It’s a common dream of many athletes to represent their country abroad. For local wrestlers and siblings Caspian and Phoebe Grabowski, the opportunity presented itself in unfamiliar style.
Caspian, 17, had a disappointing finish at the U.S. Marine Corps Cadet and Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D., in mid-July. And 15-year old Phoebe was coming off an injury. So the family was looking to compete in a high-caliber tournament. When they heard USA Wrestling was looking for wrestlers to fill the team for the World Beach Championships overseas, they leapt at the opportunity.
Caspian and Phoebe joined Team U.S.A. at the World Beach Wrestling Championships in Odessa, Ukraine, on Aug. 11.
It was the siblings’ first-ever beach tournament, and many of the competitors they faced had more experience wrestling in the style. The Grabowskis both lost to the eventual event champions. With just three athletes on the roster, the Americans came in third in the Cadet team results.
The Grabowskis are familiar faces on the California Interscholastic Federation wrestling scene, competing for Half Moon Bay High School. Phoebe, a sophomore, went to the Central Coast Section finals last year at 152 pounds. Caspian, a senior and All-American in Greco-Roman, is one of the top-ranked CCS wrestlers at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds.
In the summer, they train at the Leviathan Wrestling Club in Pacifica. To practice on the beach, they first had to pick up trash at Linda Mar State Beach so they’d have a clean surface on which to wrestle.
After their petition was granted, the siblings, along with mother Molly Grabowski, bought their tickets for the Ukraine. Beach matches are not only faster but require different techniques on the shifting surface, and with no sliding or knees allowed on the ground, U.S. competitors have to rely on moves that may not be their strength.
“Whoever gets to three points wins, and if you throw someone from their feet to their back, that’s three points,” Molly Grabowski explained. “So the matches can be over in five seconds. And some of them were.”
It was Phoebe Grabowski’s first tournament since March after she separated her shoulder at the Northwest Regionals. Competing in the Cadet’s 110-pound division, she finished 1-3, highlighted by a 3-2 win over Daria Medvetska of Ukraine to advance to the semifinals. She lost to her teammate and reigning CIF state champion Amit Elor, who eventually won the tournament. In the bronze medal match, Grabowski came up short, 3-0, against Ozlem Simsek, of Turkey, to finish fourth.
Caspian Grabowski wrestled in the Cadet’s 154-pound division, and finished with a 3-2 record and a bronze medal. His first win against Kostiantyn Zihanhirov, of Ukraine, lasted 39 seconds. Then he lost to Angelos Kouklaris, of Greece, the eventual tournament winner, in the second match. He faced several more opponents, beating Ott Heliste, of Estonia, and Otto Hotfrid, of Ukraine.