The parade of accolades for Jesse Thielke (NYAC) keep on coming, as USA Wrestling has named the 59 kg Olympian it’s “Athlete of the Week.” Thielke is coming off one of the most memorable US Greco performances in recent years. Entering the 2nd and last World Olympic qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey, Thielke was required to earn a spot in the finals in order to qualify the weight. He didn’t receive an easy road to do so. The native Wisconsinite had to get past two former Olympic medalists back-to-back (Peter Modos of Hungary and Revaz Lashki of Georgia, respectively) before toppling Farunze Harutyunyan (SWE) in the quarterfinals via a dramatic reversal which led to a pin.
The win over the Swede catapulted Jesse Thielke into the all-important semifinals, where he faced Donior Islamov (MDA). In the early going, Islamov swifty landed an arm-spin for four before Thielke closed the gap thanks to a reversal and a step-out point. However, Islamov hit another arm-spin shortly thereafter to widen his lead to 8-3. But that would be it for the Georgian, as Thielke would wind up scoring 14 unanswered points to come away with a startling 17-8 tech fall, sending him to the finals and more importantly, to the Rio Olympics.
It had been a whirlwind of a month for the 23-year old. Thielke won the 2016 US Olympic Trials back in April after defeating long-time US National Team member and future hall-of-famer Spenser Mango (Army/WCAP) in the semifinals. He then dispatched 2008 Olympian Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) in two consecutive matches to clinch his own Olympic team spot. From there it was onto Mongolia for the 1st OG Qualifier and a disappointing first round loss to Guarav Sharma (IND) in a match Thielke was up 5-0 before two double-overhook throws in the final minute and half by Sharma turned the tide.
Which made what took place in Istanbul all the more pressing. This was it, the absolute last chance for the American team to seal the deal, as there would be no more opportunities for Thielke after the 2nd OG Qualifier. And he wound up having himself yet another breakout performance complete with a bevy of highlight reel takedowns that have become part of his ever-growing arsenal. Jesse Thielke not only qualified his weight for the US on Friday, he also left Turkey as a very legitimate threat at the Rio Games in August. It is also quite likely that he got the attention of potential international opponents, as well. But that’s okay. It is all just another challenge for the American and if we have learned anything about Thielke, it’s that kind of thing which drives him the most.