The morning session on Day 1 of the Worlds has now concluded and the United States will enter the afternoon with one competitor in the semifinal.
Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP) has led the way for Team USA on Saturday by winning his first two matches, both of which via fall. 5th place in the World three years ago and highly-decorated elsewhere throughout his career, Nowry arrived in Serbia as one of America’s biggest medal candidates and he showed why right out of the gate.
Day 1 of the 2022 World Championships began at 10:30am local time from the Stark Arena in Belgrade, Serbia (4:30am ET) and is airing live in the US on FLOWrestling.
Nowry, seeded fourth, struggled in spaces against Arjun Halakurki (IND) in the round-of-16 before ultimately recording one of the more memorable World wins of his career thus far. In the first period, Halakurki received the passivity/par terre chance for a 1-0 advantage. Nowry hardly budged from bottom and they returned standing. After the reset, an exchange near the line saw Halakurki force Nowry out of bounds, with two more points for IND the result. Prior to resetting once more, the American required a respite for his injured right elbow. Once that elbow was wrapped and action resumed, Nowry proceeded to push into Halakurki with a touch more urgency, though intermission was soon forthcoming.
Passivity flipped in the second for Nowry, but no follow-up offense was to be had. The match was beginning to slip away, or so it had seemed. Halakurki, ahead 3-1, did not appear to have lost zeal and positions that which are normally useful for Nowry were not being availed. As the clock ticked down to under a minute, Nowry briefly seized a two-on-one towards Halakurki’s left side and, in flash, roped a booming arm throw from the opposite side. It was four points immediately, but Halakurki had also rode too high upon impact. Nowry head-hunted from underneath to find a pin that ended the bout with :37 remaining.
Next it was time for Nowry’s preeminent international rival, Fabian Schmitt (GER). They do not necessarily share a prolonged history, which now amounts to four matches over four years. But their time together has been entertaining, with the first bout of their series from the ’18 Grand Prix of Germany still able to provide a sense of comic relief given Nowry’s histrionics as time expired in what was for him a decision victory. Their most recent bout of relevance prior to today occurred in the ’19 Nur-Sultan Worlds. Nowry prevailed in that contest in lopsided fashion.
But Schmitt is a tough and improved competitor, making their quarterfinal showdown on Saturday much-anticipated. It unfolded according to script insofar as there was no looseness to the proceedings. Both wrestlers brandished physicality in the early going, yet their in-fighting was too tight for meaningful attacks. Schmitt benefited from the initial passivity call and looked to dig in for a turn. Nowry, compromised elbow and all, found little trouble defending his adversary’s advances. Back to the feet they were, with Nowry prowling a bit more in the ties. The two-on-one’s he likes were reachable, though Schmitt divvyed and broke into other positions before those tie-ups could materialize into attempts.
As was the case in Nowry’s opener versus Halakurki, passivity went a long way towards influencing the outcome. Schmitt was dinged to give the Army athlete a tenuous 1-1 lead as well as perhaps his best and last chance to create distance on the scoreboard.
Nowry did not merely “create distance”, he put a halt to the entire argument.
He opted for a traditional lock at first, but Schmitt’s defensive posture failed to allow an around-the-waist clasp. Nowry improvised by instead locking around Schmitt’s head-and-arm; he then yanked back to score exposure points, and adjusted to do it again. Schmitt was simultaneously trying to float the lock and wear heavy with his back to Nowry until he finally rolled back to his stomach. When he did, Nowry had caught Schmitt’s right arm, essentially trapping the appendage. That arm was quickly barred, and Nowry patiently adjusted his hold to engineer a reverse half-nelson. Gradually, Schmitt’s back began to find the tarp and, before long, the pin was called. The result was a mighty impressive win for Nowry, along with a trip to the semifinal opposite ’18 World Champion/two-time bronze Eldaniz Azizli Azerbaijan.
Nowry and Azizli faced off with World bronze on the line in ’19, with Azizli emerging victorious via technical superiority. Earlier today, the Azeri defeated a surging Yu Shiotani (JPN).
Peak, Bey, & Vera
The World debut for “Mr. Fantastic” Benji Peak (72 kg, Sunkist/NTS) pitted him against one his bracket’s most formidable athletes, ’22 European Championships gold Robert Fritsch (HUN) — who ultimately took a 3-1 decision over the popular NMU representative. Peak’s size and ability to wedge inside on shorter foes proved effective early on, and the officials agreed by calling Fritsch passive. From top, Peak was unable to elevate and turn, but he still entered the break ahead 1-0. The second period opened with good energy from Peak, this despite Fritsch’s own uptick in urgency. A passive point for Hungary did not get called past the 4:00, which might have come as a surprise due to how matches are normally governed. Then again, soon enough it didn’t matter, as Fritsch managed to amble for a takedown. A step-out with short time on the clock boosted his advantage to 3-1, and there was no further scoring in the match. Unfortunately for Peak, Fristch was ousted by Ali Arsalan (SRB) in the round-of-16, thereby dashing his hopes for repechage tomorrow.
Saturday was not Kamal Bey‘s (77 kg, Army/WCAP) first Worlds appearance by any stretch, though he was approaching it in that manner. Bey’s last World Championships came in ’18, when he nearly shocked then-returning bronze Elvin Mursaliev (AZE) in the quarterfinal. Four years later, Bey is four-years better, in numerous aspects. But he drew a tough opponent Saturday morning in ’17 World gold Viktor Nemes (SRB) and was, surprisingly, kept off the scoreboard.
Bey defended Nemes’ first-period par terre chance excellently, and found his feet upon the restart to quickly scan for potential attacks. Nemes, an old pro to be sure, checked in on Bey’s hands and closed off when necessary so as to avoid betraying a clear lane. A step-out near the end of the period gave SRB an additional point for a 2-0 advantage.
Bey was not short on motivation once the second period got underway, as he started to move Nemes around through quick, flinging exchanges. The official, however, was holding onto the whistle, meaning that Bey would have to compel a score rather than see passivity 180 in his favor. The action skewed towards Bey, but it was Nemes who got around for a takedown with a minute-and-a-half to go. He pecked, prodded, and survived from then on to earn the 4-0 decision. The good news for US fans: Nemes is in this afternoon’s semifinal round; if successful, Bey will be back for the repechage round on Sunday morning.
Returning World Team member Alan Vera (87 kg, NYAC) had no problem moving Haitao Quian (CHN) off his spot soon after the opening whistle, finding his groove by stepping off of and then into angles in what were fleeting tie-ups. Vera portrayed a picture of confidence as he did his bidding, and it felt as though an attack from the feet were about to appear. Before one could, passivity, on Quian. Vera — the best and most technical lifted in the US — achieved his lock and wanted to gather torque; but to his credit, Quian remained pasted, and the period ended with Vera clinging to the same 1-0 margin.
The bigger problem wasn’t just Vera’s one point but rather how Quian clapped back. When it was his turn from top in the second period, he executed a four-pointer that hurriedly put Vera behind by four points. Even with that, he wasn’t out of the running. Vera pressed onward, and Quian looked to be fading. A takedown with under one minute left closed the gap for the US, but that was a wrap. Quian defended any and all attempts through the remainder to walk away the winner of a 5-3 decision. He was then trounced by Nursutan Tursynov (KAZ) in the quarterfinal, thus capping Vera’s performance at the 2022 World Championships.
Nowry will square off against Azizli at 6:00pm local time (12:00pm ET) on FLOWrestling (subscription required).
2022 World Championships
September 10-13 — Belgrade, SRB
TEAM USA DAY 1 RESULTS
55 kg: Max Nowry (Army/WCAP)
WON Arjun Halakurki (IND) via fall
WON Fabian Schmitt (GER) via fall
vs. Eldaniz Azizli (AZE)
72 kg: Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS)
LOSS Robert Fritsch (HUN) 3-1
77 kg: Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP)
LOSS Viktor Nemes (SRB) 4-0
87 kg: Alan Vera (NYAC)
LOSS Haitao Quian (CHN) 5-3
TEAM USA DAY 2 DRAWS
63 kg: Sammy Jones (NYAC)
vs. Neeraj Neeraj (IND)
67 kg: Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP)
vs. Norva Bukasa (COD)
82 kg: Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP)
vs. Chengwu Wang (CHN)
97 kg: Braxton Amos (Sunkist/Wisconsin RTC)
vs. Vladen Kozliuk (UKR)
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