It should be no surprise that the big story of the week has been Jesse Thielke’s incredible run through the 2nd OG World Qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey. Facing a field which included a bevy of past and current stars, Thielke rose to the occasion in impressive fashion, taking out two former Olympic medalists consecutively before flattening Farunze Harutyunyan (SWE) in the quarters and coming back to tech Donior Islamov (MDA) in the semis to reach the finals and qualify the weight.
The NYAC representative would go on to take a silver after getting blindsided by six-time World Champion Hamid Soryan (IRI) in the finals, but that doesn’t take the shine out of this thing. Thielke delivered huge every time it was necessary during the tournament, making it a performance that will live on in the country’s memory for years to come. It was also without question the highlight of the week.
Perkins and Rau fell short, but made statements of their own
RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC, 66 kg) came out of the Olympic Trials looking more and more like the future star many thought he would become. He lost a tough one in the true third wrestle-off at the 1st OG and an even tougher one in Istanbul. Perkins may not have reached his and the US’s goal of qualifying the weight but the plethora of tools he displayed throughout his run require paying attention to.
It’s not too different of a situation for fan-favorite Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm, 98 kg). Like Perkins, Rau had himself a whale of an Olympic Trials, fighting back to take the back two in his best-of-three versus Caylor Williams (Army/WCAP). The frustrating thing is that Rau lost to two guys in his recent qualifying attempts he can and has beaten. But in a game of inches one misstep can decide a season, which is pretty much what happened here. Even still, this is one athlete whose future is filled with exciting possibilities.
So…is Soryan back?
It hadn’t been the easiest stretch for the Iranian celebrity. He pretty much bailed out of the Worlds last September, got out-wrestled by Shinobu Ota (JPN) in March, and then gassed out badly against Ivo Angelov (BUL) in Mongolia. There were bright red neon signs pointing to his demise everywhere you looked.
But something changed heading into Friday. The 2012 gold medalist at 55 kilos arrived in Turkey with new life, dominating the field with very little trouble. To be fair, Thielke was handed a tougher draw, although the point still stands. Soryan beat up Ivan Lizatovic (CRO) before brushing past Erik Weiss (GER) and Dmytro Tsymbaliuk (UKR). And of course, he defeated Thielke later on to capture gold. There’s no question Soryan looked different at the 2nd OG World Qualifier so the question is, where did it come from? There wasn’t a whole lot of time between Ulaanbaatar and Istanbul. Did he all of the sudden supercharge his stamina? Was his draw that favorable? Or did Soryan just have an easier time making weight? Sometimes when a big-name athlete goes on a tear shortly after enduring a series of struggles it brings up more questions than answers.
Greco’s John Travolta also made an appearance
The dancing maniac who is Rasul Chunayev (AZE, 66 kg, world no. 1 at non-Olympic 71 kg) survived some sketchy moments at the 2nd OG World Qualifier to come away with his gold. He was tested early on by Pavel Liakh (BLR) but looked a little more comfortable against David Karecinski (POL). He then positively blitzed Armenian-born Frenchman Artak Margaryan in the semifinal ahead of defeating Ruslan Tsarev (KGZ) to cap off his day. There was no dancing this time, but Chunayev deserved to break it down a little bit after a demanding run of matches.
How about Kajaia?
U23 Euro Champ Iakobi Kajaia (GEO, world no. 15) made the 2nd OG World Qualifier his own personal stomping grounds, tech’ing his way to the final, where he (almost predictably) declined to compete. In the final he was set to lock horns with 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Johan Euren (SWE, world no. 6), who enjoyed a similar day of dominance. It probably would have made for a pretty entertaining heavyweight final, but what can you do?
US Junior Camp still in full swing
Some of the US’s premier Junior and Cadet talent is in Colorado Springs for another week of training. With US National Team Head Coach Matt Lindland away for a few days in Istanbul, a parade of all-star instructors made their way to the OTC to pick up the slack. With names such as Chris Saba, TC Dantzler, Herb House, Spenser Mango, and Lucas Steldt making appearances, there’s no doubt these wrestlers received some valuable insights to help move them into the summer.
The Juniors then head to Concord, California for another period of training where they will get a chance to work out with some international athletes. Wrestlers from Hungary, Sweden, and Norway are expected to join the American squad.
Coming up here…
We are getting closer and closer to unveiling a special featured piece which should (hopefully) be out by the end of the week. But we’re keeping it under wraps for now so the finishing touches can be appropriately applied….
Also coming soon will be interviews with Dennis Hall, Joe Betterman, Nate Engel, and a host of others. In addition, Five Point Move will be on the scene at the Beat the Streets event in Times Square on May 19th. US star Andy Bisek (Minnesota Storm, 75 kg, world no. 5) will be going head-to-head with World and Olympic champ Kim Hyeon-woo (KOR, world no. 3) in what should be a match full of fireworks so if you can’t catch it in person, look out for our coverage following the festivities.
Featured image: United World Wrestling