Budapest, Hungary — Kyle Dake and J’Den Cox added to the United States’ gold medal count Monday evening, but it will not be enough. Despite 70 and 97kg still needing to wrestle their placement matches tomorrow, the team score is already clinched and the US will not defend its title. The 2018 World Team Champion is the Russian Federation.
Similarly to David Taylor, Dake has waited too long to make a world team. In 2013 he lost to Jordan Burroughs. In 2014 he was injured. In 2015 to Burroughs. In 2016 to Cox. In 2017 to Burroughs. No one would’ve guessed it would take half a decade for the four time NCAA champ to make the world team, but then again, he only lost to world champs in the process. Well now he is one himself, and he left no doubt about it.
Dake outscored his opponents 37-0 in Budapest. 11-0 over Germany, 11-0 over Georgia, 13-0 over Russia, and 2-0 over Jabrayil Hasanov of Azerbaijan. That is a thorough manhandling, and more proof of Dake’s excellence. In fact, he is the first wrestler to win a world or Olympic tournament without surrendering a point since 2012. American fans didn’t need to witness this to know how good Dake is, but perhaps the world did. Now they know, and they will not soon forget it.
J’Den Cox became the US’ third gold medalist at this year’s championships and continued to add to his already outstanding resume. While still in college Cox placed 3rd at the Rio Olympics, and 3rd again at Paris last year. Moving up from 86 to 92kg with the expansion, Cox found himself a comfortable weight class where he could be strong and not cut a ton of weight. 92 x 2.2 = 202.4 pounds. In college he wrestled 197. That’s perfect.
J’Den didn’t dominate like Dake, but his matches weren’t really that close, either. 6-2 over Georgia, 6-0 over Moldova, 5-2 over Iran, and 4-1 over Ivan Yankouski from Belarus.
Since these are non-olympic weights, it will be interesting to see where Dake and Cox go next year. There is already speculation Dake will drop to 74kg, considering if he were to medal there he would have a bye to the finals for the Olympic trials in 2020. Perhaps Cox will do the same with 86kg.
The other weight classes concluding action on Monday were 57 and 65kg. At 57, Thomas Gilman, the returning silver medalist, looked to make another trip to the finals. After downing the talented Edisherashvili of Azerbaijan, Gilman found himself facing a Russian transfer competing for Kazakhstan in the semis. Nurislam Sanayev made quick work of Gilman, notching an 11-0 tech. Sanayev lost to Zavur Uguev of Russia in the finals, which means both finalists were native Russians.
Gilman then lost a heartbreaking bronze medal match to the Turk 5-4 after some, well, debatable officiating.
At 65kg, Logan Stieber was the only American to not win a match. Him and James Green were the only two that did not score any team points. This is the second year in a row Stieber did not score any points, but that is not necessarily reflective of his performance. Like last year, he drew the Russian in the first round, although now up one weight class.
Stieber lost to Akhmed Chakaev 7-5, who unfortunately did not make it to the finals. Thus Stieber was not pulled back in to repechage. A tough break for the former world champ, but that is the nature of the beast at this level.
As mentioned, 70 and 97kg will wrestle their medal matches tomorrow, but the team race is set in stone, at least for the top three. Russia, USA, and Georgia will get trophies.
*Interesting note – since 79 and 92kg were expansion weight classes this year, Dake and Cox are the first ever champs at those weights.