The U23 World Championships has certainly not been kind to the US program in its first two years on the schedule.
Only two Americans, Dalton Roberts (60 kg, NYAC/OTS) and G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist), have earned wins at the U23 Worlds, and both of those came last year. In 2017, the US went 2-11 at the tournament. Last week, the squad, with two additional weight classes in the mix, left Bucharest 0-12.
Obviously, this is not the note the American program was hoping to officially end the 2017-18 season on (despite a new season already in progress). Especially after churning out at least one medalist at the three prior World events this year.
That does not mean the US performance was completely bereft of bright spots. Both of the athletes who were pulled back into their weight class’ respective repechage rounds provided moments to get excited about. So too did Hancock, although his lone match at the event was shrouded in controversy.
If you are reading this, chances are high that you paid better-than-casual attention to the U23 Worlds. That was not the case country-wide, for all three styles. The timing of this event in relationship to the US audience couldn’t be much worse, particularly this year with the Senior Budapest Worlds having wrapped just two weeks ahead of U23. Throw in the collegiate season getting underway, and it’s not a recipe for casual viewer success. Greco didn’t help the cause by putting up a donut; but it is hard to picture much more traction availing itself even if a robust showing materialized. This thing, for better or worse, unfolded in a vacuum.
US Team Snapshots
Small picture thinking: No medals, no wins, time to clear the brush and wreck shop.
Big picture thinking: Several athletes were in the fight, how can they create more opportunities to capitalize on?
55 kg — Dalton Duffield (NMU/OTS)
First international event of any kind and immediately got to the body and scored on an experienced competitor (Bence Kovacs of Hungary). Was reversed after holding a front headlock and the match screeched off the rails from there.
60 kg — Randon Miranda (NYAC/OTS)
Had a tough, seasoned opponent in Justas Petravicius. Primarily a counter-wrestler, in this bout Miranda was unable to force Petravicius into betraying his position or providing opportunities to scramble. Defended first passivity impressively — but a Petravicius takedown off of a missed Miranda headlock is when the tide firmly began running in the wrong direction. Dismiss the ending to this match.
63 kg — Travis Rice (IRTC)
Faced with 2017 Junior World silver and eventual ’18 U23 bronze Aleksandr Hrushyn (UKR), Rice was victimized by a single sequence in the first period when Hrushyn nabbed a takedown and follow-up gut. The remainder of the bout saw Rice dig in as best he could, as well as survive a close call on another batch of Hrushyn points. The energy and drive were there, the offense wasn’t.
67 kg — Nolan Baker (NIRTC)
One of only two athletes to get two matches, Baker, like Duffield, was competing in his first foreign tournament. He scored six in his first match against the eventual runner-up, Karim Jafarov (AZE), and eight in his second against Japan’s Ryo Nakahashi for a combined 14 points. Baker lost his bouts via tech, but went out on his shield both times. How it should be done.
72 kg — Logan Kass (Minnesota Storm/OTS)
In the box score, it says Kass was tech’ed out by Nikita Masjuks (LAT) 8-0, but there was more to the story. Physically, Kass was right there with Masjuks the whole time, he just did not ignite the meaningful attempts he is capable of. A hard clash of heads wobbled him in the second. It’s conjecture to intimate that led to his demise, but it surely couldn’t have helped.
77 kg — Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS)
Twilight Zone stuff. Porter opened last year’s U23 Worlds with Fatih Cengiz (TUR), dropping a 2-1 decision. Cengiz wound up winning the tournament. 2018 offered Porter a shot at redemption right out of the gate. Drawing Cengiz for the second year in a row, Porter unfortunately was never in this one, and two questionable calls, including a wonky five for a Cengiz lift, sped up his reckoning.
82 kg — Carter Nielsen (NMU/OTS)
Nielsen was thrown and pinned by Nicu Ojog (ROU) early on in his first match. It was just one more jarring blow for the US. Good news arrived soon after, as Ojog advanced to the final, pulling Nielsen back in for the next day. In what was a gritty, if not inspirational performance, Nielsen all but broke Gegham Torgomyan (ARM). Torgomyan took the match 7-4, but this wasn’t the worst possible way for Nielsen to end his first World tournament.
87 kg — George Sikes (NMU/OTS)
In keeping with the pattern of US athletes beginning the tournament with either a previous age-group (or in Porter’s case, Senior) World medalist — or an opponent who would later make the podium at this event, first-timer Sikes couldn’t have been asked to do much more. Against Anton Kurs (BLR), who placed third, the NMU rep was leading 2-0 in the second before Kurs picked up four on a throw. Sikes tried making it interesting late, Kurs wasn’t budging. Even still, Sikes’ gameness deserves recognition.
97 kg — G’Angelo Hancock (Sunkist)
Maybe Hancock should not have found himself in position to be arm-thrown three times by 2017 Junior World champ Vladlen Kozliuk (UKR). Maybe officials need to improve on their understanding of change of direction and be able to disseminate such interpretation with a semblance of clarity. Maybe Hancock should have been awarded four for taking Kozliuk off his feet with a bodylock. All three statements can be true at the same time.
130 kg — Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist)
A pair of correct throws courtesy of Boban Zivanovic (SRB) put the 2017 Cadet World Champion out of the running following his very first match. Schultz, still just a high schooler, gave Zivanovic plenty to think about in the tie-ups and moved his foe around a little more in the second period. One more valuable learning experience he’ll use to come back stronger.
2018 U23 World Championships Notes:
- Rice, Baker, Porter, Nielsen and Sikes all fell to eventual U23 World medalists.
- Miranda, Rice, Baker, Porter, and Hancock all faced athletes who possessed a previous World medal (Petravicius, Miranda’s opponent, was a Military World bronze in 2017).
2018 International Senior Greco-Roman Remaining Schedule
Lavrikov Memorial Cup
St. Petersburg, Russia
Haparanda Cup — Haparanda, Sweden
Brazil Cup — Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Alrosa Cup — Moscow, Russia
Haavisto Cup — Ilmajokie, Finland
World Wrestling Clubs Cup — Tehran, Iran