IOWA CITY, Iowa – Three of the four US Greco wrestlers who captured victories at the Olympic Trials on Saturday night will not have a whole lot of time to rest. That’s because weight classes 59 kg, 66 kg, and 98 kg still require Olympic qualification. In the most recent attempt earlier last month, the US sent Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP), RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC), and Joe Rau (Minnesota Storm) to the Pan Am Qualifiers in Frisco, Texas and came up empty. Both Hafizov and Perkins failed to advance through the early stages of the tournament. Rau was stopped by Cuban Yasmany Lugo Cabrera (world no. 13) in the semifinals and battled back to bronze. However, only the top two competitors in each weight qualified their countries for the Rio Games.
That makes what occurred this weekend only a beginning point for the US Greco wrestlers. The turnaround is especially swift; the First OG World Qualifying Tournament kicks off in Ulaanbaata, Mongolia on April 22nd. All three wrestlers will by now have to be returning to the practice room and potentially begin paying attention to their weight. It also means that they will be boarding a long flight to a distant country on the heels of one of the biggest nights in each of their lives.
The qualifier in Mongolia is not the last chance. That comes just a couple of weeks later at the 2nd OG World Qualifying Tournament in Istanbul, Turkey. The final qualifiers also promise to be packed with some of the world’s best talent who had also fallen short in their own attempts. One example is Hamid Soryan (IRI), the multiple-time world champ and Olympic gold medalist at 55 kg. Soryan fell to Japan’s Shinobu Ota in March early on at the Asian OG Qualifier in Kazakhstan.
In other words, these US Greco wrestlers have their work cut out for them. But it is not an unreachable goal. Thielke, Perkins, and Rau have each tasted success at one level or another against international competition. And all three have the benefit of emerging from extraordinarily challenging brackets at the Olympic Trials. They have their assignment. They know what they have to do. Hopefully for the US, the next two and half weeks will show everyone exactly what these men are made of.
1st OG World Qualifying Tournament, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Greco Roman competition – Friday, April 22nd, 2016
Top three wrestlers in each weight class.
2nd OG World Qualifying Tournament, Istanbul, Turkey
Greco Roman competition – Friday, May 6th, 2016
Top two wrestlers in each weight class.
Image credit: John Sachs/Tech-Fall.com