photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com
We are about a week away from the start of the Senior World Championships from Budapest, Hungary and before we preview that event, TOM will take a look back at 2017. The Men’s Freestyle team won their first title since 1995 and finished with two world champions and six medalists overall. The women’s side, led by Helen Maroulis, won three medals. Here are ten of the top matches from that tournament that involved American wrestlers.
10) Greco 130 kg Round of 32 – Robbie Smith (USA) over Tamas Soos (Slovakia) Fall 1:54
Unfortunately this was a rough tournament for our Greco team; however, Robbie Smith had a beautiful throw and pin that is indeed worth a second look. Smith took an early 2-0 lead on his Slovakian counterpart after a passivity call and a step out. Robbie continued to push the pace and controlled ties which led him to an over/under bodylock. He used this hold to throw Soos to his back and secure a fall shortly after that.
9) Women’s 55 kg Bronze Medal Match – Becka Leathers (USA) over Bilyana Dudova (Bulgaria) 4-2
From the outset of the match Leathers was the aggressor, getting to the Bulgarian’s legs on two separate occasions, without being able to finish. Leathers pace forced the official to put Dudova on the shot clock. That would light a fire under Dudova, who fired off a double leg attack, and a takedown appeared to be a sure thing. Leathers, however, fought through the position, squared up and reshot with a dump herself, which led to the first two points of the contest. During the same flurry, Becka was able to turn her opponent for another two points. She would take that four-point advantage into the second period.
In the second period, Leathers was more defensive, which resulted in being put on the shot clock. No points were scored during the 30 seconds, so Dudova finally got on the board, now trailing 4-1. The second point for Dudova was obtained after a pushout with four seconds left on the clock. Leather would go on to win and clinch her first Senior level world medal 4-2.
8) Men’s Freestyle 86 kg Round of 16 – J’Den Cox (USA) over Ville Heino (Finland) 9-6
Almost directly after the opening whistle J’Den Cox gave up a takedown after an arm throw to Campbell alum Ville Heino and two sets of exposure points to trail 6-0. Cox, who can have difficulty opening up against top competition, looked to be in trouble, less than 30 seconds into the match. J’Den, however, was undeterred, grabbing a knee pull single. Heino was attempting to fight off the hold from a quad-pod position and was rolled through by Cox for four points, putting him right back in the match. The 6-4 lead for Heino is how the first period would end. J’Den then took a page from Heino’s book and attacked off the whistle. He used a big double leg which stunned the Finnish wrestler, who had to bail out to avoid exposure. The pair was stood up after an attempt at a loose leg lace by Cox. Though he was ahead on criteria, Cox took the lead on the scoreboard after a sweep single and his retrieval of the second leg. A pushout with 44 seconds remaining in the match made the score 9-6, which was how they ended. J’Den was able to complete his remarkable comeback and put himself in position capture his second World/Olympic medal.
7) Men’s Freestyle 70 kg semis – James Green (USA) over Yuhi Fujinami (Japan) 5-3
Like Cox mentioned before him, James Green got down quickly in his semifinal match against a very tough Japanese opponent. Fujinami used one of Green’s staple moves a double leg, to take a 2-0 lead 30 seconds into the match. Green responded quickly with a single leg of his own, finished the maneuver and took a 2-2 lead, based on criteria. Another single leg, almost a carbon copy of the first, gave the American a 4-2 cushion. James was able to deftly escape another takedown attempt by Fujinami in the closing seconds of the first period to keep his 4-2 lead.
Early in the third Green nearly registered the third takedown from his single leg, but the Japanese wrestler was able to hop out of danger. In the match’s closing seconds Fujinami was attempting to finish a shot at the edge of the match. Green used the splits to avoid giving up a takedown and stepped out of bounds. The Japanese contingent challenged the call, which led to a review that confirmed the call. An extra point was added to Green’s tally for a 5-3 win. James would advance to his second world final.
6) Men’s Freestyle 125 kg quarters – Nick Gwiazdowski (USA) over Yadollah Mohebi (Iran) 5-4
Just five seconds into his march Nick Gwiazdowski fired off his first shot and was able to finish a single leg for two points. Gwiazdowski would continue to push the pace which led to a pair of passivity calls on Mohebi. The Iranian did not score when he was placed on the shot clock which results in a third point for the American. The second period started with more of the same from Nick, as he scored a second takedown, this time with a sweep single moving the score up to 5-0. With about a minute and a half remaining in the match, Gwiazdowski continued to be the aggressor and used another leg attack. This time he was stuffed and caught underneath the larger Iranian. Mohebi was able to spin for two points and bring his deficit to 5-2. With under thirty seconds remaining in the match, Gwiazdowski attacked with a reshot that was countered for a second takedown for Mohebi. Nick held his ground from par terre, was not turned and earned a spot in the semifinals.
5) Men’s Freestyle 57 kg semis – Thomas Gilman (USA) over Hakjin Jong (North Korea) 5-4
Although there was no scoring in the first 45 seconds of the match, there was plenty of aggressive hand-fighting and massive clubs being exchanged between the two wrestlers. Gilman was able to strike first after getting to his patented single leg and running Jong off the edge for a point. Shortly after that scenario, Jong was then put on the shot clock, due to Gilman’s continued action. Jong was not able to penetrate Gilman’s defense and now trailed 2-0, which was the score at the break. Gilman found himself trailing for the first time after Jong racked up a takedown after a low-leg attack. In the next exchange, Jong continued to shoot and drove the Iowa native out of bounds for a 3-2 lead. Undeterred, Gilman got in on another single which was nicely defended by Jong, who then found himself in trouble after Thomas switched to a body lock. It appears that the sequence following the body lock could have been scored as four points, the American bench decided not to challenge and was content with Gilman’s 4-3 advantage. Once again Gilman picked up a point for a push out after elevating a single leg. Jong returned the favor with a with a pushout, cutting into Gilman’s lead 5-4. That is how the match would end, and Gilman would earn a spot in the world finals, just five months after his college career came to a close.
4) Men’s Freestyle 60 kg semis – Alli Ragan (USA) over Anastasija Grigorjeva (Latvia) Fall 4:36
It took just over a minute for the Latvian to take a 1-0 lead, the result of a push out. Alli then took the lead after Grigorjeva missed an awkward trip attempt. The 2-1 score was how the two would go into the break. The second period opened up with Grigorjeva on the attack and pushing Ragan out for a point. Alli still held the lead on criteria due to her two-point score. Though both wrestlers were aggressive Ragan was put on the shot clock while clinging to her 2-2 lead. She would fall behind 3-2 after failing to score during the ensuing 30 seconds. Right after the shot clock expired, Ragan threw a colossal headlock which caught the Latvian off-guard and Alli was able to capitalize and earn the fall. The win put her into the world finals for a second consecutive year.
3) 58 kg Gold Medal Match – Helen Maroulis (USA) over Marwa Amri (Tunisia) 11-0
Unlike all of the other matches on this list, this result here was never in doubt, it was just fun to watch Helen dominate. Early in the match, Maroulis was able to hit one of her favorite attacks, a throw-by to a footsweep. It was timed and executed perfectly for four points, and she was almost able to earn a fall. Amri was able to fight off her back and decided to shoot once they were on their feet. Maroulis countered for another takedown and a commanding 6-0 lead. After a point for a step out, Maroulis then sidestepped a low shot attempt by Amri for another takedown. A leg lace after the takedown ended the match by technical superiority 11-0 in favor of Helen. The win provided Maroulis with her third World/Olympic Championship in as many years.
2) Men’s Freestyle 74 kg Gold Medal Match – Jordan Burroughs (USA) over Khetik Tsabolov (Russia) 9-6
This was the match that completed Jordan’s return to the top of the mountain at 74 kg vs. Khetik Tsabolov, a 2014 world champion. The match started off quickly, and both wrestlers were offensive. They traded two-point scored back and forth, with Burroughs ahead on criteria 4-4 after the first period. While ahead by a point with a minute remaining the Russian took a half-shot, which Jordan easily countered for a takedown to lead. Not content to hang onto for a possible one-point win, Burroughs was on the offensive and hit one of his trademark doubles to seal the match 9-6. In addition to his fifth World/Olympic title, the win also put Team USA in position to win a title of their own, while hurting Russia’s chances, in the process.
1) Men’s Freestyle 97 kg Gold Medal Match – Kyle Snyder (USA) over Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia) 6-5
There was no suspense as to which match would earn the top ranking. Two Olympic and World Champions were meeting with the team championship on the line. Sadulaev came into the match undefeated at the Senior level. Not a problem for Kyle Snyder, however. It only took 15 seconds for Sadulaev to get a takedown at the edge and jump out to a 2-0 lead. A key at this point for Snyder was avoiding the Russian’s gut wrench, which was considered one of the best in the world. Kyle would come back and get on the scoreboard with a pushout at 44 seconds. After a Sadulaev point for a push out, Snyder got his first takedown by dodging a shot at the edge for two points and a 3-3 lead on criteria. That is the score when the two went to the break.
Throughout the match, Snyder imposed his will with heavy hands and controlling ties which would come in to play later as Sadulaev began to tire. After a flurry in which both wrestlers appeared to be inches away from a takedown, Sadulaev initiated a new low attack at the mat’s edge for two points and a 5-3 lead. With only 40 seconds left in the match, Snyder changed levels on a shot and forced the Russian out for a push out point, cutting into the lead 5-4. The worn down Sadulaev took a poor shot with about 30 seconds remaining in the match and Snyder was able to capitalize and take a 6-5 lead. Sadulaev was not able to mount a final push and the bout ended 6-5, giving Snyder his third World/Olympic Championship and the American team its first title in men’s freestyle in 22 years.