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Men's International Wrestling

Six Takeaways from the Team USA Freestylers at Poland Open

Cliff Keen Wrestling Club athlete Alec Pantaleo. Photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo. 

Team USA sent a reasonably strong delegation to the 2021 Poland Open. On the men’s freestyle side of things, the Red, White, and Blue walked away with seven medals: 3 Gold, 2 Silver, and 2 Bronze after Day Two of action in Warsaw, Poland. 

There were plenty of storylines, both impressive and not so impressive, from Team USA’s men’s freestyle performances. 

Here are TOM’s six takeaways from the Team USA men’s freestyle showing. 

+ Alec Pantaleo keeps on rolling! Pantaleo looks like he’s on another level right now. In Poland, Pantaleo stormed to another gold medal, racking up a big “upset” win. The former Michigan standout defeated a World champion in the semifinals to set up the all-U.S. finals. Pantaleo downed Azerbaijan’s three-time World champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Haji Aliyev, 6-6. Pantaleo’s Poland crown comes just weeks after an equally dominant Pan-Am gold medal as well. At Pan-Am earlier this month, he shut out the field en route to reaching the top of the podium. 

+ J’den Cox didn’t exactly “unleash the wrath of God” on his opponents as he said he would do in an interview after the Olympic Team Trials weigh-in mishap. The former 2016 Olympic bronze medalist dropped a tough 2-1 decision in the semifinals to Illia Archaia of Ukraine. Cox then forfeited out of the Poland Open. J’den’s loss was arguably the biggest upset of the entire event.

+ The most egregious of all the happenings in Warsaw was the second-round matchup at 65 kg between Yianni Diakomihalis (USA) and Ismail Musukaev (HUN), which saw the Hungarian emerge victorious by way of a 7-6 decision.

Simply put, there were many questionable calls. I feel the refs decided this result rather than the wrestlers themselves. Here were some issues I had with the way the match was called:

How was Musukaev not put on the activity clock at any point in period one? After Musukaev earned a takedown at the 30-second mark of the first period, he failed to make any legitimate offensive attacks for the remainder of the first period. He fled from action.

The step-out/throw situation by Yianni that occurred with 2 minutes and 37 seconds remaining in the match is a prime example of the subjectivity that can exist within freestyle wrestling, mainly related to continuation. I would have given four points there for Yianni’s throw and exposure.

How can Musukaev repeatedly get away with stalling so blatantly? As FloWrestling’s Jon Kozak pointed out, Musukaev took 2 minutes and 53 seconds of injury time in his match against Yianni. And, 2:42 of that was in the second period. Additionally, the bout was stopped twice in the last 30 seconds. According to Kozak’s calculations, it took 45 seconds to get back to the middle in those two stoppages. That is simply absurd.

There was another flurry and subsequent throw that happened at the 2:10 mark of the match. During said throw, Musukaev picks up and throws Yianni and is awarded four points with exposure. However, as you can see quite clearly, Yianni’s shoulders never come close to touching the mat. There was no exposure, yet he was awarded points.

Ok, my rant is now over as far as Diakomihalis vs. Musukaev round II is concerned. Yianni was robbed.

Ironically, though, as you can see, this match had some similarities to their last matchup at the 2019 Yasar Dogu. At Yasar Dogu, there were equally puzzling and head-scratching calls. Watch both matches below. 

Yianni vs. Musukaev in 2019 at Yasar Dogu can be seen here

Yianni vs. Musukaev from the 2021 Poland Open can be seen here

+ Regrettably, another key takeaway was that Nick Suriano didn’t make it to Warsaw as was initially expected. The former Rutgers 2019 NCAA champ has had a run of bad luck lately. A positive COVID-19 test forced him out of the Olympic Team Trials. While the reason behind Suriano’s absence this week has been kept under wraps, it’s unfortunate not to see him take the mat. 

+ Gwiz’s finals match against Amir Hossein Abbas Zare (Iran)…talk about boring. It just felt like it was your typically heavyweight match, complete with lots of pushing and shoving. While you never want to see an American take the L, Gwiz couldn’t get into any semblance of an offensive rhythm at any point in the match. 

+ Not a big fan of how prevalent these injury defaults have become. It seems far too commonplace at this point that a guy takes a loss, then defaults out of the event. Understandably, some of these are legitimate and due to injury, but often these defaults are not. There’s nothing more anti-climactic than a forfeit in the medal round. 

Nathan Tomasello had the right approach with his comments after the Olympic Team Trials when he voiced his displeasure about the increasingly frequent instances of forfeiting after a tough loss. See NATO’s remarks here

For men’s freestyle results from 2021 Poland Open – Day One click here.

For men’s freestyle results from 2021 Poland Open – Day Two click here.

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