For the second straight year the Americans outlast the Russians in New York City
By DJ Sixsmith
From the Cold War to the Miracle on Ice, the rivalry between the United States and Russia has spanned across several decades. The two countries added another chapter to their storied rivalry with the Grapple in the Apple wrestling event in Times Square. While the Russians entered the matchup as the world’s most dominant wrestling team, the Americans took care of business on their home soil for the second straight year. After defeating the Eastern Europeans 5-2 last year, the US Olympic freestyle team edged Team Russia 4-3 in Duffy Square last Thursday afternoon.
In their final match before the Olympics in London, the Americans showed head coach Zeek Jones that they have several talented wrestlers, but also have some areas to improve upon. While American Sam Hazewinkel dropped the first match in the 55kg category, Team USA won the next three matchups. The first win came from Logan Stieber (60kg) as the Ohio State wrestler used agility and strength to outlast Russia’s rising star Artas Sanaa. Although Stieber is not wrestling for the Red White and Blue in London, the Ohio native proved to the wrestling world that he is going to be a critical part of USA Wrestling over the next few years. The US got its second win from Jared Frayer as he beat Russian up and comer Akhmed Chakaev. Despite the fact that Frayer lost the first round, the Oklahoma native gave the Americans a 2-1 lead in New York thanks to his timely takedown in the third round. The 2x All-American may be older than most of his US teammates, but the experience he has at the collegiate and international level will come in handy later this summer in London. America’s most dominant wrestler Jordan Burroughs kept the American momentum rolling by easily defeating Kamal Malikov in the 74kg matchup. Burroughs made Malikov look more like a high school wrestler as than Russia’s national champion in 2011. It took Burroughs less than minute to finish off the visitor’s top wrestler as the New Jersey native pounded Malikov with his superior strength and tired him with his cat like reflexes. Heading into the Olympics, Burroughs is a prime candidate for a Gold medal and has not lost in over two years. The Nebraska Cornhusker’s motivation is clearly represented through his Twitter handle of @AllISeeIsGold.
With a 3-1 lead after four matchups, it looked as though the Americans were going to coast to an easy victory in Duffy Square. However the Russians had other ideas as a hard fought victory by Andrey Valiev in the 84kg affair and a close win by Shamil Akhmedov in the 96kg battle tied things up heading into the final contest. In front of an estimated crowd of 20,000 people, America’s anchor Tervel Dlagnev outlasted Russia’s Eduard Bazrov clinching the victory for Team USA 4-3. The 120 kg match up was scoreless after one round until Dlagnev wrapped up Bazrov and flipped the burly Russian on his back. The win for Dlagnev is an especially good sign heading to London because of the fact that Russia’s Bazrov is one of the best 120 kg wrestlers in the world.
While the American win electrified the New York City crowd, the story of the night was Oklahoma State grad Coleman Scott. In a wrestle-off for the final spot on Team USA, Scott beat Reese Humphrey and Shawn Bunch to earn a trip to London later this summer. Scott’s achievement is especially incredible considering the fact that he was forced to take part in four separate matchups. On top of that, the former NCAA champion was wrestling with a busted rib that he injured in warm-ups last Thursday morning. Although the win against Humphrey came easy for Scott, it was anything but smooth sailing against the athletic Shawn Bunch. Thanks in part to good fortune from the officials and warrior-like resilience, Scott finished off Bunch with an epic five point flip in the final minute of the final qualifying match. The most impressive part about the former Oklahoma State Cowboy’s victory is that prior to last week, Coleman Scott had never defeated Shawn Bunch.