Tomorrow, the 2018 Haparanda Cup in Haparanda, Sweden gets underway featuring a large delegation of USA Greco-Roman athletes and represents the midway point for those on the tour who are competing in all three European events. Last week was the Lavrikov in St. Petersburg, Russia; tomorrow is Haparanda; and next weekend it all comes to a close at Finland’s Haavisto Cup.
A YouTube live stream of the 2018 Haparanda Cup will be available at this link. The tournament begins at 10:30am local time (4:30 EST).
There are reasons to watch aside from general fandom and/or patriotic loyalty.
1. The season debut of John Stefanowicz (82 kg, Marines)
National Team member Stefanowicz and two-time World Teamer Cheney Haight (NYAC) exchanged pleasantries in the mini tournament finals of the World Team Trials. It was another tense affair, similar to their best-of-three final series in ’17, and Haight once again earned a close decision win.
What is important to note is that expectations for Stefanowicz have now been raised, making his next move (both literally and figuratively) worthy of closer examination. He is firmly established as one of the nation’s top Seniors and is seen as a prime candidate to battle for the 2019 World Team spot along with Haight and Geordan Speiller (Florida Jets). And because he hasn’t stepped on a competitive mat since the Trials this past June, his performance in Sweden will be interesting to check out if only to see what kind of adjustments he has made throughout the summer and if he has become more adept at converting his nonstop pressure into higher percentage scoring attempts on the feet.
The one thing with Stefanowicz is that no matter who the opponent might be or what round of the tournament he’s in, you can always look forward to satisfying doses of violence.
2. Rau, Miller, and the value of being pushed early.
Two-time Trials winner Josef Rau (87 kg, Chicago RTC) and 2018 US National Champion Daniel Miller (97 kg, Marines) both had a good time at last weekend’s Lavrikov. Rau picked up three wins via tech on Friday and received a forfeit on Saturday to strike gold; while Miller was forced to bounce back from an opening-round loss and deliver a pair of beatdowns in order to snare bronze.
No one saw these matches. We have the stories, we have the perspectives. But it’s all anecdotal. Unless you were in St. Petersburg last weekend, you’re in the same boat.
So, let’s see what they’ve got. This autumn tour is intended to provide training and matches for Miller and Rau to seize on as they begin to shape their respective seasons. With Miller having made huge strides a season ago and Rau workshopping his way back into the fold, witnessing their performances tomorrow against what will be a step-up in competition compared to Lavrikov should be a priority if you’re passionate about our sport.
3. Here Comes Stanghill
When Barrett Stanghill (Minnesota Storm/OTS) graduated from Northern Michigan in 2016, he shifted a little further out west and took up shop with the Storm. Right away, the change in scenery seemed to make an impact. Stanghill was a capable bruiser well before he became an NMU alum, but that first autumn away from the Dome brought with it enough indicators to suggest he was on the cusp of a breakout. He scored a win over Haight in New York en-route to third, earned another bronze at the ’16 Open, and barely missed out on a National Team spot five months later.
In the two years since, Stanghill has added to his resume with an appearance at the 2017 U23 World Championships – and a runner-up to Speiller in the ’18 Open. These are undeniable steps being taken, that much is clear. However, it is where those steps may lead why Stanghill is offering some added intrigue heading into Haparanda.
First, it’s his weight class. Unless something changes, Stanghill is listed at 87 kilos for the tournament. It’s not a new weight class for him, but it is one he abandoned once he figured out how to better accommodate his dietary needs (Stanghill is diabetic). So back down to 82 it was, with an emphasis on the 2 because those two extra kilos likely helped smooth that decision along.
Second, the training environment. Stanghill is still a member of the Minnesota Storm. That hasn’t changed. But he is back training at Northern due in large part to their bolstered field of middleweights. If he is able to blend the lessons gleaned from preparing in Minnesota with the intense dynamics consistently staring him down on a daily basis, this season’s version of Stanghill should absolutely be the best one yet.
4. We Want Walsh!
There’s a reasonable argument that Peyton Walsh (77 kg, Marines) is the fastest-rising athlete in the country. Perhaps more than reasonable. It’s hard to argue against it, at the very least.
Think about what Walsh did last season as the rawest of raw prospects imaginable. A talented collegian for the Naval Academy, Walsh went overseas in the fall of 2017 (pretty much the exact same tour that is going on currently) as a mechanism to get his feet wet. He made his presence felt in Russia, but given the breadth of competition present at that event, it wasn’t enough to label him as a potential future star.
A little over a month later, Walsh jumped in the Grand Prix Zagreb Open and was hosed out of a win against Kamenjasevic (SRB). In that match, Walsh was put down in par terre and trailed 1-1 when he exploded up from his stomach, peeled the hands, and hipped Kamenjasevic out of bounds. It was supposed to be good for a point – but it wasn’t. Nevertheless, the very fact that he was so inclined to improvise caught people’s attention. Not often you see guys fighting up from par terre bottom nowadays, it would seem.
The US Open in April saw Walsh come away with a white-knuckle victory over two-time U23 World Team member Jesse Porter (NYAC/OTS) and an overall surprising runner-up performance to Kamal Bey (Sunkist). He then carried that momentum into the World Team Trials some eight weeks hence to make his first US National Team.
Like Rau and his Marine teammate Miller, Walsh was in action last weekend in Russia. And again, no one really got to see it. That won’t be the case in Sweden, provided you’re willing to wake up early enough.
2018 Haparanda Cup
December 1st – Haparanda, Sweden
Colton Rasche (Marines)
Rafaelle Masi (NMU/OTS
Xavier Johnson (Marines)
Colby Baker (NMU/OTS)
Morgan Flaharty (NYAC)
Jamel Johnson (Marines)
Chris Rodgers (NMU/OTS)
Ray Bunker (Marines)
Michael Donato (NMU/OTS)
Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm)
Peyton Walsh (Marines)
John Stefanowicz (Marines)
Terrence Zaleski (Marines)
Tommy Brackett (NMU/OTS)
Joe Rau (Chicago RTC)
Barrett Stanghill (MN Storm/OTS)
Ben Durbin (Cyclone WC)
Daniel Miller (Marines)
Eric Twohey (Minnesota Storm)
Trent Osnes (Marines)
TEAM USA ROSTER
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