Team USA offered intriguing stories for all four of its wrestlers on Day 1. Patrick Smith (71 kg, Minnesota Storm) had played the role of runner-up on the Senior level for several years heading into 2017. Thanks to an inspired, determined approach, Smith made the improvements he needed to both technically and tactically over the past 12 months, using fire-breathing intensity as the fuel powering his ascension to the top of the domestic ladder. Mason Manville (75 kg, Army/WCAP), the age-group star and future Penn State wrestler, didn’t find the waters very smooth when he broke from convention to embark on a Senior career following high school. There were losses, big and small, questions, doubts, scoffs, and finally, a breakthrough that unveiled all of the raging talent he always had simmering inside of him.
Two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (85 kg, NYAC) certainly couldn’t be described as a neophyte. For the better part of a decade, Provisor has proven he can hang with some of the world’s most dangerous, though injuries became as much a part of the story as his compact brand of physicality. All he did was silence the naysayers on an impassioned run to another Olympic Team in 2016 before cementing his status in the US by emerging at the World Team Trials in the toughest bracket at that event in over a decade.
Then of course, there is G’Angelo Hancock (98 kg, Sunkist, world no. 16), the 20-year-old phenom who has wowed the entire US Greco-Roman community ever since he made the Olympic Training Center his home nearly two years ago. Hancock earned a Junior World bronze medal in 2016 and this year, put together a string of jaw-dropping performances that confirmed just how otherworldly his abilities not only might be now, but will evolve into as his career progresses.
In short, there was optimism and confidence to begin Day 1 of the 2017 Greco World Championships in Paris, France and although there will be no medals from this group today, those feelings still remain.
You wondered how Smith would come out with what this tournament means to him. Would there be an enormous amount of butterflies? Would he hold back? Show a little tentativeness? Naturally, any of those disconcerting queries evaporated immediately after the whistle blew. As he is wont to do, Smith took command in the ties and came in on Mateous Morbitzer (CZE) at the edge to force a step-out point. The body language alone indicated that Smith was the alpha in this struggle. Smith doesn’t prod — he presses. Morbitzer seemed to be a willing partner at first and clawed back. Smith kept the pressure on and raced around his opponent, collecting him to the mat for a takedown. He was flowing. Later on in the period, Smith received a passivity point to increase his lead to 4-0. The arsenal was there. Smith was landing underhooks to both sides and at one instance, secured high double overs that looked promising. However, Morbitzer was able to flail out and the score remained the same.
There was no change in approach or positional success on Morbitzer’s part to kick off the second. Smith quickly achieved double underhooks again, twisting and adjusting. Morbitzer tried to deal with the heat the best he could, going with double overhooks in response. No matter, Smith quickly dipped in and coerced Morbitzer out for another point. 5-0, Smith. With :10 remaining, Morbitzer attempted a last-gasp headlock that didn’t go anywhere. Smith, the Chaska, Minnesota kid so many can’t help but root hard for, moved on with a 5-0 win to start his first World Championships.
2017 Asian Championships bronze medalist Nurgazy Asangulov (KGZ) was next for Smith in the round of 32. Asangulov is similar to Smith in a few ways. He’s a worker. He is also gutsy and gritty in those rough exchanges that often determine the tempo of a bout. Smith started like he always does, driving forward. He anchored a two-on-one tight to Asangulov’s body and tried a high dive, but nothing was doing. Asangulov didn’t bite back with the same ferocity in the ties. Instead, he was more apt to pivot to different angles, warding off the wall of pressure from Smith. The Minnesotan went with a string of staccato-like short snaps to both bunch up and extend the canvas in front of him. Asangulov answered with his own high dive attempt Smith easily shrugged off.
Smith netted the first passivity point of the proceedings. And as soon as that point was doled out, Smith was in on Asangulov at the boundary and moving him out for another point. With time winding down in the opening period, it looked very much like Smith was going to be taking a 2-0 lead into the break.
The momentum swung in an instant. Only :10 remained in the period when Asangulov clinched around Smith, who offered counter-pressure. The Kyrgyzstan wrestler quickly converted the position into a headlock and threw Smith for four points.
Of course, there was nothing about the lead change that seemed alarming. Two points is equally a lot and nothing at all, depending on the action. Naturally, Smith came out for the second period undaunted and went back to work on the hunt. He was more than still in this, but it didn’t stay that way much longer. Asangulov, the rangier athlete of the two, reached around Smith’s back and got behind before lifting him for four. 8-2, Asangulov. Smith didn’t relent following the sequence. He still scanned for openings, he still charged forward like he always does. Asangulov just didn’t offer the clearance required for the kind of scoring opportunities it would take to chip away at the lead.
Asangulov lost to eventual finalist Demeu Zhadrayev (KAZ) in the quarterfinals, which put an end to Smith’s bid for a medal at the 2017 World Championships.
The argument could have been made that Mason Manville (Army/WCAP) was the biggest question mark for the US ahead of the 2017 Greco World Championships. His overall talent, recognized throughout the country for its vibrance and creativity, initially didn’t translate to the more grinding work found in Senior-level Greco-Roman. Manville, who will now set his sights on wrestling for Penn State, worked hard, very hard, to shape himself into a viable competitor and it paid off in April when he stunned the field to emerge at the World Team Trials. He still arrived in Paris as a wildcard of sorts, simply because perception can get twisted from time to time. But make no mistake about, any questions about Manville’s skill, desire, and potential were answered today in full, for he delivered quite an inspired effort.
His first opponent of the day, Manfred Edsberg (SWE), was maybe the perfect counterpart for him to begin the event. Edsberg is a come-forward type of athlete, but does not possess the same overall wrestling skill Manville does. As could be expected, Manville quickly looked to snag a two-on-one, though he got caught lunging in a little too low. Edsberg saw this and held a tight front headlock until Manville broke free. He resumed prowling for tie-ups he liked, Manville did, and Edsberg began to go back on his heels just often enough to get warned for passivity. Shortly after, Edsberg was hit again, providing Manville with a 1-0 advantage he took with him to the break.
The second stanza offered a similar pattern — Manville stalking, Edsberg doing what he could to play back in kind. There was some finger-grabbing on Edsberg’s part, of which Manville felt compelled to shake his fingers out. Some leading-with-the-head on the American’s part was acknowledged, as well. Another passivity point eventually appeared for Manville and time was beginning to reside in his favor. Edsberg needed to show initiative and he did so by wrapping a front headlock he sat back on. For some reason, the Swede was given two points for a correct hold. Manville, more than used to this position perhaps, calmly wrapped his arms around Edsberg as motion was achieved, taking him straight to his back for his own deuce. From there, Manville managed to fend off the rest of Edsberg’s attempts to emerge victorious in his first-ever World Championships bout 4-2.
Mindia Tsulukidze (GEO) was next and while it didn’t turn out like Manville had hoped, it might have been his more impressive performance. Tsulukidze seemed to want to rattle Manville a little in the beginning stages but was unable to open up any positional advantages. Manville kept right there in the pocket, pecking away in the hand-fighting. You could see he wanted to be patient enough to exploit any holes the Georgian may have had, just not at the cost of slowing down the pace. Even still, it was Tsulukidze who benefitted from the passivity fairy for a 1-0 edge. Tsulukidze became emboldened a bit after that, jabbing at Manville from a distance and getting into a rhythm. He was welcoming Manville in, off-balancing him in spaces, and with the activity came another passivity point. 2-0, Tsulukidze.
Adjustments were made and applied to start the second. Manville, no longer taking the bait Tsulukidze was dangling, stood his ground with defiance, a warning from the official for using his head eliciting a bemused look on his face. The reset saw Manville button down his position and seize an opening. Holding Tsulukidze’s arm to his belly for a brief instant allowed Manville a lane to high dive right in and score a takedown to grab a 2-2 criteria lead. It’s one of the 20-year-old’s biggest attributes, the ability to create scoring chances when there doesn’t appear to be any within view.
The pace didn’t die. If anything, the exchanges became a little more measured, a little more tactical. Tsulukidze wasn’t exactly the ball of fire he was in the first period and Manville resumed digging into collar ties, two-on-ones, and any other tie-up opportunity that sprung up. This is when the officials got involved. With under a minute remaining, Manville was docked for passivity, resulting in a point for Tsulukidze, who now held a 3-2 advantage with little time left. The American recognized the stakes, so he increased his rate of attempts, shooting in for high dives and basically reaching for anything his opponent would give him. Alas, it was to no avail. Manville saw his bid for a medal end when Tsulukidze fell to Kazbek Kilov (BLR, world no. 5) in the quarterfinals.
Seen as one of the US’s best hopes for a medal at the 2017 Greco World Championships, it was incumbent upon Provisor to get off to a fast start. That doesn’t mean he had to score right away. Rather, Provisor is often most effective when he simply lets opponents understand what type of wrestler they are getting involved with. He did that against Oleksander Shyshman (UKR). But he also saw it all slip away in the most heartbreaking, frustrating way imaginable.
As promised, Provisor instantly asserted what kind of bout he wanted this to be, shoving Shyshyman to the side with some power. The Ukrainian didn’t go away so easily, but it still got his attention. Once they engaged in the ties, Shyshman acted first with a quick throw attempt that didn’t yield any points and back up they were. However, he did get rewarded with a passivity point soon after (almost out of nowhere) for a 1-0 lead. Provisor clubbed at the head and then went back to work inside before being deterred by a Shyshman underhook. The American bullied in, and as he got warmer, started to apply pressure. This resulted in Provisor’s own passivity point, knotting the score and delivering a (temporary) criteria advantage entering the break.
The two jockeyed for position in the ties with Provisor trying his best to keep his legs moving. Shyshman was active, but mostly just trying to keep upright against the shorter, more powerful Provisor. A little past midway through the second, Shyshman was gifted a passivity point to go up 2-1. It wouldn’t last long. Provisor wrenched himself in the clutches, chugging his legs as he moved Shyshman to the edge and out. That made the score 2-2 in favor of the US. Shyshman went in with his head once, and then again mere seconds later off an exchange, opening a small cut on the American’s head he was none too pleased about. Provisor was furious, but there was no outlet for his anger due to his being patched up by the training staff. With only :16 left, there wouldn’t be any payback. For when action resumed, Shyshman got around back of Provisor and locked around for a clutch four-point throw, shockingly stealing the bout 6-2. As crushing of a loss as it sounds like.
Shyshman lost to Viktor Lorincz (HUN, world no. 1) in the round of 16, thereby eliminating Provisor from medal contention.
There are two ways perhaps to see Hancock’s draw for Day 1. On one hand, it might have been the toughest out of the four Americans, for if he was to get past former Junior World bronze medalist and 2015 U23 Euros champ Faith Baskoy (TUR), there was little doubt his next opponent would be one of the planet’s overall best, two-time Senior World champ/2016 Olympic gold medalist Artur Aleksanyan (ARM, world no. 4). And that is exactly how it turned out.
Baskoy certainly represented someone who offered a significantly stiff first-round test, but it was one Hancock passed.
It was a combination of Hancock’s athleticism and positioning that won him this match. Baskoy tried to find leverage in the ties early on only to discover that the American provided too much activity for him to feel comfortable with. Hancock brilliantly shuffled his angles in what were grinding exchanges to start this one off. Before long, Hancock was the recipient of a passivity point for a one-point advantage.
Baskoy didn’t exactly fade to black in the second, but he did grow increasingly frustrated, and for good reason — he was getting worked. Hancock took control of Baskoy towards the edge and grunted him out of bounds to secure a step-out point. 2-0, Hancock. By now, the Turkish wrestler, sensing that something needed to be done, seemed like he wanted to clash inside. Thing was, Hancock had already worn him down to where he still appeared to be the more active competitor. A passivity warning and then confirmation soon rang in, giving Hancock a 3-0 lead he would not relinquish.
In the round of 16, there stood Aleksanyan, who despite the rule change that has affected many other Eastern European stars, still understood how to employ his considerable size and seasoning to his advantage, and keep his spot atop of everyone’s consciousness.
Hancock knew he had to come out firing, and he did. The 20-year-old was visibly aggressive, pushing hard into the ties and in one instance, wrangling a two-on-one only to fling it away violently, as if to send a message. He might have had a little too much gusto going for him because after a reset, Aleksanyan used Hancock’s pressure and converted it to a slide-by he was able to get a step-out point with. Later on in the first, Aleksanyan reached in for underhooks and twisted Hancock down and off the edge for another pair, increasing his lead to 3-0.
Hancock picked up the pace to begin the second frame, diligently attempting to pry in underhooks. Aleksanyan blocked like a pro while in the trenches and wound up being hit for passivity to put Hancock down by only two. The reduction in the deficit was fleeting. Just :20 later, Aleksanyan got underneath Hancock and ran him to his back at the boundary for four points — 7-1, Aleksanyan. The US challenged the call — and lost — making the score now 8-1. Upon the restart, Hancock led with his head, eliciting a warning from the official. With a little over a minute and a half left in the bout, Aleksanyan got behind Hancock to net himself another two along with a 10-1 technical fall victory.
But Hancock was still in it. Aleksanyan advanced to the World finals, which provided the US with a potential shot at bronze in the repechage round.
In that proceeding repechage round, Hancock met up with 2017 Asian Championships winner Seyedmostafa Salehizadeh (world no. 17). Hancock showed a brisk pace in the early stages of this one as he moved Salehizadeh off his spot while repeatedly trying to weave inside. The Iranian was shelling up and as such, was dinged for passivity to give Hancock a 1-0 lead. Salehizadeh upped the activity level after that and forced Hancock out to make the score 1-1. The OTC athlete didn’t appear to be concerned. Hancock was still fluid and engaged, but he also found difficulty being able to explode in on attempts. Salehizadeh’s own increase in engagement must have impressed the referee, because he would eventually be rewarded with another passivity point as he snared a 2-1 advantage before the action moved into the second period.
Hancock jumped it up to start the final period, displaying a clear sense of urgency congruent with the circumstances. He ambled in repeatedly, likely because the pummel too often turned into a stalemate. But for all of the work Hancock was putting in, Salehizadeh was still reciprocating, in one instance coming close to wrapping around for a high bodylock. It was that kind of output the officials were apparently looking for, because eventually, the Iranian received one more passivity point to widen the gap to 3-1. Hancock never stopped fighting and his charges were beginning to take their toll — on both men. A few late glimpses at potential scoring windows didn’t land for him, including a last-ditch throw attempt that came at the buzzer. No, G’Angelo Hancock did not advance to the medal round at his first Senior Worlds, but he did wring out every ounce of energy he had in his body. Gutty performance.
REMINDER — Five Point Move will be on the air live with a special wrap-up show hosted right here. That begins at 4pm EST. Also, stay with us on Facebook & Twitter on both days of the 2017 Greco World Championships for exclusive coverage and interviews as Team USA looks to bring home some hardware for the first time since 2015.
2017 Greco-Roman World Championships Day 1 Finals Pairings
71 kg: Demeu Zhadrayev (KAZ) vs. Frank Staebler (GER)
75 kg: Aleksandr Chekhirkin (RUS) vs. Viktor Nemes (SRB)
85 kg: Denis Kudla (GER) vs. Metehan Basar (TUR)
98 kg: Artur Aleksanyan (ARM) vs. Musa Evloev (RUS)
Team USA Day 1 Results
71 kg — Patrick Smith
WON Mateous Morbitzer (CZE) 5-0
LOSS Nurgazy Asangulov (KGZ) 8-2
75 kg — Mason Manville
WON Manfred Edsberg (SWE) 4-2
LOSS Mindia Tsulukidze (GEO) 3-2
85 kg — Ben Provisor
LOSS Oleksander Shyshman (UKR) 6-2
98 kg — G’Angelo Hancock
WON Faith Baskoy (TUR) 3-0
LOSS Artur Aleksanyan (ARM) 10-1, TF
LOSS Seyedmostafa Salehizadeh (IRI) 3-1
2017 Greco-Roman World Championships
AccorHotels Arena, Paris, France
Monday, August 21st — 71 kg, 75 kg, 85 kg, 98 kg
Tuesday, August 22nd — 59 kg, 66 kg, 80 kg, 130 kg
Live streaming available in the United States on Trackwrestling.com