Matteo Pellicone Preview

By Eric Olanowski

ROME, Italy (January 10) --- The first stop on the road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games travels through Rome, Italy, for the first of two Ranking Series events, the Matteo Pellicone. The four-day tournament kicks off January 15-18 in Ostia, a port city of ancient Rome, located 30km away from the city center.

The stacked entry list includes seven reigning world champions, all three 2019 Wrestlers of the Year and over 30 world medal holders from the 2019 World Championships.

Freestyle boasts nine world medalists, one of which is a two-time world champion. Greco-Roman features four podium finishers from Nur-Sultan, and women's wrestling rounds out the tournament with an astonishing six reigning world champs and 18 medalists from Kazakhstan.

World Champions That Are Registered:
FS 74kg - Kyle Douglas DAKE (USA) – two-time world champion at 79kg
WW 57kg - Linda MORAIS (CAN) – world champion at 59kg
WW 62kg - Inna TRAZHUKOVA (RUS) – world champion at 65kg 
WW 62kg - Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ)
WW 69kg - Tamyra Mariama MENSAH (USA)
WW 76kg - Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS) – world champion at 72kg 
WW 76kg - Adeline Maria GRAY (USA)

Trio of Wrestlers of the Year Entered
The trio of United World Wrestling's 2019 Wrestlers of the Year Frank CHAMIZO (ITA), Viktor LORINCZ (HUN) and Tamyra MENSAH-STOCK (USA) will all be in action at the Matteo Pellicone. 

 Frank Chamizo, the Freestyle Wrestler of the Year and two-time world champion, is searching for his third Ranking Series title since 2018. He competed in three Ranking Series events last season and captured gold at the City of Sassari Tournament in front of a friendly Italian crowd. He also finished with a silver medal at the Yasar Dogu and a bronze at the Dan Kolov before dropping his world finals match to Zaurbek SIDAKOV (RUS).

Viktor Lorincz, Greco-Roman's Wrestler of the Year, is making his sixth Ranking Series appearance of his storied career. Through his five previous showings, the 2019 world runner-up has tallied a perfect 19-0 record while reaching the top of the podium in each outing.

Tamyra Mensah-Stock, the 2019 Women's Wrestler of the Year and reigning 68kg world champion, will scrap in her seventh career Ranking Series event. Last year, she wrestled at three of the four Ranking Series events and claimed gold medals at the City of Sassari Tournament, Dan Kolov and Ivan Yariguin.

Potential Dake and Chamizo Matchup 
Some of the biggest personalities in the sport already reside at 74kg. Well, Kyle DAKE (USA) just added his name to the likes of Jordan BURROUGHS (USA), Frank Chamizo and Zaurbek SIDAKOV (RUS), among many others.

The weight gained massive depth after Dake announced he's moving down from 79kg, a weight where he's the reigning two-time world champion.

The timing of Dake's move couldn’t have come at a better time for wrestling fans, especially heading into the Matteo Pellicone where there’s a long list of renowned wrestlers entered, including Italy's own Frank Chamizo.

Dake and Chamizo is a must-see potential matchup that wrestling fans can't miss. Although Dake is fairly defensive at times, he is one of the best offensive wrestlers on earth when it comes to unconventional positions. Coupling that with Chamizo being one of the toughest wrestlers to score on because of his unorthodox defensive style of wrestling; it’s a match that could light up the scoreboard.

In addition to the above-mentioned pair of two-time world champions, 74kg will also feature Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), James GREEN (USA) and Yones EMAMICHOGHAEI (IRI). Demirtas is a Rio bronze medalist, Green is a two-time world medalist, and Emamichoghaei is a reigning world bronze medalist, though that was down at 70kg.

Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) begins his quest to the Tokyo Olympic Games at the 2020 Matteo Pellicone where he's entered at 65kg. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Indian Stars Making the Trip to Rome 
Reigning world medalists Kumar RAVI, Bajrang BAJRANG, and Deepak PUNIA will lead a loaded freestyle squad into the Matteo Pellicone.

Ravi qualified India for the 2020 Olympic Games at 57kg with a bronze-medal finish in Nur-Sultan and quite possibly has the toughest road to gold in Rome. Ravi's road could weave through a trio of seasoned American wrestlers with past senior or age-group world medals and a 2020 Olympian.

The United States is sending Joseph COLON (USA), Daton FIX (USA) and Thomas GILMAN (USA). 

Colon medaled (bronze) at 61kg in 2018, while Gilman was a 2017 world runner-up in Paris and finished in fifth place in 2018. But it's the youngster Fix who is the leading man at the weight for the Stars and Stripes after downing Gilman for the world championship starting sport. Fix was a junior world champion back in 2017

Serbia's Stevan MICIC will also be competing at 57kg. Micic became his nation's first freestyle Olympian after finishing in fifth place at the 2019 World Championships. 

Bajrang, a 2018 word silver medalist and 2019 world bronze-medal finisher, could see Iran's reigning world bronze medalist Behnam EHSANPOOR on his road to a potential fourth career Ranking Series gold. 

India’s inserted junior world champion Deepak Punia at 86kg. The 2019 Junior Wrestler of the Year qualified India for the Olympic Games after finishing the 2019 World Championships with a silver medal.

Punia's toughest competition at the weight will be 2018 world silver medalist Fatih ERDIN (TUR) and 2020 Olympian Myles AMINE (SMR).

U23 world champion Bo NICKAL (USA) will be bumping up from 92kg to 97kg with hopes of making USA's Olympic team. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

U23 World Champion Nickal Moving up to Challenge Snyder at 97kg 
Three months after bulldozing his way to a U23 world title at 92kg, Bo NICKAL (USA) is bumping up to the Olympic weight of 97kg with hopes of dethroning two-time world and Rio Olympic champion Kyle SNYDER (USA) for the starting spot. Snyder, known by American fans as "Captain America," qualified the weight for the 2020 Olympic Games with a bronze-medal finish in Nur-Sultan. He's been America's starter since 2015 when he became the youngest American to win a world title.

Six of Ten Women's Wrestling World Champs Set to Scrap in Rome
Over a handful of women's world champions from Nur-Sultan will be in action in Rome – six to be exact – but of those six reigning champs, there's a trio of women moving from non-Olympic weights to Olympic weight in preparation for a run at Olympic gold. 

The six Nur-Sultan winners are: Linda MORAIS (CAN), Inna TRAZHUKOVA (RUS), Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ), Tamyra Mariama MENSAH (USA), Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS) and Adeline Maria GRAY (USA). But Morais, Trazhukova and Vorobeva will all be moving from their non-Olympic winning weights to Olympic weight classes. 

Morais, who won world gold in 2019 at 59kg, is on her way down to already stacked 57kg. In early December, Morais defeated Hannah TAYLOR (CAN) in two straight matches at the Canada Wrestling Trials and will be Canada’s starter for the 2020 season.

The addition of Morais bolsters a weight class that now features three-time world and Olympic champion Risako KAWAI (JPN) and RONG Ningning (CHN), who fell short of defending her 2018 world title in this year's gold-medal bout. Although Kawai won't be in action in Rome, Rong will be.

Another star who competed at 59kg in Kazakhstan, Pooja DHANDA (IND), will also be making her descent down to 57kg. Dhanda was a bronze medalist at 57kg back in 2018 but moved up to 59kg in 2019, where she finished in fifth place at the World Championships. 

Also in the field at 57kg are past world medalists Emese BARKA (HUN), Iryna CHYKHRADZE KHARIV (UKR) and Allison RAGAN (USA).

Inna TRAZHUKOVA (RUS) is the second world champion that's switching weights. She was the 65kg world champion but has decided that moving down to 62kg gives her the best shot at making Russia’s Olympic team. But Trazhukova won't have to wait long to see how she stacks up against the world's best at the weight as Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) is set to make an appearance at the first Ranking Series event of the year. Tynybekova, the reigning 62kg world champion, was named a United World Wrestling History Maker after becoming the first wrestler from Kyrgyzstan to win a senior-level world title. 

Marianna SASTIN (HUN) and Yuliia TKACH OSTAPCHUK (UKR), who both have world gold on their resumes, will also compete at 62kg.  Sastin, a four-time world medalist, won her world gold in 2013, while Tkach Ostapchuk, who is also a four-time world medalist, won her world title in 2014. 


Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS) is the third and final reigning world champion leaping from a non-Olympic weight class to an Olympic weight. The 2019 Comeback Wrestler of the Year is moving from 72kg up to 76kg. 

Vorobeva joins fellow Olympic champion Erica WIEBE (CAN) on the entry list at 76kg. 

But it isn't either of the Olympic champions who are the favorite coming into Rome. The clear favorite to win the weight is Adeline GRAY (USA), who made United States history by winning her unprecedented fifth world title at the Nur-Sultan World Championships late last year.

Past, Present and Future Greco-Roman Stars Set to Compete at Matteo Pellicone
Although Greco-Roman lacks the presence of a reigning world champion in the entries, there isn't a shortage of current and future stars that'll be looking to make some noise in Rome.

World runner-ups Aram VARDANYAN (UZB) and Viktor Lorincz will wrestle at 72kg and 87kg, respectively. 

Meanwhile, rising stars Mohamed ELSAYED (EGY), Kerem KAMAL (TUR) and Semen NOVIKOV (UKR) are looking to make some noise on the senior-level after climbing to the summit of world ranks at the age-group World Championships in 2019.

Meanwhile, rising stars Mohamed ELSAYED (EGY), Kerem KAMAL (TUR) and Semen NOVIKOV (UKR) are looking to make some noise on the senior-level after climbing to the summit of world ranks at the age-group World Championships in 2019.

El Sayed, who is wrestling at 67kg, has been extremely active since qualifying Egypt for the 2020 Olympic Games at arguably the toughest weight class in Nur-Sultan, 67kg. Shortly after the 21-year-old finished in fifth place at the 2019 World Championships, he won gold at the World Military Games then tacked on a second U23 world title to his resume. 

Kerem Kamal, who was named United World Wrestling's Junior Greco-Roman Wrestler of the Year after winning his third consecutive junior world title, is entered at 60kg. The young Turkish spark plug is no stranger to the senior level. Last year, he won the Grand Prix of Zagreb, which was a Ranking Series event. He finished with a bronze medal at the European Championships before representing Turkey at the World Championships in Kazakhstan.

Kamal's most significant competition at 60kg will be China's Sailike WALIHAN, who was a world bronze medalist in 2018. 

U23 world champion Semen NOVIKOV (UKR) highlights the entries at 97kg. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan) 

Semen Novikov, a 2019 U23 world champion, rounds out the Greco-Roman rising stars that are on the entry list. He'll be accompanied at 97kg by three-time 2019 Ranking Series medalist Tracy Gangelo HANCOCK (USA). Last season, Hancock won the Grand Prix of Hungary, took second place at the City of Sassari Tournament and third place at the Grand Prix of Zagreb. At the World Championships, Hanock fell to France's 2014 world champion Mélonin NOUMONVI, who is also plugged in at 97kg. 

The Matteo Pellicone begins on January 15-18 and can be followed at www.unitedworldwrestling.org or flowrestling.org. 

Wednesday (January 15)

08:00 - Medical Examination, Weigh-in & Draw GR55-60-63-67-87-97-130kg 
10:30 - Qualification rounds & repechage GR – 55-60-63-67-87-97-130kg 
17:00 - Opening Ceremony 
18:00 - Finals GR – 55-60-63-67-87-97-130kg / Award ceremonies

Thursday (January 16)
08.00 -  Medical Examination, Weigh-in and Draw GR – 72-77-82kg & WW – 57-62-68-76kg
10.30 - Qualification rounds & repechage GR – 72-77-82kg & WW – 57-62-68-76kg 
18:00 -  Finals GR – 72-77-82kg & WW – 57-62-68-76kg  / Award ceremonies 

Friday (January 17)
08:00 - Medical Examination, Weigh-in and Draw WW – 50-53-55-59-65-72kg & FS – 97-125kg 
10:30 - Qualification rounds & repechage WW – 50-53-55-59-65-72kg & FS – 97-125kg 
18:00 - Finals WW – 50-53-55-59-65-72kg & FS – 97-125kg / Award ceremonies 

Saturday (January 18)
08:00 - Medical Examination, Weigh-in and Draw FS – 57-61-65-70-74-79-86-92kg 
10:30 - Qualification rounds & repechage FS – 57-61-65-70-74-79-86-92kg 
18:00 - Finals FS – 57-61-65-70-74-79-86-92kg / Award ceremonies


Dake Dismantles Demirtas in Debut at 74kg; USA Wins Trio of Day Four Golds

By Eric Olanowski

ROME, Italy (January 18) --- Kyle DAKE (USA) dismantled Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR) in his debut down at the Olympic weight of 74kg and joined two fellow Americans on their way to the top of the freestyle podium at the Matteo Pellicone.

Thomas GILMAN (USA) and Zahid VALENCIA (USA), who claimed gold at 57kg and 86kg, respectively, were the pair of other Americans who closed out the first Ranking Series event of the year with Day 4 golds.

Two-time 79kg world champion Kyle Dake’s debut down at 74kg was a success in terms of his medal color, but as expected, there were a few wrinkles that he still needs to iron out. And although those weren’t apparent in the finals, they were in the opening rounds. Dake said, “I’m a little disappointed in the earlier rounds, but I went out with a bang.”

In his first three matches, Dake scored 18 points, yet he only scored two takedowns. “I was just slapping at the legs and I needed to recognize that sooner,” said Dake.“Kid Dynamite” made the right adjustments at the right time and went back to what worked for him in the past. “The first couple of matches I was just trying new stuff and it wasn’t working so I went back to my old stuff.” 

Dake’s plan for the finals was to get back to that "old stuff," which meant he needed to, “Get through a guy. Go through him, go take him down, turn him, turn him, turn him and get off the mat.” 

That’s exactly what he did in the gold-medal match, as he demolished world and Olympic bronze medalist Soner Demirtas in 35 seconds. Dake led 7-0, 16 seconds into the first period, and after his Turkish opponent was hit with a fleeing-the-hold call, the American went back on top in par terre. A pair of gut wrenches less than 20 seconds laft gave Dake the 11-0 technical superiority victory and a second Ranking Series title.

Thomas GILMAN (USA) defeated fellow American Joseph COLON (USA), 4-2, in the 57kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Thomas Gilman was the first of two American’s who were named champions after they defeated fellow countrymen in the finals.

The all-American final at 57kg featured the pair of past world medalists, Thomas Gilman and Joseph COLON (USA). 

“He was a tough opponent. I felt pretty strong out there. I’m starting to put things together and now is the time,” said Gilman after winning the one-point battle. The 2018 world silver medalist scored first (inactivity point) but surrendered a takedown with 20 seconds left in the first period and trailed 2-1 heading into the closing frame. 

The message from Gilman’s corner heading into the final three minutes was, “He’s feeling it.” Gilman said he agreed with what his corner was projecting, and that’s when the match turned in his favor. “Once I started squeezing so much and faking and releasing, I started to feel him stumble a little bit.” Gilman was able to secure a takedown late in the second period, which pushed him to a second Ranking Series title, 2-1. 

He’s now headed to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, to compete in the Ivan Yariguin. 

When asked what adjustment he needs to be make before the trip to Siberia, Gilman said he doesn’t believe much in adjusting and just needs to sleep. “When I’m tired, I need to sleep. When I’m awake, I need to be doing something. Get the sunlight in my eyes.” 

It'll be his Gilman's second trip to the Ivan Yariguin. Last year, he finished in third place at 57kg.

Zahid VALENCIA (USA) picked up a two-point victory over Alexander DIERINGER (USA) in the 86kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

At 86kg, Zahid VALENCIA (USA) went toe-to-toe with Alexander DIERINGER (USA), and snuck past his fellow American, 7-5, in the gold-medal bout. “It’s pretty awesome. I got to wrestle some good guys, and that guy in the finals I’m going to be battling it out with for the next few years. We have the trials coming up, so that’s a good win for me,” said Valencia after his win.

Valencia now plans to return to Arizona State to compete on the college scene where he's looking to win a third consecutive NCAA title.

Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) scored his second win over Jordan OLIVER (USA) in a Ranking Series final and claimed the 65kg gold medal. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Punia Wins Rematch Against Oliver, Grabs 65kg Gold; Ravi Wins Non-Olympic Gold at 61kg
Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) and Kumar RAVI (IND) handed India a pair of golds on the closing day of wrestling in Rome. Bajrang won the 65kg gold, while Ravi went 3-0 in the 61kg Nordic style bracket.

Bajrang defeated Jordan Michael OLIVER (USA) in a rematch of the 2019 Dan Kolov finals. And for a second time, it was the Indian superstar who won the 65kg Ranking Series title after falling behind 3-0 to Oliver.

In their first meeting, Bajrang fell behind 3-0 in the first period and stormed back to score 13 unanswered points in the second period. On Saturday, Bajrang surrendered three first-period points but scored a brutality point and a stepout before catching Oliver on his back for over two minutes with an exposure to win, 4-3.

“I am feeling very good. It’s the first tournament of 2020 and I won gold. My progress is going up and up and I’m giving it my 100%,” said Bajrang after downing Oliver.

The final gold of the tournament went to Kumar Ravi, who won the Nordic style bracket at 61kg with a 3-0 record.


GOLD - Thomas GILMAN (USA) df. Joseph COLON (USA), 4-3 
BRONZE - Minghu LIU (CHN) df. Daton FIX (USA), 3-2
BRONZE - Stevan Andria MICIC (SRB) df. Andrii YATSENKO (UKR), 5-2


GOLD - Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) vs. Jordan OLIVER (USA), 4-3 
BRONZE - Zain Allen RETHERFORD (USA) df. Vasyl SHUPTAR (UKR), via fall 

GOLD - Kyle Douglas DAKE (USA) df. Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), 11-0
BRONZE - Fazli ERYILMAZ (TUR) df. Azamat NURYKAU (BLR), 5-2 
BRONZE - Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) df. Franklin GOMEZ MATOS (PUR), 3-2 

GOLD - Zahid VALENCIA (USA) df. Alexander DIERINGER (USA), 7-5 
BRONZE - James Patrick DOWNEY III (USA) df. Illia ARCHAIA (UKR), 13-7 
BRONZE - Fatih ERDIN (TUR) df. William RAFFI (ITA), 10-0