This weekend in Zagreb, Croatia, United States wrestlers competing in FILA’s Junior World Championship (20 years old and under) earned medals at six of eight weights and finished in second as a team. This marks one of the best American performance ever achieved at this extremely prestigious tournament.
Though no wrestler in the red, white and blue claimed a gold medal, two earned silver medals and four finished with bronze. To add to this impressive tally, the United States came close to medaling in the other two weights. Jabari Moody at 50kg lost in the bronze match, finishing in fifth, while Anthony Valencia at 74 kg finished in ninth. Valencia’s run to qualify for the Junior World team was nothing short of revelatory, establishing him as one of the most dynamic young wrestling talents in the USA. In Zagreb this weekend, Valencia trounced his first two opponents and was outclassing Murat Ertuerk in the quarterfinals when the Turkish wrestler caught the young Californian and pinned him. Ertuerk’s loss in the semifinals then eliminated the American from the tournament. Following his senior year of high school, Valencia plans to wrestle for Coach Zeke Jones at Arizona State in the fall of 2015.
The two most anticipated American performances came from mega prospects Kyle Snyder and Aaron Pico, and both acquitted themselves well even while falling short of winning individual world titles for the second straight year (Pico’s world title was on the Cadet level). Snyder, who will wrestle at 197 for Ohio State in the coming season, finished in third place and only lost to Russia’s Georgi Gogaev, who looked massive and terrifyingly skillful at 97kg. Pico made it all the way to the finals and left with a silver medal after falling to an impressive Hassan Yazdani of Iran. Pico, a decorated competitor in youth boxing and pankration, has already announced that he will eschew college competition to pursue his Olympic dreams and then embark on an MMA career.
American wrestlers took home four additional medals: Joey McKenna earned silver at 60 kg, while Thomas Gilman at 55 kg, Gabe Dean at 84 kg, and Adam Coon at 120 kg all took bronze.
Historically, American success at this tournament has been spotty at best. The last time the USA had more than three Junior World freestyle medalists in one year was in 2000 when Team USA took home four medals. There were Junior World Championships in the mid to early 1980s where the USA won gold at almost every weight, but these took place exclusively in the United States and the absence of meaningful international participation made them world championships in name only.
American’s typically experience natural disadvantages at age-group world championships in freestyle wrestling as most competition on the youth, high school, and collegiate wrestling uses the American Folkstyle ruleset. This means that it usually takes longer for American wrestlers to mature into well rounded freestylers than the rest of the world which concentrates solely on the Olympic forms of wrestling. Furthermore, Americans often faced more physically developed wrestlers at the Junior World championships from countries with less reliable birth record. In spite of these impediments, this year’s Junior World Team looked fantastic, and only three of the eight members have matriculated to college campuses, and three, Moody, Valencia and Pico, are still have high school eligibility remaining.
This excellent showing for Team USA at the Junior World Championships accompanies impressive recent results on the senior level, as well as a great performance at the 2014 Cadet (under 18) World Championships last month where the USA crowned an impressive three world champions, including Spencer Lee at 50 kg, who absolutely demolished his competition.
While these results should encourage optimism in the United States’ potential to win a team world championship on the Senior level in the coming years, Russia still claims and embarrassing wealth of talent, and this year’s Junior team champion, Iran, just keeps pumping out one star after another. A world where the United States reigns as the best freestyle wrestling team on the globe now looks possible, but improvement will still be necessary if the American matmen hope to surpass their rivals on the Caspian.
Regardless of whether or not this young generation of promising wrestlers takes USA Wrestling to the top of the mountain, the future of America’s freestyle program looks brighter than it has in at least 20 years, and maybe ever.
Final results from the 2014 Junior World Freestyle Wrestling Championships
50 kg/110 lbs.
Gold -Khasankhuseyn Badrudinov (Russia)
Silver – Makhudjon Shavkatov (Uzbekistan)
Bronze – Emre Demircan (Turkey)
Bronze – Saber Sharestani (Iran)
5th – Park Changjun (Korea)
5th – Jabari Moody (USA)
7th – Zhyrgalbek Abdikarim (Kyrgyzstan)
8th – Yamato Hirakawa (Japan)
9th – Arif Huseyinov (Azerbaijan)
10th – Tsedev Mandalsuren (Mongolia)
55 kg/121 lbs.
Gold – Azmat Tuskaev (Russia)
Silver – Mihcalan Hasa-Zada (Azerbaijan)
Bronze – Layua Baris (Turkey)
Bronze – Thomas Gilman (USA)
5th – Puntsag Erdenebileg (Mongolia)
5th – Vladimir Kurdin (Kazakhstan)
7th – Reza Atri (Iran)
8th – Giorgi Lezhava (Georgia)
9th – Armen Arakelian (Ukraine)
10th – Issei Oshiro (Japan)
Gold – Tuskaev dec. Hasan-Zada, 4-3
Bronze – Gilman dec. Kurdin, 9-6
Bronze – Baris tech. fall Erdenebileg, 12-2
60 kg/132 lbs.
Gold – Iman Sadeghikoukandeh (Iran)
Silver – Joseph McKenna (USA)
Bronze –Vurghun Aliyev (Azerbaijan)
Bronze – Gadzhimurad Rashidov (Russia)
5th – Dzianis Maksimau (Belarus)
5th – Ivan Bileichuk (Turkey)
7th – Giorgi Bregadze (Georgia)
8th – Amit Amit (India)
9th – Yu Chizhang (China)
10th – Ravkhat Asanov (Kyrgyzstan)
Gold – Sadeghikoukandeh dec. McKenna, 8-0
Bronze – Aliyev dec. Maksimau, 8-3
Bronze – Rashidov tech fall Bileichuk, 10-0
66 kg/145.5 lbs.
Gold – Hasan Yazdanicharati (Iran)
Silver – Aaron Pico (USA)
Bronze – Daichi Takatani (Japan)
Bronze – Rasul Arsanaliev (Russia)
5th – Mihail Georgie (Bulgaria)
5th – Ilyas Zhumay (Kazakhstan)
7th – Lin Zeping (China)
8th – Surkho Rashitkhanov (Belarus)
9th – Murad Sulyemanov (Azerbaijan)
10th – Haydar Yavuz (Turkey)
Gold – Yazdanicharati dec. Pico, 9-2
Bronze – Takatani dec. Georgie, 14-1 2
Bronze – Arsanaliev dec. Zhumay, pin
74 kg/163 lbs.
Gold – Zelimkhan Khadjiev (France)
Silver – Mahammadhaji Mukhutov (Azerbaijan)
Bronze – Reza Mozaffarijouybari (Iran)
Bronze – Murat Erturk (Turkey)
5th – Andrei Karpach (Belarus)
5th – Alexandr Goltsman (Kazakhstan)
7th – Noe Szabo (Hungary)
8th – Stefan Reichmuth (Switzerland)
9th – Anthony Valencia (USA)
10th – Gheorghe Bodisteanu (Romania)
Gold – Khadjiev dec Mukhutov, 4-1
Bronze – Reza Mozaffarijouybari tech. fall Karpach, 13-3
Bronze – Erturk dec. Goltsman, 13-11
84 kg/185 lbs.
Gold – Areza Karmimachiani (Iran)
Silver – Azamat Dauletbekov (Kazakshtan)
Bronze – Peaveen Praveen (India)
Bronze – Gabe Dean (USA)
5th – Mraz Dzhagarian (Ukraine)
5th – Nurmagomed Gadzhiyev (Azerbaijan)
7th – Pavlos Sotiriadis (Greece)
8th – Gadzhi Radzhabov (Russia)
9th – Fatih Erdin (Turkey)
10th – Erik Bizunovic (Lithuania)
Gold – Karmimachiani tech. fall Dauletbekov (Kazakshtan), 12-2
Bronze – Praveen dec. Dzhafarian, 4-2
Bronze – Dean injury default Gadzhiyev
96 kg/211.5 lbs.
Gold – Gergii Gogaev (Russia)
Silver – Yusuf Can Zeybek (Turkey)
Bronze – Kyle Snyder (USA)
Bronze – Vasile Caras (Romania)
5th – Pedram Jamshidi (Iran)
5th – Murazi Mchedlidze (Ukraine)
7th – Viktor Kazishvili (Armenia)
8th – Erik Thiele (Germany)
9th – Yusuke Yoshikawa (Japan)
10th – Said Gamidov (Azerbaijan)
Gold – Gogaev dec. Zeybek, 6-1
Bronze – Snyder dec. Jamshidi, 7-1
Bronze – Caras dec. Mchedlidze, 6-3
120 kg/264.5 lbs.
Gold- Geno Petriashvili (Georgia)
Silver – Amar Dhesi (Canada)
Bronze – Amin Taheri (Iran)
Bronze – Adam Coon (USA)
5th – Kamil Kosciolek (Poland)
5th – Yusuf Emre Dede (Turkey)
7th – Oyan Nazaryani (Azerbaijan)
8th – Marian Todorov (Bulgaria)
9th – Gegnnadij Cudinovic (Germany)
10th – Rangi Roubaljeet (India)
Gold – Petriashvili tech fall Dhesi, 10-0
Bronze – Taheri tech fall Kosciolek, 11-0
Bronze – Coon pin Dede
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