Unless at a World or Continental championships, the US program does not attach much significance to international events, particularly when said events are positioned on the calendar more for training purposes than competitive aspirations. The athletes themselves tend to feel differently. They desire to win at all costs at every tournament, regardless of how big or small. But in the case of Pellicone ’22, it had been so long since most of the roster had competed overseas that simply regaining a sense of familiarity with the routine and circumstances involved with traveling offered a step in the right direction.
Translation: seven members of the United States World Team now own a relevant, tangible dataset with which to work throughout the summer training block. That was the main objective for the Americans in Rome. It was achieved, and now it is time for them to move forward beholden to a clearer understanding of how they might make necessary adjustments over the course of the next three months.
The 2022 Matteo Pellicone Memorial took place Wednesday and Thursday in Rome, ITA and aired live in the US on FLOWrestling.
In terms of results, Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #1) led the charge for Team USA by going 1-1 en-route to the bronze medal. Nowry’s placement brought with it a worthwhile factoid: dating back to its inception in ’18, the star lightweight has earned a medal at every United World Wrestling “Ranking Series” event in which he has participated with the exception of the World Championships.
Nowry faced Mohammad Hosseinvand Panahasani (IRI) in his first bout on Wednesday. All of his scoring was logged in the opening period when Panahasani received a passivity/par terre opportunity. From bottom PT, Nowry reversed following a successful Panahasani turn and soon collected the Iranian’s right arm in a trap-arm gutwrench. Two tilts later, the score was 5-3 in his favor. Panahasani was gifted par terre again in the second period, but Nowry defended to earn the narrow decision victory.
Facing Romanian Florin Tita, Nowry was in the odd situation of fighting for either gold or bronze, since Panahasani had earlier defeated Tita. Them’s the breaks in a three-man round-robin. In what was a confusing bout devoid of offensive output, Tita was awarded two passivity points, one in each period, and eventually prevailed 2-0. Nowry had appeared to advance position on the feet numerous times and, though unable to generate meaningful attacks, was operating with a brisk tempo. It wasn’t enough for the officials when it came to distributing the passives, however, leaving Nowry with a fuzzy baseline heading into the first World Team training camp that starts on July 7.
Schultz Places 5th
A nice assignment was presented to Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist, 5PM #1) in the quarterfinal: ’16 Olympic bronze Sabah Shariati (AZE). And Schultz had his moments in this one, including on the feet where, aside from briefly becoming off-balanced, he firmly challenged Shariati in the ties and seemed to be taking ground. But, passivity. The ding arrived on Schultz midway through the first. Shariati achieved a suitable lock along with a touch of equally-adequate elevation to turn the Arizona Stater four times. On the last rotation in the sequence, Schultz scrambled into a cement mixer and immediately put Shariati flat on his back. Following a review on the part of the officials, the string of points for Azerbaijan was upheld as the pin had arrived too late, sending Schultz off into the repechage waiting game.
Shariati did advance to the final, which delivered Schultz an opportunity to potentially make the bronze round. The opposition was Darius Vitek of Hungary, who was felled by Schultz once before in the Junior Worlds. It was not the same lopsided result from ’19; Vitek has grown in both size and experience since their initial meeting. A highlight was “The Big Push”. In the second, Schultz and Vitek were mired in an over/under position when Schultz blasted forward to garner a step-out point. After a reset, Vitek was victimized by a go-behind, which put Schultz ahead 4-0. The Hungarian would eventually score a takedown to cut his deficit in half, but the outcome went unchanged to allow Schultz a shot at bronze.
Big and tough Beka Kandelaki (AZE) was next in line. Kandelaki has increasingly asserted himself of late, and grabbed headlines in March by pinning Riza Kayaalp at Vehbi Emre. In other words, he is just the type of opponent preferred by Schultz.
To prove it, Schultz worked to assume command in the tie-ups from the whistle, in a near instant divvying to upset Kandelaki’s rhythm. The first score arrived in Schultz’s column via counter. Kandelaki reached for a headlock, to which the American responded by controlling the center of gravity and sagging back for the cover. Alas, offensive chances were ultimately few and far between. Kandelaki negotiated a go-behind that was followed by a gutwrench to race out on top 4-2. There was no further scoring in the bout, thus resulting in Schultz finishing 5th.
Other ’22 US WT Performances
Both Ildar Hafizov (60 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #1) and Jesse Thielke (63 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #2) stared down extremely challenging draws in their respective round-robin brackets.
Hafizov was on the right track versus multi-time age-group World medalist Nihat Mammadli (AZE), taking a 4-0 first-period lead on the strength of a caution, passivity point, and high gut. It all went awry in the second for Hafizov, as the young Azerbaijani ace racked up nine unanswered points. Mammadli turned Hafizov twice from par terre, secured a takedown, and closed out the match by countering for another takedown. A tight decision loss to ’18 World bronze Ekrem Ozturk (TUR) came next; in his third bout on Wednesday, Hafizov was on the wrong end of a 9-1 VSU to reigning World bronze Murad Mammadov (AZE).
For Thielke — who was appearing in his first overseas tournament since the ’18 Budapest Worlds — it was a similarly difficult day at the office with VSU defeats to Taleh Mammadov (AZE) and ’21 World gold Victor Ciobanu (MDA).
Sancho, Bey, & Vera
Alex Sancho (67 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #1) tried to stay with Armenian Tigran Galustyan (FRA) but a frenetic start to their match put him in a hole that became too steep too quickly. Galustyan scored a takedown off of a scrambly exchange early in the first before going for a reverse lift. The execution was loose, and Sancho nearly escaped and countered; Galustyan then adjusted his own position and managed to finish the hold with essentially one arm for two points. An arm drag followed by a gut iced the bout for Galustyan with just over one minute remaining in the first. Furkan Yildiz (TUR) routed Galustyan in the semifinal to eliminate Sancho from a potential path to bronze through the repechage.
Kamal Bey‘s (77 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #3) six-minute affair with European Championships gold Robert Fritsch (HUN, up from 72 kg) provided a glimpse of the former’s capabilities. Fritsch was awarded the first passivity/PT chance and capitalized with a front headwrap; but Bey was ready, as he had preemptively looped over Fritsch’s head. The hold did score two for Hungary, but Bey reversed in an instant to easily stay within striking distance. They jousted for much of the remainder — and strangely, passivity was absent in the second frame. Fritsch notched a pair of step-outs in Period 2 for what became a 5-1 decision. Fellow well-decorated Hungarian Zoltan Levai stopped Fritsch in the proceeding round, which by extension kept Bey from contending for a possible bronze.
At 87 kilograms, Alan Vera (NYAC, 5PM #1) fell to Istvan Takacs (HUN) 4-0. Takacs’ points were the result of two passivity calls and a crash gut (which arrived with the first-period PT). Despite the outcome, it was a solid showing for Vera. Takacs is one of Europe’s better young upper-weights and was thought to be in line for that nation’s 87-kg spot until Erik Szilvassy came back down from an attempt to take over at 97 last season. Vera gamely wove through a consistent array of trudging pummels and looked to be in suitable baseline shape considering the work that still lies ahead.
Two-time Senior World Team Trials runner-up Spencer Woods (82 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #1) dug in hard against Matteo Maffezzoli (ITA), owning the hand-fight whilst commanding the tempo. The approach provided Woods with the opening passive/PT, where he first sought a reverse lift until he changed course with a front headlock. Rather than lock-and-roll, Woods used Maffezzoli’s posture to his own advantage by jutting the hold forward. Maffezzoli was nearly pinned, and two exposure points gave Woods a 3-0 lead. Somehow, his adversary wound up receiving two points when the back-end of the exchange concluded out-of-bounds.
It was still going Woods’ way at 4-2 in the second period when the passives flipped. Maffezzoli required several swiveling adjustments on his lock, but he eventually cranked Woods over for two. The gutwrench made the score 5-4. Woods did not relent during the final minute’s sprint as he fought to get another point on the board by any means necessary — and Maffezzoli defended and deflected till the whistle to pick up the win. Rasoul Garmsiri (IRI) trounced Maffezzoli in the semifinal, thereby dashing Woods’ hopes for a second life in the repechage.
- Two US athletes came away with one victory apiece — Nowry and Schultz.
- Five of Team USA’s 11 combined losses were recorded via technical fall.
- The first US World Team camp of the summer takes place July 7-15 at the Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
- Schultz was the only US wrestler to have competed in at least one overseas match this year prior to Pellicone (January at Zagreb).
- Mammadli, Ozturk, and Maffezzoli were the only wrestlers to have defeated an American and fail to earn a Pellicone medal.
2022 Matteo Pellicone Memorial
June 22-23 — Rome, ITA
TEAM USA DAY FULL RESULTS
55 kg: Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) — bronze
WON Mohammad Hosseinvand Panahasani (IRI) 5-4
LOSS Florin Tita (ROU) 2-0
60 kg: Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) — 6th
LOSS Nihat Mammadli (AZE) 9-4
LOSS Ekrem Ozturk (TUR) 5-2
LOSS Murad Mammadov (AZE) 9-1, TF
63 kg: Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP) — 6th
LOSS Taleh Mammadov (AZE) 10-0, TF
LOSS Victor Ciobanu (MDA) 9-0, TF
67 kg: Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) — 11th
LOSS Tigran Galustyan (FRA) 8-0, TF
77 kg: Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP) — 8th
LOSS Robert Fritsch (HUN) 5-1
82 kg: Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) — 7th
LOSS Matteo Maffezzoli (ITA) 5-4
87 kg: Alan Vera (NYAC) — 12th
LOSS Istvan Takacs (HUN) 4-0
130 kg: Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist) — 5th
LOSS Sabah Shariati (AZE) 10-0, TF
WON Darius Vitek (HUN) 4-2
LOSS Beka Kandelaki (AZE) 4-2
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