BUDAPEST, HUNGARY — The United States is leading Russia 120-113 after the first two days of competition with many thanks to the man in the cover photo. The US has 185 and Russia 193 possible points remaining.
David Taylor has waited four years since graduating college to make a world team. In 2014 he lost in the trials finals to Jordan Burroughs. In 2015 to Kyle Dake. In 2016 to Kyle Dake. In 2017 to J’Den Cox. Finally, the Magic Man has found himself representing the United States. And he made absolutely sure to make the most of it.
Opening the tournament against reigning World and Olympic champion, Hassan Yazdani of Iran, Taylor fell behind in the first period but poured it on in the second for an 11-6 win. For non-wrestling enthusiasts, the top four wrestlers are seeded and the rest of the bracket is randomly drawn. If you’re wondering why the retuning world champ wasn’t seeded, it is because he did not compete in enough “qualifying” events. Thus, the two favorites met in the first round.
After Yazdani, Taylor scored dominating wins over Belarus 10-0 and Cuba 8-0. This set up a semifinal with another top athlete, Dauren Kurugliev of Russia. Again falling behind after the first, Taylor used his superior conditioning, a staple in US-Russia matches, to control the second period and come away with a 7-5 win.
The finals match would be all Taylor. He conceded one takedown, but that was not enough for Fatih Erdin of Turkey. Taylor overmatched the Turk to the tune of a 12-2 technical fall. Taylor has been one of the best in the world for several years but has not had an opportunity to showcase it on the biggest international stage. He certainly did not disappoint.
At 61kg, Joe Colon was a late replacement for Nahshon Garrett, who tore his pectoral muscle rendering him unable to compete. Last year the US did not score any points at 61kg, and with Colon being a “backup”, anything would help. How about a bronze medal?
Earning a bye in the first round on account of his four seed, Colon used some exciting upper-body moves to down Ivan Bileichuk of Ukraine in the round of 16. In the quarters Colon matched up against Vladimir Dubov, the ever-tough competitor from Bulgaria. Despite past accomplishments favoring Dubov, Colon wasted no time and frankly destroyed the Bulgarian veteran 10-0.
Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez is 34 years old and a previous two-time bronze medalist. A fan favorite for his high-flying style, some may have considered the Cuban too old to continue competing at such a high level. Facing Joe Colon in the semis, the two exchanged a few scores but ultimately “YBR” prevailed 9-4 with a sweet feet-to-back four pointer.
After losing in the semi-finals, wrestlers drop to the bronze medal match. There they face winner of their half of the “repechage”. There is no strict double elimination like NCAA tournaments. The wrestlers that the two finalists beat throughout the tournament get pulled back in to repechage and depending on what round the individual lost in, have to win one or two matches to make it to the 3rd-5th placement matches. As such, there are two 3rd and two 5th place finishers. The champion earns his country 25 points, 2nd place 20 points, 3rd place 15 points, 5th place 10 points, 7th place 8 points, 8th place 6 points, 9th place 4 points, and 10th place 2 points.
Colon made quick work of his bronze medal match taking out Mohammadba Yakhkeshi of Iran 13-2 with a series of brutal gut-wrenches.
Four time World and Olympic Champion Jordan Burroughs had a unique opportunity at this years championships. By winning his 6th title, he would tie John Smith for the most gold in US history. He will have to wait until 2019 and do it in Astana, Kazakhstan.
After barely edging out the Iranian 4-3 on a late takedown, Burroughs looked to be in position to notch another comeback win over Russia. Taking the lead 5-4 with 8 seconds left, Burroughs had a clean restart in the center. He just had to hold on. Zaurbek Sidakov had different plans. A quick leg attack and subsequent pushout tied the score 5-5 but with the Russian leading on criteria. A failed US challenge made the final score 6-5. Sidakov would be the eventual champ.
Dropping into repechage competition, JB had to win one bout before a rubber-match showdown with Frank Chamizo. Victorious 9-0 over Bulgaria, Burroughs setup what many thought would be the final. An extremely close affair, with multiple lead changes and pristine hand fighting and defense, JB and Chamizo excited the crowd. Yet again, a late Burroughs score gave him the win. That’s now SEVEN world or Olympic medals for Burroughs. 5 gold, 2 bronze.
Always last, but never least, the heavyweight competition also concluded today. Like Burroughs, Nick Gwiazdowski (the only ACC alumnus on the team) lost a heartbreaking quarterfinal match despite holding the lead with less than 20 seconds to go. By virtue of beating “Gwiz” and his next opponent, Zhiwei Deng became China’s first ever senior level world medalist.
A win over Amar Dhesi (Canada, but wrestles collegiately at Oregon St) in repechage landed Gwiz in the bronze medal match for the second year in a row. And for the second straight year, he will head back to the US with some hardware thanks to a clinical 7-2 decision over Sumit Sumit of India.
In addition to the four weight classes that concluded Sunday, 57kg, 65kg, 79kg, and 92 kg got started. An update on those weight classes will be posted after their completion. Note, the team score at the top does include results from those four classes.
*In addition to China, Spain also earned its first senior level medal with Taimuraz Friev Nask winning bronze at 86kg.