Pataridze, Kawai Highlight End-of-the-Year Age-Group Awards

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (December 13) -- United World Wrestling has awarded a pair of cadet, junior and U23 wrestlers the 2018 Age-Group Wrestlers of the Year.

The U23 age-group wrestlers of the year went to the duo of Zviadi PATARIDZE (GEO) and Yukako KAWAI (JPN).

Pataridze won his sixth overall Greco-Roman age-group world title, scooping up the 2018 U23 world title at 130kg in Bucharest, Romania. The Georgian big-man has two cadet golds, a trio of junior titles, and a U23 world championship.

Kawai, the sister of the three-time world and Olympic champion, Risako KAWAI (JPN), won the 62kg gold medal at the U23 World Championships after falling in the finals of the Senior World Championships. Kawai’s gold and silver medal performances at the World Championships are improvements from a season ago when she took eighth-place at the Senior World Championships and ninth-place at the Junior World Championships.

The Russian twosome of Aleksander KOMAROV (RUS) and Khanum VELIEVA (RUS) earned the junior age-group wrestlers of the year after obtaining gold medals in Trnava, Slovakia at the 2018 Junior World Championships.

Komarov, one of the most dominant Greco-Roman age-group wrestlers in the world, remained undefeated in his international career and won his second junior world title. Komarov’s resume is now chalked up with a pair of cadet and junior world titles, totaling four overall age-group world titles.

Komarov’s Russian partner, Khanum Velieva, who is still eligible to compete at the junior level, also won her fourth overall age-group world title. In the 68kg finals, Velieva picked up her fourth shutout victory of the World Championships and knocked off reigning cadet world champion, Macey  KILTY (USA), 6-0.

The cadet age-group wrestlers of the year are Alihasan AMIRLI (AZE) and Yuka KAGAMI (JPN). Amirli and Kagami each departed Zagreb, Croatia with their second straight cadet world titles.

Azerbaijan's Amirli rebounded from a bronze medal finish at the European Championships to win back-to-back cadet world titles. He wrapped up his 48kg gold medal performance at the World Championships with a 6-1 finals victory over the United States’ Richard FIGUEROA (USA).

For the second year in a row, Japan’s Yuka KAGAMI (JPN) blanked her opponents on her way to a world title. Over two years, Kagami outscored her eight world championship opponents 83-0. In 2017, she outscored her Athens opponents 41-0, and shutout her Zagreb counterparts 42-0.

The next award that will be released by United World Wrestling will be the 2018 History Makers. The History Makers for 2018 will be coming out this Sunday.


Gray and Adar, Otoguro and Punia Among Match of the Year Award Winners

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (December 27) -- United World Wrestling designated a freestyle, Greco-Roman, and women’s wrestling match for the 2018 Matches of the Year.

The 25-point shootout in the 65kg gold-medal bout at the World Championships between Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) and Bajrang PUNIA (IND) was voted the Freestyle Match of the Year. 

The two wrestlers went back-and-forth in a high-scoring affair that was filled with tons of action. 

The first period saw several wild exchanges, which resulted in four takedowns, a four-point throw, and a step out, giving Otoguro the 7-6 lead heading into the second and final period.

The pair of rising stars remained offensive after their 13 point opening period and tacked on 12 addition points in the second period for a match total of 25 points. 

Otoguro, at just 19 years old, was not going to be denied a gold medal and pulled away for a 16-9 victory, becoming Japan’s youngest freestyle world champion ever. 

The Greco-Roman Match of the Year was the 72kg Asian Championship finals between Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) and Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ). 

Makhmudov, a two-time junior world medalist, introduced himself to the senior level by forging an 8-6 win over 2017 world runner-up Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) in the 72kg finals of Greco-Roman Asian finals in his home country of Kyrgyzstan. 

"The biggest help for me was that the Kyrgyz people screamed for me to be strong and also to do better," Makhmudov told the Kyrgyz media of the thunderous roar from the crowd. "When I heard it, I thought, 'I can die here on the floor but I will still win. This win will be for them.'"

The women’s wrestling Match of the Year was the 2018 Klippan Lady Open 76kg finals between four-time world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) and then-reigning world champion Yasmin ADAR (TUR). 

Gray struck early with a head outside single and grabbed the 2-0 advantage after the first 20 seconds of the bout. Adar rebounded with her patented arm spin and took the 4-2 lead into the closing period. 

The American came out firing in the final period and scored her second takedown of the match, but still trailed 4-4 on criteria. Adar regained the 6-5 outright lead with 90 seconds remaining, stepping over a Gray gut wrench attempt for the two-point exposure. 

Gray closed out the Klippan Lady Open finals with a takedown with less than a minute remaining to steal the match, 7-6. More importantly, Gray regained supremacy of the 76kg weight class after sitting out the entire 2017 season.