It might be odd to see the name “Goygol” in a headline but it’s strange times, as they say. Goygol, of course, is the town in Azerbaijan the US Greco Roman Olympic team is headed to after having spent a week in the more-familiar setting of Baku. Week one of the three-week camp has wrapped up. The athletes got out on the mats constantly for the first time overseas as a complete unit and mixed it up with different partners. They also fit some conditioning in, saw some sights, and even spent some time at a Formula 1 event. There are some pictures, if you’re curious. But now it’s off to Goygol, where they will be moving into different lodging and a different training facility. It’s two weeks there and then back home. By the time the US contingent touches back down in the US, the Olympics will be just a bit over a month away. Can you believe it?
Martinez snags a bronze in Poland; Madsen pushes around Kim
The Pytlasiniski/Poland Open took place over the weekend and only one US Greco wrestler made the trip – Patrick Martinez (NYAC). Martinez trekked all the way to Spala as the “Lone Wolf” of the program and didn’t come up empty. Wrestling in the 80 kg class (with a two kilo allowance), the California native pulled out some late-match heroics to win his first bout against Arkadiusz Kulynycz (POL). This match was the kind of hot mess you really don’t like to see. It’s one thing to watch a match on a stream and come away slightly confused because you’re not there and maybe the feed is choppy, whatever. But that wasn’t the case here. It was complete and total indecisiveness on the part of the officials that even with the benefit of challenges, was still a dumpster fire.
At any rate, Martinez, as part of his M.O., pressed the action all over the place against Kulyncz but was unable to grab anything he could work with. Down 4-1 with under a minute remaining (and knowing that obviously, the officiating was not going to be of any assistance in or whatsoever), things started to look bleak. Then with ten seconds left, Martinez dropped in for a high-dive and immediately crumpled Kulyncz to the mat for four huge points and a dramatic, satisfying 5-4 victory.
Martinez didn’t get a chance to continue the momentum in his next match. Facing off against 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix champ Pavel Pominchuk (BLR, world no. 10), the end came all-too-fast. Pominchuk landed a an over-under dump from his knee for four early on and then repeated the same maneuver shortly after the reset. It was a quick tech-fall loss for the American but thankfully, he’d get the chance to redeem himself soon enough.
Pominchuk’s advancement pulled Martinez into the repechage against Daniel Aleksandrov (world no. 6 at 80 kg), who qualified 75 kg for Bulgaria at the 2nd OG Qualifier. However, Aleksandrov didn’t make the walk, which not only awarded Martinez a forfeit but also immediately put him into the bronze-medal match. The opponent, Radik Kuliev (BLR), didn’t enter into the fold as a pushover. He’s a cagey, on-his-horse kind of grappler with a taste for arm throws. Martinez wouldn’t let him have the chance. The US wrestler bullied him repeatedly, often prowling forward to muscle his way in. Kuliev seemed into the engagement but at the same time, appeared to understand these also weren’t going to be the kind of exchanges he’d have success with. Martinez was rewarded with a caution point early on but other than that, scoring was at a premium.
The action wasn’t ramped up a whole lot in the second period. Both wrestlers searched for opportunities and Martinez appeared close on a double-under lock a time or two. Kuliev picked things up as the period began to wind down, but it would also punctuate his demise. With ten seconds left, the Belarusian lowered in for a bodylock Martinez saw right away and with the speed of a cat snatching a mouse in the hallway, he blitzed Kuliev down to the mat for two more points. It was an impressive 3-0 bronze-medal winning performance for Martinez, who will next compete at the Spanish Grand Prix in July.
In a marquee final at 75 kg, Mark Madsen (DEN, world no. 4) made use of his brutish, physical style in a big way against Olympic and World champ Kim Hyeon-woo. Everyone knows that Kim is like the Eneregizer bunny. He keeps his feet moving, cuts angles, goes high, goes low, and has a knack for nailing down tight lifts in par terre. Madsen, for his part, is not a plodder. He is someone who knows how to apply his own special brand of pressure (e.g., 2013 World quarterfinals) and rough it up inside.
That made this a sort of “the immovable object” meets “the irresistible force” battle fans like to see. It delivered, but not in the scoring department. There was constant clashing. Kim kept trying to cut in with his lead left foot and work ties on an angle. Madsen would play right back, inviting Kim in where the two would become entangled but ultimately, stalemated. Kim didn’t seem to have the same kind of pep in his step we’ve seen in the past. That, or Madsen just had the perfect antidote to the usual flurries of moving parts. Madsen began to assert his generalship, control the pace, and wasn’t moved by Kim’s advances. Kim caught static at the edge and paid the price when Madsen moved in to force the Korean to step out. 1-0, Denmark.
History repeated itself late in the second. Kim started to find his groove more and more. Finally, it appeared he was starting to wear down Madsen just enough to hook onto something. He attempted to go for his jumping front-head’s a couple of times, only to have Madsen brush him off before he could latch on. But with the continuous waves of activity it seemed maybe, maybe, Kim could force Madsen into a caution situation. Just when all of that started to seem like a possibility, Madsen received a second opportunity to bull into Kim at the boundary, forcing another step-out point for a 2-0 lead he would hold onto for the gold medal. It was an entertaining match between two world-class wrestlers who along with Andy Bisek (USA, world no. 5), should be expected to contend come August.
Minnesota rides off with title at Cadet Duals
It must be nice to be young and from Minnesota. At least if you’re a Greco wrestler. The Minnesota Storm Cadets marched through the 2016 Cadet National Duals in York, Pennsylvania last week, although the group did have to sweat out a couple of meets in the process. To clinch the championship, the Storm had to get past an exceptionally tough Pennsylvania Blue squad stocked with more than a few up-and-coming talents, such as Beau Bartlett, Edmond Ruth and Carnell Andrews (who fell to uber-talented Tyler Eischens). But Minnesota built up such a huge lead in the beginning that by the time some of PA Blue’s heavy hitters got their shot, it was already too late. Minnesota 37-, PA Blue- 35.
What’s coming up on 5PM…
Yes, there will be a “Coach Lindland’s Report” this week. In fact, it is already nearly finished. We talked to Coach Lindland as he arrived in Goygol, Azerbaijan and got the breakdown on how the guys are doing and what training has looked like for the athletes thus far. One part of the piece that is interesting (although we didn’t expand on it in the report) is that apparently, Goygol is close to the Armenian border, which is where a few military skirmishes took place recently. Thankfully, that situation seems to have been settled diplomatically or however else at this point…
A comprehensive work about Spenser Mango should be completed and up by the end of the week. The piece has been in production since late-April and provides both a glance back at Mango’s career and a nod to a torch perhaps being passed. The final touches are being applied, so hopefully it is ready to go soon…
We have another athlete interview scheduled for this week. A pretty entertaining one, actually. Just wait until you see it…
Anything you’d like to see covered in the Monday Roundup (or anywhere else)? Have questions for next week’s Coach Lindland report? Send any and all inquiries right here – [email protected] or hit us on Twitter.