Greco News

Monday Roundup: Peace out, Rio; Junior Worlds; and Dennis Hall

Migran Arutyunyan lost via controversial call at the Rio Olympics
Photo: John Sachs

We counted down and counted down. It came and went. Quickly. That’s how it goes sometimes, doesn’t it? Whenever something big resides in the future, all we seem to do is constantly look forward to whatever it is. In this case, it was the Olympics. Greco Roman fans across the country became attached to the stories (and medal chances) of the four US athletes. A week has now passed since the last two guys (Ben Provisor and Robby Smith) competed in Rio, though it sure feels like it was only a few days ago. But it wasn’t. Despite the fact that no medals are accompanying the squad back home, there is absolutely a ton to be proud of, for them and for all of us.

Legitimate momentum towards US Greco Roman wrestling is building. There has been an uptick in participation, age-group athletes are increasingly beginning to see it as a viable option, and this Olympic Year proved the country is ready for the next step. All you have to do is take a look at the four men who made up the team. People got a good, hard look at Jesse Thielke. He might not have had the performance of his life in Rio, but he’ll learn. He’s still rising. Andy Bisek, as he has always done, led the way with dignity and class while there was a wider spotlight on the program than practically ever before. 2012 holdover Ben Provisor resurrected his career in a huge way at the Trials and then took the reigning World silver medalist to the brink of exhaustion. And last but not least, Greco celebrity ambassador Robby Smith came out guns blazing against eventual bronze medalist Sabah Shariati (AZE). All four of these guys left their hearts out there on that arena floor. So it didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean their efforts were in vain.

If anything, they demonstrated that they were onto something. The US is close. Closer than it has been in quite a while. Of course, success isn’t measured by “closeness.” It is measured by medals lassoed around the necks of the unforgotten. But that’s the clincher here — don’t forget this team. Don’t forget the optimism heading into the event. It was real, it was tangible. You weren’t buying into a fantasy. This group took these losses so the next team won’t have to. The Olympics might show you where you stood, but it also highlights where you fell. Now it’s time to get back up, that’s all.

No one needed this

Migran Arutyunyan (ARM) saw his 66 kg gold medal stolen from him by the officials in what was one of the most disgraceful endings to a match in Olympic history. Davor Stefanek (SRB) had a wonderful tournament up to that point and in a way, you almost feel for him, since this is how that will all be remembered. Just completely disappointing on so many levels. Did wrestling really need this? Was there a quota on shady calls that needed to be filled? What happened here? Arutyunyan was up in Stefanek’s face like a clerk going after a shoplifter. Let them settle it like men. Please. These passivity rules, their execution and timing, is not what this sport is supposed to be about. Congratulations to all involved in screwing over a young man’s dream.

You could almost say the same thing about Bozo Starcevic (CRO). He had a front headlock on Roman Vlasov (RUS) in their 75 kilo semifinal bout. A front headlock. He was on his hip, he locked around Vlasov’s head and arm, and tried to crank it over. Vlasov takes a quick nap, hysteria breaks loose. Not only was Vlasov pinned (and could have chosen to capitulate to the maneuver — a longtime wrestling standard), but Starcevic wound up being jiffed out of the whole deal points-wise. Then again, Vlasov was four’ed by Kim Hyeon-woo (KOR) first round and they sure didn’t do the right thing there, either.

These Olympics were supposed to prove to the IOC and everyone else that our act was cleaned up. It was to be a showcase, displaying how far we’ve come, how tremendous the competition really is. But in order for that to have happened, an element of purity was necessary. Say what you want, but there wasn’t anything pure about the way the officiating was conducted over in Brazil. Shame on them. Shame on all of them.

The Juniors are ready to take over Europe

The Junior World Championships kick off next week with a very talented US squad. Familiar names to look for include: Randon Miranda (50 kg, NMU/OTS); Dalton Roberts (55 kg, NMU/OTS), Taylor LaMont (60 kg, CWC), Jamal DeArmond (NMU/OTS), Kamal Bey (74 kg, Front Range Twisters/OTC); and G’Angelo Hancock (Front Range Twisters/OTC). You’ve got Fargo champs, University champs, and even a Senior National Team member on the roster. They will be training in Germany for the remainder of this week before making their way over to Macon, France for the event.

This has been a journey. Most of these Juniors have been training on and off throughout the summer as part of camps at the OTC. Some have also competed at both the Junior Greco World Duals in Concord as well as at the Superior International Camp. These dudes have put in a lot of work to get here. The best part is, there is more than a few gold medal contenders on this squad. And each one of these guys can medal, period. It’s a good time to be Greco wrestler in the Junior age group currently, and it is a safe bet you will have that proven to you by the middle of next week.

Dennis Hall says words. Sometimes, they aren’t nice words.

Three-time Olympian and 1995 World Champion Dennis Hall will be featured here this week. He had been in our crosshairs for quite a while but after last week’s Olympic Games, the time seemed right to unleash his perspective. In addition to being one of the most successful US Greco Roman wrestlers in history, Hall also became an in-demand coach following his career. He has actually been coaching Provisor since grade school, so there’s that. What you get out of this guy is the complete, unfiltered, maybe-not-PG version of things the way he sees them. Hall is positively unafraid to speak his mind. He sets up targets, he hits ’em. He also has an enduring love for Greco and a passionate desire for the US program, specifically. You do not want to miss a single word of what he has to say.

What’s coming up here…

  • A new Coach Lindland’s Report: Obviously, Rio was the main topic, and Coach Lindland provides an insider’s viewpoint on each US performance, what went wrong, how, and what the battle plan going forward is. We also touch on the Junior Worlds, scheduling, and more.
  • A preview of the US Junior World Team.
  • More 2016 Olympics fallout coverage.

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