USA Greco

Rau Earns Impressive Bronze in Bulgaria

joe rau, bronze, 2024 nikola petrov memorial, greco-roman
Joe Rau -- Image: BF Borba

An overall very strong performance from Joe Rau (97 kg, TMWC) has culminated with a bronze medal.

The medal rounds on Day 3 of the 2024 Nikola Petrov Memorial began at 6:00pm local time from Sofia, Bulgaria (11:00am ET) and streamed live on the Bulgarian Wrestling Federation’s YouTube channel.

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Three-time World Team member Rau ended matters early against Zegang Wang (CHN) but plenty of action was available prior to the bout’s conclusion. From the outset, Rau brought to bear his familiar physical style and immediately initiated static. An odd scene: Wang soon seemed to reach for Rau’s head in a loose throw attempt, lost his balance, and fell to the tarp. Rau instinctively covered and went on to expose Wang, earning two points — but China scrambled out of the exchange and made good on a front headlock that saw two points tallied in his own column, after which Rau himself escaped further danger and reversed position to take a 3-2 lead. Rau then wrangled a front headlock and used the hold to add another point via step-out.

Only :39 had elapsed prior to the next restart.

Rau diligently worked for a two-on-one on Wang’s right arm and sought to bully position with the hold. A breakaway eventually resulted in more points for Rau. As Wang wriggled free his appendage, Rau got behind and instantly brought Wang to the mat for a gutwrench off the boundary. It was 6-2 upon the proceeding reset but the match was nearing its end-state.

To Whom Belongs the Glory graphic

As he had throughout the period, Rau dictated how and where each position was contested, primarily due to his two-on-one, which he once again latched on Wang’s right arm. In response, Wang attempted to come over the top with a front headlock, though this defensive measure would prove futile. Rau was able to attack the right arm one more time; only, he no longer settled for leveraging the two-on-one as a mere advanceable tie-up. Instead, Rau extended Wang’s arm as much as is permissible, essentially barring the arm, and Wang had no choice but to succumb to the hold.

It was an example of pain compliance. Wang had capitulated by going to his back. He did briefly bring his hips out from underneath in effort to scramble, but Rau simply applied more pressure on the arm whilst sitting out, in near folkstyle-fashion. In a sense, the resolution of the maneuver looked much like a “Peterson” from traditional American scholastic wrestling — and it translated to a thrilling win via fall for Rau that came attached to a bronze medal.

Aside from a few moments late in his semifinal match against Amirreza Akbari (IRI) on Friday, Rau was extremely efficient from an offensive perspective in Bulgaria. All three of his wins were stoppages; and of his three victories, only George Sikes (NYAC/NTS) survived to see the second period.

Rau, 32, returned to Greco-Roman competition last April and won the US Open as well as the Pan-Am Championships before making his third Senior World Team at Final X: Newark. In December, he placed second to Alan Vera (NYAC) at the US Nationals. His bronze from the Nikola Petrov Memorial also brings to an end a drought when it comes to overseas starts. Although the pandemic (along with his two-year hiatus away from this style) must be taken into account, thus limiting opportunities, Rau’s most recent medal-winning performance across the Atlantic prior to today was a silver from the Haparanda Cup (Sweden) held in December of ’18.

2024 Nikola Petrov Memorial Notes

  • The US finishes the 2024 Nikola Petrov Memorial with a combined record of 3-7. All three wins were earned by Rau. 
  • The 2024 Nikola Petrov Memorial was the first overseas international tournament for Casey Recrosio (82 kg) and Patrick Curran (87 kg), both of whom are full-time Greco-Roman competitors for Northern Michigan University. 
  • Across his four matches this weekend, Rau scored a total of 28 offensive points and, as mentioned, all three of his victories were recorded via stoppage (two VSU, one fall). 
  • Official placings for each USA competitor will be updated once the tournament is concluded.

2024 Nikola Petrov Memorial

March 7-10 — Sofia, BUL


67 kg

David Stepanyan (NYAC/NTS)
LOSS Haonan Liu (CHN) 8-0, TF

82 kg

Casey Recrosio (NMU/NTS)
LOSS Talas Ashirkhanov (KAZ) 9-0, TF

87 kg

Patrick Curran (NMU/NTS)
LOSS Sultan Eid (JOR) 9-0, TF
LOSS Lukas Staudacher (AUT) 11-2, TF
LOSS Yoan Dimitrov (BUL) 8-0, TF

97 kg

WON Daniel Gastl (AUT) 9-0, TF
WON George Sikes (NYAC/NTS) 8-0, TF
LOSS Amirreza Akbari (IRI) 10-7
WON Zegang Wang (CHN) via fall

George Sikes (NYAC/NTS)
LOSS Joe Rau (TMWC) 8-0, TF

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Listen to “5PM57: Kamal Bey and David Stepanyan” on Spreaker.

Listen to “5PM56: Rich Carlson and Spencer Woods” on Spreaker.

Listen to “5PM55: Recapping Final X with Dennis Hall with words from Koontz, Braunagel and Hafizov” on Spreaker.

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