It has been a minute since Joe Rau (87 kg, Chicago RTC) last fought for an international gold. Come Saturday in St. Petersburg, Russia, that minute will be up.
Earlier today, Rau advanced to the finals of the 2018 SA Lavrikov Memorial in St. Petersburg, Russia on the strength of three technical falls. When he takes the mat tomorrow, it will mark the first time since his gold at the Zagreb Open in February of 2015 that the multi-time National Teamer is in an overseas final. Rau’s most recent international final before tomorrow’s proceedings came at the ’15 Bill Farrell Memorial where he defeated the now-retired Caylor Williams.
Rau is not the only American in the medal hunt. Far from it. Five Marines, 2017 World Team member Patrick Smith (72 kg, Minnesota Storm), and NMU’s Aaron Klimovich (67 kg) are all gunning for bronze on Saturday, as well.
Following a challenging slate of foreign events last winter, Smith rebounded strongly to place third at the Open but fell short of locking down his second straight spot on the World Team. One of the country’s most ardent workers, Smith’s last European medal performance was at the 2017 Thor Masters Invitational in Denmark. Kliamovich is a young Northern Michigan athlete whose foreign experience is starting to add up, and sees himself with a big chance to get this tour started off on the right foot.
Virtually the entire group of All-Marine Team Greco athletes is in the running:
- 2018 US National Champion Daniel Miller (97 kg) is back. Miller went 0-1 at this event a year ago but is a proven performer across the Atlantic and is looking for his fifth piece of overseas hardware.
- Rock-solid Jamel Johnson (72 kg), who also nabbed a silver at the Grand Prix of Spain this past summer, and 2017 University National champ Raymond Bunker (67 kg) were back in action today — and both Marines began Friday on a hot streak.
- Trent Osnes, who was mentioned in our recent heavyweight overview and like Johnson medaled in Spain, is also in the consolation final.
- Last but not least is Terrance Zaleski (82 kg), who took fourth at the US World Team Trials in June and went 1-1 at the 2017 Lavrikov Memorial.
The Lavrikov Memorial, a popular stop for American Senior delegations over the years, is also a traditionally difficult tournament to keep tabs on. Individual box scores, names of opponents, and general results are not readily available, and given the time zone difference, feedback from coaches and athletes tends to arrive in drips. Most of the information that is being bandied about today is coming from various athlete social media accounts, making for an interesting yet incomplete picture.
We have been working to provide relevant details along match results and hope to have those posted tomorrow. If/when that info does become available, we will also update this recap.