The 2017 Dave Schultz Memorial International this time around carries with it even more interest than usual. Obviously, as we have gone over seemingly dozens of times, this running of the tournament is just different. A different time of year, the 2018 weight classes, and the new two-day format all provide the event with some much-needed buzz as a fresh season of competition saunters into the forefront.
For the first five weight classes, there are some stories to crack open. A lot of movement is afoot. Several of the United States’ most well-known Senior Greco-Roman competitors, at least according to the entry list, have not chosen to assume the weight most closely resembling where they were last. Whether that is due to the same-day weigh in or simply because it’s the first pseudo-domestic event of the year is all speculative at this point. The only thing we can know for sure is that if the names stay where they are currently listed, some extremely compelling match-ups could very well be in store.
2017 Dave Schultz Memorial — 55-77 KG
The conventional thinking is that 55 kilograms making its way back onto the Senior level should be excellent news for 2012 University World Champion Max Nowry (Army/WCAP). As he was blitzing his way up the ranks coming out of Northern Michigan, this is where Nowry started to make his mark both with that World title and an appearance in the US Olympic Trials finals. A year and change later, FILA/United World Wrestling eliminated 55 and 59 kilos sprung up in its ashes, leaving the undersized Nowry caught in between. The 27-year-old still remained a top competitor, but he was also no longer deemed to be the same kind of threat. Funny thing is, that actually changed again recently, with Nowry putting together one of his strongest performances in years at April’s World Team Trials.
2016 Junior Asian Championships bronze medalist Hee-Dong Son (KOR) would be the second-most credentialed wrestler expected to be taking up space in the bracket, but Kyndall Rutz (NMU/OTS) and young shaggy-haired Camden Russell (MWC) are also raising their hands to throw down. Ninja-like quickness and tireless aggression are usually the calling cards for the lighter weights and with 55 back, that’s hopefully what we’ll be seeing on Wednesday morning.
A lot of the talk has been about 55’s reintroduction to Senior Greco, but 60 is another returning weight class — it’s just that no one cares as much since we’ve had 59 to (sort of) take its place. As of this writing, 60 kilos at the Dave Schultz is completely dominated by Koreans with four at this weight alone, but there’s really only one name you need to know right now: 2017 World bronze medalist Kim Seung-Hak. For the hardcore out there, Kim is a pleasing wrestler to watch due to his constant movement and big attempts. This is an athlete who wants to get his money’s worth and will almost certainly be fighting for keeps come Thursday evening. On the US side, Mike Fuenffinger (Army/WCAP) stands out. The two-time DIII National Champion goes between Greco and freestyle a bit, but he is plenty potent enough in the upper-body discipline despite switching off on occasion. He’s a thoroughbred, a specimen, and awfully dangerous on his feet.
When the new weight classes were officially announced two months ago, the consensus was that for the next couple of non-Olympic years, 63 would stand as a very popular place to be and that seems to be the case right away. 2012 Junior World bronze medalist/2016 Olympian Jesse Thielke (LOG) is back on the scene for the first time since February’s running of the Schultz and this weight should be right in his wheelhouse. A healthy, not-dried-out-from-cutting Thielke will be in the running for a medal, if not gold, but he won’t be alone. 2014 University World Sammy Jones (NYAC/OTS) has a bronze and two runner-up finishes at this event, including one last year. He’ll be a major issue for everyone. Marine Xavier Johnson was a revelation at last year’s US Open in the 59 kilogram class before he kind of disappeared off the radar. He returned for the U23 Trials up at 66, but this weight fits him better.
Jordan Auen (NMU/OTS) scored a gold at the Klippan Cup last year and then earned a bronze at the Austrian Open in the spring. He’s another wrestler who got his wings at 59 and is now moving up, so let’s see what he does with it. Multi-time age-group All American Tyler Cunningham (MWC) is still a little short in the tooth and not expected to contend against the verifiable men who will be in this bracket, but it doesn’t mean he won’t have his moments.
Now a two-time World Champion, Ryu Han-Soo (KOR) is going to be the guy with the target firmly placed on his back, but he’s likely used to that. He’s special, in just about every way. Ryu is not only extraordinarily technically sound, but he is also a pace-pusher with the lungs to match. And he doesn’t waste time or motion. Opponents can be lulled into thinking they are about to engage in a pummel-fest, when the whole time this guy is setting angles for throw attempts. Right after him is Tsuchika Shimoyamada (JPN), who edged U23 World Team member Alex Sancho in February’s Schultz final. This is what the Americans, in all weight classes, want at this event — skilled foreigners to compete against.
Can someone like the recently-healed Austin Morrow (NYAC/OTS) step up here? Morrow was on track to begin his ascent towards the top of the US rankings when his shoulder(s) became all discombobulated. Now healthy for the first time in a year, the chance to battle with someone like Ryu or Shimoyamada could serve as even more of a motivating factor. Jessy Williams (NYAC) is a similar case, though without the injury. A brute talent with powerful throws, Williams seemed to be on the verge of stepping up into the spotlight but a couple of down performances derailed his momentum. A bounce-back performance here could do wonders for him.
72 is crammed.
2016 Olympic Trials winner RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) is a two-time defending Schultz champ and if you follow the platform, you already know the story. Perkins endured a spinal fracture in ’16 (or thereabouts), rehabbed his life away, came back for the winter Schultz, won, went overseas, bronzed at Zagreb — got hurt again — and then finished third at the Trials. He is once again a healthy man, and a healthy Perkins should be in the argument for Thursday’s medal rounds. 2016 Olympian Tomohiro Inoue (JPN) will likely be, as well. Aggressive everywhere but definitely more of a technician than anything else, Inoue’s presence along with a few of the other entrants here make this one of the Schultz’s three deepest brackets.
Brandon Mueller (Air Force), perhaps for the first time, appears in a preview as a wrestler expected to be place, which is saying something. An older Greco-Roman neophyte, Mueller got a late start but has caught on fast. He only had around a dozen Senior matches entering the spring, but went ahead and grabbed a silver at the Kristjan Palusalu Memorial in Estonia, anyway. At the CISM Military Worlds, Mueller went 0-2, but those two losses were to two former World bronze medalists — Adam Kurak (RUS) and Afshin Byabangard (IRI) — and he lost to both by a combined six points. Something’s up with this guy.
But the x-factor for all involved could be none other than Cody Pack (LOG). Formerly an OTC athlete, Pack went home to South Dakota to train/coach at his family-run training center earlier this year. A frenetic, offensively-minded scorer, Pack can do big damage from his feet and as he’s been acquiring more Senior experience, confidence has followed. Two very tough Marines, Jamel Johnson and Josh Russo are both hungry up-and-comers who are coached well and capable of making life difficult for some of the more seasoned athletes here. You want to see those two on their games because if they are, fireworks could follow.
2017 DAVE SCHULTZ MEMORIAL
Wednesday, November 1st:
10:00am-1:00pm — Greco-Roman prelims through Consolation Round 1.
5:00pm-7:00pm — Greco-Roman semifinals, Consolation Round 2.
Thursday, November 2nd:
10:00am-12:45pm — Consolation Round 3 to Consolation Semifinals
7:00pm-8:45pm — Finals & bronze medal matches
Live streaming available on Flowrestling.org.