April 22nd-24th: First World Olympic Qualifier
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April 22nd-24th: First World Olympic Qualifier

The last chances to qualify for the Rio Games started in Mongolia.

April 22nd-24th: First World Olympic Qualifier
Tony Rotundo/WrestlersAreWarriors.com

This past weekend TeamUSA sent all 9 of the unqualified weights to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for the First “Last Chance” World Olympic Games Qualifier. The champions at the US Olympic Team Trials took matters in their own hands and sought to qualify and earn their bid to be an Olympian. In MFS/GR, the top-3 wrestlers qualified while the top-2 in WFS qualified. The tournament was run with a repechage, where losers to the eventual finalists are allowed to wrestleback for 3rd place.

Competing for the US: Name/Style(GR,WFS,MFS) Weight-Class

Jesse Thielke/GR59KG,

RaVaughn Perkins/GR66KG,

Josef Rau/GR98KG,

Haley Augello/WFS48KG,

Helen Maroulis/WFS53KG,

Kelsey Campbell/WFS58KG,

Tamyrah Mensah/WFS69KG,

Frank Molinaro/MFS65KG,

J’Den Cox/MFS86KG

Greco-Roman competed on Friday the 22nd, Women’s Freestyle on Saturday, and Men’s Freestyle on Sunday.

On Friday, Greco started off well … and then crashed hard. Jesse Thielke was in complete control, up 5-0 against Sharma of India around the midway point of the match. In a lapse in defense, Sharma was able to get double-unders and throw Thielke all the way through, cutting the lead to 5-4 USA. In short-time, Thielke gave up double-unders again, and was forced to turn down against Sharma’s throw-by, losing 4-6. When Sharma was leveled 0-12 against Modos of Hungary, Thielke was eliminated from competition.

At 66KG, RaVaughn Perkins rattled off two, strategic 8-0 technical falls (wrestling equivalent of a “TKO”) against Austria’s Puffer and Kazakhstan's Ainagulov. In the quarters Perkins dropped a close 2-3 scrap to Finland’s Vaelimaeki. With the Finnish wrestler making the finals (eventually finishing Silver), Perkins was pulled back into the repechage, and got right back on track, winning again by 8-0 Technical Fall to make it into the colloquial consolation semi-final. There, Perkins put up another shut-out, this time a 7-0 Greater Superiority win. In the True Bronze match, Venckaitis (Lithuania) topped the US-rep 5-0, leaving TeamUSA on the outside looking in to the Rio Games at 66KG.

Josef Rau, 98KG, went 0-1 after dropping a 1-4 match to Schoen of Sweden in the opening round. Unfortunately, Sweden would lose in the semi-finals, ending the US run at 98kg short.

Saturday, at WFS48KG, Haley Augello came out onto the world scene and lit it up, topping Chyryk of Belarus 12-1, Finland’s Savola 10-0, and Ukraine’s Livach 10-0 to qualify for the Olympics and make the tournament finals in dominating fashion. Augello would come up short of the perfect weekend, however, losing in the finals 2-9 to Kim of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The silver-lining is we’ll be able to avenge the loss in Rio.

At 53KG, 2014 55KG World Bronze, 2015 55KG World Champion Helen Maroulis dominated her way to the finals as well. She beat Excoto (Mexico) 8-2, Babita (India) 10-0 in the quarterfinals, and Horishna 4-0 FALL to qualify for the Rio Games and get into the finals as well. There, Maroulis continued to dominate, blanking Prevolakari (Greece) 10-0 to win Gold.

(Helen Maroulis, champion for USA at WFS53KG; Photo: Sachiko Hotaka, United World Wrestling)

2012 Olympian at 55KG (prior to the weight-class change) Kelsey Campbell came up short in the WFS58KG category, losing in the opening round to Hungary’s Barka 1-1 on criteria. Barka would then lose to Bullen of Norway and eliminate Campbell from competition.

Tamyrah Mensah, WFS69KG, made it to the semi-finals, losing a heartbreaker 5-6 to Israel’s Kratysh. To start her run, Mensah topped Navjot (India) 10-0 and Zutova (Azerbaijan) 10-7. After losing to Kratysh (Israel’s first female wrestling Olympian) in the all-or-nothing Olympic qualifying semis (remember, for WFS, only the finalists qualify for Rio), Mensah bounced-back in the Bronze medal match by blanking Mexico’s Gonzalez 7-0. With score totals like that, I am not too worried about Mensah’s chances to qualify.

Sunday the 24th, Frank Molinaro MFS65KG started the Stars and Stripes off with a 12-0 Tech Fall over Vietnam’s Nguyen. Unfortunately, Molinaro would lose a 4-6 scrap to the 2015 World Bronze Medalist at MFS70KG, Gor of Turkey, in the next round. When Gor lost to Adam Batirov of Bahrain (by way of Russia) in the semi-finals, 2-7, Molinaro’s trip was cut short of qualifying for the Games.

At 86KG, 2016 197lbs NCAA D1 Champion for the University of Missouri J’Den Cox continued to shine on the Freestyle stage as he scored 11-0, 10-0 technical falls over Armenia and Greece. In the quarterfinals, Cox won a close 4-1 match over Poland’s Zbigniew Baranowski (not to be confused with Tommy Baranowski of Bloodround wrestling podcast), where Cox scored a late 2pt Takedown to ice the match.

In the Olympic qualifying semi-final, Cox out-savvied Uzbekistan’s Ismanov early, showing strong defense when he almost gave up an early slide-by takedown. Ismanov would continue to use the overhook slide-by technique often over the duration of the match. After giving up a shot-clock violation point early in the 1st period, Cox scored a short-time takedown to lead 2-1 after the 1st. With 1 minute to go in the final (2nd) period, J’Den Cox gave up another caution (3 cautions = Disqualification) and shot-clock violation point to lead 3-2. With 30 on the clock, Cox got to the leg again and scored on a similar single-leg, icing the match and locking up his trip to Rio with a 5-2 victory for USA.

Waiting in the finals would be talented Venezuelan Ceballos Fuentes. Not to be deterred, J'Den Cox scored on a shot-clock violation (1 point), step-out (1pt), and two powerful takedowns (2x2pts) to top Ceballos Fuentes 6-0 and capture the Gold.

Also in the field at MFS65KG were All-Americans Boris Novachkov (a CA HS State Champion, NCAA Runner-up for Cal Poly-SLO), representing his native-country Bulgaria, and Dave Habat (NCAA Runner-up for Edinboro University), representing his native-country Slovenia. Novachkov made it to the semis before losing an action-packed 4-5 bout to Iakobishvili (Georgia). Habat, after losing to the aforementioned Adam Batirov (BRN) in the quarters, came back and beat his Romanian opponent soundly, 6-1. In the consolation semi-finals, Novachkov met 2013 World Champion from Armenia, Devid Safaryan, while Habat met the familiar Gor (TUR). Winners here would wrestle for the Bronze (Olympic qualifying) medal.

Novachkov and Safaryan exchanged attacks, but no score early in the bout. Leading 1-0, Novachkov powered through an outside double-leg and converted for 2points. Transitioning quickly, Novachkov locked up an ankle-lace and rolled Safaryan through to an 11-0 Technical Fall to make it into the Bronze match. In the subsequent consolation-semi match, Habat dropped a hard-fought 0-6 match to Gor of Turkey. This would set up a Novachkov-Gor Bronze medal showdown to qualify for the Olympics. Sure enough, Gor would qualify after beating Novachkov 4-2. The returning World medalist took out all three reps with United States ties (Frank Molinaro, USA; Dave Habat, Slovenia via Ohio; Boris Novachkov, Bulgaria via California), which will make for an interesting field in Istanbul in two weeks.

In addition to Novachkov, George Ivanov (Top12 at NCAA D1 for Boise State, 2x NCAA D2 Top3) also represented Bulgaria, at MFS74KG. Ivanov earned an Olympic berth on the back of a 10-7 win over Nagy (Hungary) in the semi-finals. Up 7-0 after a period, Ivanov put his folkstyle “match management” skills to use as he gave up two step-outs to lead 7-2. When Nagy was able to high-leg over Ivanov’s front-headlock go-behind and score a takedown (2 points), he went to work and scored exposure (2 points), to bring the match to 7-6 BUL. With time nearing 10 seconds remaining, Nagy attempted one last gutwrench to give him the lead. Ivanov was able to step over the attempt before getting reversed. The sequence was (correctly) scored 2 Ivanov, 1 Nagy, making it, 9-7 Bulgaria. When Nagy’s corner challenged the call and lost, it would end 10-7 for Ivanov.

In the finals, Demirtas (TUR) put the hammer on Ivanov, making it 2-0 for Turkey over Bulgaria on the session. Demirtas scored on multiple push-outs and takedowns to secure Gold over Ivanov 12-1.

Those who do not qualify at the 1st World Olympic Games Qualifier have one final chance, at the May 6th-8th 2nd and Final World Olympic Games Qualifier, hosted in Istanbul, Turkey. Kelsey Campbell recently tweeted that she is headed directly from Mongolia to Turkey to train for her final chance to qualify the weight-class. The Gold and Silver finishers in Istanbul will qualify for the Rio Olympics. TeamUSA is now at 12/18 weights-qualified, with GR59, GR66, GR98, WFS58, WFS69, and MFS65 still to qualify.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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