Spencer Woods (82 kg, Army/WCAP), known as the “Alaskan Assassin”, rebounded following a loss on Sunday morning with a victory in the repechage round before ultimately finishing fifth at the 2023 Grand Prix Zagreb Open in Zagreb, Croatia.
The third and final day of wrestling at the year’s first United World Wrestling “Ranking Series” event saw eight Americans compete across six weight categories. Woods was not the only USA Greco-Roman athlete to notch a win today, as Dalton Duffield (55 kg, Army/WCAP), Dalton Roberts (60 kg, Army/WCAP) and Patrick Smith (72 kg, Minnesota Storm) also had their hands raised.
But Woods was the only competitor of the lot to fight for a medal, a distinction he earned by prevailing over Finland’s Jonni Sarkkinen. A two-pointer for Woods at the boundary opened the scoring, and more offense was on the way. Sarkkinen was deemed passive shortly thereafter, a situation on which Woods capitalized appropriately. He had wrangled a reverse lift lock at the whistle with Sarkkinen simultaneously rising to his own feet; Woods kept the lock and pulled Sarkkinen over for two points; upon impact, the official signaled for a caution-and-two; following a lengthy break for a challenge by Finland (that also saw the training staff tend to Sarkkinen), action resumed — though not with a restart from par terre. After the standing reset, Sarkkinen leveraged behind Woods whilst using an underhook to grab takedown points, trimming the US lead to 7-2.
A step-out point for Woods early into the second period provided distance. Sarkkinen did strike again, his own step-out point responsible for the tick. A passivity call on Woods gave Finland one last shot to cause consternation, but danger was avoided in par terre. Aside from navigating a few urgent crashes as time raced off the clock, Woods was well in command the rest of the way and had dutifully punched his ticket to the bronze-medal match.
Standing across with hardware on the line was Peter Doemoek (HUN), who engineered an early advantage following the first passivity/par terre. Up 1-0, Doemoek converted a pair of gutwrenches to put Woods in a 5-0 hole. Not the energy, nor the complexion of the the contest, had changed, however. Woods, albeit with dash of patience, hungrily fought for ties through each mini exchange. But before he could gain a little ground heading into intermission, Doemoek managed to earn a step-out point that was upgraded with a caution on Woods.
Rather than coping with a 5-0 deficit, Woods was down 7-0 as Period 2 began. The pistons started firing even more, and Woods sought an opportunity to throw that fell apart. He was in fine condition, Woods, as he plowed forth to somehow get back in the match. The official swallowed the whistle, so passivity would not be a factor. With time running out, Woods forced Doemoek off the edge for one, and the step-out arrived attached to a caution that cemented the score at 7-2. Doemoek held on for the 7-2 decision, thereby resulting in Woods closing the book on Zagreb ’23 with a fifth-place showing.
Smith & Roberts
In the 72-kg repechage round, Smith faced Jamol Jumbaev (UZB) and was unable to get into a groove. Almost immediately after the whistle, Jumbaev was in on Smith at the waist to wrap for a takedown. He then stepped up with a lift, locked again but missed, and came back down with a gutwrench to end this one in surprisingly quick fashion.
Roberts vs. Japan
Earlier on Sunday, Roberts had defeated Mateusz Szewczuk (POL) via technical fall, which had deposited the American into the quarterfinal against Maito Kawana (JPN). The ride ended right there for Roberts on the heels of a 3-2 decision. A frustrating loss it certainly was, especially considering how effectively-violent Roberts had competed today.
Like Smith, there is only one gear that Roberts typically observes, and the pedal was to the floor from the outset. Kawana complained of head-clashing, but the problem was his own head. Roberts’ dome was pitched upwards while Kawana was dropping his own. Nevertheless, they went at it, with Roberts in constant pursuit of a limb for two-on-ones. Passivity was a no-brainer, and it was Kawana the officials chose to go prone. From top, Roberts finagled a lock to lift, but nothing was doing. Back to the feet, and it was more of the same. Roberts remained in Kawana’s face, the approach more than useful as it helped deliver a step-out point with a minute left in the first period.
After the first static position of the contest, in which Kawana held Roberts in place with a right underhook, passivity entered the equation. This time it was Roberts’ turn to go down. Kawana locked for a lift and adjusted, but a difference it did not make as Roberts defended. Back standing, and the heat was on. Kawana had become a more willing dance partner. The wrestlers soon became embroiled in an over/under hip-to-hip position towards the line, with the step-out point going to Kawana. The US corner challenged but the call was upheld to give Japan an outright 3-2 lead. Roberts still kept the initiative, pressuring nonstop to snare tie-ups — and just before the buzzer dipped for a nice high-dive attempt that cause Kawana to go on skates. But that would be it, and Kawana — the 3-2 winner — was shutout by Medhi Mohsen Nejad (IRI) in the semifinal, thus eliminating Roberts from the competition.
Additional notes and insights on the 2023 Grand Prix Zagreb Open will be available in the forthcoming Monday Roundup.
2023 Grand Prix Zagreb Open
February 3-5 — Zagreb, CRO
TEAM USA DAY 3 RESULTS
Dalton Duffield (Army/WCAP) — 5th
LOSS Ikhtiyor Botirov (UZB) 9-0, TF
LOSS Poya Dad Marz (IRI) 10-2, TF
WON Artiom Deleanu (MDA) via fall
Randon Miranda (Unattached) — 19th
LOSS Amirreza Dehbozorgi (IRI) 9-0, TF
Dalton Roberts (Army/WCAP) — 7th
WON Mateusz Szewczuk (POL) 10-0, TF
LOSS Maito Kawana (JPN) 3-2
Sammy Jones (NYAC/CTT) — 10th
LOSS Ivan Lizatovic (CRO) 3-1
Alex Sancho (Army/WCAP) — 11th
WON Domagoj Celicek (CRO) 11-1, TF
LOSS Adomas Grigaliunas (LTU) 5-4
Britton Holmes (Army/WCAP) — 14th
LOSS Luka Malobabic (CRO) 5-4
Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) — 13th
WON Kritsztofer Klanyi (HUN) 4-1
LOSS Sajjad Imentalabfoumani (IRI) 3-1
LOSS Jamol Jumbaev (UZB) 8-0, TF
Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP) — 25th
LOSS Rui Lui (CHN) via injury default
Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS) — 23rd
LOSS Pavel Puklavec (CRO) 3-1
Spencer Woods (Army/WCAP) — 5th
LOSS Filip Sacic (CRO) 3-0
WON Jonni Sarkkinen (FIN) 8-4
LOSS Peter Doemoek (HUN) 7-2
Alan Vera (NYAC) — 28th
LOSS Erik Szilvassy (HUN) via injury default
Luke Sheridan (WC Greco RTC/Army/WCAP) — 27th
LOSS Gerard Kurniczak (POL) 3-0
Tanner Farmer (NYAC/IRTC) — 12th
LOSS Alin Alexuc-Ciurariu (ROU) 5-2
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