'Unorthodox' Gelogaev reaches higher
Unique style makes heavyweight a sight to see on collegiate mat
The legend of Alan Gelogaev started long before he ever suited up for Oklahoma State.
Born in Chechenya in what was then still the Soviet Union, Gelogaev honed his wrestling skills in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, under one of the world’s best, Buvaisar Saitiev.
Honed his skills in freestyle that is.
Also while in Siberia, Gelogaev met former Oklahoma State All-American Daniel Cormier, who also earned a bronze medal at the 2007 World Championships and competed in two Olympic Games (2004 and 2008).
Again, lots of elite freestyle training. Folkstyle -- like that of high school and college wrestling -- was not yet part of his vocabulary.
A small buzz was created around Stillwater, Okla., when rumors of a “mighty Russian” began to circulate. The rumor mill, however, doesn’t always provide tangible results but coaches and those close to the program kept saying ‘wait and see.’
The Russian attended school at Oklahoma State during the 2008-09 school year but did not wrestle as the battle was more with international paperwork than on-the-mat opponents. In 2009-10 the legend finally became reality.
“The first year was quite an experience,” said Oklahoma State head coach John Smith, himself a former freestyle star. “He didn’t know the [folkstyle] rules. That was half the battle. To do what he did with that much experience was pretty tough.”
Gelogaev’s first year of folkstyle produced a 30-7 record and a seventh-place finish at the NCAA Championships. There was another new facet to his wrestling as well -- cutting weight.
“I didn’t like that very much,” said Gelogaev, who competed at 197 pounds. “It was something new for me.”
The plan, with the graduation of Jared Rosholt, was for Gelogaev to move up to 285 pounds. He did so, but in a November tournament, one of his patented throws turned ugly. Before he really got started, the Russian was sidetracked, missing the entire 2010-11 season due to injury.
A month before the 2012 NCAA Championships in St. Louis, the legend of Gelogaev is again picking up steam.
The 285-pound junior is 21-0 -- he did lose a match against Chad Hanke at the Reno Tournament of Champions in December but it doesn't count toward Gelogaev's won-loss record because Hanke is taking an Olympic redshirt -- with eight pins and 15 bonus-point victories. Most coaches will tell you he is not your typical heavyweight.
“He brings a lot of different things,” Oklahoma head coach Mark Cody said. “Until you’ve been on the mat with someone like that it’s hard to understand. And he is such a good athlete; you have to be, to be able to do some of the things he does. We call it unorthodox. But to them, that’s part of how they learn to wrestle.”
What is it that he does?
At more than 6-feet tall and around 240 pounds, Gelogaev has an array of throws, trips and leverage-based techniques not often seen in folkstyle, especially at heavyweight.
“If you don’t know what’s coming it will burn you,” said Hanke, who finished second at the 2011 World Team Trials in freestyle and is taking an Olympic redshirt. “He’s good, no doubt about it. Some of that stuff isn’t as easy to stop as somebody might think. And he’s gotten better on the mat.”
|QUICK FACTS ON ALAN GELOGAEV|
|Born:||Nov. 11, 1986 in Sernovodsk, Chechenya|
|Honors:||Trained under Russian wrestling legend Buvaisar Saitiev in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia for five years ... Won an international tournament in Nice, France in 2006 ... Third at 2006 Russian national championship ... Placed second at the 2008 New York Athletic Club Open, pinning 2008 U.S. Olympic team member Andy Hrovat in the semifinal round.|
|Nickname:||'Z', from his middle name Zelim|
|Complete Gelogaev bio|
The addition of more video capabilities has allowed for more scouting in wrestling during the past decade. No matter.
“There are a number of ways to set up some of the things I do,” Gelogaev said.
And it happens in a flash.
Newman’s Trey Grovenor found out in 54 seconds. McKendree’s Ross Janney in 23 seconds. At the time, Arizona State’s Levi Cooper was ranked fourth. He was tossed and pinned in 23 seconds. Boise State’s J.T. Felix lasted all of 47 seconds.
If you can, remember the old Looney Tunes cartoons. The Tasmanian devil ring a bell? Gelogaev and his opponent locked up in upper-body ties usually ends with one of the Russian’s long legs thrown into the fray. A spin, a flip or a trip usually brings a gasp to the crowd.
“He does some things that heavyweights don’t do,” Smith said. “We’ve had to tone it down a little in practice because guys can get hurt. What I like is that he has really worked on some of the positions that he wasn’t very good in when he first got here. He did some things that kids do in junior high. He’s gotten a lot better on the mat but there is still some work to do.”
During his first folkstyle season, Gelogaev admitted to not liking American wrestling very much.
“I still prefer freestyle, but I am getting better at [folkstyle],” Gelogaev said.
“Without question it’s fun to watch those guys,” Cody added.
Cody knows a thing or two about the transition from international styles to the American discipline. And also how they quickly become fan favorites once they get attention.
At American University, Cody coached Muzaffar Abdurakhmanov, an All-American in 2006. He also worked with current American 157-pounder Ganbayar Sanjaa, an All-American last season. Both are from Mongolia.
As wrestling fans will find out, Gelogaev is starting to get used to it. And as his fantastic throws find their way onto computer screens across the country his legend will continue to grow as the postseason approaches.
“He certainly brings something different to the heavyweights,” Smith said.
In St. Louis just listen for “ZZZZeeeee” from the Oklahoma State contingent. And don’t blink because you might miss something.