RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC, 66kg) and Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm, 98 kg) won’t be going to the finals. But at press time, both are still alive for third.
Perkins advanced to the round of 16 thanks to a measured but effective approach that would serve him well in his next match. Greeting him was Mirambek Ainagulov (KAZ), who had been a world champion as a cadet and the winner of the World Military Games in 2015. He had also been kind of a terror at 59 kg, a wrestler with a penchant for big moves from all angles and the keeper of an aggressive style. But Perkins stayed composed, letting the shorter Ainagulov try to bully his way in until it’d be time for a counter and re-set. Perkins opened up the scoring by swooping behind on the edge for a takedown. A nifty slide-by counter a short time later increased the lead to 4-0 in favor of the American. RaVaughn Perkins wasn’t just wrestling; he was wrestling with a purpose and growing more and more confident.
None of the tactics Ainagulov usually goes to were working. Perkins was meeting him at every opportunity and constantly looking for his own scoring chances. Late in the second period, a throw attempt by Ainagulov was easily countered by the American, who turned it into two more points. Another go at something big with just seconds left gave Perkins two additional takedown points and a crisp, efficient 8-0 victory over an always-game Ainagulov.
The quarterfinal round wasn’t as kind. Here he faced off against Tero Seppo Vaelimaeki (FIN), a tough customer who presented a different sort of challenge than the diminutive Ainagulov. Both started off in the ties jockeying for any available openings. There wouldn’t be any. Perkins earned the first par terre opportunity but couldn’t get anything going and Vaelimaeki seemed content to grind things to a halt whenever Perkins appeared to get inside. The first period was tight and contentious, but there wouldn’t be any points put up on the board.
Things got moving more in the final period. Perkins was nailed with his second passivity and Vaelimaeki used the fortuitous call to his advantage, hitting a gutwrench for two points. Frustration seemed to be setting in. RaVaughn Perkins tried getting inside, but each time it was met with shrewd play-back by the Finnish wrestler. It started to become a case of “pretending” to be busy for Vaelimaki, but to his credit, it was a strategy that worked for him. One more passivity call meant another point and RaVaughn Perkins found himself down by three with little time left. He tried making something happen as time wound down, but Vaelimaeki snatched a front-headlock to slow the pace. However, he appeared to be choking Perkins, who motioned to the official. A point was awarded, making the score 3-1. A step-out point for the NYAC wrestler closed the gap further but it was too late. A challenge by the US side for fleeing was shot down, eliminating Perkins from title contention.
Joe Rau’s first bout didn’t go as planned. His opponent was Sweden’s Carl Schoen, a lumbering grappler who seemed like a match made in heaven. Schoen is not a dynamic scorer standing up and prefers to take his chances on the mat. That’s what happened here. Rau was awarded top part terre following a passivity call but in the ensuing action, was reversed and exposed. It all unfolded fast, for as soon as Schoen’s points were confirmed, Rau had already re-reversed the position for his own point. Either way, he was down 2-1.
Rau’s work rate slowed just enough for the referee to ding him with a second passivity. A gutwrench by Schoen increased his lead to 4-1 and things weren’t looking so hot. Any windows the American found standing were quickly closed. As the seconds ticked down, Rau feverishly tried to expose a hole in the Swede’s defense, but there wouldn’t be any this time, giving Schoen the win 4-1 and putting Rau at the mercy of what his opponent’s next match might bring.
We will try to update as the action unfolds. Should there be more wrestling for the US Greco Roman athletes, be sure to check back here for summaries and additional information.