Jesse Thielke has qualified to compete in the 59 kg. Greco-Roman class at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games by advancing to the gold-medal match of wrestling’s 2nd Olympic Games World Qualifying Tournament on Friday in Istanbul, Turkey.
Thielke defeated Donior Islamov of Moldova to advance to the final, where he will face Iran’s Hamid Soryan. He opened the tournament with an 8-0 technical fall victory over Hungary’s Peter Modos, the reigning Olympic bronze medalist, and followed that with a 13-6 win over Revaz Lashkhi of Georgia. He then moved into the quarterfinal round, where he found himself down 4-2 with less than a minute left against Frunze Harutyunyan of Sweden. He scored a reversal to pin the Swede and advance to the semifinal.
Thiekle fell behind to Islamov early but used his quickness to stake himself to a thin 9-8 lead after the first three minutes. He established control of the match and wrapped it up with a four-point takedown with less than a minute to go to win 17-8.
After placing eighth at the 2013 world championships, Thielke has had a string of bronze-medal performances over the past two years, including at the Grand Prix Zagreb Open and the U.S. Open this year. He was third at the Golden Grand Prix Final in 2015 and also won silver at the U.S. Open that year. He also has a junior world championship bronze medal, won in 2012.
Two other U.S. Greco-Roman wrestlers traveled to Istanbul seeking berths in Rio. RaVaughn Perkins was eliminated in the quarterfinal round of the 66 kg. class, while Joe Rau lost in the round of 16 at 98 kg. The U.S. will not be represented in those weight classes in Rio.
Thielke is the 13th U.S. wrestler to qualify for the Rio Olympic tournament, joining Andy Bisek (75 kg.), Ben Provisor (85 kg.) and Robby Smith (130 kg.) in Greco-Roman; Haley Augello (48 kg.), Helen Maroulis (53 kg.), Elena Pirozhkova (63 kg.) and Adeline Gray (75 kg.) in women’s freestyle; and Daniel Dennis (57 kg.), Jordan Burroughs (74 kg.), J’den Cox (86 kg.), Kyle Snyder (97 kg.) and Tervel Dlagnev (125 kg.) in men’s freestyle.
Three American wresters will attempt to qualify their weight class as competition in Istanbul continues this weekend. Women’s freestylers Kelsey Campbell (58 kg.) and Tamyra Mensah (69 kg.) will take the mat Saturday, while men’s freestyler Frank Molinaro (65 kg.) will wrestle Sunday.