Sesker Slant: Is this the best U.S. team ever?

By Craig Sesker For The Predicament

Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion Jordan Burroughs lost.

So did Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion Kyle Snyder along with world champion Logan Stieber, Olympic and world medalist J’den Cox, and world medalists James Green and Nick Gwiazdowski.

But the U.S. still crowned three champions among six overall medalists while edging Iran for the team title.

The Yasar Dogu International this past weekend in Istanbul, Turkey provided an excellent tune-up for the United States men’s freestyle team as it continues preparations for the World Championships.

And even with some setbacks among its stars, the 10-man U.S. squad still contains the firepower, depth and experience to repeat as world team champions this year in Budapest, Hungary.

The Americans still showed they will be the team to beat at the World Championships.

The change from eight to 10 weight classes has made the American team even stronger.

The two new additions to the U.S. lineup – world team rookies David Taylor and Kyle Dake – look like the two best wrestlers on the team right now.

Taylor and Dake have had outstanding seasons and both wrestlers steamrolled the competition despite being in tough brackets in Turkey. They could both win world titles this year.

With only seven weight classes in previous years, and six in the last Olympics, studs like Taylor and Dake fell short of making a U.S. team while being stuck behind Burroughs and Cox.

It is going to be very difficult for anyone to beat either one of these guys. Taylor wrestles at a high pace that opponents simply can’t match. He’s also a relentless, offensive-minded wrestler who is now strong enough to compete at 189 pounds.

Dake is another tough matchup at 174 pounds. His defense is impressive, he’s very powerful and he’s adept at scoring points in bunches with his ability to lift and turn the opposition. He’s also become better offensively and he’s always been supremely conditioned.

2017 world silver medalist Thomas Gilman joined Dake and Taylor as a champion in Turkey.

Gilman, a three-time All-American for Iowa, had his share of detractors after struggling at times this season, including in the World Cup. But many people also didn’t realize he was coming off an injury he suffered during training.

Gilman looks healthy now and that was evident in Turkey where the ultra-confident lightweight put his share of points on the board. Gilman believes he’s the strongest 125-pounder in the world, and he may be right.

If Gilman can continue to improve and evolve, as he has his entire career, he will be a legitimate world title contender this year. Being able to finish for takedowns is another key when he fires in with his effective single-leg attacks.

Gilman scored a combined 34 points in his four matches in Turkey, including 10 in the finals. That’s an excellent sign for him.

As for some of the American losses in Turkey, four of them came in matches where the score ended in a tie but their opponent won by criteria.

The most notable of those came when Burroughs and Cuban-born Frank Chamizo of Italy ended their 163-pound final deadlocked 10-10.

Chamizo appeared to benefit from a few curious calls by the officials during the match, but he’s obviously a very good wrestler who is very tough to finish on.

It’s a shame that United World Wrestling is too stubborn to add overtime. Burroughs has lost six matches in an eight-year international career and three came when the match ended in a tie score.

Just a few hours after the loss, Burroughs put a post on Twitter that read: “I’ll be back.”

You can count on that.

Burroughs has been wrestling at an extremely high level since his stunning setback at the 2016 Olympics. The challenges and reviews in the match in Turkey seemed to benefit Chamizo, who was able to rest and catch his breath.

And there were definitely some calls that were puzzling that went against Burroughs. But you have to expect that at this level and Burroughs knows that as well as anyone. You can bet Burroughs will respond in a huge way in Budapest.

The timing of the tournament in Turkey was perfect for the American squad. They received some tough competition in an overseas competition.

Now they come back home with the opportunity to address concerns and assess where they are at heading into the worlds. They have plenty to work on as they work toward peaking in late October.

No doubt, wrestlers like Burroughs, Snyder, Stieber, Green and Gwiazdowski will be determined and motivated to bounce back.

Nobody said it was going to be easy, and the Yasar Dogu proved that.

But it also proved that the United States is primed to have an outstanding showing in Hungary.

Russia obviously is highly motivated to rebound after finishing just one point behind the Americans last year. And Iran, with a lot of new faces in its loaded lineup, likely will be in the mix as well.

It could come down to the final bout again, like it did last year when Snyder beat Olympic gold medalist and two-time world champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia in the final bout of the tournament in Paris.

That would definitely be something to see.

If the U.S. wrestles like it is capable and hits its peak, it may not come down to the final match.

This American team has the potential to be one of the best freestyle squads in this country’s storied wrestling history.