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Beach World Series Blog: Bommarito adds second gold; Beach Wrestling has arrived worldwide

by Rusty Davidson, Special to TheMat.com

Beach World champions Kennedie Snow and Eliana Bommarito of the United States pose together at Neversea Beach in Romania. (Photo by Cheryl Baynard)

Sunday, September 10…  World Champion !  That’s a descriptor Americans cherish.  Then, when we start adding on the multipliers, the buy in is complete.  Eliana Bommarito has won two World titles in three days, becoming UWW’s U20 World Champion this evening.


The perfect irony is that www.themat.com’s lead, today, features a photo of Amit Elor, whose first World Championship was in Beach Wrestling (Odessa 2019).  Since then, Elor has tacked on a few belts, and the notches in ‘em.


Now we’ve got Eliana with two gold medals in three days.  She’s got years of collegiate eligibility left and is just warming up on the beach (pun intended).


Then, we’ve got a young Kennedie Snow.  Kennedie admits she hated Beach Wrestling… right up to the point where it earned her a trip to Romania.  As World Champion, Kennedie doesn’t hate Beach Wrestling quite so much anymore.


For the purest among us, listen…  Beach Wrestling is Real Deal.  It has arrived!  Watching five-year-olds “Play” wrestling in the sand, after they watch grown-up heroes, is what every coach on the planet craves.  Seeing folks, all ages, shapes and sizes, instantly pick a favorite is what every leader / promoter craves.


Our Greek friends remind us every competition, that Alexander the Great wrestled… and he wrestled in the sand!  Beach Wrestling is not so much asking us to try something never yet heard of.  It’s daring us to stay in touch with wrestling’s roots!


I teared up a little, both yesterday and today, as European leaders congratulated us… Americans… for finally turning the corner.  “You have worked so hard for so long.” they say.  “It’s nice to see you happy.”


We’ve got American athletes here from all over the country.  That’s great, but let’s zero in.  The majority of our age-group representation are from North Carolina.  State Chairman Ed Duncan has committed 100% to the notion that Beach Wrestling builds both technical ability and championship attitude. 


I hope you’ll join me in congratulating Ed and North Carolina on the product of their commitment.  I hope State Leaders from the other 49 can appreciate and adopt North Carolina’s philosophy of success through opportunity.


Friends, Beach Wrestling has arrived.  Get on board!  Every speech from every UWW big dog, all week, has made reference to the hope that Beach Wrestling will be on the Olympic menu in LA’28. 


All of Europe, along with leaders from other continents, have their hearts set on the equity / diversity / opportunity that outdoor wrestling brings to Olympic viewership.   All of us need to count on Wrestling Leaders to lock our sport into the future, as we honor our past.


Yes, I’m fired up!  You should be, too.  We get to be the ones responsible for our ancient sport making itself new again.  What better way for us to love Wrestling and all it stands for.


Thanks to our Romanian hosts for a beautiful, well-organized championship week.  Good luck to our friends competing in the Mediterranean Beach Games next week on Crete.  Congrats to all the 2023 U17 and U20 Champions. 


Thanks and congrats to the American families that gave of themselves to be in Constanta.  Their personal sacrifice has fueled America’s greatest week, EVER, in Beach Wrestling.  Reader, thanks for playing along!


Next stop:  Mugla, Turkiye.


Ciao

World Champion Kennedie Snow, with teammates June Pyles-Treser and Lilly Reese, raise the third place team trophy as Team Leader Ed Duncan and Rusty Davidson enjoy the moment. (Photo by Shannon Reese)

Saturday, September 9…  World Champion Kennedie Snow.  Has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it.  Kennedie, a North Carolina native, scrapped her way to a gold medal today in the 60kg bracket of the U17 Beach Wrestling World Championship.


Adding point to the team effort were June Pyles-Treser and Lilly Reese.  Their combined efforts earned Team USA the Third Place Team trophy, in the Women’s Division, behind host Romania and neighboring Ukraine.  Kane Foley, our lone men’s entry, did not place.


Americans do love to win… and we love to take photos of both the experience and the aftermath.  Athletes, parents, coaches, team leaders were all in championship photo form as today’s competition closed.


We walked 50 meters to the shore for our trophy photo backdrop.  Constanta’s Black Sea coast does offer an extraordinary view.  And then it happened !


One of our teammate / photographers pulled the cell-phone down, pointed, and yelled, “I think I just saw a dolphin!”  Sure enough, she had.


The initial sighting turned out to be a member of a pod (we counted at least eight), who apparently come in close to shore in the evening to feed.  We watched for probably twenty minutes, as these dolphins came into very shallow water, with several humans standing in it.


Walking back to the hotel, it struck me… we had Two “Wow” moments for the price of one.  Sharing the moment of a dolphin sighting was instantly every bit a cause for celebration as was a gold medal and a team trophy.  And that makes me say “Wow” !


Here’s what I’m getting at:  Global travel, cultural appreciation, trading T-shirts, connecting with new friends are the long-lasting, life changing trophies this wrestling life awards us. 


The young people representing Team USA in Constanta, as well as other Beach events, are entirely self-funded.  Those families who choose to accompany their athlete a spending a chunk of change.  Many have to do some scraping just to send their kid.  Yet, they do!


As a lifelong professional educator, I can tell you the benefits of travel, especially for young adults.  I lean on Mark Twain’s quote that, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”


I truly enjoy watching these young lives grow through wrestling.  I feel lucky to have watched travel shape so many, and I feel lucky to see what it has done for some really great young Americans this week.


Kennedie Snow won a World Championship today… and we got to see some dolphins.


Ciao

Beach World Series Gold Medalist Eliana Bommarito celebrates with coaches Mario Flores, Britney Carrington and Timothy Box (Photo by Mario Flores)

Saturday, 9 September 9…  All’s well that ends well, and this one ends extremely well.  World Series Champion!  Plus another bronze medal.


As Gary Abbott has already informed everyone, Team USA finished the fourth stage of UWW’s World Series of Beach Wrestling with a World Champion… USA’s first.  Eliana Bommarito of Michigan completely dominated the Women’s +70 category to grab the Gold Medal and a complimentary bottle of champagne.


Bommarito’s gold is Team USA’s first in our 18-year history with the Beach Wrestling style.  I gotta’ tell you, Grandpa Rusty is doin’ his happy dance.  I lived long enough to see this happen!


What’s important, though, is listening to other nations, Beach Wrestling powers like Ukraine, Romania, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Greece, celebrate for us and with us.  These powers clearly recognize the effort, the struggle, our athletes have sustained over the years.  It’s pretty heartwarming to have international competitors celebrate American achievement, not what one might expect.


Tyson Beauperthuy put another notch in the family success belt, as he fought his way to a Bronze Medal.  Tyson fought through the adversity of a tough morning session to earn his spot on the podium.


Aside from the glory of medal performances, I noticed what I think are some other significant American achievements.  Get this… Mingo Grant, representing Team USA at +90kg, is actually Doctor Grant.  Mingo has his PhD from Ft Wayne, Indiana in the field of Medical Sciences.


Team USA Constanta includes two active duty U.S. Marine Corps officers, Captains Terrance Zaleski and Jamel Johnson, who both happened onto the U.S. Beach Nationals, held in Carolina Beach last May. 


I’m sure you know, the United States Marine Corps is full partner with USA Wrestling’s National Championship events offerings.  Captain Zaleski, assigned to Marketing, was sent to Carolina Beach and ended up “Just Kinda’ Jumping In.” Captain Johnson, who works in Logistics, was in Carolina Beach helping some high school kids.  He ended up competing to “Sort of Set an Example”.


Both just competed in a World Series Championship.  This suggests to me that the U.S. Marine Corps’ partnership with USA Wrestling goes far beyond simply talkin’ the talk!  Thanks USMC.  You are the Few, the Proud.


Our U17 athletes compete tomorrow, and get to follow an inspirational performance by our Senior athletes.  I sleep tonight, a proud American.  And, I got a sip of that champagne!  Congrats, Eliana.


Ciao

Ty Loethen (USA) gets a bloody head at the Beach World Series in Romania (Photo by United World Wrestling)

Friday, September 8…  Team USA had a good day at the fourth stop of Beach Wrestling’s World Series 2023.  Thirteen senior athletes went a total of 11 and 15 on the day


I know Gary Abbott has already published detailed results.  Funny… Gary just does that.  (Maybe he should be USA Wrestling’s Communication Director… Oh, Wait… too late !)


I will say this.  American athletes came here well-prepared and gritty.  The team cohesiveness and comradery within this group is something really special.  I feel like a proud Grandpa.


One of our inspirational leaders, Ty Loethen, from the beach state of Missouri, had the bout of the day.  Ty’s first round bout versus Romanian home-crowd favorite Denis Chirac quickly turned into a bloodbath.  Some early head-butting probably favored Ty, but also opened him up pretty good.


This is cause for alarm in Beach Wrestling.  This style includes a limit of two minutes injury time, including blood.  Athletes can only be administered to by the official event medical staff.  First off, these wonderful caregivers seemingly know little about athletic injury, much less the gladiatorial ethics of wrestling.  Second… did I mention Ty was wrestling the home-crowd favorite?


We skated through, with the help of two separate interruptions for challenge.  Ty won a challenge, at one – two, to keep himself alive.  Chrirac lost a late challenge, sealing the deal.  Ty wins three to two.


As I review bout results, I can honestly say all our team had highlight reel moments throughout the day.  Rather than leave someone out, I’ll get back to the great team performance and let young Mr. Loethen bask in the glory.


My grind of the day is the same grind I’ve been on for a few years.  Leaders of the Beach Wrestling World Series have implemented a pool system of bracketing that includes a “Knockout” Round.  The goal is to create a perfect number, divisible by four, which easily leads to quarter and semi-finals.


The problem is that those leaders are willing to eliminate athletes (supposedly by blind draw) after only one handshake.  We had an athlete today get caught and thrown.  That athlete gave up a week of school, spent roughly $5,000 and wrestled 10 seconds.  This system MUST be replaced, if Beach Wrestling is to continue to thrive!


We had three Americans eliminated in this “Knockout” Round today.  How can we hope they will go home to recruit young wrestlers into the Beach Wrestling family.  We can’t !


UWW’s Beach Wrestling Commission meets next month in Turkey.  USA Wrestling’s Ed Duncan is one member of that commission.  Today, I met with Commission members from two successful Beach  countries, along with two federation leaders from other Beach Wrestling powers.  They have all been impacted and all agree.  The “Knockout” system has to be replaced.


The national pride, love of competition, and comradery I bragged about earlier demand this.  Any athlete, any age group, deserves to test themselves toward improvement.  One and done does nothing to promote that natural urge!


As Beach Wrestling continues to gain traction in the overall grassroots menu of development, throughout the U.S., we must protect the overall mission of development.  I sincerely hope all USA Wrestling leaders get behind this paradigm shift.


Here in Constanta, we will finish Stage Four of the World Series tomorrow.  Our U17s and U20s will take over, commencing Saturday and Sunday respectively.


Ciao

Tim Box and Gabe Beauperthuy, USA Wrestling Beach leaders (Photo by Jean Louis Carli, United World Wrestling)

Thursday, September 7…  LOGISTICS !  There’s a lengthy list of chores that have to get done at any wrestling event, before the first handshake and whistle.  Transportation schedules, hotel accommodation, check scales, meal times, individual and group training schedules… walk to the grocery for bottled water…  the list goes on.


Traditionally, on each tour, a person is designated to manage all these important tasks… the Team Leader.  In our grassroots, developmental, and non-Olympic programs, the Team Leader role is a very demanding one.


Our Beach delegation to the U17 and U20 World Championship, alongside Stop #4 of the Senior Beach World Series is chock full of Leaders.  Palomar College head coach Timmy Box carries the designation “Team Leader” this week.


A 2019 World silver medalist himself, Coach Box offers a pragmatic, inspirational approach to every task.  He’s done it, he gets it, he teaches it, he lives it.  I love watching athletes drawn to Timmy’s passion and commitment.


Colorado coach Gabe Beauperthuy, labeled as Coach for the Seniors, is another great human.  Like Box, Gabe has done it, lived it, been it.  He has competed at the World Championship level in Freestyle, Greco, Beach Wrestling, Belt Wrestling and Grappling.  Gabe’s honest love of life, people, travel, hard work and competitive excellence are magnetic.


Our U17 and U20 delegation are led by North Carolina’s Ed Duncan.  Ed’s passion for Beach Wrestling has elevated him to a vital position as a Member of United World Wrestling’s Beach Commission.  He has built and polished his expertise by hosting a decade’s worth of Beach National Championships… not to mention building and promoting the Beach Wrestling Tour of America. Ed has become “The Guy.”


Our Leadership Team here in Romania is rounded out by three down-home, dedicated, kid-loving volunteer coaches:  Cheryl and Steve Baynard (North Carolina) and Britney Carrington (Ohio).  These three consistently produce great kids, whether in the sand or on the mat.  They exemplify what USA Wrestling’s grassroots program stands for.


Scott Cutbirth (Missouri) will referee his first World Championship this week.  Scott is another of those who have dedicated considerable personal time and resources to making kids’ lives better through wrestling.  Scott is also deeply immersed in the explosive growth of Women’s Collegiate Wrestling through his officiating talent.


Being the “Old Guy”, I gotta’ tell you…  it’s pretty gratifying to see our sport in capable hands, passionately driven to providing maximum opportunity for American youth.  Having walked in their shoes over the last five decades, I have a deep, sincere appreciation for the gifts of insight these fine humans are sharing.


Thank You, Team Leaders… simply Thank You.


Ciao

Neversea Beach, Constanta, Romania hosts Beach Wrestling World Series (Photo by United World Wrestling)

Wednesday, September 6…  Twenty-two American athletes arrive in Romania over the next couple of days to represent the United States in Beach Wrestling.  The scenic port and resort city, Constanta, plays host to three major championships sanctioned by United World Wrestling.


Thursday and Friday see the fourth and penultimate stop of 2023’s World Series of Beach Wrestling.  The Series, open to Senior level athletes, builds towards glory and cash prizes over five events on three continents.


Saturday is dedicated to the World Championship for men and women in the U17 age category.  The event closes Sunday, with the U20s.


The United States will field 13 senior athletes in the World Series event.  Eight men and five women seek to stock up on points toward the final crown, which will be awarded in Mugla, Turkey next month.  All five U.S. women are also entered in the U20 championship.


Collegiate star, Eliana Bommarito, joins Mitchell Cook and Ty Loethen in having competed in multiple World Series events in 2023.  Bommarito competed in Buenos Aires in early May.  Loethen appeared in both Buenos Aires and Singapore (early June).  Cook competed in Singapore, as well as St Laurent du Var, France (late June).


Host Romania will be loaded with home talent, featuring some of the world’s finest.  Georgia has dominated the men’s side over the last five years, but are experiencing a “Changing of the Guard” Ukraine looks to dominate the women’s side, and also fields a couple of medal-capable men.


Bomarito leads the U.S women, demonstrating superior strength and wrestling savvy.  Loethen and Cook continue to impress, chipping away at the big names.  Newer names on the American roster present some interesting dilemmas for the “big names.”  Both our women and men bring solid technical ability and the standard American tenacity.


I’ll be introducing those individuals as the week evolves.  As we approach the weekend, I’ll also introduce you to our age-group superstars.


Ciao

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