Day 2 at Worlds: Greco went medal-less but still showed its big heart

Updated: September 8, 2015

By Mike Finn

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The four American wrestlers who came up short in their bids to medal — especially heavyweight Robby Smith, who was the only American to compete in a medal match on Tuesday night and received a standing ovation despite losing his bronze-medal bout — on Day 2 of the 2015 United World Wrestling World Championships were also left with many questions and decisions to where they fit into Greco-Roman wrestling.


Robby Smith stood at least five inches shorter than Russia's Bilyal Makhov during the bronze medal bout. (Ginger Robinson photo)

Robby Smith stood at least seven  inches shorter than Russia’s Bilyal Makhov during the bronze medal bout. (Ginger Robinson photo)

And they also made a statement, especially the 6-foot Smith — originally a 211.5 pounder — who usually is dwarfed by his heavyweight opponents, including his loss to 6-foot-5, eight-time World/Olympic champion Mijuan Lopez of Cuba in the semifinals and against the 6-foot-7 and three-time World freestyle champ Bilyal Makhov of Russia in the bronze-medal bout.

And while Smith did fall behind 7-0 to the Russian in the third-place bout, the native of Danville, Calif., showed it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog as the American heavyweight used a four-point throw and a pair of two-point tosses to nearly pull off the upset before losing, 10-8.

Smith, who settled for fifth and did qualify the weight for the 2016 Olympics, said he felt like the winner as he received a standing ovation and the Russian could barely keep his head up while recovering after the final whistle with all fours on the mat.

“I was the one standing on my feet in the end,” Smith said. “I was in better condition. It was a great match. I gave up early points. It’s hard to come back from a 6-0 deficit. I had that front headlock so tight but he got away from it.

“I had a great tournament and (am) proud of myself. It’s the best I’ve ever done at the Worlds. I showed the world that I’m a battler.”

Smith said he felt disrespected when the heavyweight weighed in Monday afternoon.

“People were talking (crap) behind my back, looking at me like ‘who is this pud?’ They always do that when they see me. I think I proved a lot of people wrong today and I deserve to be there,” recalled Smith, who also finished fifth in 2013 but split just two bouts in the 2014 Worlds.

Smith, who weighed in at 228 after a meal, said he did not care how much bigger his foes are in the heavyweight division.

“This is fun,” he said. “I like it when they are bigger, especially when they think they can beat me.”

“He showed that he bas a big heart,” said U.S. National Team coach Matt Lindland.

Spenser Mango (right) had to wait at least six hours between losing a first-round match and competing in repechage. (Ginger Robinson photo)

Spenser Mango (right) had to wait at least six hours between losing a first-round match and competing in repechage. (Ginger Robinson photo)

Another American Greco wrestler dealing with a size disadvantage is 130-pound Spenser Mango, who also began his Senior-level career competing at a lighter weight (121). He is also physically shorter than many of his foes, specially once the UWW (formerly FILA) announced two years ago that the lightest and heaviest weight classes would add nearly ten pounds to each weight class.

“I don’t know if it’s really a disadvantage,” said the 29-year-old Mango, who finished as high as fifth in past Worlds at 121 pounds in 2011 and the 2012 Olympics, but now faces men who tower over the native of St. Louis. “When I first got this new weight class, I thought it was, but the more I wrestle these bigger guys the more gas I have left in the gas tank.”

Mango, who also finished fifth at 130 pounds in the 2014 Worlds, said it was actually tougher this season having to wait nearly six hours before he knew if he qualified for the repechage (consolation) round after losing to Cuba’s Ismael Molina in a preliminary-round match. Once the Cuban reached the gold-medal match (and eventually won), Mango beat Germany’s Denis Menekse but lost by technical fall to Soslan Daurov of Belarus.

So what did Mango learn competing in his sixth World Championships?

“Just always being ready,” Mango said. “I got caught out there flat-footed and having to come back every match is tough.

Justin Lester thought he pinned Russia's Adam Kurak but lost 10-9 in his repechage bout. (Ginger Robinson photo)

Justin Lester thought he pinned Russia’s Adam Kurak but lost 10-9 in his repechage bout. (Ginger Robinson photo)

Meanwhile for Justin “Harry” Lester, who lost his final two matches after winning the first two in exciting fashion at 156 pounds and Patrick Martinez, competing in his first Worlds at 171 pounds, they have to decide what weight they will wrestle in the 2016 Olympic season considering their weights will not be included in the Rio Games.

“It’s going to suck either way,” said the 31-year-old Lester, who won two bronze medals at 145.5 pounds (in 2006 and ’07) and competed at that weight class in the 2012 Olympics, while also representing the U.S. at 74 kilos/163 pounds in the 2009 Worlds. “If I move up, I have to beat Andy Bisek, a two-time World bronze medalist (at 175). If I go down, then I have to beat the weight class. Getting down to 66 kilos was always a tough cut.”

Lester won his first two bouts, including an 8-0 whitewash against third-ranked Balint Kopasi of Hungary in the first round, but lost 8-0 to top-ranked Rasul Chunayev (Azerbaijan, who eventually won the bracket) in the quarterfinals and to Russia’s Adam Kurak in the repechage bout.

“I just wanted to have fun,” said Lester, a native of Akron, Ohio. “I put a lot of pressure on my back in other World Championships to make sure I get on that medal stand. I usually do my best when I just go out and have fun and wrestle and try to put points on the board. I think I did that, expect when Chunayev put all the points on the board. I had fun today and can walk away from this tournament, knowing that I had fun. I hope the crowd enjoyed my matches.”

While Lester was one of the most veterans of Americans competing on Tuesday, the rookie was Martinez, who lost a first-round bout to Viktar Sasunouski of Belarus, but came back to beat Julius Matuzevicius of Lithuania, 5-0 in a repechage match before losing 4-0 to Askhat Dilmukhamedov in a second consolation bout.

Patrick Martinez (right) went 1-2 in his first Worlds. (Ginger Robinson photo)

Patrick Martinez (right) went 1-2 in his first Worlds. (Ginger Robinson photo)

Six months ago, many American fans did not even know of this Division II wrestler from Nebraska-Kearney. And now in his first full year on the Senior level, Martinez won both the U.S. Open and Trials to start building his resume.

“My goal was to make a name for myself,” he said. “I put in the time and traveled overseas and got international experience and I need more of that. These foreign guys wrestle a little different style than the Americans so I need to wrestle foreigners.”

Greco-Roman wraps up its final day of competition when Jordan Holm competes at 85 kilos. Wednesday also marks the first day of action in women’s freestyle as Alyssa Lampe (48k), Whitney Conder (51k) and Elena Pirozhkova (69k) compete in the Orleans Arena.


U.S. Highlights at World Championships, Day 2

59k/130 pounds — Spenser Mango (U.S. Army WCAP/St. Louis, Mo.)

1st round — lost to Ismael Molina (Cuba), 4-2

Mango fell behind 4-0 in the first 23 seconds when the Cuban scored a takedown and two-point gut. Mango fought back to force the action and received two passivity points against Molina, but could not score any additional points with the two par-terre advantages. Molina went on to win four straight bouts to send Mango to repechage.

Repechage — def. Deniz Menekse (Germany), 4-4 criteria

By virtue of scoring the final two points off a takedown at the 4:26 mark gave Mango the victory. Mango jumped out a 2-0 lead by scoring off a front headlock in par terre in the first period.

Repechage — lost by TF to Soslan Daurov (Belarus), 8-0

Mango’s tournament ended when Daurov threw him for four points in the first 28 seconds, then added two more as Mango came off the mat before Daurov ended the match with another takedown at the 0:47 mark.

Gold Medal Match — Ismael Borrero Molina (Cuba) won by TF over Rovshan Bayramov (Azerbaijan), 8-0

Bronze Medal Match — Won Chol Yun (D.P.R. Korea) won by TF over Arsen Eraliev (Kyrgyzstan), 8-0

Bronze Medal Match — Almat Kebispayev (Kazakhstan) pinned Soslan Daurov (Belarus), 1:51


71k/156 pounds — Justin “Harry” Lester (U.S. Army WCAP/Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio)

1st round — won by TF over Balint Korpasi (Hungary), 8-0

Lester stunned the World’s third-ranked wrestler when the two-time bronze medalist used a pair of throws — a headlock at the 2:24 mark and an over-hook throw at 4:02 — to win this match. Lester nearly got taken down in the first 20 seconds after Korpasi countered an arm throw by Lester, but the missed throw was called a slip. Korpasi also had a chance to score from offensive points from par terre against Lester at the 1:40 mark but no points were scored.

2nd round — def. Yunus Saba Ozel (Turkey), 8-6

Down 4-0 at intermission, Lester opened up the second period with a quick four-point throw, and then added a step out by the eighth-ranked Turk before adding a takedown and video protest point at the 4:19 mark. The Turk made it close when he scored on a step out and passivity point against Lester, but could not score any more points with a par-terre advantage.

Quarterfinal — lost by TF to Rasul Chunayev (Azerbaijan), 8-0

After a scoreless first period, the World’s top-ranked wrestler abruptly ended the match when he took advantage of Lester’s passivity and threw the American to his back for a five-point throw at the 3:43 mark, then used another two-point throw and gut 15 seconds later.

Repechage —lost to Adam Kurak (Russia), 10-9

All the points were scored in the first period and Lester held a pair of leads — 4-2 off an arm throw 44 seconds into the match and 9-6 after Lester used an effective overhook followed by a step out by the Russian — before Kurak scored a takedown and two-point exposure in the final 30 seconds.

Gold Medal Match — Rasul Chunayev (Azerbaijan) dec. Armen Vardanyan (Ukraine), 6-4

Bronze Medal Match — Adam Kurak (Russia) dec. Tsimur Berdyieu (Belarus), 4-0

Bronze Medal Match — Knut Zakarias Tallroth (Sweden) dec. Matthias Maasch (Germany), 3-0


80k/176 pounds — Patrick Martinez (U.S. Army WCAP/Temecula, Calif.)

1st round — lost to Viktar Sasunouski (Belarus), 4-2

The World’s fifth-ranked Sasunouski used an effective headlock and put Martinez on his back for a 4-0 lead 52 seconds into the match before Martinez was able to get off his back and scored a one-point reversal a minute later. Martinez earned his final point when the Belarus wrestler stepped out of bounds. Sasunouski went on to win three more bouts to reach the finals and guaranteed Martinez a spot in repechage.

Repechage — def. Julius Matuzevicius (Lithuania), 5-0

Martinez scored all his points in the second period, first one point for passivity by his opponent and then added four more on a bear hug at the 4:22 mark.

Repechage — lost to Askhat Dilmukhamedov (Kazahkstan), 4-0

All the points were scored in the first period off a pair of two-point takedowns.

Gold Medal Match — Selcuk Cebi (Turkey) dec. Viktar Sasunouski (Belarus), 2-0

Bronze Medal Match — Yousef Ahmad Ghaderian (Iran) dec. Askhat Dilmukhamedov (Kazakhstan), 2-0

Bronze Medal Match — Lasha Gobadze (Georgia) won by TF over Samat Shirdakov (Kyrgyzstan), 8-0


130k/286.5 pounds — Robby Smith (NYAC/Danville, Calif.)

1st round — pinned Muminjon Abdullaev (Uzbekistan), 5:49

Smith used an effective bear hug to take Abdullaev straight to his back after leading 9-4, but the American more effectively used a front headlock at the 4:24 mark to score six straight points and take an 8-4 lead. Abdullaev led 4-0 at intermission when he used an effective gut from par terre at the 2:43 mark.

2nd round — def. Eduard Popp (Germany), 6-2

Smith opened the match with a two-point arm throw, but it was a video review with 20 seconds left in the first period, which indicated a defensive leg foul while Smith attempted a front headlock, that reversed a call and gave Smith a 4-2 lead heading into intermission. Smith completed the win when he scored a takedown one minute into the second period.

Quarterfinals — def. Murat Ramonov (Kyrgyzstan), 1-1 criteria

By virtue of scoring the second passivity call against Ramonov at the 3:47 mark — after giving up a passivity point 15 seconds earlier — Smith earned the victory. Both Smith and Ramonov earned par-terre scoring opportunities in the first period but neither could score.

Semifinal — lost by TF to Mijian Lopez (Cuba), 8-0

Once the two-time Olympic champion and five-time World champ earned a par-terre advantage against Smith, the Cuban needed ten seconds to score four straight gut wrenches to end the match at the 1:17 mark.

Bronze Medal — lost to Bilyal Makhov (Russia),10-8

It was hard to see who was the winner and who was the loser as Smith acknowledged the cheers and the Russian could only hang his head while he remained on all fours as the match ended.

The Russian, a three-time World freestyle champion, jumped out to a 7-0 lead and was about to score a step out against the American. But, Smith ignored his position on the mat against the taller Makhov and threw the Russian to his back and trailed 7-2 heading into intermission. In the second period, Smith outscored Makhov 6-3, including a four-point move, where he appeared to throw the Russian on his back for a fall, at the 4:39 mark, which cut the margin to 9-8. The final point for Makhov came when Smith stepped out with 32 seconds left.

Gold Medal Match — Riza Kayaalp (Turkey) dec. Mijain Lopez (Cuba) (Dec 1-0)

Bronze Medal Match — Oleksandr Chernetskyy (Ukraine) pinned Sabahi Shariati (Azerbaijan), 1:12