Greetings, wrestling fan. We'll start this week's recap with Frank Molinaro's bid to make the Olympics.
Istanbul, Not Constantinople
Frank Molinaro DEC 3-2 Devid Safaryan (Armenia)
Frank Molinaro DEC 7-6 Yuhi Fukinami (Japan)
Boris Novachkov (Bulgaria) DEC 5-2 Frank Molinaro
Frank Molinaro DEC 4-1 Dauren Zhumagaziev (Kazakstan)
BRONZE: Frank Molinaro DEC 5-2 Azamat Nurikov (Belorus)
Gorilla Hulk came up short Sunday in Istanbul, Turkey, in his bid to make the Rio Olympics. As previously noted, only the two finalists at this tournament would qualify - and there would be no wrestle-off to determine a true 2nd place. Win, or die. That setup turned out to be really crappy.
Frank opened with 2013 World Gold Medalist Devid Safaryan. How's that for an opening draw? It didn't bother Frank at all, as he scored on a push-out, and a countershot takedown in the first period. He won 3-2.
For his second match, he got Yuhi Fukinami, the 2015 Junior World Silver medalist. This was a wild one, with Frank mounting a furious comeback, and winning 7-6. Fukinami challenged at the end, but the call was upheld, pushing our Lion into the quarterfinals.
There, he faced a familiar name - Boris Novachkov. Novachkov wrestled at Cal-Poly, and still trains at Stanford, though he now wears a Bulgarian singlet. Novachkov defended Frank's left-handed high crotch, and turned him for two critical exposure in the first period - the same thing Frank did to Brent Metcalf at Team Trials. Those points, along with 2 passivity points, staked Novachkov to a 4-0 lead over our guy - and it was too much to overcome. Novachkov advanced 5-2, and then won the tournament going away. In fact, he didn't even have to wrestle the final, as his opponent, Canada's Haislan Garcia, default with a separated shoulder. So, if there had been a wrestle-off for a true second, Frank probably takes it, because Frank won Bronze in the wrestlebacks (along with another familiar name, David Habat, who wrestled for Tim Flynn at Edinboro, but now represents Slovakia). But, again - there was no wrestle-off. So instead, you're simply dead.
In the last month, after stepping up from the coach's chair, Frank's beaten (deep breath): world #17 Brent Metcalf, world #12 Logan Stieber, world #11 Aaron Pico, 2013 Gold medalist Safaryan, 2015 Silver medalist Fukinami, and world #6 Azamat Nurikov. His only two losses were to double medalist (2014 and 15) Yakup Gor on a ridiculous takedown call, and Novachkov, on one high crotch gone wrong.
Unfortunately, that's the paper-thin difference at the "planet Earth" level. Especially in an Olympic year, and especially in these "new" Olympics, which feature just 6 freestyle weight classes, instead of the usual
10 8 7. The 65KG weight class had entrants from 61KG and 70KG, over-crowding an already elite field (which included Frank, who wrestled at 70KG).
So what's next? Not much. There's an "at-large" selection remaining, but it seems Frank's chances of receiving one of those is similar to the chances that Lloyd Christmas has with Mary Swanson. The qualification process for 2016 Rio began last year, not last month, and Team USA whiffed on each of those home-court chances (2015 Worlds held in Las Vegas, 2015 Pan Ams held in Houston). These two "last chance(s)" qualifiers in Mongolia and Turkey were meant to be exactly that - last chance(s). So Frank began this bid behind the 8-ball, and appears to have finished as painfully close to making it as possible, without actually making it. And that really, really stinks.
Student + Athlete
Once again, Penn State led the way in the classroom as well on the mat. A nation-leading six Nittany Lions topped the prestigious NWCA All-Americans list, including individual national champions Nico Megaludis and Zain Retherford. Jordan Conaway, Jason Nolf, Geno Morelli, and Matt McCutcheon also earned the honor. That's 60% of PSU's starting lineup, by the way.
Penn State also finished 9th in team gpa (3.255), fewer than 2-tenths behind national leader and notorious grade-inflator Harvard (3.415). Your Nittany Lions were the only school in both the GPA Top 10 as well as the national tournament Top 10. PSU, of course, also topped the conference, as the only Big Ten school within the top 10.
Said NWCA President Mike Moyer, "Coach Sanderson has done a remarkable job in not just recruiting fine wrestlers, but recruiting outstanding student-athletes. It's something we as a sport can point to when we see our championship programs not just bringing home hardware on the wrestling mat, but doing it in the classroom as well."
Indeed. This team lets you eat your cake and have it, too.
Plowing the Field
Abdulrashid Sadulaev, the 2x reigning world champion at 86kg, has plowed the international field of competition, leveling everything in his path. Here is a video he posted of himself plowing his grandfather's field in rural Dagestan, trailing a horse and an old steel-v not used in the States since 1883. "Grandfather doesn't excuse training for Olympiad lol lol lol" is the caption, complete with modern emoticons.
Hard not to cheer for that guy. Pretty nice landscape, too. But hopefully J'Den Cox is busy shoulder pressing an old ox cart.
Beat The Streets
Watch top international level wrestling on a raised platform in Times Square. The event, Beat The Streets, is pretty cool, and has featured Ed Ruth and David Taylor in past years. This year's lineup is pretty cool, too, as you get to watch Jordan Burroughs beat the tar out of an Iranian. FloWrestling will be broadcasting live, for a fee.
Long-time Easton Red Rovers head coach Steve Powell hung up his coach's whistle. Easton always had a good program, but Powell took the Rovers to new heights. One of the first of Powell's charges we remember well was Jamarr Billman, who came to Penn State in the summer of 1997 and immediately found a home in Coach Fritz's lineup. He was electric on his feet, and fearless. Here's Billman as a true frosh at Carver Hawkeye, facing national champ Jeff McGinness.
This isn't worth any points in the mat, but Ed Ruth should get something for the way he installs a washing machine. Nice back arch, but we're most impressed with the grip.
Danny Vega - once committed to Grand Canyon, but left homeless when that school dropped its program - signed with Kevin Jackson and Iowa State.
Jason Bryant's MattalkOnline.com network of podcasts has a fun listen with former Penn Stater and current Lock Haven head coach Scott Moore, hosted by Earl from D1CollegeWrestling.net . Moore's bringing the Bald Eagles back from the dead, posting an All-American (Dan Neff) in 2015, and scoring an awfully nice 2016 recruiting class (transfers Thomas Haines, Pat Duggan, plus freshmen Tyshawn White, Tyson Klump, and Jonathan Ross, among others). Oh by the way - Chance Marsteller just transferred there, too. (Get ready to run hills, fellas.)