A common theme surrounding the United States Greco-Roman program lately has been expectations. It’s a concept that pops up often in conversation, be it on this platform or elsewhere. Whenever there is a competition on foreign soil, a lot of the talk among the community is centered around performance, potential medal hauls, and so on. That’s what people want to discuss, How many medals do you think they’ll get? Of course, the coaches who facilitate these excursions aren’t as concerned about actual placings. Sure, they want the athletes to perform, to fight it out, to compete to the best of their abilities. But by and large, if a US delegation is overseas, the primary focus is on training and improvement.
It’s understandable, after all. Success is ultimately measured by what does (or doesn’t happen) at every World-level event. So while the nation’s Greco-Roman coaching leadership might be pleased with a slew of strong results collected at various tournaments throughout the season, the focus quickly shifts back to team selection(s) and then the requisite hammering away at the hopeful endeavor of putting US athletes on the podium at the World Championships. It is there where everyone’s (coaches and athletes alike ) accountability truly resides. Rightfully or otherwise.
But even with that, it is becoming a little too difficult to merely scoff at weekends like the one that just wrapped up, not just because what the Juniors pulled off was impressive, but because it also represented consistency within the US program.
We’ll start with how the US Juniors have performed at the Austrian Open going back to 2015, since that is when many of the country’s current top young bloods began entering the fray. The numbers alone do an adequate job of telling the story.
US Juniors In Austria
2015 — GOLD: Dalton Roberts (50 kg); BRONZE: Mason Manville (74 kg)
2016 — GOLD: Randon Miranda (50 kg), Dalton Roberts (55 kg); BRONZE: Andrew Ibarra (55 kg), G’Angelo Hancock (96 kg)
2017 — GOLD: Randon Miranda (55 kg), Taylor LaMont (60 kg), Logan Kass (66 kg), Kamal Bey (84 kg), G’Angelo Hancock (96 kg), Nick Boykin (120 kg); SILVER: Cohlton Schultz (96 kg), Drew Fenton (120 kg); BRONZE: Jordan Auen (60 kg), Alston Nutter (66 kg), Jesse Porter (74 kg), Wyatt Koelling (84 kg)
What happened at the 2018 Austrian Open? There weren’t 12 medals like in 2017. But there were eight. And more importantly than that, it wasn’t just the experienced wrestlers who managed to earn some hardware, as there were two first-time international champs and three first-time medalists overall.
The names everyone knows were expected to do well and they did — Benji Peak (gold, 60 kg), Alston Nutter (silver, 63 kg), and Cohlton Schultz (gold, 120 kg). But seeing a wrestler like Camden Russell (55 kg, MWC) step out of his high school season and immediately into a pretty major overseas Junior event — and win, no less — is both encouraging and indicative of a trend that suggests American age-group athletes are starting to harden up for serious competition earlier than in the recent past. Riley Briggs (67 kg), one of NMU’s under-the-radar tough guys, entered the Austrian Open with some meaningful foreign experience under his belt and the fact he was able to translate that into a gold speaks as much to his confidence as it does to what is being drummed into his head during practice in Marquette.
Mason Hartshorn (silver, 60 kg), Luis Hernandez (bronze, 63 kg), Russell, and Briggs had all spent time training in Europe before they hopped aboard the flight to Austria last week. However, they are still new in a sense. Russell earned a silver at the Croatia Open in ’17, but that was as a Cadet. Hernandez has logged a substantial amount of mat time overseas in his own right, but it isn’t like he has been around for so long that you take a performance like Saturday’s for granted. These were wrestlers with obvious ability who broke new ground in their careers.
The point is, the US recipe for development is clicking at a high enough level to where raw, inexperienced youths are showing that they understand what legitimate foreign competition looks like. The intention of the Austrian tour, of all tours for that matter, may indeed be about training and learning. But expectations are rising on an annual basis now, and it has much more to do with consistency than total numbers. Upward trends are nice. Maintaining a unified developmental approach is even nicer. If the US performance at the Austrian Open on Saturday showed anything, it is that the same page is being read by all the right people.
Updated US Senior Greco Medal Count
We are only three events in thus far for 2018 — Zagreb, Granma Cup, and Thor Masters. Nevertheless, we will always celebrate hardware being brought home, regardless of where or how it happened.
Grand Prix Zagreb Open — 2/3/18
BRONZE: Xavier Johnson (60 kg, Marines)
Granma Cup — 2/18/18
GOLD: Kamal Bey (77 kg, Sunkist); BRONZE: Dalton Roberts (60 kg, NYAC/OTS), Kevin Radford (87 kg, Sunkist)
Thor Masters — 2/24/18
SILVER: Randon Miranda (55 kg, NYAC/OTS), Jesse Thielke (63 kg, NYAC); BRONZE: RaVaughn Perkins (72 kg, NYAC)
Bulgaria Training Camp
We are hoping to be able to include updates from Bulgaria, where a contingent of USA Greco-Roman Seniors are set to train for the next couple of weeks leading up to the Nikola Petrov tournament on March 22nd. 2012 University World Champion Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP), 2012 Olympian Ellis Coleman (67 kg, Army/WCAP), 2017 US National Team member John Stefanowicz (82 kg, Marines) and several other military Greco athletes are over there, so look for some news and other info from Eastern Europe as that camp unfolds.
Wrestlers on Social Media
Your weekly dose of inspiring words, knuckleheaded antics, or thought-provoking questions from your favorite US Greco-Roman athletes and coaches.
So there’s this…
Let’s see that again and some more stuff from Austria.
This was done really well.
Staying after it.
day 1 of camp complete 🇦🇹
— jon massey💭 (@jonmassey1) March 5, 2018
Bisek would just wake up even earlier and hit the bleachers in advance so he could still torture everyone.
— Jordan Auen (@jordanmasaru_) March 1, 2018
It was a busy weekend for collegians.
Always ready for his closeup.
Closing strong this week.
FIFA ain’t a game 😂💯 https://t.co/WyT77i0FTo
— Randon (@randontheguy) March 5, 2018