The draws are in for the delegation of USA Greco-Roman athletes in Croatia for tomorrow’s 2018 Grand Prix Zagreb Open. All but one of the eight Americans competing are from the All-Marine team with 2016 Junior World Team member Michael Rodgers (97 kg, NYAC) being the lone civilian. It’s not like that matters, of course. Tomorrow they’re all part of Team USA.
The two lightest guys going, Xavier Johnson (60 kg, Marines) and Colton Rasche (63 kg, Marines), find themselves in pool formats since their weight classes do not yield full brackets. Johnson, who came on like a ball of fire at the ’16 Senior Nationals, will battle in a highly-competitive Pool A that includes three-time Junior Worlds finalist (and ’17 champ) Kerim Kamal (TUR) and 2017 Gedza International bronze Bence Kovacs (HUN). In the bottom pool, 2008 Olympian Virgil Munteanu (ROU) is on board as he continues to plug along, and the stout, sometimes-entertaining Belarusian Maksim Kazharski is there, too. Kazharski won this event back in 2015 at 59 kilos.
It’s a similar story for Rasche. He’ll begin the day in the four-man Pool A and every other guy involved is a familiar name on the international circuit — Hungary’s Erik Torba, Ivan Lizatovic (CRO), and Mhai Mhut (ROU), who US fans remember from last year when Alex Sancho (67 kg, NYAC) decisioned Mhut in the finals here to win his first overseas gold.
A lot of folks back home in the States are keeping tabs on former Naval Academy grappler Peyton Walsh (Marines) and his progress in the classical style. Walsh is starting in the 77-kilogram quarterfinal on the upper half of the bracket opposite Antonio Kamenjasevic (CRO). Kamenjasevic was a Cadet World silver medalist back in 2014 along with being a two-time U23 European Championships runner-up. He also represented Croatia at the Junior Worlds this past August and grabbed a bronze at this tournament a year ago. Despite being new to international Greco, Walsh has already made some noise of his own, finishing with a bronze at the Lavrikov Memorial in December before turning in a 9th-place performance at the Haavisto Cup where he defeated former Swedish Junior World Team member Artur Vardanyan.
The most experienced Marine in Croatia and one of the country’s most consistent overseas performers overall is Daniel Miller (97 kg, Marines) and he is kicking off his appearance at the 2018 Grand Prix Zagreb Open against a formidable opponent in two-time Golden Grand Prix bronze Sulieman Demirci (TUR). Should Miller get past Demirci in the qualification round, he will then be facing off with the winner of 2016 University World Champion/2017 U23 World bronze Fatih Baskoy (TUR) and Zsolt Torok (HUN). Rodgers, competing for the first time in a major Senior international event, is walking right into the fire, as well. He’ll be greeted by 2016 World Military Championships winner and 2017 Euros runner-up Aleksandr Hrabovik (BLR) in the round-of-16.
We will be providing live coverage and results throughout the day on Twitter and a full recap following the event. In the meantime, if you’d like to watch the 2018 Grand Prix Zagreb Open online as it happens, you can do so using the links below. Wrestling begins at 10:00am local time (4:00am EST) with finals slated for 6:00pm (12:00pm EST).
2018 GRAND PRIX OF ZAGREB — FEBRUARY 3RD
TEAM USA DRAWS
Xavier Johnson (Marines) vs:
Kerim Kamal (TUR)
Bence Kovaks (HUN)
Colton Rasche (Marines) vs:
Erik Torba (HUN)
Ivan Lizatovic (CRO)
Mhai Mhut (ROU)
German Diaz (Marines/PUR) vs. Ismael Lucio (ARG)
Peyton Walsh (Marines) vs. Antonio Kamenjasevic (CRO)
Vaughan Monreal Berner (Marines) vs. Ilia Nikiforov (RUS)
Michael Rodgers (NYAC) vs. Aleksandr Hrabovik (BLR)
Daniel Miller (Marines) vs. Sulieman Demirci (TUR)
Trent Osnes (Marines) vs. Ramazan Sari (TUR)
Jason Loukides (Marines)
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