USA Greco

Sancho & Amos Get Wins on Day 2 — But No New Medal Contenders (Yet) for Team USA

braxton amos, 2022 world championships
Braxton Amos -- Photo: UWW

Following Max Nowry‘s (Army/WCAP) run to the semifinal yesterday, four fresh American Greco-Roman athletes entered the arena on Day 2 hoping to do the same, if not more. While that did not transpire, there were still moments to be had for a US program that is looking to rebuild on the heels of a tumultuous summer.

Day 2 of the 2022 World Championships began at 10:30am local time (4:30am ET) and aired live in the United States on FLOWrestling.

not all roads lead to gold, jim gruenwald

Two Americans earned wins on Sunday to bring the team total up to four. ’20 Olympian Alex Sancho (67 kg, Army/WCAP) defeated his first opponent before falling to one of his bracket’s toughest competitors; at 97 kilograms, ’21 Junior World bronze Braxton Amos (Sunkist/Wisconsin RTC) delivered a terrific opening round victory and admirably hung in the trenches against an eventual medal candidate. Meanwhile, “Wildman Sam” Sammy Jones (63 kg, NYAC) fought till the end but could not crack through during his lone match in Belgrade, and Spencer Woods (82 kg, Army/WCAP) was oh-so-close to a one-sided triumph until that match quickly went sideways.

All four of the Americans’ vanquishers were defeated on Sunday, which automatically eliminated them from possible contention for bronze through the repechage round.

Sancho & Amos

When Sancho has an opportunity to execute his lifts, there is little the opposition can do about it. Norva Bukasa (COD) found this out early on in their qualification-round dustup. Sancho angled in the ties, working towards the body. Bukasa demonstrated enough solid movement of his own to deflect meaningful advances, but he also was not creating anything of note himself. Therefore, passivity, in Sancho’s favor, soon arrived. From top, Sancho cinched for a lift and pounded out four points; upon landing, he re-gripped and hurled Bukasa over once more. At 9-0, it was a wrap, and Sancho had recorded the first World Championships victory of his career via technical superiority.

Next up for Sancho was the round-of-16 and a significant step-up in competition: ’20 Olympic silver Parviz Nasibov (UKR). Whereas in the opening round worked to Sancho’s advantage, it was Nasibov this time who received the first par terre chance and capitalized. Sancho, as is custom, scanned for amenable ties from the outset, which proved difficult given Nasibov’s sound positioning and physicality. The call arrived midway through the frame, giving Ukraine the formality of a one-point cushion. After adjusting his lock, Nasibov elevated Sancho with a lift and received four points, thereby racing ahead 5-0. No further scoring was availed through the remainder of the contest, and Nasibov moved onto the quarterfinal where he was downed by Joni Khetsuriani (GEO).

Amos

Amos’ record from the ’22 Worlds will stand at 1-1. For a debut performance in this tournament, that is certainly laudable, especially for an American these days. But it perhaps pays to look closer, for Amos did more than wrestle two solid matches and win one of them. What he also did was show why his future in this grandest of wrestling styles could be exceptionally bright.

In his first Senior World bout, Amos faced off with ’17 Junior World Champion/’22 European Championships gold Vlad Kozliuk, whose name probably does not ring a bell with most US fans —  but might very well be recognizable to the more devout lot. Four years ago at the U23 Worlds, Kozliuk defeated Amos’ predecessor G’Angelo Hancock in what was a controversial, messy fracas that was influenced by inconsistent officiating.

This bears mentioning for three reasons: 1) in the ’18 U23 match, Hancock was not credited for effectively countering a pair of Kozliuk arm throw attempts, which directly influenced the outcome; 2) Kozliuk has obviously improved since then; 3) folks in the US are still going to compare Amos to Hancock for a little while longer.

But none of that history mattered during the match on Sunday. From the whistle, Amos instantly plunged a lefty underhook and the two became embroiled in a 50/50 pummel. The position was prime Kozliuk territory for an arm throw attempt. Whether or not Amos was aware of the Ukrainian’s go-to is unknown, but he was absolutely prepared. As soon as Kozliuk lassoed the arm and hipped, Amos was already yanking head-and-arm from the back-side before beautifully countering for four points. Back standing, and Kozliuk put Amos in trouble with a headlock but was unable to retain control. Another restart, and another Kozliuk headlock. This time, Amos would not fall victim. Instead, he laid back patiently and kept position from behind to pick up two points. A low lock around the waist that slid near the legs was next, and a stand-up was ordered.

Behind 6-2 to start the second, Kozliuk needed to reassert himself. He snared the initiative from an over/under to gather a takedown, and then followed with a trap-arm gut. Amos still enjoyed a 6-6 criteria lead but additional offense would eventually arrive. With under a minute to go, Kozliuk reached over Amos’ left underhook side for a bodylock that he had wished to corkscrew from underneath the hold. In response, Amos simply attacked with a reflexive headlock to net four big points. The native West Virginian added two more via modified gutwrench for a 12-6 lead that would not be relinquished.

The round-of-16 brought Amos Beksultan Makhmudov (KGZ), who in the match prior had defeated ’20 Olympic bronze Tadeusz Michalik (POL). In other words, it was a second-consecutive tough test for Amos.

It takes two, most of the time, to generate scores in the upper-weights, and Makhmudov is not as counter-attack-friendly as Kozliuk. This one had to be a grind given that stylistic difference. Amos waded in the early tie-ups with purposeful deliberation until passivity was called with Makhmudov the beneficiary. At the whistle, he was able to collect on a trap-arm gut for two rotations and quickly jumped out in front 5-0. Confidence wasn’t a problem. Amos knew that he could move Makhmudov in their tenuous pummeling, and proved it by earning a step-out point shortly before intermission.

Passivity flipped in the second period. Amos went to secure his lock from top PT but could not drive home a score. Makhmudov, leading 5-2, refocused his efforts on the feet. There was no impetus on his part to take risks, so he stuck to holding his ground against an oncoming Amos. The strategy worked, and Kyrgyzstan prevailed 5-2. Multi-time World/’16 Olympic Champion Artur Aleksanyan (ARM) VSU’d Makhudov in the next round to halt Amos from re-entry into the tournament tomorrow.

Jones & Woods

Jones, an enthusiastic thrower, was minding the battle zone against Neeraj Neeraj (IND), pawing inside for decent looks. They were hard to find, particularly due to Neeraj’s rigidity and posture.

The principle damage for Jones took place in the first period. That is when passivity entered the equation for Neeraj, who seized the opportunity to turn Jones with a gutwrench. A reset, and Jones sought the body only to be stymied by Neeraj’s ability to amble out of potentially harmful positions. Early in the second, Neeraj recorded a step-out point to increase his lead to 4-0. Jones did not appear daunted as he poured inside in search of a handle. He had come close in one instance, but Neeraj steered clear of danger the rest of the way en-route to a 4-0 decision win. ’20 Olympic Champion Luis Orta Sanchez (CUB) superior’ed Neeraj in the next round, which erased any chance for Jones to come back tomorrow in the repechage round.

Woods

A raucous four minutes they were for “The Alaskan Assassin” Woods, who was in control of a scoring-happy contest versus Chengwu Wang (CHN). It all started with an impactful and shrewdly-executed off-balance. Woods had a right-side underhook, popped Wang’s right shoulder, and swiveled his hips to generate the motion. Woods then pursued, leaving Wang to look for a desperation counter-throw. Woods simply kept plowing forward to grab four points, and opted for a reverse lift attempt in the aftermath that was adequately defended. Back to the feet they were with Wang using an arm throw attempt to scamper behind for a takedown and two turns. Just like that, Woods’ 4-0 lead became a 6-4 advantage for Wang, but more was on the way.

After the proceeding reset, Wang dipped for an arm throw and lost his footing. Woods pounced to nail down two points — and tacked on two more with a reverse lift. Just ahead of the break, the Army wrestler caught Wang off balance again and converted a takedown/gut combo that translated to a 12-6 margin. China challenged the sequence, the call was upheld, and the score was updated to 13-6.

No lead is ever safe, no outcome assured.

Soon into the second period, Wang wrapped around Woods and managed a bodylock. Upon landing, Woods was caught on his back. He fought to go prone for as long as he could, but there were no escape routes. Wang held position and the pin was awarded with 1:59 still on the clock. Jalgasbay Berdimuratov (UZB, and who is having himself a tremendous Worlds showing in ’22) decisioned Wang in the next round, thus ending Woods’ competition in Belgrade.

Day 3 of Greco-Roman at the 2022 World Championships begins Monday morning at 10:30am (4:30am ET) featuring the last two American competitors, Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) and Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist). FLOWrestling will carry the broadcast for the United States audience. Below the results from the first two days of wrestling are the opening round draws for Hafizov and Schultz.

TEAM USA DAY 2 RESULTS

63 kg: Sammy Jones (NYAC)
LOSS Neeraj Neeraj (IND) 4-0

67 kg: Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP)
WON Norva Bukasa (COD) 9-0, TF
LOSS Parviz Nasibov (UKR) 5-0

82 kg: Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP)
LOSS Chengwu Wang (CHN) via fall

97 kg: Braxton Amos (Sunkist/Wisconsin RTC)
WON Vladen Kozliuk (UKR) 12-6
LOSS Bekan Makhmudov (KGZ) 5-2

TEAM USA DAY 1 RESULTS

55 kg: Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) — 5th
WON Arjun Halakurki (IND) via fall
WON Fabian Schmitt (GER) via fall
LOSS Eldaniz Azizli (AZE) 9-0, TF

72 kg: Benji Peak (Sunkist/NTS) — 22nd
LOSS Robert Fritsch (HUN) 3-1

77 kg: Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP) — 31st
LOSS Viktor Nemes (SRB) 4-0

87 kg: Alan Vera (NYAC) — 18th
LOSS Haitao Quian (CHN) 5-3

TEAM USA DAY 3 DRAWS

60 kg: Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP)
vs. Dicther Toro Castaneda (COL)

130 kg: Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist)
vs. David Ovasapyan (ARM)

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