He already has one under his belt, and now Taylor LaMont (55 kg, Sunkist/UVRTC, 5PM #2) is staring at an opportunity to double up right out of the gate.
Day 1 of the 2021 U23 World Championships began at 10:30am local time from Belgrade, Serbia and aired live in the US on FLOWrestling.
’16 Junior World bronze medalist LaMont led the charge for an American squad that included four others vying for World recognition: David Stepanyan (63 kg, NYAC/NTS, 5PM #2), Britton Holmes (77 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #8), Spencer Woods (87 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #2), and Brandon Metz (130 kg, Bison, 5PM #6). LaMont was the only athlete of Team USA’s Day 1 group to advance to a medal round, and he did so by biting down hard en-route to gathering his first two victories of the tournament.
As it is with almost every American competing internationally, a pivotal sequence for LaMont in his opener against Artiom Deleanu (MDA) occurred from par terre defense. LaMont was dinged in the first period, and Deleanu quickly went to work on a reverse lock. Eventually, he managed to create enough elevation to consider pulling over the hold — but LaMont refused to budge and they were back on the feet. The second period saw passivity flip. LaMont dug inside for a lock, looked to lift, but nothing was doing.
He owned criteria with under a minute remaining, did LaMont, and a messy sequence at the edge nearly wiped it away. Deleanu was in hot pursuit searching for a point, and LaMont shucked in an instant; they wound up hip-to-hip off the boundary and no points were awarded. Back to the center, and there was Deleanu with a bodylock attempt that LaMont easily defended. They skirmished some more until Moldova wanted to challenge with :05 left on the clock. The officials reviewed the action and LaMont was given an additional point for the upheld call, which represented his narrow margin of victory.
In the quarterfinal, ’18 Youth Olympic Games silver Giorgi Tokhadze (GEO) awaited. And, with zero pretense. Soon after the whistle, Tokhadze reached for the body before regrouping for a gander at another actionable tie. The mini flurry subsided as quickly as it had enveloped, allowing LaMont to finagle a deep underhook. Control was the goal, in a fleeting sense, as the Utah native began dictating Tokhadze’s responses. But, passivity. LaMont was again knocked first, and Tokhadze found a short run with a gutwrench that translated to a 3-0 lead.
When they returned standing, it marked the beginning of the end for Tokhadze. He would not score again. Just as importantly for the USA crowd, LaMont’s tactics started to deliver a dissipating effect. On a couple of occasions, he used his snap to wear heavy on Tokhadze’s head. In essence, he was draining the opposition. Meanwhile, LaMont couldn’t have been fresher towards the latter stages of the first period. So, he capitalized during a hand-fighting battle close to the boundary and slide-stepped Tokhadze off the line for a point. LaMont then briskly jogged back to center, and Tokhadze trudged to the same location with his hands resting on his hips.
LaMont kept things moving to kick off the second. The left-side underhook came easily following a reset and, once again, LaMont brought Tokhadze down to his knees from over-the-top ahead of notching one more out-of-bounds tick on the scoreboard. History repeated itself in short order — though the 3-3 criteria advantage belonged to Tokhadze. Again, pressure and persistence. LaMont hawked in on Georgia, that lefty underhook still the main weapon, and Tokhadze was bullied out of the yellow. This time, the sequence was accompanied by a passive. Instead of a 4-3 lead, LaMont was up by two with an opportunity to inflict more damage. Nothing doing, as Tokhadze stayed glued to the tarp.
There was not much in the way of drama. Despite the narrow 5-3 edge, LaMont was in total command.
Tokhadze was depleted. He struggled to avoid going back on his heels each time LaMont stalked. The officials, along with Tokhadze’s corner, caused brief confusion with :25 to go, resulting in a halt to the action. Eager for wrestling to resume, LaMont clapped his hands together as if to say Let’s go! A last-second headlock try on the part of Tokhadze was defended; Georgia challenged but it was more out of despair than anything else, and LaMont moved into the semis on the strength of a bullish, gritty 5-3 decision.
One more obstacle standing in the way of a potential World final. Standing across from LaMont was ’17 Junior champ (and fast-rising Senior) Poyo Dad Marz (IRI). Dad Marz had downed American Cevion Severado to garner gold four years ago, and in limited top-level appearances since has furthered his reputation. For the third consecutive match, LaMont was rung up for passive in the first period. From top, Dad Marz cranked one gutwrench; LaMont almost made it back to the feet without giving up another, but Dad Marz converted on a follow-up to race out in front 5-0.
The conditioning advantage LaMont enjoyed against Tokhadze, and even Deleanu, was not part of the picture. Dad Marz appeared close to or on even ground with the Division I All-American in the oxygen-saturation department. Thus, there was no other choice: LaMont would likely require a multi-point score. When passivity was called on Dad Marz in the second frame, LaMont swam towards the head for a reverse lift. He could not quite settle into a grip that worked, allowing Dad Marz to squirm his way to freedom. Try as he might, LaMont also found difficult sledding in wedging his left underhook. Dad Marz closed every window through the second period for the 5-1 triumph.
By virtue of reaching the World semifinal, LaMont is automatically in the bronze-medal round on Tuesday. There are two repechage bouts prior to decide who he faces: Taras Krupskiy (UKR) will first greet the winner between Ikhtiyor Botirov (UZB) and Nihad Guluzade (AZE); whoever prevails between Krupskiy and Botirov/Guluzade will earn the right to square off against LaMont.
Stepanyan, Holmes, Woods, & Metz
Moldovan Corneliu Rusu represented Stepanyan’s first test on the World stage after Zolt Zonai (SRB) provided a free pass via forfeit. In what was an at times frustrating showdown, Zonai emerged with a passivity-laden 2-0 victory. Stepanyan was constantly active in the ties but Rusu warded off most of the discomfort coming in his direction by checking and re-checking with a right underhook. Meaningful attempts on the feet were largely absent. Stepanyan was picked for the first passivity/par terre, and again in the second period. Rusu did not demonstrate a substantial amount of zeal — and Stepanyan defended from bottom with nary an issue — but the two passivity points were the story. Stepanyan was eliminated from competition altogether when Rusu was felled by Ahmet Uyar (TUR) in the semifinal.
For Stepanyan, who fought valiantly, the difference was a pair of passivities. For fellow World newcomer Holmes, it was a headlock. Early in the first, Dilshod Omongeldiyev (UZB) corkscrewed a four-spot, though Holmes rolled through to gain back a point and trailed 4-1. Omongeldiyev got his crack at ordered par terre with a minute left in the first period. He locked for a gutwrench but failed to come close with a rotation. Holmes doggedly pressed onward in the second, pawing and slithering to each new yet transient position. Passivity was not availed. Neither athlete seemed to be on the cusp of a score, which is often the marker for the call. Holmes never relented, but he also could not exploit any worthwhile openings. Omongeldiyev with the 5-1 decision, and a one-match showing for Holmes following his vanquisher’s loss to Aleksa Ilic (SRB) in the proceeding round.
Woods — Senior Trials runner-up, ’21 National champ, and ’19 Open runner-up — had designs on a prolonged run in Serbia. Unfortunately for him and the US, the opposite came to fruition. “The Alaskan Assassin” saw his World debut end in startling fashion against Szymon Szymonowicz (POL). After the preamble, Szymonowicz cleared the ties and roped around what was a clear lane to the body. Instinctively, Woods went to arch as a counter-attack; Szymonowicz’s position was already set by the time he covered, and the fall was recorded at just :46 of the first period. David Losonczi (HUN) cut down Szymonowicz in the semifinal, thus ruining Woods’ chance of returning to action in the repechage round.
For a first-timer, Metz appeared comfortable with the feel and flavor of international competition. He busied Vladyslav Kovalenko (UKR) in the tie-ups to get a sense of his position in the pummel. They clashed, naturally, with Metz’s feet moving a little more than Kovalenko’s. It did not seem as though this would be a shootout, but then Metz flung with a left overhook in response to Kovalenko’s double-under’s. It looked close to correct-hold points but the official gestured “legs”. Ukraine soon was gifted with passivity/PT and Metz fought the front-head clasp to reach his feet.
A Kovalenko throw attempt in the second period gave way to a step-out point when Metz, who did not expose, backed off the line after bounding up to the surface. That made the score 2-0. Metz got on the board when Kovalenko was dinged. Rather than try for a turn from top PT, Metz opted to keep the match standing. They plodded back-and-forth, with Kovalenko demonstrating a little more push as the clock became a factor. There was no further scoring in the match, sending Metz to the “repechage waiting game” — which crashed to a halt in the quarterfinals when Fatih Bozkurt (TUR) defeated Kovalenko 8-0.
The finals and bronze matches for the Day 1 athletes starts at 6:00pm local time/12:00pm ET. The regular schedule featuring Dylan Gregerson (60 kg, UVRTC), ’19 Junior World bronze Alston Nutter (67 kg, Sunkist/NTS), Nate Moore (72 kg, UNCO), ’21 National runner-up Tommy Brackett (82 kg, Gator), and two-time National Champion Nick Boykin (97 kg, Sunkist/Ohio RTC, 5PM #3) begins at 10:30am in Belgrade (4:30am ET). All of the action can be viewed in the US on FLOWrestling).
2021 U23 World Championships
November 1-3 — Belgrade, SRB
DAY 1 TEAM USA RESULTS
55 kg: Taylor LaMont (Sunkist/UVRTC)
WON Artiom Deleanu (MDA) 2-1
WON Giorgi Tokhadze (GEO) 6-3
LOSS Poyo Dad Marz (IRI) 5-1
63 kg: David Stepanyan (NYAC/NTS)
WON Zolt Zonai (SRB) via forfeit
LOSS Corneliu Rusu (MDA) 2-0
77 kg: Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP)
LOSS Dilshod Omongeldiyev (UZB) 5-1
87 kg: Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP)
LOSS Szymon Szymonowicz (POL) via fall
130 kg: Brandon Metz (Bison WC)
LOSS Vladyslav Kovalenko (UKR) 2-1
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