USA Greco

USA Roster for Zagreb 2023: Breakdown Before Breakout

alex sancho, 2023 grand prix zagreb open, united world wrestling ranking series
Alex Sancho -- Photo: Tony Rotundo

At press time, the USA Greco-Roman delegation for this week’s trip to Zagreb, Croatia is comprised of 16 athletes, all of whom are current US National Team members. Seven wrestlers on the roster also competed at the 2022 World Championships.

not all roads lead to gold, jim gruenwald

Rather than pick and parse through isolated storylines or project the perceived importance/value for each competitor related to this latest winter tour for the Americans — which on its own would provide an overwhelming amount of material, especially this year — we will instead offer a different approach: rendering athletes in groups but according to individual topics. For the first time in three years, the United States is fielding a sizable overseas roster that is substantial enough to warrant a sufficiently-concentrated preview, while still minding a consumable format.

2023 Grand Prix Zagreb Open

Feburary 3-5 — Zagreb, CRO


Previous Zagreb Medalists

Jesse Thielke (63 kg, Army/WCAP) — ’16, bronze
Alex Sancho (67 kg, Army/WCAP) — ’17, gold
Kamal Bey (77 kg, Army/WCAP) — ’17, bronze

It seems as though few remember Thielke’s bronze from ’16, but at the time it was certainly noteworthy because he had placed third at 66 kilograms, not 59 — the weight category in which he would eventually make the Olympic Team and subsequently qualify on behalf of the US following an incredible performance in Istanbul. At Zagreb ’16, Thielke downed Mateusz Bernatek of Poland, who two months later won the U23 European Championships — and a year-and-a-half later placed second at the World Championships.

Sancho’s gold in ’17 — the year without ordered par terre —  was one of the biggest highlights of that season for the US program. In the semifinal, he had innovated an attack against Mate Nemes (SRB, and who is now the reigning World Champion as well as World bronze from ’19) to score a clutch decision victory before out-hustling Mihai Mihut (ROU) in the finals. That same year, Bey — up at 80 kilos — defeated Yuja Maeta (JPN), fell to ’16 Olympian Bozo Starcevic (CRO), and dismantled Michael Wagner (AUT) en-route to the bronze medal.

All Previous Zagreb Entrants

Ildar Hafizov (60 kg, Army/WCAP) — ’17, ’19
Randon Miranda (60 kg, Unattached) — ’22
Dalton Roberts (60 kg, Army/WCAP) — ’19
Sammy Jones (63 kg, NYAC/CTT) — ’17
Patrick Smith (72 kg, Minnesota Storm) — ’16
Tanner Farmer (130 kg, NYAC/IRTC) — ’22

As presently-constituted, the US roster includes the trio of Hafizov, Roberts, and Miranda at 60 kilograms. The preliminary entry list for Zagreb displays 22 names, which is a healthy allotment of competitors. One item the Americans would prefer to avoid is an early-round situation that sees two US athletes pitted against one another. In a later round (such as a semifinal, final, or bronze-medal match), such circumstances are discerned as far more tolerable.

Domestic match-ups are also possible at 63, 67, 72, and 77, as each of those weight categories carries two US athletes. Again, American versus American is not ideal when operating within the confines of an overseas event; but if it is to happen, later rounds are when you hope it occurs.

First-time Zagreb entrants

Dalton Duffield (55 kg, Army/WCAP)
Alston Nutter (67 kg, Sunkist)
Britton Holmes (72 kg, Army/WCAP)
Payton Jacobson (77 kg, Sunkist/NTS)
Spencer Woods (82 kg, Army/WCAP)
Alan Vera (87 kg, NYAC)
Lucas Sheridan (97 kg, WCG RTC-Army/WCAP)

It might come as a surprise to some that Vera and Sheridan have yet to make their Zagreb debuts. Both were originally set to go last year. Vera, who had been training in Ukraine, tested positive for COVID; and Sheridan’s involvement was nixed due to Army removing all of their athletes in light of security concerns.

Out of the first-timers, curiosity surrounds Nutter, Holmes, and Jacobson the most. Nutter — who is already in Europe and has been training in Sweden — is coming off of an injury and, despite his immense foreign experience, has not yet appeared in a marquee overseas Senior tournament. Jacobson, one of the program’s fastest-rising prospects, likewise is staring at his first opportunity to mix it up at the top-level, which is why he will draw attention next weekend from hardcore US fans.

For Holmes, some of that is true, too, but it is much more about his weight category. The ’22 U23 World Team member and reigning Senior National Champion had committed to 77 kilograms prior to Tokyo Team selection but is reportedly interested in testing the waters at his former weight category of 72 kg.

This year’s Zagreb Grand Prix (which is a United World Wrestling “Ranking Series” tournament) is granting a two-kilogram allowance.

Ranking Points

As mentioned, “Ranking Series” points are on the line in Zagreb, the first of four UWW events wearing this label (with the exception of Continental Championships). Only two Americans will saunter into action next week holding a relevant UWW ranking — Hafizov (#10, 14,300 pts) and Sancho (#11, 9,000 pts). Most of the US roster is starting at baseline by comparison.

“Ranking Series” point accumulations are relative to where an athlete places in a ranking event and the number of competitors per bracket. Seeds at World Championships are determined by ranking order. For ’23, this is of particular concern given that the forthcoming World Championships will present the first leg of Olympic Games qualification for Paris ’24.

2023 Grand Prix Zagreb Open Full Schedule

All times + 6 hours ET.
FLOWrestling will carry broadcast for US audience.

Friday, February 3 — 77 kg, 87 kg
10:00am-300pm — Qualification rounds through semifinals
6:00pm-8:00pm — Finals/bronze-medal rounds

Saturday, February 4 — 63 kg, 67 kg
10:00am-300pm — Qualification rounds through semifinals
6:00pm-8:00pm — Finals/bronze-medal rounds

Sunday, February 5 — 55 kg, 60 kg, 72 kg, 82 kg, 97 kg, 130 kg
10:00am-300pm — Qualification rounds through semifinals
6:00pm-8:00pm — Finals/bronze-medal rounds


*– US National Team member
**– ’22 US World Team member

55 kg

*Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP)

60 kg

**Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP)
*Randon Miranda (Unattached)
*Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP)

63 kg

**Sammy Jones (NYAC/CTT)
**Jesse Thielke (Army/WCAP)

67 kg

*Alston Nutter (Sunkist)
**Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP)

72 kg

*Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP)
*Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm)

77 kg

**Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP)
*Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS)

82 kg

**Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP)

87 kg

**Alan Vera (NYAC)

97 kg

*Luke Sheridan (WCG RTC-Army/WCAP)

130 kg

*Tanner Farmer (NYAC/IRTC)

DEN Roster for Zagreb
NOR Roster for Zagreb

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