There are two primary takeaways from Team USA’s performance at the 2018 Cadet Greco-Roman World Championships: as either a feel-good story revolving around Jacob Kaminski‘s (92 kg, Ill) bronze on Sunday; and/or further evidence that as a whole, American age-groupers aren’t that far off compared to the rest of the planet.
Kaminski’s run to the podium aside, this is what we saw in Croatia:
- Both Hunter Lewis (55 kg, WI) and Luke Luffman (110 kg, Ill) robbed of victories against tough opposition.
- Dominic Damon (65 kg, WA) fight his way to a criteria loss after being down 4-0.
- Phillip Moomey (60 kg) surge back to life in the repechage round thanks to a nasty front headlock facing an experienced Russian.
- The Burks brothers, Jakason (51 kg, NE) and James (71 kg), exhibit flashes of eager talent that will only blossom the more they continue competing.
The above examples do not erase the fact that the Team USA Cadets went a combined 3-11 at the Worlds. But if you watched the matches and have not just fixated on the results, you could see the potential that was evident in Zagreb. Kaminski did more than earn a World bronze medal; he has also helped those outside of the Greco community take a closer look at the 2018 Cadet Team as a whole while giving everyone else involved with the program the proof necessary to essentially say, See? These are the kinds of athletes we have to work with. Imagine what they could do if more training opportunities were available throughout the year?
Very early-Monday morning stateside, the coaches in Croatia began to offer their insights. US Greco-Roman Operations Manager Gary Mayabb and Cadet World Team co-head coach Lucas Steldt sent us emails. MWC/Nebraska coach Matt Rein also chipped in with a quote. And finally on Tuesday, we caught up with Cadet World Team co-head coach Mark Rial while he was already on his way to serve as an instructor at a pre-Fargo camp back home in Iowa.
“This was a great group of young men. They worked hard and they worked together. The athletes and their families have made many sacrifices to make Greco better for USA Wrestling. We believe that many of these athletes will leave their mark on the advancement of our Greco-Roman future.
“Our coaches — Lucas Steldt, Mark Rial, and Matt Rein — did an outstanding job for their athletes. They brought a wealth of Greco knowledge with ever more passion and professionalism to the task. The support staff of David Haight (Team Doctor), ATC Trainer Bruce Ferratt, along with Team Leader Coach Frank Popolizio, allowed us to focus on the training and competing components for our athletes. We cannot thank them enough for the volunteerism and service hearts.
“As a program, we were not up to the challenges that were in front of us this week. I will have to do a better job of advancing the preparation of our Cadet Athletes. I believe the athletes gave honest efforts. We had a couple competitors create leads that did not hold and we came close to placing in a couple of other brackets, — but at the end of the competition, we had one athlete from Illinois raise the flag over his head and stand on the podium! Jacob Kaminski fought hard enough for a bronze medal. We are very happy for him, his coaches and his family. What a great belly-to-back throw as time ran out in the first period (against Davyd Samsonov). WOW!
“Our strategies, tactics, and techniques need to be raised to a higher level. We will bring about more changes in our work towards being able to select a Team, compete, and medal at the 2019 Cadet Worlds Championships.
“The bottom line is that we are very excited about many of our athletes in the Cadet Greco cadre. We want to celebrate Jacob Kaminski’s efforts, but no one is satisfied with our overall performance. Our coaches ran practices post-competition as a way of beginning next year’s work NOW.”
“Coming home with a medal is always awesome. But the way Jacob Kaminski won was the storyline. Big moves from a big guy.
“For now, the topic is Jacob and his medal along with the performance he put together to win it. The medal means much more than just a accomplishment for this young man. He might say he knows it’s a medal for his country but the weight of that medal is heavier than he can lift for America’s Greco program.
“Great story line: it was America’s last chance as all of the other weight classes failed to medal and 92 kg was the last weight class contested at the World Championships. Kaminski came through in the clutch in two big matches, coming back in both.
“As a coach/trainer, there is nothing like the feeling sitting in the corner and being a part of World Championships medal-match victory. It far surpasses the feeling of local state titles or some other domestic accomplishment. It is bigger than you and your local club or school. It is your country and culture that you have championed for. It’s indescribable. I have had the second chance to be a part of a World medal and it has done nothing but drive me more to grow Greco-Roman wrestling in the United States of America.”
“Obviously after the first day, you wanted to do better and have more results as far as wins. I caught myself kind of getting bummed out a little bit, but you can’t show that, especially when you have another group of guys going the next day. You have to stay positive for them and keep that positivity going for them. But then I looked at it and I thought, Wait a second: we were in all of those matches except for one. We were right there. A few of those losses were just certain positions where our guys probably weren’t used to. Competing against other US guys, they probably would have gotten away with some of that stuff but you can’t relax against a foreigner when they are going from hitting one thing to the next. You can’t stop, you can’t hang out there in an over/under tie-up for a few seconds because there will be points scored and attempts made.
“The results, they are what they are, but I think there are more positives than that. I think the kids who competed learned a lot about what it takes, and I think they discovered that they can compete after going through it. It’s unfortunate to have to figure that out at the World Championships, but that’s the way way it is right now.
Regarding Kaminski’s bronze
“I think it’s like anything else, when you see someone who you are competing with, whether he is a teammate or colleague, you see them do it and you’re like, Well hey, I can do that, too. I think it got some of those kids thinking, I can do this.
“That’s another thing about this country we have to change a little and that’s mentality. I hate to bring up old stuff, but back in the mid-2000’s we didn’t give those guys (international opponents) all of this respect. We felt we could do it our way. Of course we had to learn some of the ways they do things, but us as Americans, we have some things they don’t. I think we need to focus on that, too, not just going overseas and competing, but we also need to say, Hey, we ARE better athletes and can do things they can’t. We can’t just give foreigners too much respect and portray to kids that this is going to be such an uphill climb going into it because then they are going to have some fall-back excuse when stuff doesn’t go their way.
On running a practice immediately following the conclusion of the tournament
“I think there was an opportunity to jump on what we just learned and what the kids just learned. We had time. We said, We need to jump on this and work on some things. Some of the kids might be going to Fargo, some might not be, but it was an opportunity to get to work with them while we still had them.”
“This experience has helped my wrestlers on and off the mat, as well as myself as a coach and how we can advance to be the best in the world. This is the start, Greco will continue to rise with the athletes we have coming up, and we have the right coaches helping lead the way.”