It is always important to try and end things on a high note. The US Greco-Roman Seniors have enjoyed a strong month of March and putting together a solid effort at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix figured to be a priority. Although it would take a different group of athletes compared to the previous two events, that mission has been accomplished.The best part is that it all came against some of the stiffest competition the sport has to offer.
Geordan Speiller (80 kg, Florida Jets, world no. 18) earned himself a silver medal this morning following a series of bouts that put his incredible talent on full display. At times operating on a different speed than his foes, Speiller delivered more than a few moments which may potentially serve as indicators he will be a very legitimate problem should he make the US World Team.
Daniel Miller (98 kg, Marines) may wind up being remembered for other accomplishments down the road, but how he scored bronze at this event will be tough to forget. Miller was a picture of composure, aggression, and mat smarts as he beat back three tough opponents, including one thanks to an incredibly clutch showing, to come away with his second consecutive overseas medal. Meanwhile, another Marine, John Stefanowicz (80 kg) just missed out making the podium despite an inspired effort against one of the best wrestlers on the planet.
Speiller impresses on the road to a silver medal
For the 80 kilogram final, Speiller greeted three-time Olympian and 2014 World Champion Peter Bacsi (HUN, world no. 5 at 75 kg). Speiller’s gifts are not a secret to US fans — he is a lightning quick takedown artist who likes to unleash big throws whenever available. In Bacsi, he was dealing with someone of a similar skill-set, though the Hungarian puts a touch more “classic” in the classical style, whereas Speiller offers a more hybrid set of abilities.
When the two met in 2016 at this same event, it was Speiller’s quickness and offensive prowess in all phases of the game that helped carry him to victory. It was a one-sided performance for Speiller that day last February, as he sailed away from Bacsi via an 8-2 score. History did not repeat itself a year later.
Almost immediately after the whistle, Bacsi snatched Speiller’s arm and threw it over for four points. From that moment on, the first period was a game of catch-up for Speiller. It was constant play-back but with a very physical component. The two clashed in the ties often, neither willing to give an inch. Speiller would do his best to clear away Bacsi’s ties, Bacsi would change looks and try to set traps. There was ground to make up and Speiller knew it. However, his opponent wasn’t lying back on his heels, either.
The second period proved frustrating. Speiller initially upped his activity, desiring those windows he knows how to exploit all-too-well. Bacsi, who turns 34 in May, understood how to sustain enough motion to stay busy while also being in position to ward off Speiller’s attacks, which in the last minute of the bout increased in both frequency and intensity. Unfortunately for Speiller, it wasn’t enough. Bacsi walked away with the 80 kilogram gold on the strength of that single arm throw. For Speiller, it is his third straight international medal since returning early last month. But despite losing in the finals, what he did beforehand is worth looking back on, too.
Speiller began his charge through the bracket with a controlling 6-1 win over Aleksandr Kukhta (UKR). As would be the story for most of the morning, Speiller went to his arsenal of blitzing takedowns, sliding by Kukhta for his first two points. Later on the second period, Speiller collected two more when he got behind Kukhta, although the Ukrainian ambled out and behind to take a point back. 4-1, Speiller. With a minute a half left, Kukhta darted in for a high-dive but Speiller simply sprawled and shucked him by for another two points and a 6-1 lead, which wound up being the final score.
In his next bout, Speiller met up with 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix winner Pavel Pominchuk (BLR, world no. 16). Earlier in the morning, Pominchuk defeated Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm) 10-0. Against the Belarusian, Speiller was downright frightening. He hit a nasty duck to a deep bodylock, hoisting Pominchuk high in the air. For his part, Pominchuk adjusted and stayed heavy, preventing Speiller from big points. However, Speiller still managed to get two for the correct throw. Shortly after the reset, Speiller wickedly snapped Pominchuk to his knees and wrapped around from behind for another two points. It was 4-0 Speiller after one period and he wasn’t done yet.
Part of the key to Speiller’s success was that he showed an eagerness to play an open game, constantly stalking on his feet for points. A passivity ding against Pominchuk came his way soon into the second frame to increase his advantage to 5-0. Towards the latter stages of the bout, Pominchuk, a gutty and talented competitor, was simply wiped out. He made flailing attempts to chip inside but Speiller displayed too much speed, too much confidence for any of it to make a dent. A final two points came Speiller’s way thanks to a snap-and-spin sequence as time wound down, giving the American a stunningly dominant win and moving him into the quarterfinals.
Next up for Speiller was Nikoloz Kilasovi (GEO). Speiller took a 1-0 lead on a passivity and things got interesting from there. Kilasovi grabbed a two-on-one and turned it into a hammer-lock, twisting Speiller’s right arm against the joint and to the mat. The referee dished out a warning but apparently that wasn’t enough, as Kilasovi went back to it once again. This time, with Speiller grimacing in pain and holding his arm, Kilasovi was docked for a caution and two, providing Speiller with a 3-0 cushion.
The second period saw Speiller go back to his prowling style of wrestling, though Kilasovi would eventually be rewarded with a passivity point. The arm did not appear to be a factor for Speiller as the period wore on — he was still chopping and checking on the feet without an issue. In command with a 3-1 lead, Speiller countered a front headlock attempt by wrapping his arms around Kilasovi’s waist near the edge, netting him two more points en-route to a 5-1 win.
The semifinal match at 80 kg did not play out as comfortably for Speiller as his first three bouts. Going up against Viktar Sasunouski (BLR, world no. 14), the Florida Jets representative required a lot of busy work and some deft defense to see this one through. Sasunouski carried a one-point passivity lead into the second stanza. Speiller could not find the openings which were available in his previous bouts. He was forced to fight inside for position versus a cautious Sasunouski. The activity helped. Speiller received his own passivity point along with the criteria edge and that was that.
All told, Speiller defeated four skilled and experienced foreign opponents and lost the only match of the day to a former World champ. In between, he delivered some jaw-dropping moments that stood out. But to be fair, he wasn’t the only American to do so.
Daniel Miller clutch late to earn bronze in memorable affair
There is just something about Miller when it comes to international events. He might not make the medal stand at all of them, but he certainly knows how to make his presence felt and at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix, he did just that.
For Miller to punch through for his bronze medal he was called upon to get past Felix Radinger (GER), who decisioned Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) in the repechage round. To kick this one off, Miller picked up the first two points off of an arm toss he hipped all the way down on. Radinger did escape out and reverse position to take a point back, making the score 2-1 Miller. The texture of the contest seemingly changed before the first period was through. To avoid going out of bounds, Miller pressured into Radinger, who uncorked a beautiful lateral drop for four points, but Miller instantly reversed to quiet things down.
Trailing by two points in the second period, Miller, like he did all day, kept scanning for opportunities. He dug in and never compromised his posture, though he still found himself behind late in the match. Radinger plodded forward, appearing to do what he could to bog down any offense that might arrive. The prospects began to appear dim. Radinger was in the luxurious spot of owning a two-point lead and given the nature of the in-fighting, a comeback by Miller seemed increasingly improbable. But perseverance is apparently a big thing in the Marine Corps, as those witnessing the match would soon find out for themselves.
With under a minute left and needing to make something happen, Miller popped Radinger’s clutches, lowered in for a high-dive, and rammed Radinger to his back at the boundary for four points, reclaiming the lead 7-5. If the German wasn’t finished yet, that’d come soon enough. Following a restart, Miller coerced Radinger out for another point, widening the gap to 8-5. There would be no further struggle, all of the drama had been expended. Daniel Miller now holds two international bronze medals in his first two overseas events of the year.
Miller’s first tangle of the day was against Fodor Tamas (HUN) and the Marine wasted little time revving his engine. Two quick points were followed by another pair, as Miller waffled Tamas down near the edge. Patient and poised, Miller knew he had the reigns and he didn’t let up. Tamas latched around Miller for a throw near the edge only to have Miller land in position. 6-0, Miller. Shortly into the second period, Tamas went in Miller at the waist — this would prove to be a costly gaff. Miller easily wrapped around Tamas’ body and scampered behind for the match-ending two points.
Miller’s quarterfinal opponent, Revaz Nadareshvili (GEO), wanted to assert himself by muscling up inside. One way to stay in the pocket is keeping your stance, and that is what Miller did, cooly prying inside to wedge an underhook. There wasn’t much pretense about this affair — Nadareshvili was interested in a power battle. That would be his reckoning. He locked around Miller with his back to the line and just as he attempted to throw, Miller, in a flash, countered with his own toss, planting Nadareshvili firmly on his back and holding him there for the fall. A big win over a big opponent meant Miller was moving onto the semifinals. He came up short in the semis to eventual silver Javid Hamzatau (BLR, world no. 3) 5-1, setting the stage for the heroics he unveiled in the bout against Radinger for bronze.
Stefanowicz sends a message
John Stefanowicz (80 kg, Marines) did not earn a medal at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix. Instead, he’ll have to settle for nearly pulling off the upset of the year.
Stefanowicz was a victim to Bacsi’s assault in his first bout of the morning, losing 8-0. Because Bacsi advanced to the final to face Speiller, it allowed the Marine to be pulled back in and compete for a medal. Stefanowicz’s plan in the repechage bout against Nicu Ojog (ROU) was to bring the heat and see what materializes. Ojog did an admirable job of staying upright and at times demonstrated some sharp defense to keep Stefanowicz from taking over the match. Even still, Stefanowicz managed to collect two passivity points on his way to a 2-1 victory, advancing to the bronze medal bout.
Awaiting him there was 2016 European Championships gold medalist and Rio Olympian Zurabi Datunashvili (GEO, world no. 8). Datunashvili is physical, technical, accomplished and at least on paper, on a different level than Stefanowicz at this stage in his career. But something quite curious commenced unfolding as the two made acquaintances on Mat B — whatever “level” Datunashvili calls home could be on the cusp of welcoming a new resident.
Stefanowicz went about his business, looking to punish Datunashvili inside before coming in on an excellent high-dive attempt. It didn’t score, but it set a precedent. Soon enough, Stefanowicz cashed in the first passivity point of the bout for a 1-0 advantage. Datunashvili then proceeded to make good on a two-point arm throw, barely missing out on exposure. One thing was certain — Stefanowicz was not here just to wrestle. He wanted to impose his will. There was a certain electricity flowing here it seemed. Down by a point at the break, Stefanowicz had shown he was up to the formidable task his counterpart presented.
As action resumed in the second, Stefanowicz hurried an arm throw that Datunashvili came out the back door on, putting him ahead 4-1. Most of the period was spent jostling for position with Stefanowicz scrapping hard in exchanges. Another passivity would be added to the American’s total eventually but as the final minute of the match arrived, openings were few and far between. Then with :15 remaining, Stefanowicz took Datunashvili’s arm and thought about trying to toss it over, but instead he spun through it and charged Datunashvili, grabbing hold of a bodylock at the edge. He appeared to have tossed it over for four-points, the action beginning in-bounds but landing out. If it was a good score, it would have given him a 6-4 lead, but no points were initially awarded. This led to a challenge by the US.
After the review, the scoring was corrected to 4-4, two points going to Stefanowicz since Datunashvili touched down off the boundary. But the Georgian held criteria by virtue of his offensive scoring in the bout, giving him the win. Nevertheless, Stefanowicz, in back-to-back matches, showed he has made huge strides and possesses the kind of never-give-up attitude that certainly caught some eyes this morning.
Rau gets back on the mat
For 2016 US Olympic Trials champ Joe Rau (98 kg, Minnesota Storm), his presence in the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix meant both testing out his surgically-repaired knee and perhaps, one-upping his bronze medal performance in Hungary from two years ago. While the day likely did not unfold completely as planned, Rau finally received his first taste of competitive action following being sidelined since the late summer.
Of course, Rau’s first order of business came in the form of 2013 World/2016 Olympic bronze medalist Javid Hamzatau (BLR, world no. 3). He didn’t last long — Hamzatau was able to score a takedown and a few turns for a quick tech over the native Chicagoan. The one bright side going in Rau’s favor is that there was a good chance Hamzatau would advance to the final (and he defeated Miller to do just that), which would pull Rau back into medal contention.
In the repechage, Rau dusted it up with Germany’s Radinger. In contrast to his first match, Rau started to look more like himself again. He was dictating the tempo, finding his feet, and playing in the ties with an air of authority. He’d get his passive point, but Radinger would get one, too, resulting in a 1-1 score at the end of the first with the criteria to Radinger. In the second period, Radinger was able to force Rau to step out — 2-1, Germany. Rau went back on the attack inside, not at all appearing to be at a loss for stamina. He prodded for short drags and came close on overhooks but for some reason, Radinger was rewarded with a passive point to make the tally 3-1 as time ran short. Although he tried staying with it, Rau could not make up the deficit.
2017 Hungarian Grand Prix Notes:
- Stanghill lost in his only action of the day to Pominchuk via tech fall.
- Altogether, the US went 8-10 at the Hungarian Grand Prix with all eight wins coming on Day 2.
- Miller scored the only tech fall win of the morning. He also recorded the only fall.
- Speiller outscored his opponents 14-6. Four of the six points against him were on Bacsi’s arm throw. The other two were passivity points.
- Both Miller and Rau dropped bouts to Hamzatau, Miller’s in the semifinal.
- The silver for Speiller and bronze for Miller make it a total of 10 medals for the US over the three March European events (three golds, one silver, and six bronze).
2017 Hungarian Grand Prix — Day 2 US Greco-Roman Results
Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets, world no. 18) – silver
WON Aleksandr Kukhta (UKR) 6-1
WON Pavel Pominchuk (BLR) 7-0
WON Nikoloz Kilosavi (GEO) 5-3
WON Viktar Sasunouski (BLR) 1-1 (criteria)
LOSS Peter Bacsi (HUN) 4-0
John Stefanowicz (Marines) – fifth
LOSS Peter Bacsi (HUN) 8-0, TF
WON Nicu Ojog (ROU) 2-1
LOSS Zurabi Datunashvili (GEO) 4-4 (criteria)
Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm) – dnp
LOSS Pavel Pominchuk 10-0, TF
Daniel Miller (Marines) – bronze
WON Fodor Tamas (HUN) 8-0, TF
WON Revaz Nadareshvili (GEO) via fall (4-0)
LOSS Javid Hamzatau (BLR) 5-1
WON Felix Radinger (GER) 8-5
Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) – seventh
LOSS Javid Hamzatau (BLR) 8-0, TF
LOSS Felix Radinger (GER) 3-1