Iran Captures 3 Golds, FS Team Title at #WrestleUfa; USA Continues 74kg Domination
Wednesday, August 18, 2021 - 19:59 By Vinay Siwach
UFA, Russia (August 18) – They waited six years for it but Iran finally reclaimed it. For the first time since 2015, Iran won the junior world team title and in style. With five gold medals, one silver and one bronze, Iran accumulated 178 points to win the top position in freestyle wrestling at the Junior World Championships in Ufa, Russia.
Two-time cadet world champion Rahman AMOUZADKHALILI (IRI) led the way with the gold medal at 61kg before former cadet world champion Amirhossein FIROUZPOURBANDPEI (IRI) and Ali AKBARPOURKHORDOUNI (IRI) won gold at 86kg and 125kg respectively.
The other two gold medals of the day went to USA as Keegan OTOOLE (USA) won the 74kg title and Rocky ELAM (USA) denied Iran a fourth gold of the night by winning the 92kg final bout.
Russia finished in second position with two gold and four bronze medals, giving them 142 points which are 13 more than USA which finished third after three gold and two bronze medals.
Amouzadkhalili began the night with 9-3 win over two-time cadet Worlds bronze medalist RAVINDER (IND). The two had an intense battle in the first period with one stepout for Amouzadkhalili. Ravinder began the second period with a lift on counter and lead 2-1 but Amouzadkhalili quickly scored a takedown to take back the lead.
“I am good at working with collar ties and arm drags,” he said and used the same to up the pressure on the Indian. With the time running out, Amouzadkhalili scored a big four using an ankle pick which India challenged and lost. A stepout each gave them one point but gold went to Iran.
The 61kg wrestler's win was another step towards his transition to senior level in which he won a bronze medal at the 2020 Individual World Cup. He will now wrestle at the Oslo World Championships.
“I only wanted gold and I won it,” he said. “I go to Norway and I hope to win the gold there."
It was followed by Firouzpourbandpei's win which was on similar lines as he continued to pressure Rakhim MAGAMADOV (FRA) and ultimately won 10-0.
Amirhossein FIROUZPOURBANDPEI (IRI) claimed his first junior world title in Ufa. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
A stepout opened the scoring for him before a takedown made it 3-0. He led 4-0 at the end of the first period. His continued pressure and defense to Magamadov's attacks eventually tired the French wrestler and a series of takedowns ended the bout 10-0 with 1:15 seconds remaining.
He won the world title in 2019 and said he is a much better wrestler since and enjoyed winning his first junior world title.
“The feeling is totally different,” he said. “Back then, I was a child and inexperienced but this time was much more difficult and I like it better.”
About staying at 86kg which has Iran's top wrestler Hassan YAZDANI (IRI), Firouzpourbandpei said that he will wait and decide about it.
Ali AKBARPOURKHORDOUNI (IRI) won the 125kg world title in Ufa. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
The day was capped with Akbarpourkhordouni's nail-biting win at 125kg. Trailing 2-4 in the second period, the Iran wrestler scored a stepout against 2021 junior Euro champion Lyova GEVORGYAN (ARM) but still trailed 3-4. With 12 seconds remaining, he took advantage of a tiring Gevorgyan and scored a stepout and lead 4-4, marking his third straight win in the dying seconds after the quarterfinal and semifinal.
“After eight years of hard training I am a champion,” he said. “Regarding the final, I watched his bouts so I know how to wrestle him.”
Explaining his strategy for the bout, he said that keeping up the pressure was important if he wanted to win.
“In first round, I put pressure on him to tire him and I could get points in the second period,” he said.
While he missed the chance to be on the team to Oslo, the new junior world champ is looking to improve and make the next Iran team.
“This competition pushed me up one step but it is not the last step,” he said. “I am hoping to be at U23 World Championship and take same [gold] medal
“I learned too much from this competition and it pushed me up to one level but I need to learn and train more for senior level and Olympic Games.”
They might not have won the team title but USA continued their dominance at 74kg as Otoole won the gold. Since the 2016 junior Worlds, USA has captured every gold medal at this weight class and Otoole could not have asked for a better debut at an international event.
Otoole, who had never wrestled anyone outside of America, stunned a U23 world champion in the quarterfinals, defeated the home favourite in semifinal before beating Nurdaulet KUANYSHBAY (KAZ) 11-0 in the final.
Keegan OTOOLE (USA) is USA's fifth junior world champ at 74kg in last five edition. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
“It feels amazing,” he said. “I have been dreaming of this moment for many years. I had this opportunity and I wanted to make the most of it and fight till my death and that's what I did.”
His scrambles with Kuanyshbay got him two points to open and then a leg lace to double the lead. A stepout added one more point and he led 5-0 at the break.
Kuanyshbay did try to dive at Otoole's legs but the USA wrestler was quick to go behind or defend anything that was thrown at him. Otoole then tried his trademark cradle but couldn't get a fall but the two set of exposures make it 10-0 which are awarded after a discussion between the judges. Kazakhstan challenged the call but lost.
Despite his stunning run in Ufa, the American, who has to attend school from Monday, was not satisfied with his performance, especially because he wants to shift to senior level next year.
“[My performance was] Not perfect,” he said. “I was down in my quarterfinal and semifinal but I was wrestling amazing opponents. I felt I performed well but can improve.
“Next year, I will wrestle at the senior level in the US and see how I can do. I need to improve my strength, mental maturity and technicality to compete with those guys in the USA and internationally.”
Wrestling at his first-ever international tour, Otoole believed that he could not have had a better experience.
“[It was an] opportunity like I have never had before,” he said. “Wrestling overseas, traveling 25 plus hours and then I am wrestling opponents from Hungary, Azerbaijan, Russia and Kazakhstan. Amazing opportunity. This is going to propel me to the senior level.”
Rocky ELAM (USA) scored this takedown to win the 92kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
His teammate Elam was also competing at his first international event and won a gold at 92kg against Mahdi HAJILOUEIANMORAFAH (IRI). Unlike Otoole, Elam had to work hard for his win and it only came in the final few seconds of the bout.
He was leading 2-0 after a passivity point and a stepout but in the second period, Hajiloueianmorafah came out on top in a scramble and led 2-2 on criteria. With less than 20 seconds to go, Elam snuggled out of a scramble to take down the Iran wrestler and hang on for a 4-2 win.
“I knew I was attacking the whole time and thought I was going to get it that time,” Elam said. “Just because he got that [one] takedown doesn't mean that I am out of it and I was confident of my attacks. I just needed to finish my shot and I was confident that I would do that at the last minute.”
Elam, whose brother Zachery won a silver at junior Worlds in 2018, said that this experience was challenging and he would only be a better wrestler from here.
“I try to stay active and offense wins me matches,” he said. “I am coming out a better wrestler from this tournament. I didn't want any easy guys to win the gold. I got challenged multiple times in this tournament and that will help me improve.”
USA kicks off WW with 3 finalists
Before the USA won two freestyle golds, the women's wrestler began the day on great note with three finalists in Ufa. A pair of cadet world champions and a bronze medalist led USA's strong performance Wednesday, the first of the women's wrestling.
Emily SHILSON (USA) and Amit ELOR (USA), who won cadet world titles in 2018 and 2021 respectively, are on course to win their first junior world titles at 50kg and 68kg.
Kylie WELKER (USA) won a bronze medal at the 2019 edition of the cadet Worlds but managed to reach the final in Ufa with a victory via fall over Kseniya DZIBUK (BLR) in the 76kg semifinal.
Russia and Belarus sent two each in the finals as well while Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and India continued their improved performance in women's wrestling with one finalist each.
Shilson extended her head-to-head record against SIMRAN (IND) to 3-0 after beating her 10-0 in the semifinal. The USA wrestler quickly got up 6-0 with a takedown and two exposures. Simran did try to attack but Shilson was visibly quicker to counter and complete a double leg takedown and then exposed Simran to her back for the win.
“I was a little bit tired in the morning,” Shilson said. “But I had to find a way to win. I was down in the first match but had to finish the job. I recovered after the morning session and tomorrow I am not going to change much, move my feet and my hands.”
She will face Enkhzul BATBAATAR (MGL) who defeated Zehra DEMIRHAN (TUR) 9-4. Demirhan opened the scoring but one takedown from Batbaatar and leg lace sealed the win for her.
Elor also finished her bout in the first period as she laced Zsuzsanna MOLNAR (SVK) 11-0. She scored with a stepout and headlock before a leg lace made it 7-0. An arm spin for four finished it 11-0.
“I was a little nervous because this is the second junior tournament I have done,” Elor said. “I was comparing this to the cadet Worlds which really helped me prepare for this.”
But she is expected to face a tough challenge from Elizaveta PETLIAKOVA (RUS) who was equally dominant in her win over Nesrin BAS (TUR). She pinned Bas with 1:46 seconds remaining.
But Elor has been in terrific form since the 2019 cadet Worlds which was the last tournament someone scored a point on her in the semifinal. “I am going to rest a lot and focus,” she said. “My opponent is tough and looks athletic.”
Welker also won via fall against Dzibuk when she whipped the Belarus wrestler and secured the final with 4:58 seconds remaining. In the final, she will face BIPASHA (IND) who won 9-4 against Odbag ULZIIBAT (MGL). In a controlled semifinal, she led 2-0 by stepouts but Ulzibat scored 4 via whipover. In the same sequence, Bipasha exposed for two points. Another takedown made it 6-4 for India. A stepout and a takedown in the second period finished the bout 9-4.
Russia and Belrus will square off in the 59kg final with Anastasiia SIDELNIKOVA (RUS) taking on Aryna MARTYNAVA (BLR).
Sidelnikova was quick to finish her match 10-0 against Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE) with a takedown and scoring via gut wrenches and exposure. Martynava made short work of former cadet World silver medalist Anna SZEL (HUN) 13-2.
The Belarus wrestler's huge double for four gave her a 10-2 lead and then an exposure made it 12-2. Hungary challenged the call but to no success.
The win for Martynava was a surprise for many including Sidelnikova. “I didn't expect Martynava would win,” she said. “But it doesn't matter who I should wrestle in the finals.”
The Russian wrestler lost to Valeria KOBOLOVA (RUS) at the senior Russian Championships but is looking forward to winning the junior world title at home.
“Junior World Championship is still really important,” she said. “It's my last Junior tournament, so I really want to win the gold.”
Belarus will have Alesia HETMANAVA (BLR) going for gold and will wrestle Kalmira BILIMBEK KYZY (KGZ) in the 55kg final. Both won their semifinal via falls.
“I have wrestled Bilimbek Kyzy before at the World championships, but I lost,” Hetmanava said. “So we will prepare some tactics for tomorrow. It's 1-1 so far as I won back in Belarus at the international tournament 'Medvezhonok'.”
Hetmanava went for the cradle to get the fall over Melda DERNEKCI (TUR) while Bilimbek Kyzy stunned home favourite Anastasiia IANDUSHKINA (RUS).
RESULTS FS Medal Bouts
GOLD: Rahman AMOUZADKHALILI (IRI) df RAVINDER (IND), 9-3
BRONZE: Fedor BALTUEV (RUS) df Abulfaz NASIROV (AZE), 14-3
BRONZE: Alibeg ALIBEGOV (BRN) df Levik MIKAYELYAN (ARM), 7-0
GOLD: Keegan OTOOLE (USA) df Nurdaulet KUANYSHBAY (KAZ), 11-0
BRONZE: YASH (IND) df Stambul ZHANYBEK UULU (KGZ), 12-6
BRONZE: Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) df Idar KHATANOV (RUS), 2-1
GOLD: Amirhossein FIROUZPOURBANDPEI (IRI) df Rakhim MAGAMADOV (FRA), 10-0
BRONZE: Islam KARTOEV (RUS) df Daviti KOGUASHVILI (GEO), 9-6
BRONZE: Sagadulla AGAEV (AZE) df Emre CIFTCI (TUR), 3-3
GOLD: Rocky ELAM (USA) df Mahdi HAJILOUEIANMORAFAH (IRI), 4-2
BRONZE: Pruthviraj PATIL (IND) df Ivan KIRILLOV (RUS), 2-1
BRONZE: Nicolaas DE LANGE (RSA) df Muhammed GIMRI (TUR), 8-6
GOLD: Ali AKBARPOURKHORDOUNI (IRI) df Lyova GEVORGYAN (ARM), 4-4
BRONZE: Anirudh KUMAR (IND) df Aydin AHMADOV (AZE), 7-2
BRONZE: Andrei BESTAEV (RUS) df Wyatt HENDRICKSON (USA), 7-3
GOLD: Enkhzul BATBAATAR (MGL) vs Emily SHILSON (USA)
SF 1: Enkhzul BATBAATAR (MGL) df Zehra DEMIRHAN (TUR), 9-4
SF 2: Emily SHILSON (USA) df SIMRAN (IND), 10-0
GOLD: Alesia HETMANAVA (BLR) vs Kalmira BILIMBEK KYZY (KGZ)
SF 1: Alesia HETMANAVA (BLR) df Melda DERNEKCI (TUR), via fall
SF 2: Kalmira BILIMBEK KYZY (KGZ) df Anastasiia IANDUSHKINA (RUS), via fall
GOLD: Anastasiia SIDELNIKOVA (RUS) vs Aryna MARTYNAVA (BLR)
SF 1: Anastasiia SIDELNIKOVA (RUS) df Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE), 10-0
SF 2: Aryna MARTYNAVA (BLR) df Anna SZEL (HUN), 13-2
GOLD: Elizaveta PETLIAKOVA (RUS) vs Amit ELOR (USA)
SF 1: Elizaveta PETLIAKOVA (RUS) df Nesrin BAS (TUR), via fall
SF 2: Amit ELOR (USA) df Zsuzsanna MOLNAR (SVK), 11-0
GOLD: BIPASHA (IND) vs Kylie WELKER (USA)
SF 1: BIPASHA (IND) df Odbag ULZIIBAT (MGL), 9-4
SF 2: Kylie WELKER (USA) df Kseniya DZIBUK (BLR), via fall