USA Greco

KEEP ‘EM COMING: USA Cadets Score Three Golds & a Silver at 2018 Croatia Open

usa greco-roman cadets at 2018 croatia open
2018 USA Cadets -- Croatia Open (Photo: Lucas Steldt)

For relative context, all you need to do is look back at 2017. At last year’s Croatia Open, an event that holds the distinction of being the first one ever for the Go Greco USA Developmental Program, US athletes came away with two medals. Eventual Cadet World Champion Cohlton Schultz (120 kg, NYAC) grabbed gold (defeating his World runner-up Balint Vatzi of Hungary in the final) while Camden Russell (55 kg, MWC) earned a silver. In 2018, the Americans have more than surpassed the expectations set forth from a year ago. They downright smashed them.

Led by three champs, the Team USA Cadets collected four overall medals at the 2018 Croatia Open earlier today in Zagreb. Nate Rubino (45 kg, MWC), Conor Knopick (55 kg, MWC), and Andy Garcia (110 kg, La Gente WC) all emerged through their Nordic system brackets, with Rubino and Garcia both doing so by enacting a methodical brand of retribution. Caden Arps (50 kg, MWC), who like Garcia is on his first overseas tour, fought his way to a silver for the second week in a row.

We are still awaiting full details from the 2018 Croatia Open, including names of opponents and box scores. Once that information becomes available we will update here and in the upcoming Monday Roundup. In the meantime, Combat WC/Cadet World Team coach Lucas Steldt, who is in Croatia as the tour’s team leader, was kind enough to provide insights pertaining to each performance and direct quotes from the athletes themselves.

USA Cadet placewinners from 2018 Croatia Open

FROM LEFT: Nate Rubino, gold at 45 kg; Caden Arps, silver at 48 kg; Conor Knopick, gold at 55 kg; and Andy Garcia, gold at 110 kg. (Photos: Lucas Steldt)

2018 Croatia Open


Nate Rubino — 45 kg, MWC — gold

Steldt: “Nate lost the first match to his German counterpart. It was a hard-fought battle and he dropped a one-point decision. Since there were only two athletes in the bracket, the German coach asked us to do another match. We eagerly obliged. In the second match between the two, Nate dominated the German via tech fall. He was later awarded gold due to his win having a higher value.”

Ruino: “Last year, I went on this same trip. I didn’t do very good, but it helped me a lot with positioning and what it’s like to wrestle in an international tournament. I think that it also helped me make it to the finals at Fargo (last year). This year was much different. I knew what to expect this time and it paid off with two gold medals. I plan on taking what I have learned and my added confidence to Fargo this year. My head coach Zac Dominguez also helped me so much in my knowledge of Greco-Roman wrestling.”

Caden Arps, 48 kg, MWC — silver

Steldt: “We moved Caden up a category to get matches. At the 48kg category there were no opponents. Cayden again wrestled two matches, dropping both. His opponent from Germany was clearly more experienced, which is obvious with all foreign opponents. But Cayden is fresh to Greco and the talent is certainly there. It is our job as USA Greco-Roman coaches and as a community to develop him.”

Arps: “This is my first year at Cadet and my first International trip. This trip has taught me a lot of different styles and techniques that I will use at home. I went on this trip knowing nothing about the international environment. On this trip, I’ve had great teammates who pushed me to better myself during training. This tour helped me gain so much more knowledge about Greco and it has mentally and physically helped me with my wrestling.”

Conor Knopick, 55 kg, MWC — gold

Steldt: “This blonde-haired wonder boy lit the gym up in Zagreb with his athletic talents and the fight he brought to the mat. His record for the day was 4-0 using the Nordic system. The other coaches noticed his abilities as well and gave that smile of approval as he walked off the mat. As a part of Team USA and a friend to his coach Zac Dominguez (MWC), I was very proud for Conor and Zac.”

Knopick: “This is my second year being on this trip, and even though I’ve learned a lot from all my coaches at MWC, you can also learn so much from these international trips. The style of wrestling overseas compared to the United States are so far away from each other. The things I brought with me on this tour of Greco knowledge — along with all my coaches at MWC — helped me so much in getting to the top of the podium. Even though my first tournament in Serbia didn’t go as I wanted it to, I adapted and overcame thanks to Zac and Lucas, and I’m thankful for this opportunity to represent the United States in a good fashion.”

Logan Hatch, 65 kg, Combat — 5th

Steldt: “Logan looked better but was snuffed out of finding a win. He is just getting back to competition and this experience is only going to help fast-forward his progress.”

Hatch: “Only five weeks ago I was cleared to wrestle again. The past two years have been rough with injuries. First, I broke my back in February of 2017, putting me out for eight long months. I attempted to come back for the 2018 folkstyle season, but ended up breaking my leg in January during practice. Even though I was unable to come out with a win on this trip, it was great to get back on the mat and compete. I learned a lot during the training camp in Serbia and can’t wait to get back in the room at home to work on what I have learned. I had great teammates on this trip, pushing me to go harder and better myself. We had a fun time both on and off the mat.”

Andy Garica, 110 kg, La Gente WC — gold

Steldt: “Vengeance. Andy avenged two previous losses from last Saturday in Subotica, Serbia. What a difference a week of training can do. I can safely vote Andy ‘most improved’ on this tour. A week ago, he was losing positions and having trouble finding offense. This week, he controlled the center and the hand fight. Scoring off of front headlocks and off-balances, he notched two dominant wins to take gold.”

Garcia: “Coming into this trip, I was worried about the level I was wrestling at. Coming off the plane and into the first tournament, I don’t think I did as much on the mat as I could have. However, during the training the camp after the first practice, Coach Lucas came to me and told me, ‘Do you see now that you can battle with these guys? If you battle and hand-fight and tire them out the first three minutes, the last minute you work your offense and you score.’ During the training camp, I felt better in positions that I had lost in during the first tournament.

“Coming into the second tournament, I felt good. I felt relaxed and ready. Both matches I wrestled I was losing on the scoreboard, but I felt confident that the last minute of each match was going to be my time to score. The first match I was down 0-3 and came back to win 6-3. My second match, I was down 0-5 and stopped a gutwrench and put the kid on his back. From there, I started gaining ground and came back to tech the kid. Lucas was right — the first three minutes were grind time and the last minute was time to go score and work my offense.”

Steldt’s Overall Assessment

“Team USA is bringing home a team trophy. As a team, we placed third. What gave us fighting power in the team race was the fact the other nations only brought World Team athletes. In every other nation, they use a point system of sorts to decide who they will sponsor at the World Championships. The process of a World Team Trials as a tournament to decide the participants at Worlds is foreign to all other nations. All the nations only brought four or five athletes, and these were the wrestlers they will sponsor at the World Championships just a few weeks from now back here in Zagreb, Croatia. When the USA brings a whole team, most nations only bring a few choice athletes that have a chance of becoming medalists.”



45 kg — Nate Rubino (MWC) — gold
WIN Albert Nakaev (GER) 10-1, TF

51 kg — Caden Arps (MWC) — silver
LOSS Aaron Bellscheidt (GER) 8-0, TF

55 kg — Conor Knopick (MWC) — gold
WIN Nicolas Eichhorn (GER) 7-2
WIN Antonio Cibaric (CRO) 8-0, TF
WIN Alldossary Fasal Khalid (KSA) 8-0, TF
WIN Numan Bayram (GER) 9-0, TF

65 kg — Logan Hatch (Combat WC) — 5th
LOSS Deni Nakaev (GER) 8-0, TF
LOSS Aleksa Ilic (SRB) 8-0, TF

110 Andy Garcia (La Gente WC) — gold
WIN David Ivanjko (CRO) 6-3
WIN Veljko Petrakovic (SRB) 14-5, TF


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