Note: As of press time, finalized participants and brackets for the 1st OG Qualifier are still unavailable due to apparent scheduling conflicts affecting various countries and personnel.
We have finally reached the 1st OG Qualifier, the day the US has been looking towards since everyone returned home from Iowa and unpacked their suitcases. We already discussed why this is an opportunity for the American Greco wrestlers. Now we are going to take a peek at just some of the names expected to appear in the three weight classes the US still needs to qualify. The assignment, no matter who is standing across from them, does not change for the athletes. Accomplish the goal here to avoid going to Turkey.
1st OG Qualifier Sneak Preview
59 kg: US Representative – Jesse Thielke (NYAC)
Waiting for Thielke in Mongolia will be a variety of foreign wrestlers who have pedigrees worth a look.
Roman Amoyan (ARM, world no. 15) – The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist and multiple-time World medal winner actually failed to make the 2012 team. At 32, conversation about his slowing down was slightly halted when Amoyan went out and advanced to the finals of the Euros, where he fell to Mingiyan Semenov (RUS).
Stig-Andre Berge (NOR) – Berge is a two-time Olympian who likes to bring the fight. Tough as nails even still, the issue facing Berge is that the new crop of 59’ers compete with a bit more fluidity. And like Amoyan, Berge is getting up there a little bit in age at a weight where youth and speed typically make a difference.
Ivo Angelov (BUL, world no. 10) – Similar theme to the first two, as Angelov is also on the other side of 30. The thing is, the 2013 World gold medalist plays into the current rule-set better than most. Angelov is fast on his feet and an absolute grinder when he is on top in PT. If he has another run in him, this is where it will likely begin.
Saman Abdvali (IRI, world no. 14) (Editor’s note: We are listing Abdvali although Hamid Soryan is currently listed as a participant [he was originally set as an alternate]) – Abdvali had his heart broken in the finals of the Asian Championships, losing to Kanybek Zholkchubekov after jumping out to an early lead. He also steps on the mat with the added pressure of being in the legendary Soryan’s shadow. Even still, Abdvali has a penchant for flowery throws and like most Iranians, is skilled at both phases of par terre.
66 kg: US Representative – RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC)
Perkins is just the kind of cool customer who has the antidote for the aggro-nature of some of the competitors in his class at the 1st OG Qualifier.
Denys Demyankov (UKR, world no. 19) – Maybe not the world-beater people are expecting to be listed here, but the Ukrainian wrestler is one who has made some strides. Once a strict thrower who lacked the setups, he has become pretty keen on hitting inside ducks to snag bodylocks and throw-by’s. He might not be picked to win an Olympic medal, but Demyankov would pose an interesting match-up for the tall Perkins.
Zackarias Tallroth (SWE) – The second generation Swedish wrestler won a bronze at the non-Olympic weight of 71 kg in Las Vegas, which serves as a career highlight thus for him thus far. One of Tallroth’s strengths is that he, like Perkins, is long. The difference is Tallroth pecks and pecks his way in and favors the more violent clashing style of old-school Scandinavian wrestlers.
Mateusz Bernatek (POL, world no. 16) – Bernatek is a young hard-charger who at times displays considerable strength. The two-time Junior European medalist took a big step up when he won the U23 Euros last month and has become kind of a new hope for the Polish program. The question is whether or not he’s ready to carry the torch with Karecinski still very much in play.
Artak Margaryan (FRA, world no. 20) – The Armenian-born Margaryan carries some of his former country’s style with him in competition. He has a bit of a flair for the dramatic and keeps a bullying posture to fluster the opposition. US fans may remember him from the Hungarian, where he beat Ellis Coleman (Army/WCAP) to advance to the bronze medal round.
98 kg: US Representative – Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm)
If Rau keeps his confidence level high there is the possibility for quite a show.
Vilius Laurinaitus (LTU) – 23-year old Laurinaitus is a tough plodder. Part of his game is to lock on any way he can and gradually pull opponents in. It is there where he does his bidding, as this is one guy who likes his throws. The problem with that is when he gets shut down, his Plan B doesn’t rise to the surface.
Orkhan Nuriev (AZE, world no. 15) – A bronze at the European Championships in March gave Nuriev a nice showing for a day’s work in a stacked weight that featured Artur Aleksanyan (ARM, world no. 2), Nikita Melinikov (RUS, world no. 1), and Cenk Ildem (TUR, world no. 7). Nuriev poses a problem not because he is oh-so-dynamic, but mostly because he just doesn’t go away.
Marthin Hamlet Nielsen (NOR) – Nielsen is an interesting case because he seemed on an upwards trajectory heading into 2013 and then he took a sabbatical of some sort (i.e., college). Before that he scored bronze medals at the 2012 Granma Cup and 2013 Junior Worlds, respectively. He’s back now and although he doesn’t have the same built-up steam he may have had working for him a few years ago, one has to wonder if he’s a bit of a wildcard in this bracket.
Cenk Ildem (TUR, world no. 7) – One thing working for Ildem going into this tournament is that he has seen it all. The 2011 World bronze medalist was successful at the Junior level as well, and has amassed an impressive history of international success. In case you don’t know, the book on Ildem is that for a bigger guy, he stays in top condition throughout each match. He’s also built up a little rivalry with Aleksanyan over the years although he, like most, has had trouble cracking that code.
We will be staying on top of the action. Look for our post-round summaries and highlights of the 1st OG Qualifier throughout the day (and night). This is an exciting event, so let’s show support for the US boys as they try their best to nail this thing down!