USA Greco

Three USA Athletes Still in the Hunt at Zagreb

perez, grand prix zagreb open
Robert Perez III -- Grand Prix Zagreb Open

Allen Iverson tore through an infamous rant during a press conference two decades ago centering around “practice”. Iverson, then at his peak for the Philadelphia 76’ers, uttered the word two dozen times, mostly in as derisive of a tone as he could possibly muster. Out of the dialogue came the phrase, “I’m supposed to be the franchise player and we in here talking about practice.” So it goes, then-6’ers coach Larry Brown and Iverson engaged in a war of words following the team’s playoff loss to the Celtics. They made amends quickly, or that is at least what Iverson thought. But a couple of days later, there was the star guard defensively — and hilariously — beating the press pool over the head by repeatedly referring to “practice” in a manner which suggested that it was not all that important of a topic to discuss.

The United States Greco-Roman program would beg to differ.

That is why they are in Croatia. And this weekend’s Grand Prix Zagreb Open, albeit an actual sanctioned competition, is to be treated accordingly. The outcomes are subject to scrutiny, but they aren’t stress-worthy. It is more about the different looks from foreign opponents, with the machinations evident therein useful for baseline improvements prior to their arrival home from this long winter tour.

In other words, Croatia for the Americans is “practice”. 

Day 1 of the 2022 Grand Prix Zagreb Open began at 10:30am local time (4:30am ET) and streamed live on YouTube.

Three Americans from the opening day of action are still alive in the tournament with potential for bronze — two of whom were making their initial Senior overseas appearances. ’18 Cadet World Team member Robert Perez III (67 kg, Sunkist) and Tanner Farmer (130 kg, NYAC/IRTC, 5PM #3) have been pulled back in via repechage, guaranteeing both combatants multiple matches in their maiden top-level voyages; and it is the same story for reigning National Champion Randon Miranda (60 kg, Rise RTC, 5PM #4), who was likewise defeated on Saturday but benefited from his vanquisher reaching the finals.

Perez was shut out by ’20 European Championships gold Morten Thoresen (NOR) though the result in and of itself fails to describe what actually transpired. Perez — who is still age-group eligible — was not outclassed by Thoresen. The primary issue was underhooks. Thoresen found numerous holes in the ties that he leveraged in what was largely a positional battle. Passivity on Perez brought the first points. Thoresen locked, and Perez defended well until a lift yielded two. Towards the end of the opening period, a caution-and-two rang out, with the officials citing Perez for apparent fingers. The infraction made the score 5-0 heading into the second. Perez was eager to exchange with the Norwegian but struggled to negotiate reasonable attempts. A step-out point for Thoresen increased Perez’s deficit to 6-0, which represented the final score.

Farmer’s own effort is clouded by the method of defeat. Facing off against Fatih Bozkurt (TUR), the former footballer looked to impose his will in the trenches, and Bozkurt did not presume to want any part of it. They jousted through the preamble. Bozkurt surged ahead 5-0 thanks to passivity/par terre, but Farmer was still in the game with time a factor. Down by four and the recipient of a par terre chance, Farmer looked to gut — and unfortunately for him, his lock came loose, allowing Bozkurt to step over and hold position for the fall.

Sometimes, an athlete needs to find a rhythm, which is often how Miranda gauges re-attacks and exploits defensive measures. But a second gear was not available for the Impact Performer on Saturday against Viktor Petryk (UKR). A front headlock from Petryk, who was already leading 2-0, drew the biggest gash. Petryk followed with another turn from the hold to ice the proceedings early.

Romero, Paddock, RaVaughn, & Schultz

Diego Romero (60 kg, NMU/NTS), another of the US squad’s Senior international newcomers, was on the wrong end of a waterfall headlock by Dmitar Sandov (SUI) in the first period. Sandov had went out in front 4-0 before the match-ending throw.

At 77, ’18 World Teamer RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC, 5PM #4) and Burke Paddock (NYAC) had to dance with each other in the qualification round. Not an ideal scenario in a European event. Nevertheless, both showed up to the mat with eyes on advancing. A pair of takedowns — the latter of which was nice counter to go-behind — provided Perkins with a 4-0 lead. A reset, and then Paddock went all-in on a bodylock. Perkins was there for the adjusted land-on-top and another four points to call a premature halt to the bout.

In the quarterfinal for Perkins was well-traveled ’16 Military World gold Timur Berdiev (BLR). They jockeyed in the ties to begin, with Perkins composed and patient as he prodded for openings. Still, passivity. The call arrived, and the officials rewarded Berdiev. From top, the Belarusian committed to a gutwrench and turned Perkins four times for the tech win.

Young Mr. Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist, 5PM #1) gave multi-time Euro medalist Alin Alexuc-Ciurariu (ROU) a run for his money at the ’20 Thor Masters Invitational. It was news-making at the time due to the perceived gap in experience. Schultz was already well-decorated as a youth competitor by then, but Thor was his first big-time Senior event, and Alexuc-Ciurariu had long been established as a consistent World medal threat. Fast-forward two years later, and indeed a gap in experience between the two still exists. What does not is a gap in skill-level.

Schultz put the heat on Alexuc-Ciurariu with short underhooks, parrying the head and trying to bull forward. It wasn’t easy, for the Romanian is a substantially large human. But Schultz played posture and footwork enough to curry favor for passivity/PT top. After managing to wedge underneath to gain his lock, Schultz veered left for his gut attempt that saw Alexuc-Ciurariu reverse to grab a point. In the second frame, passivity flipped, giving Alexuc-Ciurariu a 2-1 advantage. There was no further scoring, and the Romanian was clipped by Osman Yildirim (TUR) to end the day for Schultz.

Wrestling resumes Sunday morning at 10:30am (4:30am ET) with the repechage rounds. Miranda will greet Sebastian Kolompar (SRB), who has come on over the past two years. Perez has a stiff test in U23 World bronze Kadir Kamal (TUR), and Farmer is set to square off against ’18 Junior World bronze Franz Richter of Germany.

2022 Grand Prix Zagreb Open

January 29-30 — Zagreb, CRO

TEAM USA DAY 1 RESULTS

60 kg

Randon Miranda (Rise RTC)
LOSS Viktor Petryk (UKR) 9-0, TF
vs. Sebastian Kolompar (SRB)

Diego Romero (NMU/NTS)
LOSS Dimitar Sandov (SUI) 8-0, TF

67 kg

Robert Perez III (Sunkist)
LOSS Morten Thoresen (NOR) 6-0
vs. Kadir Kamal (TUR)

77 kg

Burke Paddock (NYAC)
LOSS RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC) 8-0

RaVaughn Perkins (NYAC)
WON Burke Paddock (NYAC) 8-0, TF
LOSS Timo Berdiyev (BLR) 9-0, TF

130 kg

Tanner Farmer (NYAC/IRTC)
LOSS Fatih Bozkurt (TUR) via fall
vs. Franz Richter (GER)

Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist)
LOSS Alin Alexuc-Ciurarriu (ROU) 2-1

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