U17 Worlds: Young stars set to battle for supremacy in Rome
Thursday, July 21, 2022 - 13:28 By Vinay Siwach
ROME, Italy (June 21) -- Last year at the U17 World Championships, the USA and India were involved in a fierce team title race in two styles. While India won the freestyle title, the USA clinched the women's trophy. In Greco-Roman, Georgia had a comfortable lead to win the first spot after the initial battle with Ukraine and Russia which finished second and third respectively.
But the three nations will be under pressure to repeat their performance in Rome where the U17 World Championships begin Monday at the Pala Pellicone.
The biggest change from the previous edition will be the return of Japan to the competition after giving it a skip last year due to COVID-19.
U17 Asia silver medalist Mona EZAKA (JPN) will lead the team Japan team along with former U15 Asian champion Sakura ONISHI (JPN). The two will be competing in 40kg and 53kg respectively.
Historically, Japan has done well in lifting the trophy in women's wrestling since 2012. It should be the case in Rome unless one of India or the USA comes with a similar performance as last year.
India will also take heart from the fact that it won six gold medals at the recent U17 Asian Championships. The team will be led by defending champion at 73kg Priya MALIK (IND) as she tries to join KOMAL (IND) and Sonam MALIK (IND) as the country's only multiple U17 world champions.
Since she won the title in Budapest, Malik has lost only one bout -- a 3-3 criteria decision to Nodoka YAMAMOTO (JPN) at the U20 Asian Championships in Bahrain last month.
In Rome, she will face quite a challenge as U17 European Championships gold medalist Ambre CHEVREAU (FRA) and silver Gabriela MAEVA (BUL) are both entered. Pan-Am champion Rupinder JOHAL (CAN) will also hope to medal on the global stage.
Apart from Malik, MUSKAN (IND), RITIKA (IND), SHRUTI (IND), REENA (IND) and SAVITA (IND) are also part of the team. All six won the U17 Asia title. HARSHITA (IND), who finished fifth last year, would like to be on the podium this year.
The USA will have '21 champion Erica PASTORIZA (USA) leading the charge. She won the title at 40kg in Budapest but will be competing at 43kg this year. Bronze medalist at 49kg Audrey JIMENEZ (USA) is returning to change the color of her medal in the same weight class.
A lot of interest will be in Shelby MOORE (USA) who has dominated the 57kg weight class at this level in the USA. Also in action will be the U17 Pan-Am silver medalist at 65kg Sydney PERRY (USA).
Mariia YEFREMOVA (UKR) won the European title at 51kg in Bucharest. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
A European challenge in the form of Ukraine will also be waiting for the three nations. Upcoming star and world champion at 49kg Mariia YEFREMOVA (UKR) along with teammates and fellow European champions Yevheniia DRUZENKO (UKR) at 40kg, Anastasiia POLSKA (UKR) at 43kg and Nadiia SOKOLOVSKA (UKR) at 69kg, are all entered for the Worlds.
Alexandra VOICULESCU (ROU) finished second to Pastoriza at 40kg last year but she is moving up to 46kg for the Rome event. A rematch of the U17 European Championships against Korneila LASZLO (HUN) is also on the cards. Laszlo won the final in Bucharest.
At 49kg, while Jiminez will be the favorite, she is up against a tough European field. Fabiana RINELLA (ITA), who won silver in Bucharest, will be in the field along with both bronze medalists Sevval CAYIR (TUR) and Anastasiia ZADVORNA (UKR). Laura FATH (HUN), Ana ROTARU (ROU), Anja EPP (SUI), Reka HEGEDUS (SVK) are also entered.
Turkey is also bringing a solid team to Rome with all seven European Championships medalists on the team including gold medalist Tuba DEMIR (TUR) at 57kg. Demir missed out on a medal last year finishing fifth at 53kg.
In a historic moment, Anya HATCH (TGA) will become the first woman from Tonga to represent her country at a World Championships.
Vasif BAGHIROV (AZE) can be the breakout performer in Rome. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
Defending champions India will be banking on a new group of wrestlers after the medalists from the previous edition failed to make the team.
U17 Asian champions Ningappa GENANNAVAR (IND) and Vaibhav PATIL (IND) will be carrying the team with Patil also having experience from the Budapest edition in which he finished fifth.
But Iran, Azerbaijan and the USA will be its biggest challenge to the team title defense. Azerbaijan can have a breakout Worlds as it did at the U17 European Championships, easily winning the team title.
At 48kg, Vasif BAGHIROV (AZE) will be the favorite to win the title. Baghirov had three victories via fall in his four outs in Bucharest. He will be joined by silver medalist Rassoul GALBOURAEV (FRA) and Asian bronze medalist Ramil RASSIM (KAZ) at the same weight.
It may turn out to be a battle at 51kg as the silver medalist from Budapest Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) will go up against continental champions Elman AGHAYEV (AZE) and Nurdanat AITANOV (KAZ). The silver medalists from both Asia and Europe -- Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI) and Narek HAKOBYAN (ARM) -- are also in the field.
Patil, who lost to Abdinur NURLANBEK (KAZ) in the semifinal and later to Javid JADADOV (AZE) in the bronze bout last year, will look to make amends at 55kg. But he will have his task cut out as five other continental medalists are wrestling.
At the U17 Asians, he defeated Husanboy USMONOV (UZB) and Daryn ASKERBEK (KAZ) in the semifinal and final respectively and both wrestlers will be eyeing to avenge their losses to Patil in Rome.
European champion Jamal ABBASOV (AZE) and silver to him Illia SHKETYK (UKR) are also entered the field. Abbasov put on a show at the Euros, winning three bouts via superiority and two, semifinal and final, via falls.
Azerbaijan will have favorites at 60kg in Agha GASIMOV (AZE), Ilyas ISAYEV (AZE) at 65kg and Yusif DURSUNOV (AZE) at 110kg. However, 60kg will have Asian finalists Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ) and Javokhir CHULIBOYEV (UZB) as well as Abdullah TOPRAK (TUR), who won the gold over Gasimov in Bucharest.
Zan FUGGIT (USA) will also hope to make an impression after winning the Pan-Am title with ease.
Iran, which dominates the heavyweights, will be a big challenge for Dursunov, a bronze medalist at 92kg from last year, as he will be facing Mohammadreza LOTFI (IRI) who won the Asian title without giving up a single point.
At 92kg, the bronze medalist from Budapest and now U17 Asian champion Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ), a cousin of world medalist Dauren KURUGLIEV (RWF), will hope to win the title this year. His biggest threat will be European champion Ibrahim BENEKLI (TUR) and silver medalist Musza ARSUNKAEV (HUN) along with bronze medalists Nika PANTSULAIA (GEO) and Yaroslav LISNIAK (UKR).
In his run to Asian gold, he defeated Sahil JAGLAN (IND) in the semifinals and Erfan ALIZADEH (IRI) in the final. Both Jaglan and Alizadeh are wrestling in Rome.
Mohammad JAHANGIRI (IRI) is one of the favorites to win the 110kg GR title. (Photo: UWW / Assem Shalgumbayeva)
Georgia emerged as the world champions last year and a repeat cannot be ruled out with a strong squad present in Budapest.
European champions Vakhtang LOLUA (GEO), 48kg, and Anri KHOZREVANIDZE (GEO), 51kg, lead the unit with silver and bronze medalists from Bucharest.
Khozrevanidze will be keen on winning the world title after he finished with a bronze medal at the last edition at 45kg. He is jumping up to 51kg for this year.
At 48kg, world champion Nikita DEMENTIEV (UKR), who won the title at 45kg, will like to repeat despite his loss to Lolua at the Europeans.
Dementiev is leading a solid Ukraine team as it hopes to build on the second-place finish from Budapest. Yevhen POKOVBA (UKR) at 45kg became the European champion and will start as the favorite.
Ukraine finished third at the U17 Europeans with 109 points, equal as Georgia. The title was won by Azerbaijan convincingly with 175 points and it will be gunning to win the title in Rome as well.
Azerbaijan has two European champions in Faraim MUSTAFAYEV (AZE), also a bronze medalist from Budapest, at 55kg and Mahammad GASIMZADE (AZE) at 60kg along with four silver medalists from Bucharest wrestling in Rome.
Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan may spoil the party for Azerbaijan and Georgia. Kyrgyzstan won the Asian title after winning four of the 10 golds on offer. The other three nations won two each in the same competition.
One of the most intriguing battles may be seen at 110kg as Asian Mohammad JAHANGIRI (IRI) and European champion Laszlo DARABOS (HUN) are expected to clash in Budapest. Both had dominant runs to gold in their respective competition and will now like to win the gold at Worlds.
With close to 600 wrestlers entered, it may turn out to be an eye-opening World Championships, the first of the season. The action will be live on uww.org from Monday.