By Jonny Ruggiano
It isn’t every day that you find the chance to prove to World that you are the best. However yesterday in Kharkov, Ukraine the Titan Mercury Wrestling Club did just that. In a competition that watched many of the World’s best Olympic freestyle wrestlers fall in dual meet competition, it was apparent that a star-studded cast would not be enough. If TMWC was going to win the World title they were gonna need grit, unity and they would need to believe. For the thousands of wrestling faithful back home in the USA it was clear that they believed the club could do just that: bring home the gold. However the road for the Titan Mercury Wrestling Club wasn’t anything close to conventional.
Titan Mercury boasted a power line up that any team would die for. USA’s brightest starts, Nico Megaludis, BJ Futrell, Nazar Kulchytskyy, Alex Dieringer, David Taylor, Kyle Snyder and Nick Gwiazdowski were joined by Georgian Olympic gold medalist Vladimer Khnichegashvili.
Never the less, at the end of the first day’s competition only two wrestlers remained unscathed: Nico Megaludis and Alex Dieringer. Founder, Wayne Boyd, who also serves as the club’s Director of Development reflected upon the team’s path to the finals, “Of the three years TMWC has competed at the WCC, this year is by far the toughest. When two Olympic Champions lose in the same day the other guys have to step up! They did, Dieringer, Megaludis, Taylor and Gwiazdowski stepped up to put us in the finals against Iran’s Razi team. Tomorrow night will be a war.”
The finals were just that: a war. Trench warfare to be more accurate. As two giants of the wrestling world clashed, it was obvious that no one was safe and everyone’s heart and soul would be sacrificed to win the title. TMWC’s Nico Megaludis started off battling Olympic bronze medalist Hassan Rahimi is a contrasting match of the seasoned veteran versus the young Megaludis. At the end Rahimi walked away victorious with a 5-2 win. The next match featured one of TMWC’s top ranked wrestlers, Olympic champion Vladimer Khnichegashvili. The Georgian took on Masoud Esmaeilpour who himself was a world silver medalist. In the course of the battle things got out of hand, with both wrestlers attacking each others face. However, it was Esmaeilpour who flagrantly flopped after being hit in the face and fell to the mat. The outcome was that both contestants were disqualified and Titan Mercury lost their first Olympic champion’s chance at a win. The team score remained 0-1 with the favor going to Bimeh Razi.
The 65 kg. bout was one sided with Ilyas Bekbulatov for Iran taking out BJ Futrell in a quick tech fall. Titan Mercury could feel their backs against the wall. In an eight match dual that now turned into seven contested bouts, Titan Mercury was down 0-2. The team had to win 4 of the next five matches to take it all.
Nazar Kulchytskyy and Nick Gwiazdowski were the only two members of the team that came into the finals with a losing record from the prelims. Originally a native of Ukraine, the week’s competition did not go as planned for the Titan Mercury wrestler Kulchytskyy. However, his performance in the finals kick started the team’s chances to stay in the bout. “I knew if I won my match against Sanakoev, it would be huge. So I watched is matches and came up with a good strategy.” In an all heart victory Nazar defeated Atsamaz Sanakoev and Titan Mercury was on the board.
Down 1-2 Titan Mercury moved into their power line up with Alex Dieringer, David Taylor and Kyle Snyder up consecutively. However, the Bimeh Razi team had set up worthy adversaries each step of the way. As Dieringer stepped to the mat, the only remaining undefeated TMWC wrestler seemed conservative, almost timid at the beginning. It was not long until Iran’s Reza Afzali blasted through the NCAA standout and gained a four-point advantage. Well into the end of the match, it seemed that Titan Mercury’s chances of winning were dwindling away. Every attempt from Dieringer was thwarted by the Iranian. Until a flicker of hope came at the last seconds of the bout and Alex capitalized off of it. With the clock winding down Dieringer hit a last minute takedown and gut wrench to win the match 5-4.
Titan Mercury and Bimeh Razi were tied up 2-2 with only three matches left.
At eighty-six kilos the Iran team had the upper advantage with season wrestler Alireza Karimi at the helm. The 2015 World bronze medalist was wrestling a younger, less experienced David Taylor. It was not long after the whistle blew, that Karimi was on the scoreboard with a two-point takedown. Taylor, who is known in the U.S. for his great leg attacks and ability to capitalize off of any position did not waiver. Quickly the young star changed the pace of the match and turned it into a pro-USA style bout where funky moves and great scrambles dictated the outcome. At the end of the match Taylor propelled TMWC to take the lead 3-2 with a final individual score of 12-6.
With Taylor’s win the tables turned in favor of Titan Mercury. The team’s Olympic champion, Kyle Snyder was next. As seen throughout the tournament no wrestler was safe from tough competition and Kyle was no different. With a slow paced bout, the match was left into the hands of the official. After an exchange of flurries, Snyder found his opponent Abbas Tahan deep on a single leg attack which left both wrestlers on the edge of the mat. With only two seconds left in the bout Tahan drove Snyder out of the circle, in what looked like a grounded attempt. Never the less the official gave Iran the point for a push out and the win.
Going into the final match Titan Mercury and Razi were tied 3-3.
The match saw the deck stacked against TMWC. While Nick Gwiazdowski was a standout college wrestler, he walked onto the mat with limited international competition and a losing record from the previous day. His opponent, Parvis Hadi was the quintessential anchor heavyweight. As a three-time World Cup champion, Hadi had been in this position many times before. Yet Gwiazdowski kept pushing the pace throughout the entire match. With only forty seconds left in the bout Gwiazdowski was down 1-2 but Hadi began to waiver. TMWC’s young star took advantage, scoring the final takedown and winning the match 3-2.
Titan Mercury did it again. The newly assembled club came onto the World stage with tenacity and faith, beating the World’s best and setting a new standard. A standard, that for their team, will no doubt will not remain stagnant, but instead will, “Stay hungry for more.”