Nothing says “progress” like coming home with some hardware.
Behind three champs and nine overall medalists, USA Greco-Roman added two more team titles on the new season, further demonstrating that the “rebuilding” program’s foundation is firmly in place. The action began yesterday at the 2017 Malar Cupen in Västerås, Sweden and wrapped up this morning following what were two days of wrestling crammed with international competition.
Two-time Junior World Team member Randon Miranda (59 kg, NYAC/OTS) dominated on Day 1 with a tech fall and a pin, and he went virtually untouched once again on Sunday. First up this morning was Nikolai Mohammadi (DEN), who Miranda wrapped up and rolled out for an 8-0 technical fall. This had been the story for the California native throughout the tour. At the Klippan Cup last weekend, Miranda piled up points en-route to victory and he scored another tech Wednesday in the dual versus Team Skåne Brottning. He kept the momentum going in order to nail down his title at the Malar Cupen. Once again, another tech presented itself, with Nicolaj Schrøder (DEN) as his final victim.
Miranda said before the US left for Sweden that he had something to prove following his runner-up performance last month at the U23 World Team Trials. He seems to have accomplished the objective. Miranda racked up 81 points spread across 10 matches on the tour along with seven tech falls. With his victory today now in the books, Miranda took stock of the advancements he’s made since arriving at Northern Michigan.
“I came here two years ago and placed fourth at the Malar Cupen and two years later I was able to win both tournaments,” Miranda noted afterwards. “It lets me know that the training at NMU is working and I’m only improving. I had lots of fun.”
Benji Peak (63 kg, NMU/OTS) earned a bronze at both Denmark’s Bear Cup and last weekend’s Klippan Cup. For the conclusive event during his prolonged stay in Europe, he climbed up two more steps on the podium.
Peak was a scoring machine on Day 1, accumulating 34 points in three tech-fall wins. But there was a lot of work still left for him to accomplish. Peak had five matches on Sunday and as has been the script, he broke out the offense in each one. Four of his bouts were tech’s, including his final opposite Radoslaw Molin (SWE). The only wrestler to give him a problem? USA teammate and eventual bronze medalist Dominic Damon (WA), who had his own inspired run.
The stats for Peak at the Malar Cupen pop off the page: Eight matches. 79 points. Six tech falls, one pin, one decision. But like Miranda, when asked about his performance on Sunday, Peak immediately pointed to his decision to focus on a full-time Greco career.
“When I decided to leave high school early, it was for opportunities like these,” Peak said. “Not too many people can say they got to spend a month training in Europe, and because of the training I got in both Denmark and Sweden, I was able to bring back three medals from the three tournaments I competed at.”
Uber-prospect Peyton Robb (76 kg, Minnesota Storm) has been a story unto himself on this trip. A talented all-style wrestler, Robb stomped through the Cadet Pan Am Championships before winning his first Fargo National title this past July. Naturally, he’s an athlete with a lot of options at his disposal and will continue his career next year at South Dakota, but the talent he has expressed thus far in Greco is undeniable. Robb had limited foreign experience entering this tour but impressed nonetheless with his fourth-place showing at the Klippan Cup, where he and Lukas Ahlgren (SWE) engaged in one of the most entertaining (if not contentious) bouts of the tournament in their battle for bronze.
Of course, Robb sought revenge and got it — he nearly tech’ed Ahlgren in Wednesday’s dual.
It all made whatever Robb was going to do this weekend even more intriguing and he delivered. A technical fall and a pin highlighted his three matches Saturday and put him in contention this morning. In a very deep Pool B, Robb made his way to the bracket finals on the strength of an 8-0 starching of Marcel Hein (DEN) followed by a decision win over Waltteri Latvala (FIN). Once again, aggression took priority with a gold medal on the line and Robb seized the opportunity by pinning Lukas Høier Jensen (DEN).
Getting these overseas matches in was important to Robb leading up to this European adventure, but it sounds like he also wanted to send a message. “I haven’t had much experience in international wrestling, but I think this tour has shown that I’m ready to compete at that level,” Robb said.
The hype is real about Nielsen, Boykin with second silver
One of the most capable and promising Greco-Roman wrestlers in the country is Carter Nielsen (80 kg, NMU/OTS), who is now in Marquette after spending a year competing for North Dakota State University. The younger brother of former US National Team member Zach, plenty of fans have been curious (and hopeful) regarding Carter’s decision to concentrate on the classical discipline, and his third-place showing at the U23 Trials provided a sneak peek at what he can do with full-time training. Nielsen closed out the Klippan Cup by dropping a grinding 5-5 decision to established Senior Oskar Johansson (SWE), so there has certainly been enough evidence to suggest early on that the more matches this guy gets, the better he will perform.
Two no-doubt-about-it victories on Day 1 led up to a busy Day 2 for Nielsen. He got going quickly in his first bout on Sunday, sewing up a fall over Ole Jakob Malmgren (NOR) and he repeated the result in his next match against Anton Carlsson (SWE) to emerge out of Pool B. Nielsen’s opponent in the finals represented one of his stiffest tests to date — 2016 Hungarian Grand Prix silver medalist and Danish World Team member Rajbek Bisultanov. Unfortunately, it didn’t go his way and Nielsen was on the wrong side of an 11-2 tech. But a silver medal at an international event of this size in conjunction with the chance to square off with a wrestler possessing the kind of experience Bisultanov does will no doubt help speed up what is already a very encouraging trajectory.
“Big” Nick Boykin (130 kg, Sunkist) picked up his second silver medal in as many weeks. The 130 kilogram bracket at the 2017 Malar Cupen was a round-robin, which didn’t provide neither he or NMU’s Marc Leon with as many bouts as they likely would have hoped, but it is still another step in the right direction for Boykin, who won both of his matches in the tournament via pin. An Olympic Training Center resident athlete, Boykin originally made an impression with his piledriving performances on the age-group level, but he’s added significant mat time since then with multiple overseas placings, including a win at last year’s prestigious Austrian Open.
Damon, Lewis, Brackett, and Wilson Take Bronze
Another young wrestler on the tour who has elevated himself is Dominic Damon (63 kg, WA). Damon was making strides as a domestic age-grouper and then in early-June, really upped his game by participating in the inaugural Go Greco USA Developmental Tour, seeing action in both Croatia and Serbia. He did not compete in the Klippan Cup because it was a Senior event, but he grabbed a big piece of the spotlight on Wednesday, as it was Damon’s blitzing tech of Zackarias Gustavsson (SWE) that clinched the dual victory for the US.
He was apparently working with the same level of confidence over the weekend.
Damon dropped a close decision to Walter Wale (SWE) on Saturday and US teammate Peak today. Other than those two bouts, Damon was a revelation. A 5-1 win over Alexander Riefling (GER) opened up the morning and tacked on a tech right after that against Nematullah Shamshiri (SWE) before the loss to Peak. But he bounced back in the bronze medal match, coming away with a nice fall over Inaya Mohseni (SWE).
“Last summer, I went on the Croatia/Serbia tour where I gained a lot of experience wrestling Europeans,” Damon explained when asked about what sparked his run to bronze. “This tournament was great because it showed that training overseas and practicing Greco at home is paying off.”
2017 Fargo Cadet National champ Hunter Lewis (54 kg, WI) is now a two-time Malar Cupen bronze medalist. He took a 1-1 ledger into Sunday and pretty much like last year, put in his best work when it mattered most. Lewis pounded out Hugo Hübinette (SWE) to get back on track following a first-round loss yesterday and then ran right over both Abulfazel Hashimy (SWE) and Snorre Lund (NOR) with two high-energy tech’s this morning to make the podium. As most are aware, Lewis is an extremely well-traveled youth competitor who has medaled multiple times in Europe as he continues to make waves on the national scene.
By now, everyone is familiar with Tommy Brackett (85 kg, TN) and his love for Greco. Although still in high school (he’s now a senior), Brackett doesn’t miss domestic events and has even gotten himself overseas at every available opportunity. This is where he sees himself going forward — training, traveling, and competing internationally. It also doesn’t hurt that he is a bullish talent who has impressed coaches and fans alike with his eager work ethic and pressure-filled approach.
But that doesn’t mean Brackett started off this tour successfully. He fell ill, went 0-2 last weekend and was tech’ed out in Wednesday’s dual. Therefore, one thing Brackett did not want entering competition this weekend was to hop back on a long flight home without making his presence felt, no matter what that looked like. Well, what it looks like is a bronze medal and his first time placing at a Senior international event.
Two decision wins ushered him into potential medal contention on Sunday and he started off with a tense, hard-fought decision over Kim Erik Valentin Svensson (NOR), an older, (much) more experienced Senior. 2013 Junior Nordic Championships bronze medalist Max Johansson (SWE) was next and this time, Brackett got caught in quicksand, dropping a 10-0 technical fall. He had to find a way to make this all count. The tour, the training camp, the matches — they’re all logged as vital experience to be applied towards the future. But wrestlers want to win medals and with one more match still on the horizon, Brackett didn’t let the chance to do so slip away as he cruised right past Naib Ilaladayev (SWE) 10-0.
“I’m happy I rebounded after a rough first half of the tour,” Brackett said. “Things started clicking in this tourney. I was pretty sick for most of the tour and I’m happy I was able to mentally get passed it and still come home with my first Senior international medal. I saw a big improvement in my wrestling over the past year and this tournament showed it. I both learned a lot and had fun on this tour.”
Spencer Wilson (98 kg, NMU/OTS) banged out his third under odd circumstances, though he closed out the weekend on a high note. A heartbreaking loss to Martynas Nemsevicius (DEN) in his first match on Saturday gave way to a win by default over Leon Kessidis (SWE). 98 kilos was not a packed bracket, providing Wilson with only one match on Sunday. Against Elias Kenneryd (SWE), Wilson was in command from the outset, racing out to a quick lead before putting Kenneryd away via fall.
- Team USA won both the Cadet and Junior/Senior age divisions of the 2017 Malar Cupen, so essentially, the US won two tournaments in one since an outright champion of all the age groups is not crowned.
- This is the first Malar Cupen tournament win for Team USA, in any age division.
- Outside of Hunter Lewis, every US wrestler who medaled on Sunday at the Malar Cupen was a first-timer, including Miranda.
2017 MALAR CUPEN — VÄSTERÅS, SWEDEN
TEAM USA OVERALL RESULTS
Hunter Lewis (WI) — bronze
LOSS Niklas Öhlen (SWE) 8-0, TF
WIN Hugo Hübinette (SWE) via fall
WIN Abulfazel Hashimy (SWE) 10-2, TF
WIN Snorre Lund (NOR) 13-4, TF
Austin Almaguer (WA) — 13th
LOSS Henri Halonen (FIN) 9-5
WIN Mansor Tasuev (NOR) via fall
LOSS Shirshah Amiri (SWE) 4-0
Benji Peak (NMU/OTS) — gold
WIN Puttichart Phaikoonwong (SWE) 18-8, TF
WIN Noah Reister (GER) 8-0, TF
WIN Walter Wale (SWE) 8-0, TF
WIN Ron Siren (FIN) 8-0, TF
WIN Nematullah Shamshiri (SWE) 9-1, TF
WIN Alexander Riefling (GER) 12-2
WIN Dominic Damon (NMU/OTS) 6-2
WIN Radoslaw Molin (SWE) 10-1, TF
Dominic Damon (WA) — bronze
LOSS Walter Wale (SWE) 4-3
WIN Elias Moen (NOR) 7-2
WIN Noah Reister (GER) 8-0, TF
WIN Alexander Riefling (GER) 5-1
WIN Nematullah Shamshiri (SWE) 9-1, TF
LOSS Benji Peak (NMU/OTS) 6-2
WIN Inaya Mohseni (SWE) 14-6, TF
Logan Hatch (WI) — dnp
LOSS Radoslaw Molin (SWE) 3-3 (criteria)
WIN Kristoffer Pettersen (NOR) 8-0, TF
LOSS Jacob Tangen (NOR) 8-0, TF
Peyton Robb (Minnesota Storm) — gold
WIN August Eriksson (SWE) 3-0
WIN Alireza Tajik (SWE) via fall
WIN Rikard Åhlen (SWE) 8-0, TF
WIN Marcel Hein (DEN) 8-0, TF
WIN Waltteri Latvala (FIN) 12-9
WIN Lukas Høier Jensen (DEN) via fall
Jacob Olson (WA) — 6th
WIN Benjamin Sjöstrand (NOR) 8-0, TF
LOSS Antti Haanpää (FIN) 14-6, TF
LOSS Mohamed Ramzanovitsj (NOR) 8-0, TF
Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS) — gold
WIN Otto Miikki (FIN) 8-0, TF
WIN Muhammed Anvari (SWE) via fall
WIN Hazbi Ismaili (SWE) 10-0, TF
WIN Nikolai Mohammadi (DEN) 8-0, TF
WIN Nicolaj Schrøder (DEN) 8-0, TF
Luis Hernandez (OTC) — 7th
LOSS Nicolaj Schrøder (DEN) 11-7
LOSS Linus Markusson (SWE) 8-0, TF
Riley Briggs (NMU/OTS) — 4th
WIN Markus Tjörnby (SWE) via fall
WIN Eemeli Kunttu (FIN) 8-0, TF
LOSS Mikkel Lassen (DEN) 13-8
WIN Jake Drexler (WI) 10-2, TF
WIN Anton Rosen (SWE) 10-7
LOSS Isak Bø Rørnes (NOR) 9-1, TF
Jake Drexler (WI) — dnp
LOSS Mikkel Lassen (DEN) 8-0
LOSS Anton Rosen (SWE) via fall
LOSS Riley Briggs (NMU/OTS) 10-2, TF
Mason Hartshorn (NMU/OTS) — 9th
LOSS Kasper Ravn (DEN) 8-0, TF
WIN Erik Spence (NMU/OTS) 9-0, TF
WIN Ahmad Zaki Yaqobi (SWE) 8-0, TF
LOSS Isak Bø Rørnes (NOR) 6-1
Erik Spence (NMU/OTS) — 18th
LOSS Mason Hartshorn (NMU/OTS) 9-0, TF
LOSS Anton Holk (SWE) 8-0, TF
Britton Holmes (NMU/OTS) — 12th
WIN Lucas Söderblom (SWE) 8-0, TF
LOSS Emil Svensson (SWE) 11-5
LOSS Marcus Selldén (SWE) 8-0, TF
Calvin Germinaro (NMU/OTS) — 10th
LOSS Simon Erlandsson (SWE) 10-2, TF
WIN Babar Ali (SWE) via fall
LOSS Rasmus Åström (SWE) via fall
Justin Lien (NMU/OTS) — 14th
LOSS Elias Andersson (SWE) 9-2
LOSS Salim Al Rays (SWE) 9-0, TF
Josh Anderson (NMU/OTS) — 14th
LOSS Calle Norberg (SWE) 4-2
LOSS Sharafmal Sediqi (DEN) 3-2
Colby Baker (NMU/OTS) — 12th
WIN Gustav Bengtsson (SWE) 10-6
LOSS Jesper Øiaas (NOR) 10-1, TF
LOSS Michael Donato (NMU/OTS) 10-0, TF
Michael Donato (NMU/OTS) — 9th
WIN Jesper Øiaas (NOR) 9-0, TF
LOSS Mikkel Wind (DEN) 10-0, TF
WIN Colby Baker (NMU/OTS) 10-1, TF
LOSS Johan Hedberg (SWE) via fall
Carter Nielsen (NMU/OTS) — silver
WIN Albin Olofsson (SWE) via fall
WIN Martin Gistorp (NOR) 8-0, TF
WIN Ole Jakob Malmgren (NOR) via fall
WIN Anton Carlsson (SWE) via fall
LOSS Rajbek Bisultanov (DEN) 11-2, TF
Corey Fitzgerald (NMU/OTS) — 9th
LOSS Andrija Maletin (SWE) via fall
LOSS Joseph Rodriguez (SWE) 10-6
Tommy Brackett (TN) — bronze
WIN Rickard Modig (SWE) 10-3
WIN Arttu-Petteri Klami (FIN) 7-3
WIN Kim Erik Valentin Svensson (NOR) 3-2
LOSS Max Johansson (SWE) 10-0, TF
WIN Naib Ilaladayev (SWE) 10-0, TF
George Sikes (NMU/OTS) — 9th
LOSS Martin Dalsbotten (NOR) 8-0, TF
LOSS Naib Ilaladayev (SWE) via fall
Spencer Wilson (NMU/OTS) — bronze
LOSS Martynas Nemsevicius (DEN) via fall
WIN Elias Kenneryd (SWE) via fall
Keaton Fanning (NMU/OTS) — 6th
LOSS Aleksandar Stjepanetic (SWE) via fall
LOSS Elias Kenneryd (SWE) 8-0, TF
Nick Boykin (Sunkist) — silver
LOSS Mattias Viitanen (SWE) via fall
WIN Fardin Anosheh (SWE) via fall
WIN Marc Leon (NMU/OTS) via fall
Marc Leon (NMU/OTS) — 4th
LOSS Fardin Anosheh (SWE) 8-0, TF
LOSS Mattias Viitanen (SWE) via fall
LOSS Nick Boykin (Sunkist) via fall