There was confusion. There were also some good matches, and some “Wow” kind of moments. In the end, it was another running of Sweden’s Haparanda Cup that delivered a handful of US medalists, including one very determined champion.
The final round began at 5:00pm local time from Haparanda, Sweden (11:00am ET) and was broadcast live on HSKT Brottning‘s YouTube account.
You could almost see the fire bubbling inside of John Stefanowicz (Marines) as he patiently waited for his final round bout versus Davyd Shadt (UKR) to begin. This had been quite the day for the 2019 US World Teamer. Stefanowicz, who is set to compete this season at 77 kilograms, went up to 87 for this tournament on short notice. Though maybe a touch undersized, Stefanowicz fared well in the morning, first defeating stablemate Vaughn Monreal-Berner and dropping a tough 7-5 decision to Daniel Bogdanov (RUS).
But since 87 kilos was pooled, and because Bogdanov also took a loss, “Stef” was still in the running for a shot at gold when he gritted his teeth to victory via criteria over Aleksandar Stjepanetic (SWE).
Therefore, it was understandable if Stefanowicz was a little on edge as the lights flickered ahead of his match-up with Shadt. He just wanted the whistle to blow. And once it did, he never let up.
Stefanowicz wasn’t worried about pushing the proverbial pace at the outset. Instead, he was more concerned with prying inside of Shadt’s clutches to gain an advantage. Shadt wasn’t giving in, but despite his blocking, still received the first passive chance of the contest. From bottom par terre, Stefanowicz defended well. Back on the feet and it was time to hunt for points. Stefanowicz went to one of his go-to’s, an arm spin. Shadt responded by trying to yank out of the hold and initiate a change of direction. When he did, Stefanowicz stepped out and increased his deficit to 3-0.
It had to happen in the second period. After attempting to shoulder into workable tie-ups for the better part of a minute, Stefanowicz got his passive — and unlike Shadt — made it count. He locked around for a gutwrench — but rather than rotate, he pulled Shadt up, on top, and over. It was a high gut-lift without the elevation, an exceptionally brutal technique. The exposure was there, allowing Stefanowicz to inch ahead on criteria.
The clincher arrived soon after. Needing to score, Shadt locked for a throw attempt. As he did, Stefanowicz tried to land on top, scooting and reaching over to stop Shadt from coming out the back. Somehow, both made it to their feet without a score being awarded, and proceeded to scramble. Stefanowicz chased an off-balance Shadt at the edge and spun behind for two. Ukraine challenged — and lost — ballooning Stefanowicz’s lead to 6-2.
— 5PointMove (@5PtMove) November 30, 2019
The win gives Stefanowicz his first Senior overseas gold medal, and he was one of five US athletes to stand on the podium Saturday afternoon.
Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP, world no. 5) — who recently recovered from an illness while training in Georgia — had to wait seven hours before he had his only bout of the day. But, it was an automatic berth to the finals, where he stepped in against Andrii Semenchuk (UKR). The first points went to Semenchuk, who was awarded two when Nowry lost his balance and gave up a takedown. After some spirited jousting, Nowry yanked a front headlock at the boundary that yielded four — but because Semenchuk reversed Nowry onto his back at the end of the action, he picked up two, as well. A step-out point for Ukraine capped the scoring for the first period with Nowry entering the break up 4-3.
In the second period, Nowry almost had himself another big score when he off-balanced Semechuk directly to his back. Called for legs and the attack white-paddled, Nowry regrouped and eventually bullied Semenchuk out of bounds to increase his lead to 5-3. Another step-out point for the “Ninja Squad” rep soon followed, and by all appearances, he was well in control. Then everything changed. After the reset, and with Nowry seemingly on his way to victory, Semenchuk uncorked a flowery arm throw for four and quickly converted to a trap-arm gut for two on the back-end. There wasn’t a lot of time with which to work, though Nowry looked for openings. Semenchuk managed to avoid any trouble, however, and prevailed 7-6.
Baker, Bunker & Sheridan = Bronze
Nolan Baker (67 kg, USOPTC) continued his surge up the Senior ranks by headlocking his way to bronze on Saturday. A first-session loss to Mamadassa Sylla (FRA) sent Baker into the repechage, where he whammed Elmer Mattila (FIN) to collect the fall. Impressive, but what transpired in the bronze round was even more newsworthy. US National Team member Jamel Johnson (Marines) had assumed command by opening up a 6-0 lead entering the second period. Johnson’s points were the result of a missed Baker headlock plus a gutwrench, and an arm spin. When action resumed following the break, Johnson deliberately, patiently stalked Baker until the latter roped a booming headlock. Johnson, one of the country’s best overall lightweights, was pinned almost immediately.
Nolan Baker just HAMMERED a headlock to pin Jamel Johnson for bronze in Sweden. pic.twitter.com/JJdtmQ33cY
— 5PointMove (@5PtMove) November 30, 2019
Baker is now two for two: earlier this month, he earned bronze at the Bill Farrell Memorial (with all four of his victories coming via fall). Both the bronze from New York and Haparanda represent the Illinois native’s first international medals.
2019 World Team member Ray Bunker (72 kg, Marines) poured in a big-time effort at Haparanda, recovering from a semifinal loss via pin at the hands of Andrii Kulyk (UKR) to close out his tournament in style.
It was death by a thousand cuts. Squaring off against Vladyslav Shysko (UKR), Bunker relentlessly pursued scoring opportunities wherever he could find them — which in this match, were often the result of Shysko’s own attempts. A look at a throw from the Ukrainian led to Bunker collapsing on top for two. Once in control, Bunker rotated a gutwrench to storm ahead 3-1. After the reset and another throw attempt from Shysko, Bunker straight sprinted across the mat to nail a takedown.
He wouldn’t slow down. A Bunker step-out in the second period briefly gave Shysko a flicker of hope, but it was extinguished after the proceeding restart. Shysko had dropped down for an arm spin, only to have Bunker stay on his feet before covering for two more points. With the second period beginning to wane, Bunker hustled around Shysko for the pair of points that ended the bout prematurely.
If it’s hard to believe that today’s bronze is Lucas Sheridan‘s (97 kg, Army/WCAP) first from an overseas event, you’re not alone. The two-time US National Team member has not enjoyed the ability to travel overseas exceedingly often, though he’s starting to log more miles and it shows.
Sheridan entered the afternoon session needing to win two matches. He did that.
First, it was Loic Saman (FRA), who wanted to turn their bout into a slog. Sheridan wasn’t going to let that happen, so he wailed Saman right down for the pin. In the bronze match itself, Sheridan drew Greece’s Anestis Zarifes. Different opponent, same result. Sheridan poked and prodded from the ties, and similar to Baker, the fast-twitch is just too much to deal with. Sheridan roped a headlock from which Zarifes had no hope of escaping. Counting his opening bout with fellow US National Teamer Daniel Miller (Marines), all three of Sheridan’s victories at the Haparanda Cup were achieved via fall.
- The “confusion” mentioned at the top stemmed from the tournament’s format. On Liga, the Haparanda Cup appeared to be structured within the Nordic System (pooled brackets, round-robin, athletes receive at least two matches, etc). In reality, the most populated weight categories observed the standard international system (i.e., repechage). In the morning session recap, we listed all bouts/athletes who appeared eligible for re-qualification only to find out later that procedure was not in effect. The morning recap has now been edited to account for this correction.
- The US Seniors were split into three teams for the Haparanda Cup. “US Team 1”, which consisted of Nowry, Jamel Johnson, Xavier Johnson (67 kg, Marines), Bunker, Stefanowicz, and Sheridan, among others, placed third in the standings behind “St. Petersburg Team 1 (Russia) and “Ukraine Team 1”.
2019 Haparanda Cup
November 30 — Haparanda, Sweden
TEAM USA RESULTS
Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) — silver
LOSS Andrii Semenchuk (UKR) 9-6
Dalton Roberts (NYAC/OTS) — 5th
WIN Henri Halonen (FIN) via fall
LOSS Radion Samatov (RUS) 9-1, TF
LOSS Niklas Ohlen (SWE) 8-3
Ryan Mango (Army/WCAP) — 9th
LOSS Alex Bica (SWE) 7-5
Nolan Baker (USOPTC) — bronze
LOSS Mamadassa Sylla (FRA) 7-4
WIN Elmer Mattila (FIN) via fall
WIN Jamel Johnson (Marines) via fall
Jamel Johnson (Marines) — 5th
WIN Xavier Johnson (Marines) 5-4
WIN Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP) 6-4
LOSS Mamadassa Sylla (FRA) 6-2
LOSS Nolan Baker (USOPTC) via fall
Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP) — 7th
WIN Morgan Flaharty (NYAC) 5-2
LOSS Jamel Johnson (Marines) 6-4
Morgan Flaharty (NYAC) — 11th
LOSS Michael Hooker (Army/WCAP) 5-2
Xavier Johnson (Marines) — 9th
LOSS Jamel Johnson (Marines) 5-4
Colton Rasche (Marines) — 13th
LOSS Mihai Mihut (ROU) 8-0, TF
Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) — 10th
LOSS Mihai Mihut (ROU) 3-0
Ray Bunker (Marines) — bronze
WIN Igor Bychkov (UKR) 9-4
LOSS Andrii Kulyk (UKR) via fall
WIN Vladyslav Shysko (UKR) 10-2, TF
Chris Rodgers (USOPTC) — 11th
LOSS Andrii Kulyk (UKR) via fall
LOSS Vladyslav Shysko (UKR) 9-0, TF
Corey Hope (NYAC) — 8th
WIN Nick Tarpley (NYAC) 10-1, TF
LOSS Artjom Komarov (RUS) 10-2, TF
LOSS Roni Purolainen (FIN) 9-0, TF
Alex Mossing (Air Force) — 12th
LOSS Spencer Woods (NYAC/OTS) 8-4
Brandon Mueller (Air Force) — 15th
LOSS Juan Angel Escobar (MEX) 8-0, TF
Nick Tarpley (NYAC) — 17th
LOSS Corey Hope (NYAC) 10-1, TF
Spencer Woods (NYAC/OTS) — 10th
WIN Alex Mossing (Air Force) 8-4
LOSS Ruslan Isakov (RUS) 9-1, TF
LOSS Elmar Nuraliiev (UKR) 9-0, TF
Peyton Walsh (Marines) — 7th
WIN Arkadiy Kirakosyan (RUS) via default
LOSS Evrik Nikoghosyan (FRA) 7-6
John Stefanowicz (Marines) — gold
WIN Vaughn Monreal-Berner (Marines) 7-5
LOSS Daniel Bogdanov (RUS) 7-5
WIN Aleksandar Stjepanetic (SWE) 3-3
WIN Davyd Shadt (UKR) 6-2
Vaughn Monreal-Berner (Marines) — 6th
LOSS John Stefanowicz (Marines) 7-5
LOSS vs. Daniel Bogdanov (RUS) 8-0, TF
Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) — bronze
WIN Daniel Miller (Marines) via fall
LOSS Maksym Safaryan (RUS) 5-3
WIN Loic Saman (FRA) via fall
WIN Anestis Zarifes (GRE) via fall
Daniel Miller (Marines) — 9th
LOSS Lucas Sheridan (Army/WCAP) via fall