The acquisition of experience was earmarked as the primary motive for a band of athletes from Northern Michigan University’s National Training Site to travel all the way to Bulgaria. Simply put, they wanted matches, as many as they might be able to get. In the end, a pair of NMU Greco-Roman wrestlers participated in not just matches, they competed for medals. Another neophyte fell short of fighting for a spot on the podium but he, too, had the opportunity to test himself against top-tier competition more than once.
There is no other reasonable way to define NMU’s time in Sofia this past week: it was a raving success even if there will not be any hardware accompanying the delegation back home.
The fourth and final day of the 2023 Nikola Petrov Memorial began at 11:00am local time in Sofia, Bulgaria (4:00am ET) and streamed live on YouTube.
On Sunday, NMU had Ryder Smith (60 kg) hunting for a bronze medal against Koto Gomi from Japan — and at 67 kilograms, Charlie Welcome started in the repechage round requiring multiple victories if he were to achieve the same objective.
In Gomi, Smith was staring down a wrestler who had finished fifth at the ’22 U20 World Championships. That coupled with Japan’s countrywide focus on the international styles assisted in presupposing that this might be an uphill battle for the NMU frosh. And it was, though Smith (and Welcome in his own match) still exhibited an encouraging sign.
Smith wanted to assert himself at the whistle and so he dug right inside of Gomi prying and leveraging for a handle. He had unwittingly exposed a vulnerability on his left side, allowing Gomi to zap an arm throw that netted four points. From top par terre, Gomi immediately went to work on his clasp in hopes of generating more offense. But — Smith stayed pasted to the tarp and did not surrender anymore points whilst prone. Back standing, and speed was the key for Japan. Gomi exploded forward to hustle Smith towards the boundary and got behind to finish with a takedown/gutwrench combination that provided the points necessary to end the match. Smith officially caps his first international appearance in fifth place.
Welcome was going to have to run quite the gauntlet on Sunday if an appearance in the bronze-medal round were to materialize. Following his first opponent in the repechage bracket, ’19 U23 World bronze Artur Politaev (UKR), Welcome would then had to have defeated both ’20 Bulgarian National champ Nikolai Vichev and Furkan Yildiz (TUR).
One step at a time is how they do these things, however, and Welcome portrayed an eager picture as his bout with Politaev got underway. An off-balance from Ukraine produced a takedown, normally a dire situation for young Americans since it means defending from par terre bottom. But as Politaev achieved his lock, Welcome remained static and could not be budged. Back standing and an odd positonal exchange enveloped as Politaev plunged a right underhook. Welcome had raised his own left overhook high in response before dropping for an apparent arm throw attempt; it looked like a slip, but the officials scored it a takedown once Politaev covered.
Ukraine had his second opportunity to work from top par terre, and, again, Welcome defended the lock to earn a reset. Another Politaev takedown, and for the third time in the period, Welcome would not give up a turn from bottom, with his adversary wearing a look of frustration. But soon after, Politaev raked forward to hustle Welcome off the line for a step-out point. Welcome jogged back to center waiting for more, though Politaev would lasso a front headlock and spin behind to force the 9-0 stoppage.
- Smith and Aidan Nutter (63 kg) were the two NMU athletes to make the bronze-medal round.
- Nutter competed in three matches at Petrov; Smith, Welcome, and Mike Altomer (82 kg) each participated in two.
- Gabriel Townsell (60 kg) of the California RTC qualified for repechage on Sunday but did not compete.
- Welcome did not surrender any points from par terre bottom on Sunday; the only exposure points Smith surrendered originated on-the-feet.
2023 Nikola Petrov Memorial
March 2-5 — Sofia, BUL
TEAM USA FULL RESULTS
Ryder Smith (NMU/NTS) — 5th
LOSS Michal Tracz (POL) 9-0, TF
LOSS Koto Gomi (JPN) 8-0, TF
Gabriel Townsell (NYAC/CARTC)
LOSS Zholoman Sharshenbekov (KGZ) 9-0, TF
Aidan Nutter (NYAC/NTS) — 5th
WON Koki Yoshinaga (JPN) — 7-1
LOSS Hrachyan Poghosyan (ARM) 9-0, TF
LOSS Komei Sawada (JPN) 5-1
David Stepanyan (NYAC/NTS)
LOSS Morten Thoresen (NOR) 6-0
Charlie Welcome (NMU/NTS)
LOSS Slavik Galstyan (ARM) 8-0, TF
LOSS Artur Politaev (UKR) 9-0, TF
Riley Briggs (WC Greco RTC/NTS)
LOSS Zlatomir Dinkov (BUL) 4-4 (criteria)
Mike Higgins (NMU/NTS)
WON Akseli Yli Hannuksela (FIN) via forfeit
LOSS Elmar Nuraliev (UKR) 9-0, TF
Michael Altomer (NMU/NTS)
WON Yoshinosuke Aoyama (JPN) via fall
LOSS Rosian Dermanski (BUL) 9-0, TF
DM Hallett (NMU/NTS)
LOSS Rosian Dermanski (BUL) 8-0, TF
Listen to “5PM053: Northern Michigan assistant Parker Betts and USMC Captain Jamel Johnson” on Spreaker.
Listen to “5PM52: Two-Time Olympian Jim Gruenwald” on Spreaker.
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