Funicello and Dolmo on quest to become first Beach World Champion from the USAJeff Funicello (left) and Carlos Dolmo (right) pose with their World bronze medals in Antalya, Turkey in 2007
The United States has had Senior World wrestling champions in almost every style contested internationally. Team USA boasts World champions in the three Olympic styles: men's freestyle, Greco-Roman, women's freestyle. The USA has also won World titles in Grappling (both Gi and No Gi). There have been American World champions in Sombo, when FILA hosted the style.
One prominent style remains without a USA champion - Beach Wrestling.
Since 2006, when FILA held its first Beach World event as part of the World Wrestling Games in Antalya, Turkey, the USA has participated but has not had an individual World Beach Champion. Who will be the first U.S. wrestler to win a Beach World title?
Two past World Beach bronze medalists are aiming to become the first American Beach World Champion: Jeff Funicello of American Pankration and Carlos Dolmo of Blast Double NY. Internationally, Funicello competes in the Under 85 kg division, while Dolmo wrestles in the Over 85 kg division.
Funicello is the only American with two Beach World medals, winning bronzes in 2007 and 2008. Dolmo won his Beach World bronze in 2007. Both compete in a number of wrestling styles. Both are considered veteran athletes, with Funicello at 39 years old and Dolmo at 34 years old. Neither want to quit until they bring home that gold medal.
"Everybody who competes in anything wants to win the gold" said Funicello. "That drives me to keep going."
"It is still important to me. Ever since Beach Wrestling started, it has been a goal to win a World title" said Dolmo. "I have that same goal for all disciplines, including freestyle and Greco-Roman. But wanting to be the first to accomplish winning a Beach World title is a big goal. It fuels the energy to continue to prepare and compete."
Both will be in the field at the 2010 U.S. Beach National Championships and World Team Trials, which will be held in Rochester, N.Y., July 9-11. This is the qualifying event for the U.S. team, which will compete in Budva, Montenegro at the end of August.
Competing in Beach Wrestling is a bit different than other styles, because of the effect of the sand on the motion of the athletes. In addition, it has explosive action, because it takes just two points to win a bout. Funicello and Dolmo have become masters of this unique style.
"Beach wrestling slows down the pace, in comparison to the mat. It poses different challenges. I am coming up with some new strategies to help me to improve my chances of being a World champion" said Dolmo.
"There are a lot of factors" said Funicello. "Beach Wrestling is not that forgiving. If you get out of position, you are done. You have to stay in good position. There are a lot of other factors that can affect a match."
Both are already focusing on the U.S. Beach Nationals, and have learned what it takes to peak at this event each summer.
"I am running, lifting weights. I do shadow wrestling on the beach, as I am enjoying the weather. I plan on doing drilling on the beach" said Dolmo. "I'm working with Coach Victor Krypchynsky. He sets my goals and daily plans, whether it is Beach Wrestling, Sombo, freestyle or Greco-Roman. We are a good team together."
"For me, I mostly cross-train" said Funicello, who is also an instructor of a number of combat styles. "As I get near to competition, I train more in that style. Wrestling is wrestling. It does not matter the rules of engagement. Now, I will get more into Greco training. I will use Beach rules on the mat. I will try to get in the sand if I can. A lot of it is conditioning. But what has gotten me there in Beach Wrestling is the Greco-Roman training."
Funicello has also been seeking a World title in Grappling, and won his first medal in the style when he took a bronze in Gi Grappling at the 2010 World Championships in Poland in March.
"I won the medal at the World Championships in Gi. I am better in No-Gi. I had a controversial match in No-Gi and did not advance. I was disappointed. I came back and medaled in the Gi division" said Funicello. "I want to get a gold in that. I want a gold in Beach Wrestling and in Grappling. I want to do it while I still can."
Dolmo notes that Beach Wrestling is getting more accepted worldwide, and that more successful wrestlers in the Olympic styles are giving it a try.
"The trend in Beach Wrestling is that it is growing more and more. Last year's field at the World Championships included a freestyle World Champion and Olympian from Georgia. He didn't win the title, but placed second. There are more wrestlers with freestyle and Greco-Roman accolades. Now, winning this will prove that this is more fun and more competitive internationally."
Their age does not discourage either wrestler, because both have seen other experienced wrestlers succeed in the style on the international level. Experience is an advantage in the Beach style.
"Positioning is such an important part of Beach Wrestling" said Funicello. "It is a sport which has a longevity to it, a much longer shelf life."
You can bet that both Funicello and Dolmo will keep pursuing their dreams in Beach Wrestling. They have talked to each other about continuing their quest, no matter how long it takes.
"We made a pact at the World Championships two years ago (in Albania)" said Dolmo. "Because Beach Wrestling is fun and has less wear and tear on the body, we will continue to compete until our wheels fall off. Even after winning that first World title, we will continue to do it."
Past Beach World Medalists from the United States
2006 World bronze medal - Ray Downey, Under 85 kg
2006 World bronze medal - Angelo Borzio, Over 85 kg
2006 World bronze medal - Leigh Jaynes, Under 70 kg
2007 World bronze medal - Jeff Funicello, Under 85 kg
2007 World bronze medal - Carlos Dolmo, Over 85 kg
2007 World bronze medal - Bethany Harris, Under 70 kg
2007 World bronze medal - Tanya Miyasaki, Under 70 kg
2008 World bronze medal - Jeff Funicello, Under 85 kg