Europe, and the arena where the tournament was scheduled has become a temporary hospital for accommodating infected people. For the safety of the players, the dispatch was canceled.”
Part of the reasoning cited echoes a social media post made last week by ’19 US World Team member John Stefanowicz (77 kg, Marines, world #3 at 82 kg, 5PM #5) leading to this article link describing how the Stark Arena in Belgrade began functioning as a COVID hospital late last month. In a separate release published yesterday (in English), the JWF touted their own national response to the pandemic by adding “Japan, where coronavirus infections continue to spread but have been largely contained through nationwide adherence to countermeasures such as mask wearing, earlier this month resumed national-level competitions for the first time since February.” The release goes on to concede that “most top (Japanese) wrestlers indicated that they would have opted to participate in the World Championships: now, that choice has been eliminated.”
Japan is the second prominent wrestling program to announce that they will bypass the ’20 Worlds. Nearly two weeks ago, USA Wrestling led the charge based on many of the same parameters, with the noted exception that USAW insists that they drew influence from the athlete base in arriving to their decision. In the coming days, United World Wrestling is expected to confirm once and for all if the Belgrade Worlds will proceed as planned.
In related news, a new featured column with Stefanowicz is set to debut this week chronicling his rise as an athlete leader for the US National program.
Now, the Good
As has been reported recently, both Poland’s Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Memorial and Croatia’s Grand Prix Zagreb Open take place this week. Pytlasinski comes first, beginning Saturday morning at 11:00am local time (5:00am ET) with live stream links available here. The tournament wraps up on Sunday and includes all ten weight categories. Thus far, registrations for Greco have not been made publicly rendered, but we hope to provide those prior to kickoff.
COVID cases have increased in and around Zagreb — though word earlier today is that the tournament will still occur. Spectators will not be allowed in the arena. If CRO decides to postpone, that announcement will be made tomorrow.
We are working with the Croatian Federation in order to provide coverage of the Zagreb Grand Prix. As such, 5PM has been given all of the nations and athletes who are expected to participate. Thus far, Zagreb, should it unfold, may offer the potentiality for several big matchups in a few weight categories. More will be forthcoming in the actual preview, but as of press time, Serbia, Turkey, Hungary, Sweden, and Bulgaria are all sending top competitors.
Two pay-per-view cards in November will involve United States Greco-Roman athletes.
On November 14 and set to stream live on FLOWrestling, three-time World Team member G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist, world #7, 5PM #1) will face newly-crowned National champ Alan Vera (87 kg, NYAC, 5PM #1), and three-time age-group World medalist Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist, 5PM #2) will take on ’16 Olympian Hamdy El-Said of Egypt. El-Said is a multi-time African Championships winner and last season placed first at the Matteo Pellicone “Ranking Series” event in Italy. As for Schultz, he just captured his second-straight National title three weeks ago in Iowa.
Ten days later (November 24), the Wisconsin Regional Training Center is hosting its own event called Underground 1 that will air live on Rofkin and feature two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (77 kg, NYAC/BVRTC, 5PM #3) against ’18 Junior World Teamer Tyler Dow. Dow is a wrestler for the Wisconsin Badgers in addition to his Greco exploits, and pegged as a bright prospect for the US program entering the next quadrennium.