On Saturday, eight USA Greco athletes earned medals at the 2018 Haparanda Cup in Haparanda, Sweden. Additional significance surrounded the event. Several wrestlers, including National Team member John Stefanowicz (82 kg, Marines) and Barrett Stanghill (87 kg, Minnesota Storm/OTS), made their season debuts in Haparanda. Just as importantly, it was the second straight week in which there was a sizable haul of US hardware following an overseas tournament.
All-Marine Team head coach Jason Loukides presided over the Americans in Haparanda and will be staying put for the remainder of the tour, which wraps up next weekend in Finland. He had a large group competing yesterday, did Loukides. As is customary these days across the Atlantic, the US roster was largely comprised of Marines.
After the tournament reached its conclusion Saturday, Loukides was kind enough to provide his assessment of the Marines’ performance, and also shared his perspective on the ending to Joe Rau’s (87 kg, Chicago RTC) controversial defeat in the finals.
Jason Loukides – All-Marine Wrestling head coach
On silver medalist Jamel Johnson (67 kg)
“Jamel was wrestling fantastic in his first two matches. I mean, he tech’ed the guy in the semis. Anytime you’re tech’ing anybody, it’s pretty good. So that was impressive. In the finals it was a real tight situation. He gave up an off-balance there with some other points and it ended up 5-0, but that off-balance was the biggest part. Jamel pummeled hard enough but he was never able to earn his chance on top, and that’s where he likes to be and we were hoping he’d have his shot.
“That’s what we have to work on, getting that takedown or getting on top, and I think he would have closed the score in that match. But that was the only part that was disappointing, that in the finals he didn’t get his chance on top.”
On John Stefanowicz’s season debut
“He was wrestling well, he wrestled tough. It was exciting to see him wrestle and have him back on the mat. He battled with him (Alex Komarov of Russia), he had a chance to win. He just made a mistake. He tied it up, threw the guy for four, and then he got pushed out right after he tried to get another push out. That caused him to go down by a point after he had just tied it up.
“John wrestled really tough. I didn’t know the guy’s credentials and we felt that was a guy he should have beaten, but he didn’t wrestle as good as he would have liked to. I like the fact that he scored points. He had a throw. John has always been good at the fight part, but scoring points is something he has been working on. He wrestled well for his third-place match, too.”
On Daniel Miller (97 kg) winning bronze for the second week in a row
“That was a big win in the bronze-medal match. It was huge. He beat the guy who was what, 12th at the Worlds from Sweden (Pontus Lund), their #1 guy. The guy went to front headlock him; Miller ducked it, lifted him, and threw him for four. That was real nice. Then he’s winning big and they get into another situation where the guy goes for a front headlock, rolls him, Miller tries to come up, and then he (Lund) tries to roll him again. It was 9-4 late in the second, but he pinned him off of that one. That was a solid win, it was a big win for us.
“The second guy he wrestled before that was (Maksim) Safaryan from Russia. Miller was winning the match, he was out-pummeling him, but then they got into the 50/50 position and it was a pinch, almost bodylock right at the shoulder level, and he got headlocked. They called Miller pinned, but Safaryan was squeezing and lifting him up so far that Miller’s back was nowhere near the mat, but he wasn’t breathing a whole lot in that situation (laughs). It was a really nice headlock.
“But — we were really happy with Miller’s third match against the Swede, especially with it being in Sweden. You could tell he had the home crowd, so that was a really awesome win.”
On Terrence Zaleski’s improvement
“Terrence had a winnable match. He got the first passivity call, he gutted him twice to go up by four. And then he got put down and the guy lifted him twice, or however many times. He was countering that one move and the guy was sliding his lock and going for the lift from there, and he never changed. His butt was halfway up in the air by the time the guy was trying to lift. That’s an easy fix. He defended it once, but then he got lifted.
“We definitely felt that was a winnable match — and he was wrestling pretty good. It’s just that lift defense in par terre. It’s the same with Peyton Walsh (77 kg), who was doing everything fine — pummeling, two-on-one, looking good — he just got gutted. You have to figure out that if you can’t stop the lock there, get it out of there and put it somewhere else.”
On Joe Rau being called for fleeing in the 87-kilogram final
“Rau probably should have picked up his second (tournament) win. He was dominating the match, he was dominating his guy. Then they called him for fleeing with not a lot of time left. Patrick Smith (77 kg, Minnesota Storm) was in his corner and they didn’t warn him (Rau) or anything. Joe didn’t go out of bounds, he just circled back, almost to where he was tripping because the guy was coming at him that hard. And then they called that fleeing and they gave a caution-and-two, and he loses.
“He had it under control, he wasn’t in any trouble, but then he ran out of time before he could get it back. We were surprised they didn’t warn Rau first or something. He defended the guy from bottom. We thought he was going to win it, no problem, so we were surprised. But he looked good. He’s wrestling well.”