By Kolton Jensen
The international freestyle season gets started this week in Rome, Italy. The Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series tournament is the first ranking series event for wrestlers to earn points toward their seed at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. There are five wrestlers with an Iowa tie scheduled to compete at the event and get started on their road to Tokyo.
Men’s FS 57 kg – Thomas Gilman (Hawkeye Wrestling Club, Iowa), Joe Colon (Valley RTC, UNI)
This one is loaded with American talent, and should help to determine seeds for the upcoming Olympic Trials in April. Daton Fix, Thomas Gilman, and Joe Colon will all be in the bracket, but the top guy in the field at this event will be India’s Kumar Ravi. Ravi is a defending world bronze medalist and is currently ranked #3 in the world at this weight. Other than Ravi and the Americans, the only ranked competitor will be Serbia’s Stevan Micic who is currently ranked #13 after a 5th place finish at the 2019 World Championships.
Depending on how the bracket breaks down, both Iowa guys have a very good chance to medal. Gilman hasn’t competed against Micic on the senior level, but does own two victories over the Serbian from their days at the Junior level. The Gilman/Fix rivalry has been one of the most hotly contested American rivalries at the Senior level over the past few years. It’s currently tied at three matches a piece, however Fix has managed to win three of the last four. When Gilman has won, he’s been able to get to his ties and get in deep on shots, so Fix doesn’t have a chance to scramble. Getting to his underhook and controlling where the action takes place will be his key to victory.
Joe Colon is a different story. Colon is a 2018 world bronze medalist, but that was at 61 kg. It will be interesting to see how his body handles the weight cut. If the cut isn’t an issue, then the rest of the bracket better watch out. Colon is known to put up big points in a hurry with his leg lace or his gut, which are both world class. Where Colon has struggled is par terre defense. His keys to victory will be mitigating damage when down and making the most of his time on top.
Men’s FS 86 kg – Pat Downey (New Jersey RTC, ISU)
Another bracket that has three Americans, the lone Iowa tie is former Iowa State All-American Pat Downey. Downey is the reigning world team member at 86 kg and placed 9th at last year’s World Championships. He has also looked better than ever since joining the NJRTC and having a normal training schedule.
The contenders at this weight are San Marino’s # 8 Myles Amine, India’s #19 Deepak Punia, #11 Alex Dieringer and Zahid Valencia. Punia is the reigning world silver medalist and Amine took 5th last year. Both Dieringer and Zahid are coming up to 86 kg after spending the last few years at 79 kg. At 79 kg, Dieringer was able to use his power to overpower many of his opponents, but that hasn’t been the case at 86 kg as he’s coming off a 3rd place finish at the Senior Nationals event last month. Valencia won the bracket, but did not wrestle Dieringer.
In order for Downey to come home with a medal, he will need to use his power game. He has not wrestled either Dieringer or Zahid at 86 kg, and would be considered an underdog in both matchups; but that’s where Downey does best. He thrives off of people doubting him. Pat Downey is notorious for big upper body throws. If he can get to his underhook, and pull guys up off of low shots, he has the potential to win a few matches.
Men’s action for 57 kg and 86 kg starts Saturday January 18 at 4:30 am live on Flowrestling (subscription required) with the finals starting at 2:00 pm
Women’s FS 57 kg – Alli Ragan (Hawkeye Wrestling Club)
Two time world silver medalist Alli Ragan could have her hands full this week. Other world medalist registered for the event include last year’s 57 kg silver medalist Ningning Rong of China, last year’s 57 kg bronze medalist Odunayon Adekuoroye of Nigeria, and last year’s 59 kg world champ Linda Morais of Canada.
Ragan absolutely has the skill to go with anyone in the bracket. She has made the world team every year since 2013 and brings all that international experience with her. Her biggest threat will be Linda Morias. They did not wrestle each other at the 2019 World CHampionships, but Morias tech-falled the woman that beat Ragan in the opening round.
Women’s FS 62 kg – Kayla Miracle (Hawkeye Wrestling Club)
Kayla Miracle will also face an extremely tough field in Rome. Reinging 62 kg world champion Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan, last year’s 59 kg silver medalist Liubov Ovcharova of Russia, and last year’s 65 kg silver medalist Iryna Koliadenko of the Ukraine will all be in this bracket.
Miracle proved last year she was more than capable of hanging with the best in the world. Her loss at the World Championships was a criteria loss to the eventual 5th place finisher. She will also have a familiar foe that she has beaten in the bracket with Brazil’s Lais Nunes De Oliveira.
Women’s action for 57 kg and 62 kg starts Thursday January 16 at 4:30 am live on Flowrestling (subscription required) with the finals starting at 2:00 pm