Matteo Pellicone women's wrestling preview

By Olivia Lichti

ROME, Italy (June 20) -- After an unfortunate COVID-induced postponement from its original date in February, the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series will finally be contested in Rome this week. Women wrestlers from five different continents will be in the Italian capital and several up-and-coming will have the opportunity to prove themselves against the top wrestlers in the world.

The 68kg weight class provides a prime example of such a matchup. After winning U20 and senior world titles at 65kg last year, Irina RINGACI (MDA) made the jump to the Olympic weight of 68kg with her eyes on Paris 2024.

Her debut in February saw her win the gold medals at the Dan Kolov and U23 European Championships and later the senior European title, but her first big test will come here against Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Blessing OBORODUDU (NGR).

Oborodudu will be equally hungry for victory in Rome as a solid finish here will slot her as the number two ranked athlete at 68kg, bumping her up past Tamyra MENSAH STOCK (USA).

Another young star to keep an eye on is Alina AKOBIIA (UKR). Akobiia has collected gold medals at the '21 U23 World Championships and European Championships this year and will look to cement herself as one of the top women in the world at 57kg with a win in Rome.

Inarguably the most credentialed weight class at this event will be 62kg, which includes the likes of U23 world champion Ana GODINEZ (CAN), two-time Olympian Lais NUNES (BRA), and Olympic medallists Sakshi MALIK (IND) and Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR).

Despite a 10-month hiatus following the Tokyo Games, Koliadenko will enter this tournament as the favorite. However, Malik and Godinez are both coming off of impressive gold-winning runs at the Bolat Turlykhanov Cup and Pan-Am Championships respectively. The young Canadian will certainly be hungry for wins over her more seasoned foes, but whether she has the skills to truly challenge either at this point remains to be seen.

Wrestling fans must also keep their eyes on the 53kg division. By way of her 2021 world silver medal, Iulia LEORDA (MDA) is the most heralded wrestler at this weight.

However, 2021 world bronze medallist Samantha STEWART (CAN) will indubitably be hungry for revenge after falling to the Moldovan in the quarterfinals in Oslo. Also present will be the European champion Emma MALMGREN (SWE), who is one of wrestling’s most talented rising stars. She’ll look to notch victories over the world medallists in her bracket and continue to establish herself as a real threat at the upcoming World Championships.

As always, 76kg will feature a multitude of talented women. Justina DI STASIO (CAN) headlines this weight class and will look to prove that she can contend in the toughest division and not just 72kg, where she won a world title in 2018. She’ll be challenged by fellow world medallists Epp MAE (EST) and Martina KUENZ (AUT). Matchups between these three heavyweight hammers are not to be missed.

Though the American contingent is small at this event, it is mighty. Emma BRUNTIL (USA) will look to earn her fourth international medal of 2022 at 65kg, adding to gold medals at the Dan Kolov and Ivan Yarygin and bronze at the Yasar Dogu Ranking Series. She’ll face tough tests in two of Ukraine’s top athletes -- Tetiana RIZHKO (UKR) and Kateryna ZELENYKH (UKR).

Joining Bruntil is Skylar GROTE (USA) at 72kg. Grote is coming off a dominant Pan-Am title run in Acapulco, Mexico, and will look to advance her current world ranking of 17. Her primary challenger will be two-time world bronze medallist Anna SCHELL (GER).

At 55kg, 2021 world silver medallist Nina HEMMER (GER) will look to slide past Oleksandra KHOMENETS (UKR) and Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN), neither of whom will be present at this event, into the top ranking spot.

However, she’ll have to contend with fifth-ranked Andreea ANA (ROU) and 2019 world bronze medallist Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) to do so. Hemmer defeated the Romanian by a slim 3-2 margin at the 2021 World Championships, but was teched by Phogat in their last encounter.

The deepest non-Olympic weight class, by far, is 59kg. Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) will look to further her remarkable 2022 season, which already includes titles from the Yasar Dogu and the European Championships.

To continue her golden streak, she’ll have to outplace young star Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR) who defeated her in an astounding upset at the 2021 U23 World Championships.

Vynnyk will have a huge opportunity to test herself against Nichita as well as other senior-level threats like world bronze medallist Sarita MOR (IND), who is just coming off of a title at the Bolat Turlykhanov Cup, and former U23 world champion Grace BULLEN (NOR).

Up and down the weight classes, the Matteo Pellicone will serve as a fantastic preview for the future of women’s wrestling and will display who can be primed as medal contenders at the World Championships in September. Enjoy watching accomplished veterans and the next generation alike as the world congregates in Italy for what might just be the most exciting wrestling event so far in 2022.

The Matteo Pellicone kicks off Wednesday and can be streamed live on uww.org.


USA closes out U17 Worlds with 3 golds, historic FS title

By Vinay Siwach

ROME, Italy (July 31) -- James GREEN (USA) was part of the USA team which won the freestyle team title for the first time in 22 years at the 2017 World Championships. The two-time world medalist won a silver medal in that edition.

Five years later, Green got another chance to hold the team trophy, this time as the chief coach of the USA team at the U17 World Championships in Rome on Sunday.

USA won a historic first U17 freestyle world title in Rome with nine out of their 10 wrestlers winning medals including four golds. It finished with 190 points which was more than enough to exchange places with defending champions India which finished with 126 points.

Azerbaijan, a nation that won the European team title, finished third with 122 points.

USA became the fourth nation to win the U17 world freestyle title after Russia, Iran and India since the U17 Worlds were reinstated in 2011. Russia won the title every year until 2018 when Iran broke that streak.

Russia won again in 2019 before India became only the third country to win the title in 2021.

USAUSA coach James GREEN, center, with the team title trophy. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

"It feels like it's straight out of a movie," he said. "It's like a reminiscent of 2017 when I was part of the world team that won the title for the USA after 22 years."

After finishing with a gold, three silver and a bronze medal on day six, the USA rocked again on the final day with three gold and a bronze to close out the tournament.

"I know how these guys are feeling," he said. "I am so excited to win this on my first trip and looking forward to more coaching."

Since 2011, the USA finished in the second spot five times in nine U17 Worlds with the latest being to India at the previous edition. But this year, all the USA wrestlers won their head-to-heads against India which ultimately proved to be the difference between who became the champions.

"The draw kind of worked in our favor," Green said. "We definitely had a gameplan not just for India but for everyone else including the Europeans as well.  But I can tell you one thing that our wrestlers wanted to get a hand on Indian wrestlers because we lost to them last time."

Luke LILLEDAHL (USA)Luke LILLEDAHL (USA), blue, upgraded his '21 silver to gold. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) finished with a silver medal in 2021 after suffering a loss against Aman GULIA (IND) but there was no stopping Lilledahl this year as he upgraded to gold with a dominating 10-1 win over Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI).

The 51kg final, pretty much controlled by Lilledahl, began with two exchanging stepout but then the USA wrestler switched levels after the break and scored takedowns whenever he found Asadi going for a half shot. He countered two of Asadi's attacks while he scored a takedown and added a leg lace in his 12-1 victory for the gold medal.

"Luke wrestlers at a hard pace," Green said. "He keeps a low head but is always moving and engaging. He takes the points as they come and doesn't rush into attacks."

Two other gold medalists for the USA on Sunday, Domenic MUNARETTO (USA) and Joseph SEALEY (USA), also impressed Green.

Munaretto won the 45kg gold medal by beating Bashir VERDIYEV (AZE), 2-0 in the final. Overall, the champion outscored his opponents 30-2 in the tournament.

Joseph SEALEY (USA)Joseph SEALEY (USA) outscored his opponents 55-1 in Rome. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

At 71kg, Sealey dashed local hopes to see a home champion by decimating Raul CASO (ITA), 12-0, in the gold medal bout.

Sealey, like his all other bouts, was wrestling at a completely different level and pace which Caso had no answer to. When Caso tried to engage in underhooks, he would get tripped by Sealey and when he tried to score a takedown, Sealey would easily stop any such attempts.

His two inside trips and two takedowns were enough to help Sealey win the crown and get some praise from coach Green.

"Sealey was very impressive," he said. "He wrestles like a senior athlete and can wrestle someone from that level. He conceded the least points in the whole tournament."

Sealey wrestled five bouts to win the gold and in an impressive record, scored 55 points and conceded only one.

Drawing experience from the title-winning run in 2017, Green had communicated to his team to 'have fun' during the tournament.

"I just told them that you are capable of being world champs and future Olympic champions," he said. "But more importantly I told them to have fun at this tournament. Most of these guys are wrestling for the first time and they can be hard on themselves so I didn't want that. And once we all met, they had the team chemistry and it clicked right away."

Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI)Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI), blue, pulled off a 5-4 win against Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ) in the 60kg final. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

The other gold medals of the night were shared between Iran and Kazakhstan.

At 60kg, Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI) defeated U17 Asian champion Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ), 5-4 to win the gold after trailing 3-1 at one point. Sharip Uulu scored the first points with a duck-under during the activity period against Elahi. It was initially awarded as four but Iran challenged the call and it was reversed to two points only.

But Elahi's constant moves towards Sharip Uulu's legs paid dividends as he leveled the score 3-3 and led on criteria. He then added a takedown against the tiring Kyrgyzstan wrestler to extend his lead to 5-3. He was warned for fleeing during the final 10 seconds which made the score 5-4 but did not change the result.

Elahi's gold was Iran's first of the tournament as it finished fifth in the team rankings.

Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ)Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ) won the 92kg gold, the second of the tournament for Kazakhstan. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Returning bronze medalist Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ) went all the way this year and captured his maiden world title, a month after he had won the U17 Asian title.

Musza ARSUNKAEV (HUN) had no answers to Kurugliyev's style of wrestling, inspired by his former world bronze medalist father and cousin-brother, European champion Duaren KURUGLIEV (RWF).

After a 3-0 lead in the first period, Kurugliyev began the second with a huge double-leg for four and then added two takedowns to close out a statement win in Rome.

The World Championships season will now move to Sofia, Bulgaria with the U20 Worlds beginning August 15.




GOLD: Domenic MUNARETTO (USA) df. Bashir VERDIYEV (AZE), 2-0

BRONZE: Arman HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) df. Amirmohammad NAVAZI (IRI), via fall
BRONZE: Nikoloz BOTCHORISHVILI (GEO) df. Constantin RUSU (MDA), 5-4

GOLD: Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) df. Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI), 10-1

BRONZE: Nurdanat AITANOV (KAZ) df. Ben TARIK (MAR), 1-1

GOLD: Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI) df. Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ), 5-4

BRONZE: Taiga OGINO (JPN) df. Alessandro NINI (ITA), 3-1

GOLD: Joseph SEALEY (USA) df. Raul CASO (ITA), 12-0



BRONZE: Maxwell MCENELLY (USA) df. Sahil JAGLAN (IND), 2-1