Photos by Richard Immel, USA Wrestling
The two-day format hit full stride at the 2017 Cadet World Championships on Tuesday as all 10 Greco weights took to the mats at different stages of their tournaments. For those that began their competition yesterday, the repechage and medal matches were on tap. The other five weights wrestled through the quarter-finals in the early session before returning for the semi-finals later in the day. Cohlton Schultz became the first Greco finalist at this event for Team USA since 1998 yesterday when he won his semi-final. He sat waiting throughout the day for his shot at a gold medal. Five of his teammates began their competitions hoping to match his feat, but tough draws and close losses saw each of them fall in the early session, though two will return for tomorrow’s repechage. In the team race, Russia wrapped up the title, building a 16 point edge over Ukraine heading into the final day with Iran, Georgia, and Azerbaijan jockeying for position in the top five. The US was tied for 10th with 18 points after four of the five athletes who competed on day one wound up in the top 10 to earn team points. A little repechage success tomorrow could boost the US to their highest team score since 1998.
Taking the stage with an opportunity to win Team USA’s first Cadet Greco world title since Joshua Etu won 95 kg in 1997, Schultz saw a familiar foe across the mat. European champion Balint Vatzi (HUN) met Cohlton in the finals of the Croatian Open in June with Schultz walking away with the gold, 5-3. Early on it was clear that Schultz wanted to dig under hooks, control the center of the mat, and force his opponent into bad positions. It worked, for the most part, as the Hungarian absorbed three passivity calls in the opening frame, putting Cohlton on top 1-0 at the break. The two-minute periods used by the Cadets can make any mistake loom large, doubly so when the two wrestlers on the mat seem evenly matched. Team USA supporters had to have their hearts skip a beat when Schultz made a slight misstep 45 seconds into the final session, leading to a step-out that put Vatzi ahead on criteria. Unphased, Schultz stayed the course, digging for position, and finally snapping Vatzi to the mat with just 12 seconds remaining for a gold medal winning go behind. In the end, Schultz put his arms up in celebration before collapsing to the mat, overcome by his accomplishment. In addition to becoming the first American to win Greco gold here since 1997, Schultz combined with Kamal Bey to become only the second American duo to bring home Greco golds at the Cadet and Junior World Championships in the same year, the first since 1983 when the age groups were a bit different than they are today. It was just the third medal for Team USA in Greco since the revival of the Cadet World Championships in 2011, though that total could still climb tomorrow.
Before Schultz took the mat, his teammates found tough sledding. Kase Mauger (42 kg) drew the Asian silver medalist, Yerassyl Mamyrbekov (KAZ), right off the bat. Though the Idaho native battled, he lost two exchanges, one in each period, to fall, 8-0. Mamyrbekov fell on criteria, 1-1 in the quarters to eliminate Mauger. Dylan Ragusin (46 kg) opened against Mohammadho Abolhassaindaro (IRI) but had no trouble dismissing the Iranian. Ragusin only gave up two points, when he was countered working a gut wrench, turning a 4-2 lead at the break into an 11-2 tech. His road would get tougher as well as European silver medalist Anvar Allakhiarov (RUS) loomed in the semi-finals. A wild first-period scramble saw Ragusin get thrown for four, then recover for a reversal and two high guts to lead, 5-4. However, that would be the last of the scoring for Dylan as the Russian used a correct throw to lead at the break and steadily pulled away for a 10-5 lead before he earned a late fall. Allakhiarov looked strong, but he fell in the semi-finals to Nihat Mammadli (AZE), 6-2, ending Ragusin’s medal hopes.
Ashton Sharp (85 kg) was the only other American wrestler to win a match on day two, staying patient against Bagrati Iobidze as the Israeli repeatedly gave ground. The score was tied at one after the first after Sharp notched a step-out and gave one up when he missed a throw on the edge. He gained a 2-1 edge on a passivity point in the second, then finally opened Iobidze up driving through for four on the edge, then working a head-pinch for four more and a 10-1 victory. Nordic champion Juho Pahikainen (FIN) would end Sharp’s run at a gold medal, though, using a four-point arm throw in the first to establish his margin of victory in a 6-2 win. That would not be the last blow Pahikainen dealt to Sharp as the Finn frittered away a 6-0 lead to lose on criteria in the semifinals, preventing Sharp from seeing the repechage.
Mason Reiniche (69 kg) and Jake Hendricks (76 kg) both lost their opening matches to wrestlers who would eventually work their way into the gold medal matches tomorrow. Reiniche could not dig out of an early 3-0 hole against Valdyslav Kravchencko (UKR), falling 3-1 before watching the Ukrainian crush his next two opponents and survive a tight semi-final against Turkey, pulling Reiniche back into bronze medal contention. Hendricks fell to European bronze medalist Istvan Takacs (HUN) after a bad camera angle saw him lose an early challenge despite the American coaches’, who had a better look, insistence that the Hungarian had illegally grabbed Jake’s head with both hands during a scramble. Instead of a close match, Hendricks trailed 6-0 and that would be the final score. Takacs didn’t surrender a point all day, though, breathing new life into the American’s tournament.