The Jouri Lavrikov Memorial in St. Petersburg, Russia over the weekend turned out to be a successful endeavor for the US Seniors. After all, what else do you call a tournament that yields three champs and seven medals overall?
One of the biggest bulletpoints to take away from the Lavrikov is that the sport’s lightest weight class is healthier than it sometimes looks in the US. NMU teammates Dalton Roberts and Randon Miranda met in the 59 kilogram final just under two months removed from their sizzling best-of-three affair in Rochester. Miranda, 20, as most know, enjoyed a whale of a November with back-to-back golds in Sweden. For his part, Roberts, 21, went 1-1 at the U23 World Championships two weeks ago, and although he wound up not advancing far, still acquitted himself well due to the impassioned effort he put forth against eventual bronze medalist Aidos Sultangali (KAZ).
Roberts and Miranda clashing in the finals of what was essentially a local event for the Russians speaks to both the progress they have made individually as well as what the country has in store for the future. The depth at 59/60 kilos is immense and will be for a long time. Along with Roberts and Miranda there are: 2016 Junior World bronze medalist Taylor LaMont (Sunkist, and who will be competing in Iran this month), Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP), Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP), and Sammy Jones (NYAC/OTS). Even if Miranda hops down to 55 kilos, the second lightest weight class will still carry on as one of the two or three deepest fields at the Trials not just in 2018, but for the remainder of the quad, as well.
Entering this weekend, Patrick Martinez (85 kg, NYAC) had three overseas medals on his resume but was hunting for his first tournament win. That hunt is now over. Martinez sailed through on Saturday to put himself in Sunday’s final. As of now, we still don’t know the name of his opponent(s), just that he won — which for now, is the most important part of the story. Martinez is an athlete who has consistently demonstrated the ability to perform well internationally. In 2016, he grabbed bronze medals at Zagreb, the Pytlasinksi Open, and the Grand Prix of Spain, respectively. A 1-1 showing at the Golden Grand Prix followed by a first-round loss to pseudo-rival Ashkat Dilmukhamedov (KAZ) at the ’16 Worlds were a hiccup. Martinez was seemingly on his way to a medal four months later at Thor Masters before a concussion knocked him out just as he wrapped up his second win of the day.
Since the summer of 2016, when Martinez acquired the “Lone Wolf” moniker due to his desire to compete across the Atlantic even if that meant going solo, his record at overseas events (including the US/Belarus dual) is 10-4 with one gold and two bronze. Not too bad.
Peyton Walsh (80 kg, Marines) is pretty much a can’t-miss Greco-Roman prospect, making his bronze at the Lavrikov Memorial is certainly worth mentioning. Walsh does not possess a whole lot of relevant international experience, but since he is a vicious fighter and sports obvious all-style assets, he is the type of athlete who can wind up establishing himself quickly. Thing is, he wasn’t the only Marine to have himself a day. Big Eric Fader (130 kg) earned bronze, as well, and it stands as proof that if you keep plugging away, good things will happen.
Fader made the effort to get overseas last year a few times and even had the opportunity to represent the US at the CISM Military Worlds this past September. While he has shown some promise domestically, international competition presents different challenges, so it has been a learning process for 21-year-old. But a bronze medal in Russia at this juncture in his Greco-Roman career could be just the catalyst to spark a more confident approach in his game as the winter gives way to the spring and the US Open.
Hope is not lost
Perhaps the biggest news this past weekend for the US Seniors in St. Petersburg was the return of Corey Hope (75 kg, NYAC) to active competition. Hope was injured and off the mat for all of the 2016-17 season, and though he was close to coming back for the Dave Schultz last month, he was held back until the trip to Russia. No big deal, apparently, because in his first tournament back, Hope fought his way to the 75-kilo finals and a silver medal.
After the tournament was over and the US athletes were winding down for the day, we caught up with Hope to check in on how he felt getting back out there for the first time in over a year-and-a-half.
5PM: First off, how did you feel physically and mentally competing for the first time since 2016?
Corey Hope: Well, to be honest, most of the nerves that I did have I surpassed very early on, probably after the first full day or two of training here in St. Petersburg. But most of my nerves dealing with competing I overcame long before I stepped foot on a plane to Russia. Let’s be honest — I’ve been out more than long enough to give your mind a chance to come at you with a mix of positive and negative thoughts, emotions, and doubts. With that said, that gave me plenty of time to work on my mental skills not just as an athlete, but as an individual as well. Giving me a chance to find new ways to motivate myself and rebuild the weak areas of my mental fortress, so to speak.
Without getting too in depth and detailed about it, did I feel 100% physically ready? No, but who really does anymore? Ask many of the athletes at this level in any sport, and almost none of them can tell you that they always or even mostly compete at 100%. But I came here to wrestle and compete, so wrestle and compete I will do. That’s that, no if’s, and’s or but’s about it. I’m doing what I love, which trumps all that out.
5PM: Does this feel encouraging or emboldening, knowing that you not only got back to competing, but you went ahead and right away placed in your first event back, an overseas one, at that?
Hope: Of course it’s encouraging! It’s encouraging just being able to be back on the mat wrestling everyday. I’m thankful for the opportunity God has given me to even make this come back at all. So to follow that, this weekend’s competition only solidifies that sense of encouragement and gratitude even more.
5PM: How are you approaching this next week ahead of the Haavisto Cup? Is it about tweaking items you took away from the tournament or is it more tuned towards a continued progression leading up to the winter when there are a some gaps in the schedule?
Hope: Both. I’m not completely happy or at all content with how I performed this weekend. Did I wrestle well and take second in an overseas tournament in Russia, in my first tournament back in almost a year and eight months? Yes, and that’s something to be proud of. But for me, it’s right back to focusing on what I can improve upon and adjusting the things I didn’t like about my wrestling even in the matches I did win. It’s like my Dad used to always tell me and my brothers (and the rest of the team) right after we would score a touchdown or goal, ‘After we score, get refocused and get right back on defense.’ In other words, don’t celebrate too long.
Why? Because the other team is going to come right back at you hard, trying to score on you while you’re in a relaxed state, still savoring the big play you just had that led to you scoring. This tournament is over, so you have to start making minor tweaks here and there and then get ready to roll for the Haavisto Cup in a week.
By the time you read this, the USA Greco-Roman delegation in Europe should be safely in Finland after traveling nine hours from St. Petersburg. You know the deal — camp and then a tournament, which in this case is the 2017 Arvo Haavisto Cup, a traditional fall stopover for the Americans. Weigh-ins are Friday, December 8th (two kilo allowance) and wrestling takes place this Saturday, December 9th beginning at 11:00am local time (4:00am EST). Below is the US roster for the event.
Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS)
Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS)
Ray Bunker (Marines)
Colton Rasche (Marines)
Colby Baker (NMU/OTS)
Corey Hope (NYAC)
Peyton Walsh (Marines)
Terrance Zaleski (Marines)
Patrick Martinez (NYAC)
Daniel Miller (Marines)
Eric Fader (Marines)
G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist)
For those unaware, the US has enjoyed a decent pattern of success at the Haavisto Cup.
2010 — GOLD: Paul Tellgren (55 kg, Minnesota Storm); BRONZE: Ryan Hope (84 kg, Cliff Keen WC), Zach Nielsen (96 kg, Minnesota Storm)
2011 — SILVER: Paul Tellgren (55 kg, Minnesota Storm; Zach Nielsen (96 kg, Minnesota Storm); Pete Kowalczuk (120 kg, Sunkist); BRONZE: Ben Sanchez (66 kg, NYAC), Marco Toledo (74 kg, NMU/OTS, Jake Kettler (120 kg, Patriot Elite)
2012 — GOLD: Robby Smith (120 kg, NYAC); BRONZE: Andy Bisek (74 kg, Minnesota Storm)
2013 — GOLD: Andy Bisek (74 kg, Minnesota Storm); Robby Smith (120 kg, NYAC); SILVER: Nate Engel (Army/WCAP), Jordan Holm (84 kg, Minnesota Storm)
2014 — GOLD: Nikko Triggas (59 kg, NYAC)
2015 — SILVER: Nikko Triggas (59 kg, NYAC), Cheney Haight (75 kg, NYAC), Jon Anderson (85 kg, Army/WCAP); BRONZE: Jermaine Hodge (59 kg, Army/WCAP), Spenser Mango (59 kg, Army/WCAP), Toby Erickson (130 kg, NYAC)
2016 — SILVER: Dalton Roberts (59 kg, NYAC/OTS)
Haparanda Cup Results
The depth at the Jouri Lavrikov Memorial might have lacked some of the usual expected Russian firepower, but that was only because at the same time in Sweden was the annual Haparanda Cup, one of Scandinavia’s toughest events on the calendar. As is the norm, the brackets were stuffed with plenty of rough Eastern Bloc competitors. Russia had a champ in six of the eight weight classes with 10 medalists overall. The lone final pitting two Russians against one another — at 75 kilos between Ruslan Isakov and two-time Junior/2014 Senior World Champion Chingiz Labazanov (world no. 8) — was not contested.
GOLD: Rodion Somatov (RUS)
SILVER: Igor Kurichkin (UKR)
BRONZE: Ardit Fazjlilja (SWE)
GOLD: Azamat Akhmedov (RUS)
SILVER: Marcus Sellden (SWE)
BRONZE: Marat Garipov (RUS)
GOLD: Magomed Yarbilov (RUS)
SILVER: Daniel Soini (SWE)
BRONZE: Artem Shapovalov (FIN)
GOLD: Ruslan Isakov (RUS)
SILVER: Chingiz Labazanov (RUS)
BRONZE: Dimitrii Dzhioev (RUS)
GOLD: Alexandr Komarov (RUS)
SILVER: Oleksandr Kukhta (UKR)
BRONZE: Rafik Manukyan (ARM)
GOLD: Vlas Dubrovin (RUS)
SILVER: Semen Novikov (UKR)
BRONZE: Alexander Stjepanetic (SWE)
GOLD: Arvi Savolainen (FIN)
SILVER: Kalle Persson (SWE)
BRONZE: Artur Sargsian (RUS)
GOLD: Papadatos Alexandros (GRE)
SILVER: Hamzeh Odtallah (JOR)
BRONZE: Mattias Viitanen (SWE)
What’s coming up here
- An all-new Coach Lindland’s Report before US National Team head coach Matt Lindland takes off for Iran and the World Wrestling Clubs Cup.
- The roster for the aforementioned Clubs Cup along with insights from a couple of the team members.
- After a short delay, we will be releasing the introspective and brutally honest Q&A with Ryan Hope (85 kg, Cliff Keen WC).
- The next episode of The Five Point Move Podcast will be dropping featuring special guest, multi-time World Team member and MMA pioneer Randy Couture.