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Monday Roundup: ‘JANUARY CAMP’ Returns; Overseas Concerns; Novikov Eligible for BUL

hannes wagner
Hannes Wagner (AUT) -- Photo: Tony Rotundo

For the first time in two years, there will be a “January Camp” in the US when the calendar flips to 2022 — and it will take place at the Olympic Training & Paralympic Center.

The camp is set to run from January 6 through 12 featuring a large number of Greco-Roman athletes, which is the norm for National-level gatherings. But ’22’s version of winter camp offers an interesting, if not encouraging, deviation: in addition to the Seniors, a collection of promising age-group competitors are also invited. In total, over 40 names fill the roster. More on “January Camp” (including the roster and schedule) as well as notes on the OTPC once again opening its doors to the good style will be forthcoming.

Vera & the US’ Tentative Plans

On Saturday, this platform released an update on ’21 World Team member Alan Vera (87 kg, NYAC, 5PM #2), who is currently in Ukraine practicing with several of the Eastern European nation’s top athletes, including Olympic/World Champion Zhan Belenyuk (87 kg, world #1). Vera’s plan calls for an extended stay overseas and he is not due back stateside until early-February (which means that he will not be present at winter camp). However, his agenda does have room for competition. Vera has expressed interest in perhaps suiting up for France’s Henri Deglane next month (20-23), and the US is already locked-in for the Grand Prix Zagreb Open the very next week (29-30). But the following weekend (February 3-6) is the first United World Wrestling “Ranking Series” tournament of the year, the Matteo Pellicone in Rome. That is a tournament Vera — as well as every other eligible US rep — is eager to enter.

Pellicone may potentially hold even more importance for ranking-conscious Americans this season. The second event in the series unfolds February 24-27 in Istanbul, a trip the US is not planning to make. That leaves three other such opportunities: the third and fourth “Ranking Series” tournaments (in June and July, sites TBD) plus the Pan-American Championships slated for May in Santiago, Chile. As of now, the Team USA lineup for the Pan-Ams will reportedly be selected at the Bill Farrell Memorial in April (highest placewinner in each weight category). A full exploration into the winter calendar in conjunction with how it fits in with the US program will be featured here next week.

More on Novikov

Three weeks ago, news began circulating that two-time U23 World Champion Semyon Novikov (87 kg) wanted out of Ukraine and desired an opportunity to compete for another country. Novikov had allegedly grown frustrated and dissatisfied with his spot in the pecking order, feeling as though he was passed over for starts in World-level events at least in part to #1 Belenyuk’s relationship with Vladimir Shatskikh. Shatskikh is not only Belenyuk’s personal coach, he is also deeply involved with Ukrainian Team selection. On the surface, it is a complex situation. Novikov does have a victory over Belenyuk in domestic competition; but since ’15, Belenyuk owns two World titles, an Olympic gold, and an Olympic silver. Though it lacks (Senior) World hardware, Novikov’s own recent resume is impressive, and is highlighted by a Euro gold (which he earned by downing Viktor Lorincz in ’20) and 1st at the last Pytlasinski.

But when the story started to gain steam, Novikov shot down talk of leaving UKR as “rumor”, going on to say “it’s a pity that they only turn to me about rumors and not when I’m having problems.” He did add “but to be honest, unfortunately, nobody is interested in me in this country.”

Nearly a month later it turns out that it was not just speculation. According to the Bulgarian Federation’s official outlet, Novikov has gained a passport from the country and will become authorized to compete under their banner beginning next season. Occupying the top spot currently at 87 for Bulgaria is Yoan Dimitrov. Dimitrov has not yet earned a medal from a major Senior event — and in their only relevant meeting, Novikov VSU’ed the Bulgarian in the repechage round of the ’20 Individual World Cup.

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