No, the much-hyped (at least on here) dual between the USA and Serbia Greco-Roman teams did not bring with it the bold American fireworks most were hoping for. It wasn’t exactly a dud, not by any stretch. There were still plenty of gripping, edge-of-your-seat moments in some of these matches, certainly for the more ardent of supporters. Plus, getting the chance to see the US guys go toe-to-toe with the stacked Serbian squad in what was a packed gymnasium at Bishop Kelly High School in Boise offered up too much coolness to let the actual results sink the entire affair.
Above all, it came at the right time for the US Greco program to be ushered out to the front of the class. A stand alone dual meet on a Sunday, broadcast live on FLO, and against a steady, experienced contingent of foreign athletes? If you’re a Greco fan, that’s something you would sign up for again and again.
A Brief Synopsis
Ryan Mango (63 kg, Army/WCAP) showed why he is not to be trifled with when an opportunity presents itself. Clashing inside off of a restart in the first period, Mango got ahold of Tamas Nad‘s arms with double overhooks and took him right over for four and then proceeded to put a bow on the bout itself with two concurrent trap-arm gutwrenches. There was no escape and leading into the next bout, it was only natural to wonder if there would be some momentum for the Americans to work with given that one of the afternoon’s premier match-ups was next.
Ildar Hafizov (60 kg, Army/WCAP) might not have gotten his hand raised against 2007 World bronze Kristijan Fris, but that bout delivered in other areas. For starters, it was a master’s class in what purposeful in-fighting for position is supposed to look like. Neither athlete was going to yield an inch and all of those mini battles up-close did not obscure how busy both were in the footwork department. Things looked bleak for Hafizov when Fris seized advantage of the first par terre with two guts and a 5-0 lead.
But he came close in the second, did Hafizov. A point came his way and then another in conjunction with the WCAP wrestler’s crack on top, which he used to lift Fris for a correct throw. Down by one with under :30 remaining and USA! chants filling the air, Hafizov spiritedly endeavored to latch onto anything he could, including a nice attempt at a high dive, but ultimately, Fris stayed clear and walked away the winner.
There isn’t a ton needed to be said about John Stefanowicz (80 kg, Marines) and his willingness to mix it up as hard as he can possibly manage. That’s what he is known for best by now and also, what got him the win over Zarko Dickov. The entire bout was as contentious as US fans would expect coming from the Marine. He had to make up a little ground chipping inside for position, particularly due to Dickov’s lankier frame. But Stefanowicz brought the heat when it mattered most in the conclusive period, taking that must-have last passive point to emerge victorious on criteria 2-2.
You have to hand it to Barrett Stanghill (87 kg, Minnesota Storm). In Vladmir Stankic, he had himself a true test — a wrestler with a lot of seasoning, a lot of skill — and unfortunately for Stanghill, a knack for opportunism.
Stanghill started somewhat looking the part at 87 over the summer, but through the U23 Trials leading up to Sunday’s action, there is a noticeable change not only in his physique, but also in his command on the mat. However, aesthetics don’t stop the passive fairy from making appearance, and as such, Stanghill was knocked for the passivity/par terre chance and Stankic barely got in a turn just as the ref was looking to stand them up.
Still in the first and behind 3-0, Stanghill had little recourse other than to get to work. Upon the restart, Stanghill immediately snuffed out a Stankic headlock, converted it into a takedown, and cascaded over his own gut to jump ahead 4-3. Adrenalized, Stanghill clapped his hands and urged the crowd on as he strolled to the corner at the break.
Shortly into the second period, Stankic answered back. He had initially locked on an over-under clinch that Stanghill wriggled free of, but found it again moments later. Stankic clamped his lock around Stanghill and arched. The official checked once, and then once more, and called the fall, bringing one of the more raucous matches of the dual to its premature end (as well as the dual itself).
Cuba Roster Changes
All of the Army/WCAP athletes who were scheduled to compete at this coming weekend’s Granma Cup in Havana, Cuba are no longer going. In total, that means three wrestlers — Max Nowry (55 kg), Ildar Hafizov (60 kg), and Ellis Coleman (67 kg). The reasoning? Visas couldn’t be secured. A shame, especially considering that the Granma Cup is one of United World Wrestling’s ranked events for 2018 and is likely to offer up a lot more depth than has been seen in that event in some years.
The updated roster is below and of course, also available here. As you can see, it’s still a strong group.
2018 GRANMA CUP — HAVANA, CUBA
TEAM USA ROSTER
Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS)
Alex Sancho (NYAC)
Kamal Bey (Sunkist)
Ryan Cummings (NMU/OTS)
Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets)
Patrick Martinez (NYAC)
Kevin Radford (Sunkist)
Enock Francois (NYAC)
Nick Boykin (Sunkist)
Greco giving back
Two young US Greco-Roman athletes, Luis Hernandez and 2017 Junior World Team Trials champ Elijah Varona, participated in a community reachout along with US National freestyle head coach Bill Zadick last week over at Remington Elementary School in Denver, Colorado. Both Hernandez and Varona read to a class of second graders and talked with the kids about what they do and who they are. It’s another fantastic example of up-and-coming wrestlers taking the time to give a little back while also promoting the sport in a positive manner, which is something everyone should be able to appreciate.
Wrestlers on Social Media
Your weekly dose of inspiring words, knuckleheaded antics, or thought-provoking questions from your favorite US Greco-Roman athletes and coaches.
The two winners on Sunday.
Excited to have my hair out of my face for the duel tomorrow! If your in Boise come support team USA vs Serbia in a Greco Roman duel meet! Been a great camp with @suples.wrestling @ivan.ivanov.suples! Cant wait for this season it’s gonna be my best one yet because of the generosity of some great coaches and people!! @nittanylionwc @athleteps @newyorkac #worldchampionshipseason #blessed🙏
Camaraderie through sport.
Leading the youth.
Great day of learning Greco Roman Wrestling. Thank you to @OlympicKidd and @TheCohlTrain for spending time with over 350 young wrestlers that want to learn the sport. #gogreco #usawrestling #learning #futurechampions #wrestling #greco pic.twitter.com/cvRIAKqF8O
— GE Wrestling Club (@CoachMcDoniel) February 5, 2018
Someone ask a nutritionist if this is correct.
What are the keys to keeping to a good diet year round?
3. One cheat day a week where you eat way to much food causing you to be semi stuffed for the next 6 days 😂
— Austin Morrow (@AustinMorrow14) February 12, 2018
Then there’s this.
I sure am getting tired of hearing @reba KFC commercial on my Pandora
— Dalton Roberts (@DRoberts59kg) February 13, 2018
Hall of Fame material.
When U raise ur kids right they make this for Valentines Day at school. pic.twitter.com/sUPjHYNelV
— combat (@combatwc1) February 12, 2018
Don’t keep your heart away from the grind.
— Randon (@randontheguy) February 9, 2018