Over the weekend, a group of US Greco-Roman Seniors participated in a dual meet against a Belarusian squad comprised mainly of athletes from nearby Grodno University. If you are a regular reader of this platform, you knew the dual was coming — US National Team head coach Matt Lindland mentioned its potential in the most recent edition of the Coach Lindland’s Report a couple of weeks back and we plugged it here and there in other pieces, as well. But there were never any concrete details leading up, probably because there weren’t any available, which made having a lockdown plan pertaining to its coverage rather difficult.
That changed (briefly) on Friday, when two-time World Team member Patrick Martinez (85 kg, NYAC) reached out to us with the idea of him live streaming the dual on our Instagram. Martinez has been kind enough to serve as an athlete correspondent before and his willingness to stream Saturday’s event for US fans at home — despite being scheduled to compete himself — was extremely appreciated, as it always is. However, it couldn’t work out. It just couldn’t. The US athletes were rushed to the venue, where they had to quickly change, warm-up, and get started. Streaming the dual was a lot to ask to begin with, but under those circumstances, not doing it made more sense than even attempting to.
Unfortunately, that also meant we were flying blind. Coach Lindland provided the bout order and a video clip of what the venue looked like, but there were no matches available to view — after the dual wrapped up, all we had were match scores. Literally. There weren’t even names of the Belarusian opponents. Because of that, we held off on listing the boxscore of the dual, as is our policy. Unless we can put a name to it, we don’t list it. Simple. We tried to piece together who the Belarus representatives were by applying various methods of deductive reasoning (e.g., seeing who from BLR was competing at the Alrosa Cup, which wrestlers attended Grodno, etc), but it was all in vain.
Then overnight Saturday into Sunday and practically out of nowhere, two 5PM readers who were actually in Belarus at the event provided us with the names of the Belarusian wrestlers. The original recap was promptly amended and here we are now.
As for the dual meet itself, it looks like it must have been an amazing atmosphere. Held in a community center that doubles as a nightclub once the sun sets, the crowd was packed in around the mat and up in the balcony, and there was a spotlight on the mat. And judging by a few videos on Instagram, it was also loud in that place.
Greco-Roman needs these types of events in the worst way, especially in the US, but there is a cultural difference involved, too. Belarus is obviously a place that is much more embracing of Greco-Roman and as such, fans get a lot more excitement out of watching matches unfold than they do here. Eastern Europeans in general, they’re waiting for throws, but even if the bombs don’t come, they are happy to witness the fighting, which leads us to something the National Coach talked about afterwards.
Lindland understands better than most the differing cultural perspective and why Greco has a higher level of appeal to audiences in nations like Belarus. As he discusses this topic, it is easy to detect the admiration he has for how this part of the world treats the sport he loves. Here’s Lindland’s version of what transpired on Saturday.
“It was in a very unique setting,” Lindland starts. “It’s a place they hold plays and concerts in, and different community events during the day. At night, the center turns into a disco until the wee hours of the morning. It’s a very multi-purpose building in the dead-center of town, right across the street from the massive prison (laughs).
“It was a full house, for sure. I’m pretty damn good at (discerning) venue size and I would say there were about 700 people there. I’ve done enough events to where I can look at a venue and go, Oh yeah, there are 700 people here. And it was at capacity. When you throw a big mat in the middle of the place, there isn’t a ton of room for seating. They had people in the balcony and standing because they couldn’t even get a seat. The venue was completely full.
“I would love to do more events like this. The uniqueness for us, I think everyone else knew what was going on, but since I don’t speak Russian, I only knew it started it at 3:00pm and that we were going to compete. But I was really surprised it was such a well-done and well-produced event. Between every match, they had dancing or singing, of some sort. They even brought in the local strippers (laughs).
“But our sport needs this. Our sport needs to present itself in this kind of a format where it’s a show. The people of Grodno City did a great job of presenting our sport. There are not a lot of places in our country where they would appreciate this kind of art like the Europeans do. Wrestling, especially Greco-Roman, is a big part of their culture. It’s funny, because the women really appreciate manly men, masculine men who are willing to fight, and they are not afraid to say that, either. They will tell you, Wow, this is very manly or masculine, they like that (laughs). They like that a couple of dudes are going to go fight in front of them. They really appreciate that.
“And that is literally the language they use. I don’t know if you’re familiar, but that’s the language I typically use, too. Instead of compete or wrestle, I’ll say fight. I don’t know, maybe I picked it up over the years going to Europe fighting, but they do not call it wrestling. When it’s translated, it’s translated into fight.”
Please enjoy these photos of the US Seniors in Belarus courtesy of Yaroslav Vanyukevich.
No Oleg Karavaev
Initially, it was thought that the US Seniors in Belarus would be competing at this weekend’s Oleg Karavaev Tournament in Minsk. That is not happening. The team is in Minsk to take part in the training camp, but as for wrestling in the event, that’s out. The Oleg Karavaev is a team tournament consisting of a series of duals. Since only two US Seniors would even be entering (Martinez and Kevin Radford), obviously, the US is not participating. The remaining four athletes — Kamal Bey (80 kg, Sunkist, world no. 18 at 75 kg), Barrett Stanghill (85 kg, Minnesota Storm), Blake Smith (98 kg, NMU/OTS), and G’Angelo Hancock (130 kg, Sunkist, world no. 16 at 98 kg) will be gearing up for the U23 World Championships four days later.
Speaking of the U23’s
Our previews are scheduled to hit later in the week leading up to the festivities in Poland and will include rosters and breakdowns of all the weight classes, as is custom. The World Championships begin this coming Tuesday, November 21st in Bydgoszcz, Poland at 10:00am local time (4:00am EST) and can be viewed live in the US on Trackwrestling.com.
Tuesday, November 21st — 71 kg, 75 kg, 85 kg, 98 kg
Wednesday, November 22nd — 59 kg, 66 kg, 80 kg, 130 kg
Alrosa Cup Results
The 2017 European Nations Cup, or Alrosa Cup, took place over the weekend in Moscow, and there weren’t a lot of surprises on the Greco-Roman front. Russia won, Hungary came in second, Georgia third, and Belarus fourth. The biggest eyebrow raiser would be young Kiril Maskevich (80 kg, BLR) eeking past 2016 World bronze medalist Laszlo Szabo (HUN, world no. 15 prior to Paris), although that was Belarus’ only win of that dual. Russia used Stepan Maryanyan (world no. 20) for two of three dual meets but tossed Mingiyan Semenov (world no. 6) in to take care of Bela Belanchivadze in the match-up against Georgia.
About our merch
After receiving countless emails, comments, and general inquiries, we have finally made shirts available (click image for more details). The response has been intense and is beyond appreciated. The support from hardcore Greco fans and the wrestling community as a whole enables this platform to serve its purpose, which is to create exposure for the athletes and this wonderful sport. Thank you to all who have placed orders and to those who plan to in the future.
- An all-new Coach Lindland’s Report from Belarus.
- An all-new Northern News with Rob Hermann discussing the wildly successful Sweden tour.
- Video interviews with Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC) and hopefully, one of the Seniors in Belarus but we won’t say who yet.
- U23 World Championships previews.
- Breaking news about an upcoming event.