The month of May has finally arrived, which also means that the three American Greco wrestlers still gunning for Olympic qualification are undergoing their final preparations for the 2nd OG Qualifier later this week. The Greco portion of the event begins this coming Friday, May 6th in Istanbul, Turkey and represents the last chance the US will have to secure its final three berths for the Rio Olympics. Jesse Thielke (NYAC, 59 kg), RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC, 66 kg), and Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm, 98 kg) have been training in Budapest, Hungary over the last week and a half following the 1st OG Qualifier, which took place in Mongolia.
Thielke lost a tough match to Guarav Sharma from India in his first and only bout of the tournament, falling 6-5 after being up 5-0 moving into the last two minutes. Prior to that, Thielke appeared to be in complete control, wrestling with the speed and confidence he unveiled in Iowa City. Rau battled Carl Fredrik Schoen (SWE) in a tightly-contested affair, but ultimately dropped a 4-1 decision. The Illinois native just couldn’t get his offense going versus Schoen, which has become one of his biggest strengths. Perkins. however, came close to sealing the deal. The 66 kg stalwart wrestled impressively, going 4-2 in Mongolia only to lose in the “true third” wrestle-off to Lithuania’s Edgaras Venckaitis.
The trio of American Greco wrestlers have been in Budapest under the watchful eye of US Resident Coach Momir Pektovic and getting in workouts alongside some of Hungary’s emerging talent. They are also using the same training facility and staying at the same location the US team stayed at during the 2013 World Championships in effort to provide a comfortable setting for the athletes as they continue to prepare for Friday. But before then, they will be tracking their weights and then head off to Istanbul on Wednesday. Weigh-ins for the 2nd OG Qualifier are scheduled for Thursday at 2:15pm.
As has been noted, there is still a number of accomplished international competitors who have yet to qualify for their own countries. 2013 World Champion Ivo Angelov (BUL) and six-time World Champion Hamid Soryan (IRI) headline the names who are expected to appear at 59 kg. At 66, Armenian-born Frenchman Artak Margaryan, 2015 World bronze medalist Zackarias Tallroth (SWE) and Atakan Yuksul (TUR) could be on the docket. Margaryan and Tallroth both lost in the quarterfinal in Mongolia along with Perkins. 98 kg is similarly muddied up. 2016 European bronze medalist Orkhan Nuriev (AZE), Cenk Ildem (TUR, world no. 7), and Peter Oehler (GER) are all still in need of nailing down spots, as well.
All three of the US athletes have displayed the ability to beat any of the potential opponents they may encounter in Istanbul. And each one undoubtedly understands the task at hand. It’s not above their pay-grade. They were first tested at the Olympic Trials. Then the trio traveled a world away to stamp down their effort. Now the wrestlers have the opportunity to give it another shot. This is what they signed up for and it’s a safe bet they can’t wait to get back at it again.
We will have previews and coverage throughout the week leading up to the 2nd OG Qualifier, so be sure to keep it right here. Also follow Five Point Move on Twitter for continuing updates and any other info you may need to know.
Image: Steven L. Tietz