USA Greco

Zagreb ’23 Day 1: Kamal & Vera Hurt; Jacobson’s Debut

kamal bey, 2023 grand prix zagreb open
Kamal Bey -- Photo: Tony Rotundo

There is no insult added to injury at the highest level of competition, for an injury itself is enough of an insult. Thus, no reason exists to compound the problem.

Day 1 of Greco-Roman at the 2023 Grand Prix Zagreb Open in Zagreb, Croatia began on Friday morning at 10:30am local time (4:30am ET) and aired live in the US on FLOWrestling.

Three Americans were in action on Friday, two of whom are reigning Senior World Team members, Kamal Bey (77 kg, Army/WCAP) and Alan Vera (87 kg, NYAC). Making his Senior overseas debut was Payton Jacobson (77 kg, Sunkist/NTS), the only US competitor of the trio to have at least exited the tournament relatively unscathed.

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Bey started in the round-of-16 opposed by Rui Lui (CHN) — and quickly provided a reminder of his standout capabilities. After Lui was knocked for passive, Bey used a reverse lock to pull-over four points at the boundary; on the back-end of the sequence, Lui was penalized for a caution, thus giving Bey a 6-0 lead as well as another chance from top par terre. A second reverse lift resulted in a flurry which saw Lui hawk over the top and eventually receive two. In adjusting his own position following the scramble, Bey landed awkwardly on his left knee. Immediately, the multi-time World Team member and ’17 Junior World Champion required medical assistance. Training staff scurried onto the mat to offer aid, and the bout was soon halted, with Lui the victor via injury default.

As for Vera, he was facing off with Hungary’s Erik Szilvassy, one of the better entrants in the 87-kg bracket. Szilvassy scored four from an arm throw early in the first period; it had appeared more as a correct throw, but four was the call. A brief exchange following the score saw Vera hesitate to re-start. Something was off. But, he bounded back to his feet and the match resumed.

In the corner between periods, Vera could be seen receiving additional assistance from the coaches. It looked as though the situation might be more serious than originally thought. Still, once again, he returned to the center, signaling the start to Period 2. A skirmish, and then that was it. Vera, visibly in pain, laid on his back as the event trainer sought to provide aid. The match was waved off, and the US had their second injury default of the tournament.

The injuries to both Bey and Vera were pre-existing. Bey had damaged his left knee last season; Vera’s issue is spinal-related. Their respective prognoses at this time is unknown, though Vera did inform this outlet that “it’s nothing new” and that he needs time to recover.


In his first marquee Senior overseas tournament, ’22 U20 World Team member Jacobson drew an appropriate test in the form of U23 World silver Pavel Puklavec (CRO) and acquitted himself well. Jacobson, with his hybrid yet disciplined stance, worked inside on Puklavec and managed to compel the match’s first passivity/PT chance. The forthcoming attempt for follow-up was unsuccessful, and back to the feet they were. Both athletes found the sledding rough, with neither able to break through on an additional score in the opening frame and Jacobson walked to the corner for intermission leading 1-0.

In the second, Puklavec found a small window to scamper for a takedown. He then found his lock and gutted Jacobson once to go up 3-1. The highly-touted US prospect was undeterred as he budged and bullied in search of potential workable positions. Puklavec did his part in bottling up the business in suitable fashion, thus earning the 3-1 decision. Johnny Bur (FRA) turned back the Croatian in the quarterfinal, which eliminated Jacobson from possible contention for bronze.

Day 2 on Saturday

Two more weight categories are on the schedule for Saturday at the 2023 Grand Prix Zagreb Open. At 63 kilograms for the US will be two-time World Team member Sammy Jones (NYAC/CTT), who will face the winner between Ivan Lizatovic (CRO) and Aleksandrs Jurkjans (LAT). ’20 Olympian/’22 World Teamer Alex Sancho (67 kg, Army/WCAP) will start against Domagoj Celicek (CRO) in the qualification round.

Wrestling is set to begin at 10:30am local time (4:30am ET) and can be viewed live in the US on FLOWrestling.

2023 Grand Prix Zagreb Open

February 3-5 — Zagreb, CRO


77 kg

Kamal Bey (Army/WCAP)
LOSS Rui Lui (CHN) via injury default

Payton Jacobson (Sunkist/NTS)
LOSS Pavel Puklavec (CRO) 3-1

87 kg

Alan Vera (NYAC)
LOSS Erik Szilvassy (HUN) via injury default

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