Americans in the Caucasus

In March 2010, an American “landing force” invaded the city of Nalchik, the very heart of the Caucasus and the capital of the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic. A team of America’s strongest wrestlers came to the Caucasus to participate in an epic struggle between the top wrestlers from Russia and the US – the second such event in the history of the sport. American freestyle wrestlers faced the team from the Kabardino-Balkaria Republic (KBR).

The arrival of the Americans, one of the world’s strongest teams in freestyle wrestling, aroused huge interest. The Nalchik sports centre was full to capacity and could not accommodate all those wishing to attend.

There were seven weight categories: 55, 60, 66, 74, 84 and 120 kg. The 96 kg group was unrepresented as the American in that weight class was out with an injury. To make up for the loss, the 55 kg group was represented by two pairs, who opened the tournament.

The first bout was fought by Rasul Mashezov (KBR) and Samuel Hasewinkel (USA), with the Russian wrestler winning outright.

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In the other 55 kg bout between KBR’s Atmir Khromov and Danny Felix of the US, the Caucasian wrestler got the upper hand, too.

The 66 kg event was fought by Teyon Ware (USA) and Arsen Mairov (KBR). The Kabardino-Balkar athlete immediately took the initiative and caught his American colleague with a takedown, defeating him 5:0.

The 74 kg struggle between Aniuar Geduyev (KBR) and Trent Paulson (USA) ended with the same result.

In the 84 kg bout between Michael Poeta (USA) and Anzor Urishev (KBR), the American wrestler scored one point but lost 1:6.

The most exciting event was the final bout between heavyweights Tervel Dlagnev (US) and two-time world champion Bilyal Makhov (KBR). The American athlete put up strong resistance, but Bilyal Makhov confirmed his title, winning 1:4.

American wrestlers, known for their stamina and commitment, always fight to the last. This time was no different and they did all they could, but they were defeated by the Caucasian athletes.

In the end, the Kabardino-Balkar team won a convincing victory over one of the world’s strongest teams with a score of 7:0, to the great admiration of the public.

On the whole, the event was surrounded by a festive atmosphere. The organisers did their best to turn the tournament into a colourful show, alternating bouts of wrestling with performances staged by Kabardino-Balkar actors. At the closing ceremony, a Moroccan singer performed the popular Circassian song Sinana.

For a number of reasons I was unable to talk to the American athletes. Yet, speaking to wrestling fans from Kabardino-Balkaria, I realised that, despite pride in the brilliant victory of their countrymen, the American athletes won favour and respect with the local fans, who hope that such meetings will become a tradition. As I could see, Americans are welcome guests in the Caucasus, both as guests and partners.

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