The conclusion of this past weekend’s 2023 Grand Prix Zagreb Open means the beginning to the tournament’s week-long multi-national training camp in Porec. Athletes from around the globe — including those representing the United States — are participating. Winter, in particular, tends to be “camp season”, which is a focus for the Americans as per usual.
The US did not have a medalist in Zagreb, although they did have two fifth-place finishers. Spencer Woods (82 kg, Army/WCAP) — the lone athlete of the delegation to have wrestled in a medal match — won in dominant fashion over Jonni Sarkkinen (FIN) in the repechage before falling to Peter Doemoek (HUN) 7-2 for bronze. At 55 kilograms, Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) also placed fifth, but operated in a round-robin bracket, and ended his tournament 1-2. Duffield’s third and final bout was for him a victory via pin at the expense of Artiom Deleanu (MDA).
Other US athletes earning wins in Zagreb were established stars Dalton Roberts (60 kg, Army/WCAP), Alex Sancho (67 kg, Army/WCAP), and Patrick Smith (72 kg, Minnesota Storm). Roberts, who officially placed 7th, VSU’d Mateusz Szewczuk (POL) and then fell to Japan’s Maito Kawana in a very tight and well-competed match. Tokyo Olympian Sancho ran past Domagoj Celicek (CRO), but was edged by Adomas Grigaliunas (LTU) in the proceeding round. Smith, a three-time US World Team member, defeated Kritsztofer Klanyi (HUN), lost to eventual silver Sajjad Imentalabfoumani (IRI) 3-1, and was eliminated from repechage by Jamol Jumbaev (UZB).
UWW Rankings Update
Post-Zagreb (February, 2023)
The ’23 Grand Prix Zagreb Open served as the first United World Wrestling “Ranking Series” event of the season; and the US Team exited the competition with eight wrestlers bearing World rankings commensurate with their respective updated point values. Everyone on the American roster with the exception of Duffield and Britton Holmes (72 kg, Army/WCAP) were already present in UWW’s ranking database prior to Zagreb, some of whom carried zero relevant point values; those USA Greco-Roman athletes who competed in Zagreb and had also appeared in the ’22 World Championships (Sammy Jones, Sancho, and Woods) entered the weekend with nominal points.
*New to UWW Rankings
*Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) — #20/4,000
Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) — #5/25,000
Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) — #11/14,300
Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP) — #18/8,520
Sammy Jones (NYAC/CTT) — #21/5,480
Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) — #11/14,800
*Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP) — #26/5,050
Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) — #25/5,075
Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) — #20/4,000
Braxton Amos (Sunkist/Wisconsin RTC) — #12/14,300
Tanner Farmer (NYAC/IRTC) — #25/5,100
Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist) — #22/5,800
Denmark did not exit Zagreb empty-handed as ’22 World silver Turpal Bisultanov (87 kg) earned bronze. Bisultanov dropped a 1-1 criteria decision to weight class champ Istvan Takacs (HUN) in the round-of-16 but his comeback was quite strong. He first required two repechage victories, which he recorded by pasting Hamidreza Badkan (IRI) and squeaking past Marcel Sterkenburg (NED), respectively. In the bronze-medal match, Bisultanov went over Hungary’s World Championships entrant from last season, David Losonczi, via technical fall. With a haul of 10,200 points — plus the 37,000 accumulated following his run to the World final in September, Bisultanov is now ranked #1 at 87 kg.
Marcel Hein (82 kg) was routed by Alireza Mohmadipiani (IRI) in the quarterfinal; after being pulled into the third-place match, another Iranian, ’21 World bronze Pejman Poshtam, defeated Hein to close out the Dane’s performance. At 77 kilograms, Oliver Krueger fell to Amin Kaviyaninejad in the round-of-16.
Marcel Hein — #21/4,000
Turpal Bisultanov — #1/47,200
A very solid — and interesting — showing for Norway over the weekend delivered only one medal-winner, which was ’21 World bronze Oskar Marvik (130 kg), who took second to two-time bronze Oscar Pino-Hinds (CUB). Marvik was not seriously challenged en-route to the final, and among his vanquished was Alin Alexuc-Ciurarriu (ROU).
He did not receive much in the way of publicity, but Haavard Joergensen (67 kg) put forth an impressive outing that included a stunning knockout of reigning European Championships gold Murat Firat (TUR) in the qualification round. A tough decision win over Haruto Yabe (JPN) was next, but Reza Abbasi (IRI) clipped Joergensen’s string in the quarterfinal. A loss to Ashu Ashu (IND) in the repechage put a cap on Joergensen’s time in the tournament. Joergensen finished in 8th place and pocketed 8,200 points.
77 kilograms is where the Norwegian program drew the most attention with three competitors, and three individual storylines.
1 — Per Anders Kure got past familiar Akseli Yli Hannuksela (FIN) in the qualification round and VSU’d Zagreb hero Bozo Starcevic in the round-of-16. He would find himself on the wrong end of a tech loss to two-time World bronze (and eventual Zagreb gold) Mohammadali Geraei (IRI) in the quarters before falling via decision to ’20 Olympian Aik Mnatsakanian (BUL) in the repechage round. The two wins propelled Kure to 7th in the bracket, good for 8,520 “Ranking Series” points.
2 — Meanwhile, it was Juan Sebastian Aak who, aside from silver medalist Alexandrin Gutu (MDA), scared Geraei the most in Zagreb. It didn’t start off that way, however. Aak went to rope a front headlock, to which the lanky Geraei responded by extending his arms and landing on top for two points. NOR ordered a review of the sequence — and the officials then added two more points to Geraei’s margin. 4-0 was the score at the reset, that is until Aak muscled a bodylock to pull Geraei over for four points (though the Iranian quickly reversed for a point). Another throw attempt from Aak with short time in the first yielded a step-out point, giving him a 5-5 criteria lead. Midway through the second frame, Geraei, mainly with the help of a series of two-on-one’s, coaxed Aak off the line for a step-out to inch ahead 6-5, which represented the final score. Mnatsakanian later overwhelmed Aak in the repechage.
3 — The thought was that 87 kilograms would be the landing spot for ’22 U23 World Champion Exauce Mukubu, but, nope. Mukubu is determined to try 77 leading up to Paris qualification. Prior to Zagreb, the ’21 Oslo Worlds was his last time making the weight, and his re-introductory sample size (albeit with a two kilogram allowance) this past weekend was a small one. Mukubu was decisioned 3-2 by Halishan Bahejiang (CHN) in the round-of-16 and did not get another match.
Felix Baldauf (97 kg) was steady and in command as he shut out Markus Ragginger (AUT) and Zamir Magomedov (AZE), the latter via technical fall (the only hitch in that one was a momentary pause to address some blood). In the quarterfinal, Baldauf and surging Tamas Levai (HUN, World bronze in September) were mired in a heated battle that was going down to the wire when, in an instant, it all fell apart. Baldauf was trailing 1-1 (passivities for both) when the official ordered Levai to hit the deck for a third par terre. Baldauf — with less than :30 on the clock — went to crank a gutwrench, only to have Levai wriggle free, cover, and come away with the pin. Levai did make the final (where he was put down by two-time World silver Kiril Milov of BUL). As for Baldauf, he was defeated in the bronze round by Tyrone Sterkenburg (NED). Baldauf was ranked #7 before Zagreb and slips to #10 in the rankings despite his points total increasing to 15,600.
Haavard Joergensen — #21/8,200
Morten Thoresen — #23/6,600
Per-Anders Kure — #18/8,520
Felix Baldauf — #10/15,600
Oskar Marvik — #9/19,600
More on Levai
The aforementioned Tamas Levai had already caused a stir before heading over to Croatia. Two weekends ago, the ’21 U23 World Champion decided to enter Hungary’s domestic selection tournament at 97 kilograms — which was news considering that he had never surpassed the non-Olympic class of 82. And not only did Levai prevail in that event, but he managed to edge ’21 World silver/’22 U23 World champ Alex Szoeke in the process.
Hungary, as most are aware, enjoys enviable depth in the upper-weights. With David Losonczi, Istvan Takacs, and Erik Szilvassy all roaming around 87 — and with older brother Zoltan Levai holding down 77 — Tamas Levai took a risk that, thus far, has seemed to pay off. In Zagreb, he brushed past Villius Laurinaitis (LTU), outlasted Nikoloz Kakhelashvili (ITA), came back against Baldauf, and was only stopped in the final by Milov.
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