USA Greco

Roberts, Sancho, & Stefanowicz with Bronze at Military Worlds

alex sancho, 2023 cism world military championships
Alex Sancho -- Photo: Tony Rotundo

The United States did not carry a full roster into Baku yet they still managed to leave a lasting impression on the field at the Military Worlds.

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

The 2023 CISM World Military Championships began at 10:30am local time from Baku, Azerbaijan (1:30am ET). A live stream of the event was not rendered available in the US.

Dalton Roberts (60 kg, Army/WCAP), Alex Sancho (67 kg, Army/WCAP), and John Stefanowicz (87 kg, Navy WC) each walked away with bronze medals while Britton Holmes (77 kg, Army/WCAP) came close to a a bronze himself before ultimately finishing fifth.

Roberts was forced to rebound on the heels of an opening round loss to Iranian Milad Reza Nejad and then moved into the semifinal of the pooled bracket via forfeit over two-time World medalist Aidos Sultangali (KAZ). Next was two-time U23 World bronze Nihad Guluzade (AZE), with whom Roberts engaged in a full-fledged shootout. Guluzade wound up taking the high-scoring decision to put Roberts in the bronze round. Waiting for him there was another top foreign competitor in Mert Ilbars (TUR), who just two months ago earned bronze at the U23 Worlds and is considered one of Turkey’s best emerging talents. A frenetic battle it was with both athletes having their moments. In the end, it was Roberts’ standout toughness that made the biggest difference in what became a 6-3 decision for the American that was tethered to a Military World bronze. “He broke him”, said Army coach Spenser Mango when describing his athlete’s method of victory.

“I felt great getting out there after not competing for some time,” Roberts offered following the tournament. “My pace in the bronze match paid off towards the end. The atmosphere here was nuts. The stands were full for every session. This (Azerbaijan) is definitely an amazing country to compete in.”

Now for Roberts — a multi-time Open Champion and twice a representative for the US at the Senior World Championships — it is a matter of compartmentalizing what transpired on Saturday and regrouping for the Nationals later this month. “Recovery will be just a few days, then it is back to work to tweak some things I learned this weekend.”

To Whom Belongs the Glory graphic

Sancho had opportunities to express dominance on Saturday and delivered to that effect by recording consecutive technical superiority wins at the expense of Julius Adekunle (NGR) and Hutter Dorien (SUI), respectively. The two lopsided triumphs meant a ticket to the semifinals, but Ali Chobakzan (IRI) cut short Sancho’s chances for gold with 6-1 the score from their bout. With bronze hanging in the balance, the ’20 USA Olympian put on a destructive display by dismantling Steve Momilia (ITA) 12-1 to log his third VSU of the tournament.

A stout contender was on the agenda for Stefanowicz right out of the gate — two-time Asian Championships bronze Dias Kalen of Kazakhstan. Tight and tense was their affair but Stefanowicz managed to grit his teeth en-route to a 2-1 decision. There was not a break for the Marine in the semifinal. Recent Asian Games silver/’21 U23 World bronze Naser Alizadeh (IRI) presented a challenging obstacle, and Stefanowicz hung close through the six-minute contest but was defeated by a slim margin of 3-1. Just as was the case for Roberts and Sancho, Stefanowicz found little difficulty in remaining motivated to grab the next best thing and earned a wide decision win over Mirco Minguzzi of Italy to collect CISM World bronze.


For Holmes, the 2023 CISM World Military Championships was important for more than one reason. Last season, the ’22 National Champion at 77 kg had decided to drop to 72 for World Team selection season; but just as the spring began to unfold, a knee injury and subsequent surgery disrupted his plans. Prior to Saturday, Colorado-native Holmes had not competed since April. He was back in fine form this morning, both as a competitor and in the Olympic class of 77. Quite the event to mark one’s return after a lengthy layoff due to surgery.

And he held his ground and then some. In the qualification round, Holmes took out Fazli Eryılmaz (TUR) 9-0. One match hence, he shut out Amro Jamal Sadeh (JOR), thus making the semifinal. Andrej Samets (BLR) defeated Holmes in the round-of-four but the American still had a podium spot for which to fight. Khairiddine Ben Tili (TUN) played the antagonist in the bronze round and was able to escape with a razor-thin 2-1 decision that resulted in Holmes having to settle for fifth.


  • Team USA finished 7th at the 2023 CISM World Military Championships with 55 points. Italy also finished with 55 points, but had a silver medalist (Simone Fidelbo at 97 kg). Iran won the team title by just two points over Azerbaijan (185 to 183), and Russia finished third (125).
  • The US completed the tournament with a combined individual record of 9-6. Four wins were recorded via technical superiority (Sancho had three; Holmes had one).
  • ’23 brings the best finish for a US squad at the World Military Championships since ’14, when Bryce Saddoris and Jon Anderson both earned silver and David Arendt walked away with bronze.
  • Because the CISM organization’s tournament is not affiliated with United World Wrestling this year, Russian and Belarusian wrestlers were not designated as AIN (Individual Neutral Athlete) but were instead permitted to use their regular country codes (RUS and BLR).

2023 CISM World Military Championships

December 2 — Baku, AZE


60 kg: Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP) — BRONZE
LOSS Milad Reza Nejad (IRI) 8-0, TF
WON Aidos Sultangali (KAZ) via forfeit
WON Mert Ilbars (TUR) 6-3

67 kg: Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) — BRONZE
WON Julius Adekunle (NGR) 8-0, TF
WON Hutter Dorien (SUI) 9-1, TF
LOSS Ali Chobakzan (IRI) 6-1
WON Steve Momilia (ITA) 12-1, TF

77 kg: Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP) — 5th
WON Fazlı Eryilmaz (TUR) 9-0, TF
WON Amro Jamal Sadeh (JOR) 5-0
LOSS Andrej Samets (BLR)
LOSS Khairiddine Ben Tili (TUN) 2-1

87 kg: John Stefanowicz (Navy WC) BRONZE
WON Dias Kalen (KAZ) 2-1
LOSS Naser Alizadeh (IRI) 3-1
WON Mirco Minguzzi (ITA) 8-2

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