40% of the World-level tournaments available for American Greco-Roman athletes have been checked off the list with the conclusion of the Olympic Games. First were the Cadets; then Tokyo; next are the Juniors; the Senior Worlds follow in October; and November offers U23 (also later that same month is the CISM Military World Championships in Iran, though the US is not sending a delegation this year).
As reported last week, the Team USA Juniors have had two functional training camps. Members of the roster had put in work at Legends of Gold earlier this summer in South Dakota prior to the latest gathering held on campus at Northern Michigan, which wrapped this past Friday.
The US program is currently riding an impressive streak at the Junior World Championships. Each of the past four Teams have included at least two medalists.
2016 — BRONZE: Taylor LaMont (55 kg, Sunkist); G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg, Sunkist)
2017 — GOLD: Kamal Bey (77 kg); SILVER: Cevion Severado (55 kg)
2018 — SILVER: Andrew Berreyesa (87 kg, NYAC/Spartan RTC); BRONZE: Cohlton Schultz (130 kg, Sunkist)
2019 — SILVER: Schultz; BRONZE: Alston Nutter (67 kg, Sunkist/NTS); Peyton Omania (67 kg, MSU/CYC)
Medal hopes are high for the ’21 squad, as well. Three Junior WT members made appearances at the Cadet Worlds in ’19, and a few others have logged “relevant overseas experience” elsewhere. Those who are as of yet unwise to the international landscape bridge that gap with sterling age-group domestic credentials. It is a potent, well-balanced roster, and one in which the US is banking on performing quite well once Greco-Roman action kicks off in Ufa, Russia on August 20.
Instead of the first week in September, USA Wrestling has settled on September 11-12 for the Senior World Team Trials. The Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska will serve as the venue and all three Senior disciplines are scheduled for both days of competition.
The news, which was released on the third day of wrestling at the Tokyo Olympics, serves to disrupt what could have been an unexpectedly fruitful mini-training phase on the Greco-Roman side. Denmark’s Thor Masters is set to run September 17-19; if the US Trials were locked in for the first week of September, athletes who make the Team might have had an opportunity to use Thor Masters as a testing event prior to attending its popular attached training camp. There is no definitive word yet regarding what preparation for the Seniors will entail during the brief window available between the Trials and when Greco starts in Oslo (October 6), or if the Thor Masters camp alone is considered a viable option.
Staebler & Lorincz Say Goodbye; Kayaalp Not Yet
Three-time World Champion Frank Staebler, 32, quickly announced his retirement shortly after downing Ramas Zoidze (GEO) for bronze in Tokyo. One of international Greco’s biggest names, Staebler was positioned as the favorite leading up to Rio ’16 until a loss to eventual champ Davor Stefanek (SRB) ended his run. But the next two years at 71 and 72 respectively, Staebler re-established himself as perhaps the most versatile, points-grabbing athlete in the sport. A World title without forced par terre on the table in ’17 saw the German stand out far above the field in terms of offensive points scored. Then in ’18 and whilst facing an exceedingly difficult draw, he managed to garner his third and final gold. Ismael Borrero Molina (CUB) shell-shocked Staebler in Nur-Sultan en-route to gold, but that tournament did not end in abject disappointment. Staebler later rebounded with bronze, and proceeded to earn his second Euro gold the following season.
Meanwhile, now-four-time Olympic gold medalist Mijain Lopez (CUB) left the door if only slightly open for a return in Paris. Lopez, who turns 39 later this month, was tested by multi-time World Champion Riza Kayaalp (TUR) in the semifinals but was not seriously threatened in any of his other bouts. For his part, Kayaalp left little ambiguity with regards to his own plans. Last year, the bruising Turkish heavyweight said that he would likely retire if he won gold in Tokyo. He didn’t (bronze, his second), therefore Kayaalp will be sticking around a little longer.
“I’m 32-years-old and in the last stages of wrestling, but we will be patient for two or three more years,” Kayaalp declared at his homecoming parade last week in Ankara. “We will do our best. We will maintain our strength. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and try it one more time.”
Joining Staebler, and potentially Lopez, out the door is newly-minted Olympic gold Tamas Lorincz of Hungary, who edged Azkhol Makhmudov (KGZ) in the 77-kilogram final. Lorincz’s accomplishments and contributions to the sport are well-documented. An Olympic silver all the way back in ’12 (at 66 kg), Lorincz went on to add a World bronze and two runner-ups prior to winning it all for the first time in ’19. Now 34 and with the one missing piece to his expansive medal collection finally in tow, the Hungarian star is stepping away amid the finest run of his exemplary career. Important to note: Younger sibling Viktor Lorincz (87 kg) wound up with silver. The Lorincz brothers had medaled at the same World Championships twice previously and became the first siblings from their nation to earn medals at the same Olympiad.
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