Minnesota Storm’s Barrett Stanghill and Hayden Zillmer are competing this weekend at the Ljubomir Ivanovic-Gedza tournament in Kragujevac, Serbia, and you can watch the action live via YouTube stream. Stanghill will be wrestling tomorrow (Saturday) with Zillmer going on Sunday.
Stanghill, 23, will be wrestling up a weight from the usual 80 kilograms he did his bidding at this year. In his first full season as a Senior-level athlete, the graduate of Northern Michigan University’s Olympic Training Site program took noticeable strides, turning himself into a top contender. A bronze at the US Open in December along with strong performances elsewhere led up to April’s World Team Trials, where the Montana native dropped the third-place/National Team match to Courtney Myers (Army/WCAP) in controversial fashion. Stanghill last competed earlier this month in Akron, Ohio at the University Nationals, which saw him take the title after getting past Storm teammate Rich Carlson in the final.
Zillmer, as most know, has been an exceptionally busy wrestler over the past seven months. After making the National Team at 85 kilograms in 2016, he moved up to 98 for the start of this year and saw immediate success. In fact, the only American he has had problems with was 2016 Junior World bronze medalist G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist, world no. 17), who defeated Zillmer in four tournament finals, including at the World Team Trials. Outside of that, Zillmer has been a revelation at the higher weight and following a silver medal performance overseas in January, found himself ranked in the top 20 by United World Wrestling. Earlier this month, the 24-year-old put on another impressive display at the freestyle World Team Trials, where he placed third, making the National Team in both styles. In doing so, Zillmer became the first US wrestler to accomplish the feat since Sam Hazewinkel did it in 2014.
On a call from Serbia this week, both athletes indicated they were looking forward to the Ljubomir Ivanovic-Gedza tournament not just because they love competition, but also, for the experience battling against foreign opponents provides.
“It’s fun to come out here because these guys are so tough, especially in par terre,” Stanghill said. “I’m kind of getting beat up here (laughs). But I think par terre is one of the weaker parts of my game, so I’m trying to get it a lot stronger. My bottom needs work, too, but this top part needs work at the internationally level.”
As for Zillmer, recognized nationwide for his immense strength and can’t-stop-won’t-stop level of energy, the tournament this weekend is another chance for him to learn what it takes to further break through against world competition. Heading in, Stanghill and Zillmer participated in an intense training camp to prepare, something that the latter knows will make a difference both on Sunday and later on down the road.
“It’s making me better, me being here,” said Zillmer. “I’ve been training here with a World champ and a bronze medalist from Rio, and that’s only going to make you better. I am figuring out ways right now to score points, I just need to relax a little going into my style of wrestling so I can get in my positions and brawl.
“They (foreign opponents) slow you down without exerting energy. It makes no sense, I can’t explain it. They’re savvy. Once you get them moving, your opportunity to score is huge. You have to stay patient, I feel like, and good things are going to happen.”
2017 LJUBOMIR IVANOVIC-GEDZA TOURNAMENT — KRAGUJEVAC, SERBIA
US GRECO-ROMAN COMPETITORS
Saturday, July 1st — Barrett Stanghill (85 kg, Minnesota Storm)
Sunday, July 2nd — Hayden Zillmer (98 kg, Minnesota Storm)