USA Greco

Plans & Progress: Combat Winter Overseas Tour Journal

gunnar hamre, combat, hungary, silver
Gunnar Hamre -- Photo: Bill Kahle

Backpacks and carry-on bags have been tucked away. For now, at least. Their passports likewise are in a safe place, though, perhaps, more stamps will be added again sometime in the summer.

For this group of young Greco-Roman wrestlers from the United States of America, spring is a dichotomy. On one hand, it means a break from traveling and spending time in different countries. On the other, such an interim represents plenty of more work to do back at home as various World Team selection processes loom large on the horizon.

not all roads lead to gold, parent edition, jim gruenwald

Last month, a contingent of Greco athletes — most of whom train in Blue River Wisconsin at Combat WC under Lucas Steldt — competed in two overseas events and trained with foreign contemporaries during the downtime between tournaments. All of it is familiar. The names of the Americans, the protocols involved, the general task, the overall narrative. Those who closely follow Greco in the US have come to know how Steldt goes about his business. This platform publishes the event results and often includes accompanying dialogue in the aftermath of these international excursions. But Steldt does not take his charges across the pond for competitions. The tournaments themselves, and even to an extent the training opportunities, are, to him, merely the method in which authentic Greco knowledge can be gained.

When you see the phrase “overseas competition”, Steldt’s mind translates it as “education”.

“That is exactly what this time of year is all about,” Steldt says regarding the recent two-stop jaunt in Europe (Finland and Hungary, respectively) for his athletes and how the trip’s timing was intended to influence the training plan for upcoming spring domestic tournaments. “This is progression and what I call ‘forced acclimation'”, he adds. “Putting athletes in challenging exposures, but these exposures need to be calculated and timely. We don’t want to put athletes in a place of zero success, yet we can’t put them places of constant success, either.”

To Whom Belongs the Glory graphic

The word “success” has both short and long-term connotations. In the short-term, as a whole the US prospects Steldt has taken to Europe this season have been, in a word, successful. They have competed well and as a collective earned a generous haul of medals. But, again, that’s short-term. Success to Steldt long-term equates to athletes eventually developing into the types who make World and Olympic Teams. The kind of wrestlers who stand atop podiums at the biggest and most-important events while the National Anthem blares in the background.

The way Steldt sees it, in order for that to occur, there must be a process that includes a combination of encouragement, adversity, education, managing comfort, and appropriate planning.

“We plan these years of training and exposures by the quad”, he explains. “The macro is the quad, the meso represents the years during the quad, and the micro is the monthly plans inside of the meso. As the athletes age and advance, so does their plan. Comfort is a good measurement of progress. The moment comfort is obtained is the moment of adjustment. We cannot leave our athletes in a place of comfort. We must always be adjusting their plan to exposures of forced acclimation.”    

Finland: Everyone Medals

The “micro” for the winter of 2024, as it were, began with a trip to Sundsvall, Sweden towards the end of January. At that event, Brennan Carey (130 kg) earned his third international gold of the season (which is his first competing against foreigners) and highly-touted Ashton Miess (77 kg) placed second. The Sundsvall Open was on February 4. Just a few weeks later — and after having come home only to once again hop on a flight across the Atlantic — the group from Sundsvall along with Warren Soik (60 kg, WGW) and ’19 Cadet World rep Tyler Hannah (87 kg) took the mats at what is called the International MYHI Tournament in Ilmajoki, Finland. They all medaled, every last one of them. Soik and Carey both won top honors. So did Amryn Nutter (66 kg), younger brother of ’22 US Open runner-up Aidan (NYAC/NTS) and ’19 Junior World bronze Alston (Army/WCAP). Amryn has been described as a lethal amalgamation of his two older siblings and shares their base skill-sets in addition to having already observed what to expect from foreign counterparts.

Miess and Hannah were runner-ups in Finland. Gunnar Hamre (67 kg), Will Scherer (72 kg), and Henry “Hank” Baronowski (97 kg) joined the party by earning bronze.

2024 International MYHI Tournament

February 24 — Ilmajoki, FIN



66 kg: Amryn Nutter (Combat WC) — GOLD
WON Erkki Heino (FIN) 12-0, TF
WON Jalmari Viitasalo (FIN) 11-0, TF
WON Alvar Saramaki (FIN) 10-0, TF
WON Rahim Tebojev (FIN) 12-10
WON Otto Paakkonen (FIN) 10-2
WON Leo Ljungvist (SWE) 6-6 (criteria)

74 kg: Will Scherer (Combat WC) — BRONZE
WON Hugo Riehunkangas (FIN) 9-1
LOSS Luka Kajanne (FIN) 7-0
WON Mattias Maijala (FIN) 10-2
WON Marcus Törhönen (FIN) 10-0, TF
WON Artur Broyan (FIN) 9-3

100 kg: Brennan Carey (Combat WC) — GOLD
WON Daniel Lieds (FIN) 10-0, TF
WON Alexander Saramaki (FIN) via fall
WON Pauli Perkio (FIN) via fall


60 kg: Warren Soik (WGW) — GOLD

67 kg: Gunnar Hamre (Combat WC) — BRONZE
LOSS Tuuko Peltokangas (FIN) 6-4
WON Eetu Lamberg (FIN) via fall
WON Riku Joutsijärvi (FIN) via fall

77 kg: Ashton Miess (Combat WC) — SILVER
WON Niklas Lehtonen (FIN) 11-0, TF
WON Severi Mäenpää (FIN) 8-7
LOSS Oskari Talala (FIN) 5-3

97 kg: Henry Baronowski (Combat WC) — BRONZE
LOSS Elias Lyyski (FIN) 10-0, TF
LOSS Tyler Hannah (Combat WC) 8-0, TF

97 kg: Tyler Hannah (Combat WC) — SILVER
LOSS Elias Lyyski (FIN) 8-0, TF
WON Henry Baronowski (Combat WC) 8-0, TF

Hungary: Hamre Leads the Way

Steldt handed off coaching duties in Hungary to Ringers’ Bill Kahle, long one of the best and most influential developmental coaches in the US. And Hungary, from a competitive standpoint, was a different deal compared to the season’s previous trips to Sweden, Norway, and Finland.

Dubbed “The International Selection Tournament for Greco-Roman Wrestling”, the gathering in Csepel was held at the host nation’s Olympic Training Center (Kozma István Hungarian Wrestling Academy = KIMBA) and the circumstances were unique for the Americans. For starters, the competition itself presented a higher degree of difficulty. Secondly, and because the field featured a wide variety of immensely-skilled age-group athletes, Hungary used this event to determine their national team members based on placewinners in each bracket. Such is the strength of the Hungarian program. While most nations depend on domestic-only criterium, Hungary is measuring their youth stock by seeing how they perform against outsiders.

Only one American broke through at the tournament and it was Hamre. The promising young Greco full-timer advanced to the finals on the strength of three victories — two of which were recorded via technical fall with one coming against Senior athlete Dejan Berkec of Serbia. Last August, Berkec placed second at the Ljubomir Gedza Memorial, one of the more prominent top-level tournaments in Europe each summer. Hamre blitzed Berkec 12-4 and proceeded to decision Moldovan Vasile Taran before dropping the gold-medal round to Hungary’s David Manyik. “Others won matches but Gunnar looked good and wrestled good Greco”, Kahle said following the tournament.

2024 International Selection Tournament for Greco-Roman Wrestling

March 2 — Csepel, HUN


55 kg: Warren Soik (WGW) — 4th
LOSS Maxim Sarmanov (MDA) 11-2, TF
WON Milan Rodek (HUN) 11-2, TF
LOSS Petro Zhytovov (HUN) 10-2, TF
LOSS Peter Totok (HUN) 9-1, TF

67 kg: Gunnar Hamre (Combat WC) — SILVER
WON Tibor Kolompar (HUN) 8-0, TF
WON Dejan Berkec (SRB) 12-4, TF
WON Vasile Taran (MDA) 3-1
LOSS David Manyik (HUN) 8-0, TF

72 kg: Will Scherer (Combat WC) — 9th
LOSS Zsolt Takacs (HUN) 10-0, TF

77 kg: Clayt Johnson — 13th
LOSS Zalan Toplak (HUN)

77 kg: Ashton Miess (Combat) — 8th
WON Franz Gunther (GER) 
LOSS Zalan Toplak (HUN) 13-4, TF

82 kg: Henry Baronowki (Combat WC) — 5th
LOSS Milos Perovic (SRB) 9-0, TF
LOSS Viktor Mayer (HUN)

130 kg: Brennan Carey (Combat WC) — 9th
LOSS Laszlo Darabos (HUN)

Looking Ahead

The fall brought the Malar Cupen in Sweden and the Kolbotn Cup in Norway. January delivered another trip to Sweden, and then it was Finland and Hungary in short succession. Four treks overseas, five tournaments, and multiple weeks of international training. Not to mention dozens and dozens of hours of flight time.

As Steldt pointed out, the activities are divided into segments but should still be seen as the details necessary to paint a grander picture. A sum of all parts concept. The foundational plan is geared towards achieving an objective, just not without accounting for individual needs. And if it seems like a lot for an athlete to undertake — what will all of the traveling and training — one needn’t worry. Everything is managed according to where a wrestler is developmentally and competitively. If someone is not ready for what the overseas experience has to offer, then they will simply have to wait.

“I will only be sending selected athletes to all of the tours, and some may do other tours,” says Steldt. “Not everyone needs to do what everyone else is doing. Some athletes are restrained from exposures that they are not ready for, just as some are restricted from some exposures that they have now outgrown. 

“We must approach this as professionally as we can. The lack of long-term career planning is a big failure of Greco-Roman athletes in the USA. It must be controlled, and the athletes, as well. It must be scaled relative to their progress and it has to be individualized. Repetitiveness can become stagnant. When repetitiveness becomes stagnant, it becomes a problem. The acceptance of the idea of progression and its associated timeline are crucial.” 

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