The Covid-19 era of sports has lead to ingenuity and growth from the American wrestling community. With very few events being hosted by global or national governing bodies, it was up to the Regional Training Centers and Wrestling Clubs to create opportunities to compete and make a living.
FloWrestling, Beat the Streets Chicago, Beat the Streets New York, the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, and now the Hawkeye Wrestling Club have all held pro events in lieu of World and Olympic competition.
2016 Olympic champion Vladimer Khinchegashvili made his return to competition against two-time NCAA champion Yianni Diakomihalis at the Beat the Streets exhibition, winning a tight match full of close-call scrambles.
Khinchegashvili often trains in New York City under 1996 Olympic champion Kendall Cross and his stable, giving American clubs access to a high-profile athlete for their events. He was paired with three-time All-American Jaydin Eierman - the only wrestler to defeat Yianni Diakomihalis in collegiate competition.
Eierman placed 5th, 4th, and 3rd at the NCAA championships for the University of Missouri before transferring to the University of Iowa for what would have been his final season. Eierman was granted an additional redshirt year and the NCAA has allowed yet another year of grace due to CoVid-19, so Hawkeye fans can expect to see Eierman around for a few more years. His transition to freestyle has been up-and-down. Eierman made the 2019 U23 World team, and earned bronze at the 2019 Pan American Games at 65 kg, but he still has yet to get over the hump domestically at the senior level.
After placing 5th at 2020 US Senior Nationals, Eierman set out to become the first American wrestler to defeat Khinchegashvili.
Keeping it Simple
On paper, this was a tough matchup for Jaydin Eierman. Most of his success comes off of the attacks of his opponents. He thrives in scrambles, the same has been true in freestyle for the most part. Khinchegashvili largely operates in the same way, but his ability to create opportunities for leg attacks and finding points thereafter has been proven at a much higher level.
Eierman had received criticism in the past for not taking many leg attacks of his own, an anonymous fan went so far to say that Eierman “can’t shoot.”
Apparently idk how to shoot ♂️ that’s news to me haha https://t.co/38F8ASoF3b— Jaydin “The Riddler” Eierman (@JEierman141) October 8, 2020
Eierman’s leg attacks were already more present and dialed in when he returned to action at Senior Nationals in early October.
Against Khinchegashvili, he looked like a totally different wrestler.
The foundation of any elite double leg-based wrestler is the threat of the level change. Best exemplified by Jordan Burroughs, forcing your opponent to level change with you and then rise back into their stance is one of the best setups for a clean penetration shot.
Early on against Khinchegashvili, Eierman began faking hard steps and level changes to create that dynamic. There are a few different typical reactions. The first is that the defending wrestler matches levels, then rises up, opening the window of attack. The defending wrestler may also stay lower in their level, taking a stronger defensive stance to avoid the double - snapdowns and short offense are a good response to this tactic. The least common response is that the defending wrestler does not acknowledge the feint and stays in their stance as they were.
It’s possible that Khinchegashvili had done his homework on Eierman. He may have known that Eierman was more dangerous in a front-headlock situation with chest wraps and head pinches than as a leg attacker. The level fakes could have been interpreted as a way to get Khinchegashvili underneath Eierman, and that’s why he didn’t bite very often.
Here you can see that Khinchegashvili was active defensively, checking the hands of Eierman and matching levels once or twice, but he was clearly taken by surprise when Eierman blew through him with explosive double legs.
Not to make excuses for a seasoned Olympic champion, but Khinchegashvili has never been a full sized 65 kg wrestler and the power differential may have played a role. Eierman’s size advantage became even more apparent when Khinchegashvili got to his own leg attacks and opened up scrambles.
The opening of this initial scramble demonstrates what sort of attacks Khinchegashvili was prepared for. As Eierman pulled the head and shot across for the ankle, Khinchegashvili effortlessly kicked back, pivoted and dropped to Eierman’s legs.
Eierman was able to square up quickly, then transitioned to step-over for a go-behind. Khinchegashvili stayed glued to the leg, even as Eierman continued to work his way behind the Georgian and put boots in. According to freestyle scoring criteria, Khinchegashvili’s control of the leg counteracted what would have been a takedown by Eierman.
This scramble highlighted Eierman’s scrambling chops, as well as how much of a factor his length and weight would be in these situations. The way Eierman transitioned from that cross-body position with the crotch-lock attempt to locking over the arm and putting a boot in was particularly slick.
The ability to chain together positions and lead to potential scoring situations is huge, these are the advanced details that separate the elite at the World level. Of course, Eierman’s more “traditional” defense from the chest wrap position held up against Khinchegashvili as well.
The chest wrap allows Eierman to crunch in and put weight on Khinchegashvili’s head, neck and back. To finish the shot, Khinchegashvili is forced to bring his feet closer to base up and get height. Once he brought his knees forward, Khinchegashvili’s legs were close enough for Eierman to switch off to the crotch-lock and the switch. In short, Eierman’s scrambling is showing a logical progression, the positions build into each other.
Overall, it was one of the cleanest performances of Jaydin Eierman’s career. It could be the way these two wrestlers matched up, or perhaps Eierman has jumped levels and will be threatening for World and Olympic team spots in the near future. Keep an eye out for additional pro cards for more intriguing developments in the sport of wrestling!