We’re beginning to reach an era where if you are a young US Greco-Roman wrestler, all you have to do is express some interest and a trip across the Atlantic could be right at your fingertips.
Thanks to the newly-founded “Go Greco USA Developmental Program” championed by US Cadet World Team coach Lucas Steldt, a sizable group of American athletes are getting the chance to compete in Serbia and Croatia next month. This comes on the heels of other recent opportunities for age-group wrestlers. In the fall, a group of Cadets joined a large contingent of Northern Michigan students in Sweden. Earlier this spring, Wrestling World Tours, an enterprise started by Wisconsin’s Jared Lewis, organized a trip to Europe that provided big-time competition and training. Though even with this latest jump in opportunities, there is still a need for more international experience for American Cadet Greco wrestlers and Steldt is happy to oblige for the good of the future. That it is coming about when school isn’t standing in the way is another plus.
“Number one, the best part of this opportunity is that it is out of the normal student’s high school year, so timing is not an obstacle in that way,” Steldt said. “Maybe tied with number one or even better is that these are Cadet-only competitions and a Cadet-only training venue, both of them. The United States is not the only country building up Cadet age-level Greco-Roman wrestling, the other countries are doing it, too. They also want to keep their younger guys competing in Greco and I think that’s huge.”
The Go Greco USA Developmental Program is jumping into two tournaments. First, it will be the Croatia Open in Zagreb June 16th-17th followed by a camp. Then the next week it is onto Subotica, Serbia from June 23rd-25th. Hopping across the pond along with Steldt will be none other than two-time Olympian and World silver medalist Shawn Sheldon, one of the most respected and experienced coaching voices in the sport. They will be overseeing 13 wrestlers, several of whom are considered to be among the most talented Cadet prospects the US has to offer. Plus, by the time the delegation leaves for Europe, there may be wrestlers on the trip who secured spots on the Cadet World Team, with that age group’s Trials tournament taking place next week in Akron, Ohio.
“We’re taking guys who might make the World Team and even if they don’t or are on the cusp of making the team, this is developmental,” Steldt explained. “If they do make it, great, this is an overseas trip. But even if they don’t, this is more training for them to make the team next year.”
A new initiative
Practically everyone in the United States wrestling community is familiar with the #GoGreco movement that National Team head coach Matt Lindland has played an integral role in trumpeting upon his arrival. It is a declaration of sorts and directly related to the US Greco-Roman program’s online presence. But the phrasing is more than just a way to tag tweets and other social media posts. It is also a rallying cry, a mechanism for celebration and enthusiasm for occasions when Greco makes news. Steldt, a vocal advocate of the style in the US and a proponent of more international training opportunities, is applying the tagline for this venture as a way to signify its underlying purpose — participation.
“The reason why I dubbed it the Go Greco USA Developmental Program is because ‘#GoGreco’, the hashtag, is our anchor in this country, and that is what this is for,” said Steldt. “This is not for the brand-new beginner, but it’s not for the guy who is going to the Olympics next year, either. This is for older Schoolboys, Cadets, and Juniors who are developmental and I think that is where we are building. I want this to be for the kids who are trying to get better. I didn’t want to call it a ‘World’ or ‘National’ team because I don’t want to scare anyone away. This is developmental and I think this is something that needs to be done.”
Despite birthing the Go Greco USA Developmental Program, Steldt does not see this all as some kind of solo mission where his organization alone represents the only way to get age-group Greco athletes overseas. Instead, he sees this as a potential partnership with other coaches and clubs aiming for the same thing. The way he figures it, everyone working together towards the common objective of fostering accessible European trips for interested wrestlers means the cause is moving in the right direction.
“I am trying to create something people can go to and say, ‘This is something we have to do’, but maybe you don’t do it with me. Maybe you do it with another group of people, but we have an area where we talk about the opportunities. Maybe there is a competition in Norway, maybe there is a competition in Croatia, and we can say, We’ll help you get there and here is a coach who can take you. I think that is how we develop, when there is a central location where you can go to get information, find out how to make arrangements, how to get UWW cards, all of that stuff, even if we’re not directly involved with that tour.”
As for the the impending pair of events in June, it took word-of-mouth and a coincidence to bring it all together. Steldt learned of the tournaments back in April and was instantly eager to take the flight over. New US Greco-Roman Programs Manager Gary Mayabb signed off on it and at the World Team Trials most of the entire roster was put together. Steldt already had four athletes from his club, Combat Wrestling Academy, on board, but it was his time in Vegas that filled in the rest of the missing pieces.
“At the US Open, Gary Mayabb wanted to introduce me to some people,” recalled Steldt. “By that time, I talked to Zac Dominguez and he said he had some kids who would go. Then I talked to Shawn Sheldon and a couple of others and after two hours, I had my team of nearly 15 guys.”
Once the group hits Serbia, they will be greeted by Lindland and US National Team assistant coach Momir Pektovic since the Seniors are scheduled to be in Hungary training during this period. All in all, this is another step in US Greco-Roman wrestling designed to increase international training opportunities and that it is taking place during a pivotal time of the year when foreign competition is usually tough to come by speaks to the urgency people like Steldt feel.
“I think this is crucial because Cadet-only training, I have never, ever seen it (overseas) and now when someone asks who it is they are wrestling against, well, it is against other kids their age. For us, it is a great tool for training and also, how to measure our progress.”
Go Greco USA Developmental Program June 2017 Tour
Croatia Open — Zagreb, Croatia, June 16th-17th
Croatian camp — Zagreb, Croatia, June 18th-23rd
Refik Memišević – Brale Tournament — June 23rd-25th
USA CADET ROSTER
38 kg-42 kg
Nathan Rubino (MWC/Nebraska)
Joshua Frye (Combat WC/Wisconsin)
Conor Knopick (MWC/Nebraska
Camden Russell (MWC/Nebraska)
Raiden Johnson (SWAT/Florida)
Austin Almaguer (Tri-Cities Club/Washington)
Dominic Damon (Tri-Cities Club/Washington)
Frankie Tal-Sharer (SWAT/Florida)
Cayden Robson (Combat WC/Wisconsin)
Damion Smith (Combat WC/Wisconsin)
Bryson Alsteen (Combat WC/Wisconsin
85 kg-100 kg
Chase Thompson (SWAT-Florida)
Cohlton Schultz (COTC/Colorado)
Listen to “5PM04: Two-time Greco-Roman world teamer Cheney Haight” on Spreaker.
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