USA Greco

Americans To Start Off Pellicone Against Tough Opposition

alan vera, 2022 matteo pellicone
Alan Vera -- Photo: Tony Rotundo

The 2022 Matteo Pellicone Memorial, one of United World Wrestling’s “Ranking Series” events, will help set the baseline for seven members of this year’s USA World Team. That is the overall objective. Individual athletes have their own goals in mind with regards to technique and performance — but as a collective, Pellicone is intended to, at least, provide a litmus test from which to draw for the summer training block.

not all roads lead to gold, jim gruenwald

It is already shaping up to be quite the test and the tournament hasn’t even started yet.

The draws for the 2022 Matteo Pellicone Memorial have been released for both days of action. Six of the aforementioned World Teamers on the trip are competing tomorrow, with each on the precipice of staring down suitably skilled opposition.

Day 1 (June 22)

*US World Team member

*Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP, world #11, 5PM #1; round-robin)

One of three round-robin brackets at Pellicone is 55, which has unfortunately become customary for the sport’s lightest weight category. Only three athletes are present, and Nowry will begin with Iranian Mohammad Hosseinvand Panahasani and finish with Florin Tita (ROU). Tita might have some familiarity for American fans. At the ’18 Junior World Championships, Brady Koontz (TMWC/Ohio RTC, 5PM #2) fell to the Moldovan via decision.

*Ildar Hafizov (60 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #1; round-robin)

The second straight round-robin, except 60 kilos is home to six entrants and will therefore pool into a semifinal round. Hafizov has two Azerbaijani athletes with whom to deal, as well as a Turk who is now finding his groove in this Olympic weight. First up will be ’18 Cadet World gold/multi-time age group World medalist Nihat Mammadli, who is an aggressive, long-limbed thrower and projected as a potential Olympian for the Eastern European nation in ’24. The hill remains steep in the proceeding round, where Ekrem Ozturk (TUR) awaits. Ozturk captured World bronze in ’18 at 55, but climbed to 60 briefly last year before returning to 55 for Oslo. After Mammadli and Ozturk, Hafizov has one more obstacle standing in his path to a possible semifinal appearance — ’21 World bronze Murad Mammadov. Mammadov is well-known by now to hardcores. More balanced than Mammadli from an offensive standpoint but a better defender in par terre.

*Jesse Thielke (63 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #2; round-robin)

Tough draws are the name of the game, a fact with which Thielke is very comfortable. In his first international tournament since ’18, the “Honey Badger” will initially square off against one of Azerbaijan’s most underrated lightweights in Taleh Mammadov (AZE). Mammadov earned his second consecutive Euro silver in March, which was also his third career medal from that event. Thielke’s second bout, which will arrive in Round 3, offers an excellent chance for him to make a splash: reigning World gold (at 60) Victor Ciobanu (MDA). The hyper-driving Ciobanu has made starts at 63 previously, and it is this weight class he is eyeballing for Belgrade.

*Alex Sancho (67 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #1; quarterfinal)

Sancho’s bye to the quarterfinal will see him opposed by either Sajjag Ali Imentalabfoumai (IRI) or Armenian-born Tigran Galustyan (FRA) — but the probability lies with Imentalabfoumai. A bronze three years ago at U23, Imentalabfoumai is yet one more in a long line of skilled Iranians within this weight range who are forced to ride the bench due to Mohammadreza Geraei holding down his status as the best all-around athlete in the sport. Interestingly, should Sancho advance, he could have Mihai Mihut (ROU) in the semifinal. Sancho defeated Mihut in the finals of the ’17 Zagreb Grand Prix but was decisioned by the Romanian two-and-a-half-years later at Haparanda.

*Alan Vera (87 kg, NYAC, 5PM #1, qualification round)

There are three Hungarians in the mix at 87 and Vera will have to get past the hardest worker of the bunch. Istvan Takacs has become an extremely difficult proposition on the international circuit thanks in large part to a rock-steady approach, expansive lungs, and high par terre proficiency. If Vera can turn back Takacs, he will likely face ’20 Olympian/multi-time European Championships medalist Islam Abbasov (AZE).

*Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist, 5PM #1, quarterfinal)

’16 Olympic bronze Sabah Shariati (AZE) or Darius Vitek (HUN). Those are the possibilities for Schultz in the quarterfinal. Schultz drubbed Vitek to open his march to the final at the ’19 Junior Worlds, though Vitek has added size and seasoning since that meeting. He has collected a U23 World bronze, as well. Shariati has been at this for a long time, and following his bronze in Rio his activity level dropped a bit. Should young Mr. Schultz plow his way into the semifinal, he will have either Beka Kandelaki (AZE) or Romas Fridrikas (LTU). Kandelaki made news earlier this year when he caught and pinned Riza Kayaalp (TUR) at Vehbi Emre.

Day 2 (June 23)

*US World Team member

Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm, quarterfinal)

Smith starts off with Havaard Joergensen, who is a member of Norway’s National Team at 67 kilograms along with Morten Thoresen. This is the type of match-up in which Smith will be greeting a similarly-minded opponent, but one who may not be able to keep up come the second period. Should Smith advance to the semifinal, he could have Valentin Petic (MDA). In ’19, Petic earned bronze at both the Junior and U23 Worlds. He has not yet blossomed at Senior, but is an aggressive sort who is not gun-shy about creating attacks.

*Kamal Bey (77 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #3, qualification round)

A very intriguing match right out of the gate for Bey in the form of ’22 Euro gold Robert Fritsch, who is up from 72 kilograms. Fritsch is a very busy yet stoic worker in the ties who is difficult to rattle, difficult to coerce into unwanted transitions. Fritsch is a latcher, although unafraid to increase his tempo according to the tenor of a match. If Bey can find a way to score enough — which, he can — then a quarterfinal showdown opposite Abdurrhaman Kalkan (TUR) would be next.

Spencer Woods (82 kg, Army/WCAP, 5PM #2, quarterfinal)

Solid first contact backed by the same kind of sustained physicality he has offered Ben Provisor (NYAC, 5PM #1) could aid Woods in his opener against Matteo Maffezzoli (ITA). It will be a nice sample for Woods, who is eager to tack on as much overseas experience as he can get. A victory over Maffezzoli would likely result in a clash with two-time U23 World champ Daniel Cataraga (MDA). Cataraga — who tends to be bruising and relentless for all six minutes — has not yet tested the waters at 82, as much of his career has been spent at 77 and 71/72.

2022 MATTEO PELLICONE MEMORIAL SCHEDULE

All times +6 hours ET and Matteo Pellicone will observe the one-day format. FLOWrestling will carry the live broadcast in the United States. 

Wednesday, June 22
10:30am-2:30pm — Qualification rounds-semifinals — 55, 60, 63, 67, 87, 97, & 130 kg
6:00pm-8:30pm — Finals/medal matches

Thursday, June 23
10:30am-2:30pm — Qualification rounds-semifinals — 72, 77, & 82 kg
6:00pm-8:30pm — Finals/medal matches

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