Ike Okoli of the USA wins bronze medal as Greece dominates Beach Worlds

By Rusty Davidson | July 06, 2014, 5:36 p.m. (ET)
Ike Okoli of the United States battles Leonidas Savvaas of Greece in his bronze-medal match at the Beach World Championships in Greece. Rusty Davidson photo.

KATERINI, Greece - Ike Okoli of Rome, Ga. had a hard day in Katerini, July 6th. But he finished it with the U.S. delegation’s only medal… a bronze in the unlimited (over 90kg) class.

Okoli was one of six Americans traveling to Katerini, Greece for the 2014 World Championship of Beach Wrestling. Like some of his teammates, Okoli had travel problems getting to Katerini, but was still able to compete at a high level.

Okoli dominated two opponents from Turkey and one Russian to finish first in pool A of a 14 man bracket. In what turned out to be the most controversial decision of the day, Okoli was defeated by eventual World Champion Vlad Caras, of Romania, in the semifinals.

He bounced back to score a fall against Leonidas Savvaas, of Greece, in the Bronze Medal match.

Alex Stanley of North Carolina placed 5th at 70kg.

Americans Jason Joyce (70kg), Scott Wendel (80kg), Jarret Payne (80kg) and Jeff Funicello (90kg) did not place in their brackets.

Okoli, Wendel and Funicello all suffered massive transportation delays resulting from Hurricane Arthur’s interruption of American air traffic. Wendel made it to Thessaloniki, an hour and a half bus ride from Katerini late Saturday afternoon.

Okoli arrived in Katerini at midnight Saturday / Sunday, only to find the athlete’s hotel, listed in the FILA website, had been changed. Funicelli actually arrived after the competition had been moved up from 1:00pm to noon. With special dispensation from FILA’s leadership, and unanimous agreement of the delegation leaders, Funicello was allowed to compete.

Okoli joined a group of eight past U.S. medalists at the Beach World Championships. The USA is still seeking its first Beach World Champion.

The only American to win a Beach World silver medal was Donovan DePatto in 2011. U.S. wrestlers who have won two World bronze medals are Jeff Funicello and Carlos Dolmo. Other men who have won World bronze medals are Ray Downey and Angelo Borzio. U.S. women who won Beach World bronze medals were Leigh Jaynes, Bethany Harris and Tanya Miyasaki.

A total of 118 bouts took place in the event’s single competition ring on Sunday. The Senior men’s and women’s divisions concluded the three day event. Cadets wrestled on July 4th. Juniors competed Saturday, July 5th.

Greece swept the event, adding team titles for both men and women Seniors to their Cadet and Junior pairs. Russia was second in the men’s division, followed by Romania. Norway earned the second place women’s trophy, followed by Estonia.

This was the ninth World Championship conducted by FILA. President Nenad Lalovic, present at the event, continually reminded participants that Beach Wrestling represents a “Gold Mine” for our sport.

JUNIOR WRAP: Greece continues to dominate Beach Worlds, taking both Junior titles

On Saturday, July 5th, Greece added team championships in both men’s and women’s competition to their Beach Wrestling collection. Having won both trophies in the Cadet age group, Friday, the host country dominated the Juniors on Saturday.

Beach Wrestling rules allow each country up to three entries per weight class, favoring the host at each World Championship. Norway, having fielded 25 athletes, placed second in both Juniors divisions. Romania was third in the men’s group.

Sunday’s competition will feature Senior athletes from a dozen countries. The U.S. hopes for six entries. At this writing, two American athletes were still fighting weather delays trying to get into Katerini, Greece.

At 70kg, the U.S. will weigh in two athletes: Alex Stanley, NC and Jason Joyce, VA. At 80kg, Americans Jarrett Payne, NC and Scott Wendel will compete. Both 90kg Jeff Funicello, AZ and Heavyweight Ike Okoli are entered, but have not arrived.

“Both FILA and the host organization are doing everything possible to help”, said U.S. team leader, Rusty Davidson. “The leaders have been really understanding and helpful.”

CADET WRAP: Greece takes advantage of home sand in Cadet Beach Worlds

The first day of the FILA Beach Wrestling World Championship, in Katerini, Greece, has concluded. Friday, July 4th, saw the Cadet men’s and Women’s Championship.

The U.S. had no entries in the Cadet age group. Greece, the host country, won both team championships. Sweden took home a second place trophy in the women’s event. Norway was second in the men’s competition and third in the women’s. Estonia took third in the men’s division. Russia earned an individual medal, but did not place in the team count.

Saturday will see the Juniors beach competition. Both the Senior men and women compete on Sunday. The United States has entered six athletes, all male and all in the Senior division.