Friday, Oct. 26 – Hungary <3 Greco-Roman
Photo: The arena moments after Peter Bacsi of Hungary won his second World title. Photo by yours truly.
Huh? What did you say? I can’t hear you! Those are the three phrases I used the most yesterday.
This arena was insanely loud! Like it honestly hurt my ears. The home announcers were basically yelling into microphones that were turned all the way up.
Speaking of turn up, turn up…these Hungarians love them some Greco-Roman. With two Hungarians in the finals, the fans were going nuts during the medals, screaming and blowing horns.
They were living for it.
The first Hungarian to wrestle for gold, Balint Korpasi, lost in an intense 2-1 battle against Frank Staebler from Germany, who won his third World title last night. The crowd was SO into it. Staebler brought quite a cheering section with him as well. There had to have been at least 30 people with Staebler shirts on.
The fans were loud and engaging throughout the entire match, which was quite impressive for it being a low-scoring bout.
But that didn’t compare to the last match of the night, where Peter Bacsi of Hungary won his second World title at 35 years old. I thought the roof was going to cave in from the cheering.
For the award ceremony at 87 kg, everyone in the arena was on their feet and the Hungarian national anthem blared through the speakers with fans singing at the tops of their lungs. Really special moment to see…and hear.
Side note: Thinking about investing a large supply of ear plugs. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know. K thanks.
Thursday, Oct. 25 – I’m on a boat
Photo: Team photo on a river cruise on the Danube River in Budapest. Photo by Justin Hoch.
What a blast last night was! The women’s team finished third in the team race and added two more World medalists, including Sarah Hildebrandt, who won silver at 53 kg, and Mallory Velte, who picked up bronze at 62 kg.
All the athletes, coaches, training partners, team leaders and support staff flooded the stage after team awards to take a squad pic. Lemme tell ya, we looked sliiiiick in our Nike warmup jackets.
After the photo, we all hurried to the hotel to drop off our bags and change for the women’s freestyle social, which was a river cruise on the Danube River. Absolutely stunning. Honestly, if you ever find yourself in Budapest and have a free night, figure out how to get on one of cruises.
We wined and dined and saw some incredible views of the city for over two hours. At one point, everyone was on the top deck of the boat trying to get photos as we passed by the beautifully lit parliament building. (I got one! Check it out!) It was also an opportune time for selfies with anybody and everybody.
Alex Glaude and Maya Nelson are basically the queens of photo ops. They tried to coach through a few “candid” photos. Didn’t quite work for me, but practice makes perfect!
Overall, it was a great time, and I wished it could’ve kept going! Your U.S. women’s freestyle representatives are some fun, fun people.
Got a couple quick shoutouts to give. S/O to Ryan Johnson, Alex Pernice, Heather Roy and others involved in making last night’s party a success! S/O to the photographers that came to capture all the fun moments! Also S/O to Helen Maroulis for the new shoes. You a real one, girl!
Views from the boat. WOOOOW. Photo by Justin Hoch.
Beautiful silhouette shot of Helen Maroulis. Photo by Justin Hoch.
Coach Terry Steiner and Kyra Berry taking a selfie. Photo by Justin Hoch.
The night was FULL of laughs. (P.S. recognize the back of that head?) Photo by Justin Hoch.
Team photo after the awards ceremony. Photo by Larry Slater.
Wednesday, Oct. 24 – For better or for worse
Photo: Adeline Gray celebrates her fourth World title. Photo by Max Rose-Fyne, UWW.
Although I’m not an athlete or a coach or a training partner, I still feel very much a part of Team USA and am treated as part of the family. That being said, these competitions can be very emotional for Gary and me.
It’s good media etiquette to not show partiality during an event, but that’s a lot to ask at a World Championships. We are filled with so much pride for our athletes. When they nearly get scored on, our hearts drop. When they do well, we celebrate and sometimes let out a little (or big) “YES!” We experience multiple highs and lows.
Five days in and I’m absolutely exhausted, emotionally. Today was especially hard, watching Helen Maroulis get pinned in her first match.
After she was eliminated from the tournament, I went to the back room to get her for her media duties. She was gracious and quick to say yes. She’s a professional.
But her interview was absolutely heartbreaking. I’ve only worked directly with Helen a handful of times, so we don’t have a close relationship. We do, however, have a good working relationship. Regardless, during her interview, I teared up quite a bit about as she explained how, if it comes down to it, she will choose her health over wrestling. She’s had a tough year, which included a head injury, but she still exudes a warrior spirit.
On the happier side of things, I got to see Sarah Hildebrandt cruise to the 53 kg finals, Tamyra Mensah-Stock pick up her first World medal and then watched Adeline Gray become a four-time World champion to end the day.
Let me tell you guys, Adeline’s celebrations are SO much fun. The way she jumped up and down and squealed after she picked up a tech fall in the finals had me smiling from ear to ear. During her interview, I caught myself still smiling so big for her. Pure and genuine happiness.
I would say the emotional side of this job is one of the hardest parts, but it’s also one of the most rewarding parts. When the athletes cry, we cry. When they jump for joy, so do we.
These athletes work insanely hard, and fortunately, I get the amazing opportunity to see the process, the success and the heartbreak.
Tuesday, Oct. 23 – Heads held high
Photo: Kyle Snyder doing a press conference moments after falling short to Sadulaev in the gold-medal match. Photo by Gary Abbott.
Ok this one will actually be short.
Tough day for the USA in both men’s and women’s freestyle, but it still provided a couple of highlights.
After taking last year’s World Championships off, three-time World champion Adeline Gray is back! She kicked butt yesterday, and it included a big win over 2016 Olympic champion Erica Wiebe of Canada in the semifinals.
I’m so excited to watch her go for her fourth World title to match American legend Tricia Saunders. Also, our final four women start their tournaments on Wednesday, and I’ve got a good feeling.
Another highlight was the USA wrapping up an impressive men’s freestyle tournament. Sure, everyone was hoping we would go back-to-back, but there’s no denying that we are in a Golden Age of wrestling. This team was so much fun to watch!
Although Kyle Snyder lost in his rematch with Sadulaev, he had a winning attitude even after. Coach Zadick said it best at last night’s social: These guys are better people than they are wrestlers…and they’re REALLY good wrestlers.
Adeline celebrating her semis win over Olympic champion Erica Wiebe. Photo by Joe Kania.
Coach Bill Zadick receiving the second-place team trophy for men's freestyle.
Monday, Oct. 22 – Two. More. Champions.
Photo: Dake and Cox showing off their new gold medals.
Gonna keep this one short, friends. Maybe.
Another great day for the USA in the books! Kyle Dake and J’den Cox picked up World titles to give the U.S. three World champions so far.
Their gold-medal matches were close, but there wasn’t a nervous energy in room. I think everyone was pretty confident. Kyle went unscored upon in the tournament, outscoring the World, 37-0. Yes. J’den finally broke through and earned a spot on top of the podium. Double yes.
It was just an exciting night, even though we realized that Russia clinched the team race. Going back to back would have been nice, but no one can look down on the tournament we’ve had so far! Our men’s freestyle athletes have been incredible this week.
And it’s not over yet. A Snyderlaev rematch is on deck for tomorrow!!!
One more thing relating to men’s freestyle. One of the most uncomfortable parts of my job is tracking down athletes after they’ve lost and asking them to do a media availability. And I get it. No one wants to get asked a bunch of questions after ending their World Championships with a loss.
But tonight, Thomas Gilman was the definition of grace after falling short in his bronze-medal match. We always give the athletes some time to collect themselves. With Gilman, he was quick to take care of his media duties after a short cool down. (And his interview was pretty good)
People like to villainize him, but Gilman is, in my opinion, one of our most polite and easiest guys to work with.
We also began women’s competition today. Jacarra Winchester was SO close to making it to the finals. I won’t give an opinion on the call, but I’ll just say for you iPhone users, go to your emojis, click on the lightbulb tab thingy and look at the bottom row. Then go to the 12th emoji.
We’ve got four more tough women wrestling tomorrow and I can’t wait to see show the world what they’re made of! Watch Adeline Gray, Tamyra Mensah, Erin Clodgo and Forrest Molinari live on Trackwrestling.
One more thing, it’s pretty exciting some of the famous faces you get to see at an event like this.
Today, I did a quick interview with Henry Cejudo, which was pretty awesome. He really knows how to self-promote. I also ran into John Smith and Sally Roberts after the evening session. They’re commentating for the NBC Olympic Channel. Got a quick hello in with Dan Gable as well. You guys, seriously. Come to a World Championships, if you can. You’ll rub elbows with USA Wrestling stars of the past, present and future!
Learned a lesson today. There is no room for bad hair days at an event like this. You never know when a photo op will present itself.
Sunday, Oct. 21 – It was a good day for people named Taylor
Photo: David Taylor on the podium receiving his gold medal after winning a World title at 86 kg.
Today was insane! One World champion and three World bronze medalists is not a bad way to start the first medal round of the World Championships.
Team USA is looking great so far, and you can tell with every interview that we did that the team race is DEFINITELY something they’re all thinking about. Every guy that we talked to today was clearly enthusiastic about this team as a whole.
It helps that Russia lost a couple of matches, too.
The highlight of the night, obviously, was watching David Taylor win the World title at 86 kg in his first try. That dude is SO good, something we’ve all known for a while, but he proved that to the World this weekend, going through the toughest draw imaginable.
Isn’t crazy that the most trouble that Taylor has had competition-wise in the past few years is against Americans? That should be something that the other countries take notice of because we coming.
The second-best part of the night was watching Taylor as he stepped onto the podium to receive his gold medal. He was all smiles. When the National Anthem started playing, I had chills. The environment that the World Championships has is unlike any other. It’s even better than NCAAs, and that’s saying something. Everyone should try to experience a Worlds at least once. It’s incredible.
So far this week, there have only been two instances, where I was nervous.
- When David Taylor got kicked in the face and knocked out for a quick second during his semifinals (omg omg omg)
- When Jordan Burroughs wrestled Frank Chamizo for bronze.
Don’t get me wrong, I have faith in Burroughs, but the last two times these guys met up were under wobbly circumstances, and I couldn’t bear to see that again. While it was a close match, I’m so happy that it happened the way it did. Burroughs takes the series!
ALSO, let me just say that from a media member’s standpoint, Jordan Burroughs is such a class-act and so enjoyable to work with. I truly enjoy every encounter I have with Jordan and always look forward to working with him.
Big props to Joe Colon, who was a World Team alternate just a couple of weeks ago and came out here and won a medal! Congratulations to Nick Gwiazdowski as well! He made it clear that he didn’t come here for bronze, but as a fan of the sport, it is super exciting to see him consistently perform well and get better!
Overall, the wrestling was super exciting today in all sessions, not just for the U.S.
After four World Championships appearances and two Olympic Games, 35-year-old Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez of Cuba finally captured a World title, winning at 61 kg. We’ve worked with the Cubans a few times at events and they are always so friendly, and the wrestlers are super entertaining to watch, so it’s nice to see them do well.
I was down in the photographers’ area watching Bonne’s celebration and I was stopped by Eric Olanowski and Tim Foley of UWW, who asked me to help them conduct an interview with Bonne and translate. My Spanish is pretty good, but I’m definitely sometimes too shy to use it. The pressure was on! But I made it through, thankfully. (It helped that Bonne was trying to catch his breath, so he was speaking a little slower.)
To open the night, the Hungarian Wrestling Federation put together an incredible opening ceremoines, which included an audience-participation light show as well as good music and some interesting dancing.
We’ve got two more freestyle guys in the finals (Kyle Dake and J’den Cox), and Kyle Snyder and James Green are slated to start their tournaments. Also beginning on Monday is the first two women’s freestyle weights. For the USA, it’s Jacarra Winchester at 55 kg and Jenna Burkert at 59 kg. Let’s go, ladies!!!
Don’t miss it!
(P.S. the draw meeting was goofy as h-e-double hockey sticks but I won’t into detail about that. All that matters is that Snyder and Sadulaev are on opposite sides!)
Me (the blonde one) translating for Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez of Cuba in an interview with UWW.
World bronze medalist Joe Colon with Team USA masseuse Cyrus Poitier.
The venue prior to the opening ceremonies with audience members holding glowing sticks to form the Hungarian Flag.
Saturday, Oct. 20 – Day one: Done!
Today was exactly as exciting as I thought it would be! The USA put all four wrestlers into the quarterfinals, and eventually, all four put themselves in position to be in the hunt for a medal tomorrow, including World finalist David Taylor!
(Also, how cool is it to see so many athletes competing for other countries with a background in NCAA wrestling?)
Amongst all the excitement, I spent a lot of time moving stealthily around the arena, trying to figure out what zones my credential would allow me to go to. While my pass won’t scan correctly to allow me into the building (LOL), once I smile my way through the front door, I can pretty much maneuver my way through the arena quite easily.
One of my favorite parts of today was seeing fellow media members from all over the world. It’s amazing how tight the wrestling world is and how great the people are that make up this community.
(S/O to Kadir Caliskan for bringing me some Birkenstocks from Germany and helping me save some ca$h money)
I always enjoy seeing my UWW video pals, who all hail from Brighton, England, and have been lovingly dubbed “The Brits.” Once I’m around them, I can’t help but fall into a ridiculous attempt at an English accent, and it’s side effects last for the duration of the tournament.
USA Wrestling is also getting the awesome opportunity to work with our partners Trackwrestling and FloWrestling and some of our country’s best photographers! We as a wrestling community are incredibly lucky to have fine folks like all of them working so hard to advance our sport.
The night ended with watching some of our women’s freestyle athletes and coaches getting into heated games of Nertz in the cafeteria. Talk about competition!
Can’t wait to get the rest of this week rolling! Four going for medals and four new weights starting! Watch it live on Trackwrestling.
A behind-the-scenes look at Nertz with the women's team.
Friday, Oct. 19 – Star struck
Pictured: Frank Chamizo taking a selfie with a fan, and then there's me. Photo by Justin Hoch.
I’m constantly surrounded by the top wrestlers in the USA, and they’re often the best wrestlers in the world. And for that alone, I pretty much have the coolest job ever.
But these past few days as the wrestling world has descended upon Budapest, I’ve found myself in awe of being in the same space as some other international stars.
Sadulaev, Chamizo, Khinchegashvili. Oh my!
While I hope the USA is victorious in any potential matchups with these athletes, it was still jaw-dropping to see them in person as the nearest I’ve ever been to them was when my face was dangerously close to my computer screen, watching a live feed.
The close encounters themselves got me all kinds of excited for my first Senior World Championships as part of the USA Wrestling staff, but reality truly set in earlier this afternoon, when I sat in on the draws for the first day of competition.
Watching all the top names pop up on the screen and seeing where they land in relation to our U.S. athletes pushed my excitement over the edge.
David Taylor and Yazdanicharati first round. Potential Burroughs/Chamizo semifinal. Bronze-medal rematch for Gwiz. An exciting draw for Joe Colon. Somebody pinch me!!! This is too cool. And it all goes down tomorrow!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna hunt down a Benadryl so I can get to sleep.
Check out the USA draws here and don’t forget to tune in to Trackwrestling.com to catch the opening of the 2018 World Championships at 4:30 a.m. ET.
Coaches and team leaders swarming the board to get photos of the draws.
The stage is set. Get excited, people!
Wednesday, Oct. 17: Budapest by way of planes, trains and automobiles
Pictured: (back) Eiffel Tower, (left to right) Ryan Johnson, Taylor Miller and Alexandra Pernice.
** soooo many words but pictures below!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog entry for TheMat.com, but there’s no better time than the present.
I’ve finally arrived in Budapest for the 2018 Senior World Championships, tackling a fun, yet exhausting, two days of travel with USA Wrestling’s Director of Corporate Partnerships Ryan Johnson and Partnership Marketing Coordinator Alexandra Pernice.
When it came time to book our travel to Budapest a couple of months ago, the three of us decided to take a cheaper route with a 12-hour layover in Paris. Can you blame us?
Denver to DC. DC to Paris. All went smoothly. Major key that we all got our own row for the international flight.
I hopped off the plane at CGD with a dream and three carry-ons (Shhh, don’t tell United.) and headed out for an adventure. Alex and Ryan were in Paris last summer for the 2017 World Championships, and this was my first time, so I had relied on them to take us to the best spots.
We walked by the Louvre, Ryan gave us a history lesson of the building and we stopped at a small café for breakfast. After croissants and coffee, we meandered through the Tuileries Garden and eventually ended up at the Rodin Museum.
Auguste Rodin is considered the GOAT of sculptures, so we browsed through the museum, filled with beautiful marble and bronze artwork. Another iconic part of the museum is the garden out back, which was home to several more of his pieces, including The Thinker and The Gates of Hell.
The three of us let our imaginations run wild, coming up with clever titles and for the sculptures. Btw, I find it totally unfair that when it comes to my Instagram posts, I can’t come up with that kind of material. #Blessed.
After the museum, we walked and walked…and walked, looking for a place to have lunch. For me, lunch was two shots of espresso and as much water as I could down during our short break.
Then, it was off to the Eiffel Tower, where our selfie game was strong.
The rest of our stops in Paris were fairly short. We went to the Galleries Lafayette (a HUGE mall) and ended the day with a subway ride to Moulin Rouge. By this point, we were pretty beat. We didn’t even walk to a bench. We just sat on the curb for a quick rest.
We found our way to the train station to catch our train to Frankfurt. It was maybe a three- or four-hour ride, but we didn’t have much time before we had to take an overnight train to Vienna. While waiting, we met a man from Brazil, Luis, who didn’t speak much English. I tried using my Spanish and he seemed to understand, but when it came to him responding, it was all in Portuguese and I was LOST. Despite the language barrier, we were able to befriend him, which came in handy as we got on the train and our sleeper car was full, leaving no room for us.
We eventually were directed by the conductor to a coach car, where Luis was posted up. He happily welcomed us in and we made beds out of seats and crashed until the Vienna sunrise woke us up seven hours later.
We had one more short-ish train ride from Vienna to Budapest. I planned to use that time wisely and catch up on some work…but I fell asleep instead. (Sorry, Gary. I promise the media guide will be done soon!)
I made it to my hotel just in time to welcome the men’s freestyle team, which arrived today as well. You can tell the team is buzzing and excited to be here.
It’s already been a great trip and we’re still a few days out from #BudaWrestle2018. I’ll try to keep up with some blog posts on this trip for those of you interested (mainly my mom, dad and Mema). Until then, go to Trackwrestling.com and purchase the live stream of the World Championships, using the promo WINUSA.
P.S. never take a shower for granted.
Alex nearly got kicked out of the group for this one...
It's not a bed, but it'll work.