Was the performance of the 2018 US Senior Greco-Roman World Team over the weekend at the German Grand Prix a success? Or a failure? That all depends on what you were hoping to take away from the competition.
If you were looking forward to witnessing high-octane offense, lockdown par terre defense, and checking out a bunch of photos of American medalists standing atop the podium, then you are undoubtedly disappointed. Only two of the seven World Teamers managed to even win matches, silver medalist Dalton Roberts (60 kg, NYAC/OTS) and Geordan Speiller (82 kg, Florida Jets), who grabbed a criteria victory on Saturday before dropping a 4-1 decision to Peter Bacsi (HUN, world no. 14) and falling short in the repechage on Sunday.
Again — just 2 of 7, or 28.5% of the squad had their hands raised following a match. The what have now become traditional weaknesses of the current generation’s American Greco wrestler, namely stopping turns from par terre and actually turning opponents from par terre, were put on full display in living HD color for everyone in the country and around the world to see.
These principle vulnerabilities, however, are why the German Grand Prix could be considered a success. Entering this week’s training camp in Saarbrücken, there is not one World Team member operating with a false sense of security. Each athlete (who participated), for the most part, saw their shortcomings exposed against reasonably high-level competition. A confidence-building two days of action for the US would have been great, but not at the expense of the failure to recognize the glaring holes still visible in their respective games.
The only question that now matters: Is there enough time to fix it? With three training camps remaining and 66 days left until the World Championships, it is certainly possible, provided there is an effort to focus on the issues most knew existed prior to this past weekend but were otherwise indiscernible to the casual eye. Remember — this is an excellent World Team with ability and talent available throughout the lineup. One “test event” immediately following a cross-Atlantic flight doesn’t change that. But there is work to do and it must begin right away.
US World Team After Germany
A brief look at each of the seven US Greco-Roman World Team members and how they performed.
55 kg: Sam Hazewinkel (Sunkist) Hazewinkel went 0-2 on Saturday.
PROS: More than maybe anyone else on the roster, Hazewinkel’s showing in Germany should probably be dismissed if only because his sea legs weren’t all the way underneath. He also needed a little help from the coaches on how to assume the par terre defense position in what was one of the lighter moments of Saturday morning. That Hazewinkel did a solid job defending Fabian Schmitt‘s (GER) proceeding lift/turn attempt(s) was a positive. So was Hazewinkel’s attitude, as he was constantly engaged and getting increasingly fired up throughout that particular match, though it ended in a 10-2 tech loss hastened by a denied challenge with :49 left.
CONS: In his next bout, Hazewinkel was defeated by Max Nowry (Army/WCAP), the same man he swept in two straight at the World Team Trials. Nowry scored his points on a passive and gutwrench. These two battling it out once again was intriguing to watch, but why the German GP staff put them both in the same pool was a disappointment. Hazewinkel, who is not staying in Germany for the camp, would have benefited from having two foreign opponents instead of one.
60 kg: Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) Roberts went 2-1 and earned silver, the only US medalist.
PROS: Roberts once again stole the show, but it wasn’t because of his placing at the event. The effort never ceases regardless of circumstances. Against Viktor Petryk (UKR) in his first bout on Saturday, Roberts held a 6-0 lead in the second period and was doing all he could to chase down Petryk and end it early. The 60-kilogram semifinal saw Roberts come back on seasoned vet Maksim Kazharski (BLR) with under :05 to go, resulting in one of the most exciting finishes to a bout we’ve seen this year.
CONS: Roberts did give up points from his stomach, obviously the preeminent theme for the US. But the biggest hole in Roberts’ game right now is his lift. Roberts struggles cinching and loading, which allows opponents to turn into him. Because his workrate is undeniable, Roberts might actually receive the first par terre chance in Budapest. If he can improve this part of his offense, there’s no telling how far it could take him against the upper-tier he’ll encounter two months from now.
63 kg: Jesse Thielke (NYAC/LOG) Thielke was 0-1 on Saturday.
PROS: Thielke had but one opponent to work against Saturday — former World/Olympic bronze medalist Stig-Andre Berge (NOR, world no. 5). The best way to tell if Thielke is going well is by his takedowns. Sure enough, that duck to the body provided the American with two points in the first period. Thielke had other decent looks the rest of the way, and although he didn’t convert, maybe you don’t go nuts over it given the quality of opposition.
CONS: Berge’s opportunity on top did not see the Norwegian go for a gut or lift, but rather, a front headlock that he used to torque Thielke over for a pair of points. The nitpick with Thielke against Berge resides in speculative discourse. Yes, Berge has had a strong season thus far highlighted by his runner-up finish to Mihai Mihut (ROU, world no. 4) a few medals elsewhere. But Thielke left points off the board and Berge is the type of opponent who can be pressured into giving up clearings to the body, so you would have liked to see Thielke create more chances on the feet than he did.
77 kg: Kamal Bey (Sunkist) Bey went 0-1 on Saturday.
PROS: The best wrestling athlete in the United States Greco-Roman program, Bey hungrily hunted down scores against Khalid Kerchiyev (SWE). But since Bey wasn’t in complete hyper-drive, it was he knocked first for passive. When the whistle blew, Bey surged up and over Kerchiyev in a near-instant but was unable to grab a reversal point. A few seconds later, Kerchiyev nailed a four-point headlock, which Bey did manage to reverse to bring the score to 5-1. A scramble to a bodylock takedown gave Bey two more in the first period; and he closed out with one of the nastiest duck-unders plausible to take Kerchiyev down with under a minute to go, ultimately falling on criteria. Say what you will, but Bey always makes it exciting.
CONS: Kerchiyev, originally from Chechnya, is considered one of Sweden’s secret weapons as well as a big part of that program’s Olympic future. In other words, he was a very tough opponent, though one Bey might normally be expected to dominate. The headlock Kerchiyev scored with served as the game changer and it occurred following Bey’s scramble from bottom. That’s Bey’s style and to mess with it this close to either World tournament would be foolhardy. But it was a momentary lapse in mat awareness that requires correction.
82 kg: Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets) Speiller went 1-2 over the weekend and finished 9th.
PROS: Speiller was behind Petr Novak (CZE) 2-0 and bit down after that to pull up two points and wind up winning on criteria, demonstrating the competitive toughness that he possesses but doesn’t receive enough credit for. Though, that’s mostly because of how capable he is from a technical standpoint. Speiller attempted to force the action in all three of his bouts in Germany. The results didn’t match the effort, but he has more than enough baseline material to work with going forward.
CONS: Anyone who saw Speiller’s bouts against Bacsi and Roland Schwarz (GER) knows what his Achilles’ heel was. Speiller gave up 14 total points over the weekend and 12 of them came from arm throws. But this is not new. Speiller lost to Bacsi 4-0 in the Hungarian Grand Prix finals last year because of an arm throw, and he lost to John Stefanowicz (Marines) in the semis of the 2017 World Team Trials on a correct-throw arm throw. Whether he’s not circling properly or he’s reaching, or whatever the primary issue is, it’s in dire need of fixing.
87 kg: Patrick Martinez (NYAC) Martinez went 0-2 over the weekend.
PROS: Setting a brutal tempo is what Martinez likes to do and he accomplished just that early on opposite two-time Olympian Amer Hrustanovic (AUT). The OTC athlete pulled, snapped, and shucked Hrustanovic around Saturday, and he did much of the same to Aleksandar Stjepanetic (SWE) Sunday. An interesting, anomalistic occurrence unfolded for the US this past weekend — several wrestlers, including Roberts and Martinez, actually received the first par terre chances of their respective bouts. Martinez did in both of his matches, in fact.
CONS: The biggest highlight of Martinez’s tournament came in the repechage bout with Stjepanetic. Early in the first period, Stjepanetic attempted a bodylock only to have Martinez plow forward with the momentum, catching the Swede on his back and nearly earning a pin. When Stjenanetic rolled to his stomach, Martinez gutted him over for more points. Hrustanovic lifting Martinez for four on Saturday obviously wasn’t ideal, but the bigger problem for the American was how the match against Stjepanetic got away from him. Martinez was leading more than midway through the second period when he got tossed. If a US guy enjoys a lead on a foreigner, any foreigner, sustaining the same level of activity and drive to score is positively vital. You don’t want to take credit away from Stjepanetic for seizing on an opportunity, but that was a match Martinez absolutely should have/could have won.
130 kg: Adam Coon (Cliff Keen WC) Coon went 0-1 on Saturday.
PROS: No other US athlete presented as drastic of a difference in Germany than Mr. Adam Coon, who showed off a new, more compact Greco stance. It’s going to take him a little while longer to get used to fighting from that position, but it worked — Kyril Hryshchanka (BLR) found it awfully difficult to move Coon off his spot, which was definitely encouraging. Coon also looked increasingly comfortable jockeying in the ties as the match wore on, despite the late takedown he gave up towards the end.
CONS: Just like his six World Teammates who competed at the German Grand Prix, Coon could not turn his opponent and he got turned. The new stance should work for him eventually both offensively and defensively. Coon can be a fearsome attacker once he gains a little more seasoning and confidence. But par terre is where it’s at and elite Greco athletes at the Senior World level hit gutwrenches that are considerably harder to deal with than in the other style. There’s no question Coon — and everybody else, for that matter — should focus on that over the next two months.
2018 Grand Prix of Germany Placewinners
GOLD: Nugzari Tsurtsumia (GEO)
SILVER: Dogus Ayaczi (TUR)
BRONZE: Fabian Schmitt (GER)
GOLD: Erik Torba (HUN)
SILVER: Dalton Roberts (USA)
BRONZE: Ardit Faziljija (SWE)
BRONZE: Maksim Kazharski (BLR)
GOLD: Abdol Mohamed Papi (IRI)
SILVER: Dmitriy Tsymbaliuk (UKR)
BRONZE: Soslan Daurov (BLR)
BRONZE: Onur Atalay (TUR)
GOLD: Gevorg Sehakyan (POL)
SILVER: Fredrik Bjerrehuus (DEN)
BRONZE: Mateusz Bernatek (POL)
BRONZE: Levani Kavjaradze (GEO)
GOLD: Toni Ojala (FIN)
SILVER: Frank Staebler (GER)
BRONZE: Daniel Soini (SWE)
BRONZE: Pavel Liakh (BLR)
GOLD: Zoltan Levai (HUN)
SILVER: Tamas Lorincz (HUN)
BRONZE: Emre Basar (TUR)
BRONZE: Dmitri Pyshkov (UKR)
GOLD: Peter Bacsi (HUN)
SILVER: Laszlo Szabo (HUN)
BRONZE: Yaroslav Filehakov (UKR)
BRONZE: Roland Schwarz (GER)
GOLD: Denis Kudla (GER)
SILVER: Amer Hrustanovic (AUT)
BRONZE: Ali Cengiz (TUR)
BRONZE: Viktor Lorincz (HUN)
GOLD: Suleiman Demirici (TUR)
SILVER: Zsolt Toeroek (HUN)
BRONZE: Melonin Noumonvi (FRA)
BRONZE: Giorgi Melia (GEO)
GOLD: Iakobi Kajaia (GEO)
SILVER: Mantas Knystautas (LTU)
BRONZE: Heiki Nabi (EST)
BRONZE: Aleksander Cherneyskyy (UKR)
US Domestic Schedule for 2018
Below is the (partial) schedule for US domestic Greco-Roman events this coming season. Dates/locations may be subject to change (though they probably won’t). Venue information as of press time is unknown. In addition, the date for the 2019 Bill Farrell Memorial held at the New York Athletic Club is also unavailable.
Dave Schultz Memorial
January 24-26 — Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs (SR)
Northwest Cadet & Junior Regional Championships
March 23-24 — Centralia, WA (Schoolboy, Cadet & JR)
US Senior Open & UWW Junior Nationals/WTT
April 25-27 — Las Vegas, Nevada (JR & SR)
Northeast Regional Championships
May 3-5 — TBD (Cadet & JR)
Northern Plains Regional Championships
May 17-19 — Rochester, MN (Schoolboy, Cadet & JR)
Southeast Regional Championships
May 24-26 — Atlanta, GA (Schoolboy, Cadet & JR)
Central Regional Championships
May 24-26 — Ada, OH (Schoolboy, Cadet & JR)
UWW U23 & Cadet WTT
May 31-June 2 — Akron, OH (Schoolboy, Cadet & U23)
Southern Plains Regional Championships
June 7-9 — Dodge City, KS (Schoolboy, Cadet & JR)
USAW/Marine Corps Cadet & Junior Nationals
July 12-19 — Fargo, ND (Cadet & JR)