Each of the five USA Greco-Roman athletes who took the mat on Monday morning brought with him a reason to feel optimistic, if not emboldened. And there were several glimpses of the legitimate ability most affiliated with the American program tend to lean on following less-than-spectacular days at the office. But that’s what Day 1 of the 2018 U23 Greco-Roman World Championships will be remembered for. Opportunities missed, tough matches lost, and the desire to ruminate about What might have been if just one sequence or call went in the other direction.
The first day of the 2018 U23 Greco Worlds began at 10:30am from Bucharest, Romania and aired live in the United States on Trackwrestling.
Bence Kovacs (55 kg, HUN) profiled as an opponent a talent like Dalton Duffield (NMU/OTS) could do a lot with. There is just a lot to like about the manner in which the Oklahoman attacks, especially when he comes out of the gate strong. Sure enough, Duffield got off to a fast start in this one, locking around Kovacs’ body and hurling a bodylock near the line for two. To his credit, Duffield immediately went to work on a lift attempt and the Hungarian managed to wiggle free, thwarting any further damage.
Back on the feet and the momentum changed in a hurry. Duffield got around up top, cinching a front headlock. It was almost a folkstyle sequence. Kovacs pried and popped to the corner, swooping around back. His first lift netted four points; Kovacs did not relinquish his lock and went for more, lifting Duffield twice more en-route to a quick, surprising 10-2 tech.
Kovacs was defeated in the following round by Balbai Dordokov (KGZ), eliminating Duffield from potentially contending for bronze tomorrow.
Competing in a World Championships event for the first time since 2015 back when he was a Junior, Travis Rice (63 kg, IRTC) did not display event a hint of nervousness when he greeted 2017 Junior World silver Aleksandr Hrushyn (UKR) in their first-round match. Driving, crashing head contact was prevalent through most of this one, the result of two athletes willing to engage from whichever position at whatever the cost. Rice appeared a bit more energetic than Hrushyn in the early-goings, such is his methodology. Hrushyn was the first to convert, roping an arm drag and sliding across to get behind Rice. He then followed up with a gut to go up 4-0 before a prolonged time-out for blood (and Rice having his head wrapped) interrupted the flow of the action.
Only down by four, Rice resumed his charge in the second. He was just a scoring sequence away from turning this into a barnburner. Still, more hard contact, with Rice trying to open up a stubborn Hrushyn. But the Ukrainian nearly struck again and ended it all. Rice eagerly urged forward with Hrushyn using a quick duck to get around back of Rice before rotating a gut. The match was called on the spot — until the US challenged — and won. Hrushyn had briefly lassoed Rice’s legs upon securing the takedown. The points were wiped off the scoreboard and Rice had a second life.
Opportunities were scarce from then on. Hrushyn fended off Rice’s attempts to wrangle any and all discernible openings for the remainder of the period, giving the Illinois athlete a 4-0 decision loss. Katsuaki Endo (JPN) brushed past Hrushyn in the quarterfinals, ending Rice’s tournament altogether.
Jesse Porter (77 kg, NYAC/OTS), as is his custom, strolled calmly onto Mat C for his showdown with returning U23 World Champion Fatih Cengiz (TUR, world no. 16). He knew what he dealing with. Porter and Cengiz also met in the first round at this tournament last year, a 2-1 victory for Cengiz that was pulled out in the second period on a step-out and passive point.
Unfortunately for Porter, the rematch was over before it really began, leaving more questions than answers.
An early headlock attempt by Porter fell short and Cengiz covered. There did not seem to be enough static to count it as a takedown for the Turkish wrestler. A slip is usually the call when one athlete misses on a headlock that is not defended, but rather, sees the opponent pop out at the last breach of contact. Still, Cengiz received two, though his proceeding lift attempt went nowhere and they returned to the feet. Porter checked inside. Cengiz, no doubt reminded of the fits the American provided standing up in 2017, did offer up an uptick in energy that wasn’t discernible the first go-round.
Still in the first and Porter was knocked for passive. Cengiz went for a reverse lock. He couldn’t hoist it up, so he pulled Porter up and over his shoulder. Porter did leave his feet; Cengiz initiated enough air for four. That much was certain. But the official(s) awarded him five, putting a premature end to the match.
However — Cengiz is in the semifinals and will square off with Rajbek Bisultanov (DEN). If Cengiz wins, then for the second year in a row he will have pulled Porter back into the U23 World Championships repechage set for tomorrow. We will update here with the results of the 77-kilo semifinal later this afternoon. UPDATE: Bisultanov defeated Cengiz 4-1, eliminating Porter from further contention on Tuesday.
NMU’s George Sikes (87 kg) faced an opponent who demonstrated a stark contrast in body styles. Anton Kurs (BLR) is all arms and legs while Sikes is a stout, compact young athlete who is often forced to busy up the works in the trenches before unleashing on opportunistic windows when they arrive.
The advantage for the shorter athlete is center of gravity. Leverage. The hips are automatically underneath and the taller foe is often the one forced to make the adjustments. Sikes held firm to his base through most of the first period, and earned the first passivity/par terre chance of the contest. Kurs was up quickly, Sikes couldn’t gain a handle. The Northern athlete pecked and prodded with Kurs sliding in his left arm for underhooks. This would be a pattern leading into the second period, thus nullifying Sikes’ built-in perceived advantage in leverage.
Soon into the conclusive frame, Sikes came close on an arm throw at the edge. If it scored the yield would have been two. But — Kurs did go off the edge, giving Sikes a point. After the reset, Kurs finally converted on one of his underhooks. He jutted his left arm through and then wrapped his right arm around Sikes, collecting his far arm. Kurs then set his feet and threw, picking up four points. Sikes gamely remained in the hunt the rest of the way but the score didn’t change.
Daniel Gregorich Hechavarria (CUB) stopped Kurs in the round-of-16, putting an end to Sikes’ first World Championships appearance.
High hopes were riding on 2017 Cadet World Champion/2018 Junior World bronze Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist) to somehow and stem the tide on what was shaping up to be a winless morning for Team USA. Senior competitor Boban Zivanovic (SRB) barely broke much of a sweat downing Andrii Vozniuk (UKR) in the previous round, setting Schultz up with a game, difficult opponent to do business with.
Giving up a good few inches to Zivanovic, Schultz did what he could to meet the positional demands of the pummel to start. After a minute had gone by in the first, Zivanovic locked over/unders around Schultz, who stoically played back inside. The Serbian wrestler demonstrated equal resolve, and it was he who acted on the hold, bodying Schultz off the line for a correct throw. Deliberate was the tempo. Schultz, who shines both forcing opponents to open up or when countering ill-timed attempts, wanted to compel Zivanovic into moving around a little more. Zivanovic instead stuck to a game plan centered around stifling Schultz in the tie-ups and plodding through the pummel. But he made it work for him. Shortly before the first period ended, Zivanovic used double-overhooks to hip Schultz down and off the edge for another two and a 4-0 lead.
Schultz wasn’t going down without a fight. He spent most of the second period pushing the pace and trying to extend offensive measures that Zivanovic wouldn’t be able to keep up with. The problem, a common one, was that Zivanovic kicked it into survival mode by offering back just enough to, somehow inexplicably, avoid getting called for passive. A warning was given with just a minute remaining in the bout, yet there was no call, and Schultz dropped a 4-0 decision that was steeped in frustration.
Osman Yildirim (TUR) defeated Zivanovic in the quarterfinals, dashing Schultz’s hopes for a third-straight World medal.
2018 U23 World Championships
November 12th-14th — Bucharest, Romania
TEAM USA DAY 1 RESULTS
55 kg — Dalton Duffield (NMU/OTS)
LOSS Bence Kovacs (HUN) 10-2, TF
63 kg — Travis Rice (Illinois RTC)
LOSS Aleksandr Hrushyn (UKR) 4-0
77 kg — Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS)
LOSS Fatih Cengiz (TUR) 8-0, TF
87 kg — George Sikes (NMU/OTS)
LOSS Anton Kurs (BLR) 4-2
130 kg — Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist)
LOSS Boban Zivanovic (SRB) 4-0