The 2017 U23 Greco-Roman European Championships took place this weekend and there was plenty of action up and down the weight classes. Some surprises, too. The finals provided a nice shocker with Azerbaijan’s Islambek Dadov running right over 2016 Junior World Champion Ramaz Zoidze (GEO) on the strength of a resounding tech fall in the first period to win at 71 kilos. Alex Kessidis (80 kg, SWE, world no. 15) nailing down revenge against Gela Bolkvadze (GEO) wasn’t so much of an upset as much as it was a microcosm of how dangerous Kessidis is starting to become. Last year, Bolkvadze beat Kessidis in the U23 final 2-0. The tables were turned this time around late in the second frame. With the score at 2-2, Kessidis received two passivity points with little time left to take the title.
Fellow Swede Zacarias Berg (85 kg, world no. 18) might be responsible for the most noise. Berg downed Rio bronze medalist and 2015 U23 winner Denis Kudla (GER, world no. 3) in the semifinals 2-1. The two have met before, including recently in the finals at Thor Masters, which was a Kudla victory. Berg went on to blank Ruslan Yusupov (RUS) 4-0 in the final.
There is a pattern here. Kessidis wound up with a silver at the Haparanda Cup before finishing out of the money at the 2016 Non-Olympic Weight World Championships. Since then, a bronze in Paris and another at Thor Masters preceded his showing this past weekend in Hungary. As for Berg, following Rio he won his second straight Haparanda Cup ahead of his Thor Masters loss to Kudla. Now both are U23 champs. Needless to say, Sweden is looking very, very healthy at these two weights for the foreseeable future.
Also of note, at 66 kilos, Roman Pacurkowski (POL) emerged through the bracket. US Greco-Roman fans may remember that Pacurkowski defeated Alex Sancho (NYAC-OTS) in an exciting (yet somewhat controversial) bout at Thor Masters last month. Another familiar name from over the past month for Americans and who also earned a medal at the 2017 Greco-Roman European Championships is Oskar Marvik (130 kg, NOR). Marvik won his bronze with a victory over Jello Krahmer (GER).
2017 U23 Greco-Roman European Championships Finals & Medal Winners
Gold — Murad Mammadov (AZE) def. Dshambulat Lokyaev (RUS) 4-1
Bronze — Justas Petravicius (LTU) def. Abdurakhman Altan (TUR) via fall (4-1)
Bronze — Dato Chkhartishvili (GEO) def. Alexandru Biciu (MDA) 10-4
Gold — Roman Pacurkowski (POL) def. Aslan Visaitov (RUS) 6-4
Bronze — Tihomir Dimitrov (BUL) def. Aleksandrs Jurkjans (LAT) 5-3
Bronze — Sergey Kozub (UKR) def. Sebastian Nad (SRB) 9-1, TF
Gold — Islambek Dadov (AZE) def. Ramaz Zoidze (GEO) 10-2, TF
Bronze — Artur Politaev (UKR) def. Murat Dag (TUR) 7-7 (criteria)
Bronze — Robert Fritsch (HUN) def. Ricardo Abbrescia (ITA) 8-5
Gold — Zoltan Levai (HUN) def. Antonio Kamenjasevic (CRO) 7-2
Bronze — Timur Berdiev (BLR) def. Pavlo Molnar (UKR) 1-1 (criteria)
Bronze — Akhmed Kaytsukov (RUS) def. George Vlad Mariea (ROU) 8-0, TF
Gold — Alex Kessidis (SWE) def. Gela Bolkvadze (GEO) 4-2
Bronze — Eltun Vazirzade (AZE) def. Yegor Kasiankov (BLR) 4-2
Bronze — Andrey Antonyuk (UKR) def. Peter Nagy (HUN) 5-4
Gold — Zakarias Berg (SWE) def. Ruslan Yusupov (RUS) 4-0
Bronze — Lasha Gobadze (GEO) def. Yoan Dimitrov (BUL) 6-4
Bronze — Denis Kudla (GER) def. Erik Szilvassy (HUN) 2-1
Gold — Orkhan Nuriyev (AZE) def. Matti Kuosmanen (FIN) 3-1
Bronze — Muhammed Sever (GER) def. Mykola Krysov (UKR) 3-2
Bronze — Fatih Baskoy (TUR) def. Aleksandr Golovin (RUS) 3-0
Gold — Osman Yildirim (TUR) def. Mantas Knystautas (LTU) 5-1
Bronze — Oskar Marvik (NOR) def. Jello Krahmer (GER) 3-1
Bronze — Zviadi Pataridze (GEO) def. Artur Vititin (EST) 8-0, TF
No fools in April
The beginning of April means the final push for the 2017 US World Team Trials has begun. If you’re looking at it from a distance, which is really the only way to do so currently, most, if not all of the weights appear to be up in the air. 59 kilograms is beyond stacked, as per usual. 66 certainly has its favorites, but you never know.
Then you get to 71, where there is a newly-minted reigning World Team member (Chris Gonzalez, Army/WCAP), a reigning US Nationals champ (Patrick Smith, Minnesota Storm), a World Team Trials and Olympic Trials winner (RaVaughn Perkins, NYAC), the man who upset Bryce Saddoris (Marines) at the Olympic Trials (Michael Hooker, Army/WCAP), and a young, hungry, and talented upstart in Anthonie Linares (NYAC-OTS). Certainly, there are some mutual histories to go over here, but not so many that an overwhelming sample size can be drawn. Right now, the only thing that can be drawn is the conclusion that 71 is going to be haywire in Vegas.
It’s like this all over the place practically. Patrick Martinez (NYAC) stands tall at 80 kilograms having represented the US at two consecutive Worlds. But there will be capable challengers crammed in this bracket. Though Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets, world no. 19) has acknowledged that he will return to 75 for the Trials, in the seemingly off-chance he stays up at 80 he will immediately be looked upon as a favorite right alongside Martinez.
85 kilos with two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (NYAC), 2016 US National Champion Kevin Radford (Sunkist), Khymba Johnson (NYAC-OTS), and Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP), among others, is in good shape. Do we even need to get into 98 at this point? It’s probably too early for that. Too much information to go around and April is going to fly right by. No other tournaments are on the schedule except the main event.
The point is (if there indeed is one), is that the storylines are just writing themselves. It’s an important time for the United States Greco-Roman program and a strong World Team in 2017 has the potential to re-assert this country’s place on the global scene. Coming off the terrific results from March, there is some momentum working right now. Seeing how it carries over to the end of the month and even after at the Pan Ams in May will be both interesting and exciting.
What’s coming up here
- Episode 2 of the “Five Point Move Podcast” will be up this week with none other than two-time Olympian, six-time World Team member and WCAP assistant coach Spenser Mango. The primary talking points will be the transition a recently-retired athlete makes to coaching, working with his otherworldly talented brother, how to communicate with wrestlers, and other fun topics.
- A breakdown of the new emphasis on passivity USA Wrestling is looking to introduce.
- An interview with 2016 Olympic Trials champ and 2014 World Team member Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm). This one has been in the works for a while and promises to be a great read.
- We will be adding a section devoted entirely to the Northern Michigan program soon. By now, the NMU Greco-Roman wrestlers without a doubt deserve their own category for family, friends, and family to keep tabs on. That’ll be broken open in the near future.
- Something special. Perhaps.