Unbeaten Yefremova repeats as U17 world champ; Japan steals WW title

By Vinay Siwach

ROME, Italy (July 29) -- Mariia YEFREMOVA (UKR) came into the U17 World Championships in Rome as an unbeaten wrestler internationally. The young star has already notched up two U15 and U17 European titles, and one U17 world title. On Friday, she became a two-time U17 world champion and remained undefeated over six tournaments internationally.

When she made her way to the 53kg final against Sakura ONISHI (JPN), it seemed that her record was in danger. But the returning world champion proved too clutch for Onishi and won the 53kg gold 3-1.

Incidentally, Onishi has only lost thrice in her entire career, the latest being to Akari FUJINAMI (JPN) at the Inter-High School Championships. She has now suffered her fourth loss as Yefremova used a near-perfect defensive strategy to beat Onishi.

Mariia YEFREMOVA (UKR)Mariia YEFREMOVA (UKR) extended her unbeaten record to 24 bouts over six tournaments. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

It was the passivity points that made Onishi lose her cool against Yefremova who let Onishi take the 1-0 lead after being called passive in the first period.

But in the second period, Onishi was called passive and Yefremova took the 1-1 criteria lead. Now, Onishi tried hard to get the all-important stepout and almost did it but Yefremova lifted her leg from one-on-two and scored exposure on Onishi with 10 seconds left.

The unbeaten run which now extends to 24 bouts, including the U17 Worlds in Rome, over three years saw Yefremova give up only 11 points while scoring 229 points.

While the 53kg weight class internationally is one of most stacked led by world champion Fujinami, it will be interesting to see how Yefremova fairs when she makes her international debut.

Her gold also propelled Ukraine to the third spot in the team ranking with 112 points, overtaking the USA, the defending champions, which finished fourth with 107 points. 

Japan had missed the U17 World Championships in 2021 due to the COVID-19 outbreak and it only won two titles in Rome but it still managed to win the team title with 180 points, 31 more than India which finished second for a second consecutive year.

MUSKAN (IND)MUSKAN (IND) defeated Mona EZAKA (JPN) to win the 40kg gold medal. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

India wins 3 golds

Out of the remaining four golds, India won three taking its overall count to five as MUSKAN (IND), SAVITA (IND) and HARSHITA (IND) won the 40kg, 61kg and 69kg gold medals on Friday.

In a rematch of the U17 Asian finals from Bishkek, Muskan wrestled Mona EZAKA (JPN) in the gold medal bout. While Ezaka was able to stretch the bout more than she did in Bishkek, the result, unfortunately, was the same.

Muskan took a 4-0 lead with two counters and then added a go behind to make it 6-0. Ezaka tried grabbing Muskan's legs but the Indian had a solid defense and ultimately found the fall with 1:11 remaining on the clock.

SAVITA (IND)SAVITA (IND) celebrates after winning the 61kg gold medal in Rome. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Savita was as quick as Muskan, beating Valerie HAMILTON (USA), 12-0, in the final. A cradle to start the bout, Savita went for the pin like in her semifinal against Suzu SASAKI (JPN).

Hamilton, however, survived the fall but could never find a way to score points on Savita who ultimately scored the win and claimed the 61kg gold.

Harshita added a third gold by beating Chisato YOSHIDA (JPN) in the 69kg final. Going by her semifinal, it always seemed to be a tough ask for Yoshida to repeat a late takedown in the final against the Indian.

The Indian got hold of Yoshida's leg early in the bout and led 2-0. But she went defensive from there and was put on the activity clock in the second period. Trailing 2-1, Yoshida tried a headlock in the final two seconds but the referee called it clean and even the time ran out. The decision stood despite Japan's challenge. The lost challenge added one more point to Harshita's score.

This was the second year Harshita was at the U17 Worlds. She had finished fifth in Budapest last year.

This was India's best-ever show at the U17 World Championships overtaking the previous year's result. In Budapest, India won three gold medals to finish second.

Koko MATSUDA (JPN)Koko MATSUDA (JPN) became the U17 world champion at 53kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Japan won gold on the final day as Koko MATSUDA (JPN) swept the field at 46kg. She outscored her opponents 27-0 including a 13-0 win over Gabriella GOMEZ (USA).

Wrestling in typical Japanese style, Matsuda was too quick for Gomez and got her leg attacks to score the takedowns. She led 8-0 at the break.

In the second period, Gomez tried a body lock but Matsuda was quick to turn it into an arm throw and get the win. The USA challenged the call but it was four instead of the original two and Matsuda won 13-0.

Jaxen FORREST (USA)Jaxen FORREST (USA) produced a final-second takedown to beat Vaibhav PATIL (IND) in the 55kg semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

USA dominate freestyle

The USA dominated the first day of freestyle, sending four wrestlers to the finals. Five weight classes were in action on Saturday and the USA has finalists in 48kg, 55kg, 65kg and 110kg. India and the USA were the only countries to enter four wrestlers in the semifinals with two head-to-head bouts.

At 55kg, Jaxen FORREST (USA) wrestled U17 Asian champion Vaibhav PATIL (IND) and both wrestlers were not ready to give it up. They exchanged three takedowns each before a low single from Patil almost gave him the winning takedown. But Forrest's knees did not touch the mat. He in turn scored a takedown and won 9-7. Forrest will wrestle Asian silver medalist Daryn ASKERBEK (KAZ) who defeated Jannis REBHOLZ (GER) 5-3.

The other USA-India semifinal was at 65kg in which Tyler KASAK (USA) pinned ANKIT (IND) after leading 8-3. Ankit had several chances to score but Kasak's defense was outstanding throughout the bout. He used a duck under to secure the fall.

For the gold medal, he will now wrestle U17 European champion Ilyas ISAYEV (AZE) who had a tough semifinal against Goga OTINASHVILI (GEO) but eventually won 9-4.

Christian CASTILLO (USA)Christian CASTILLO (USA), red, had to jump over Arshia HADDADI (IRI) to score a final-second takedown in the 48kg quarterfinal. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Two other USA wrestlers in the final were Christian CASTILLO (USA) and Koy HOPKE (USA) at 48kg and 110kg respectively.

Castillo was up against European silver medalist Rassoul GALBOURAEV (FRA) but his leg lace was enough to win 12-1. He will now have to upset Azerbaijan's young star and European champion Vasif BAGHIROV (AZE).

The Azerbaijan wrestler was made to work hard by Lalit KUMAR (IND) in the semifinal but he never looked out of control, winning the bout 7-4.

Hopke dominated his semifinal against Khikmatullo KURBONOV (UZB), winning 12-2. He will wrestle Levan LAGVILAVA (FRA) for the gold.

Levan LAGVILAVA (FRA)Levan LAGVILAVA (FRA) became the first wrestler from France to reach U17 Worlds final. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Lagvilava was the surprise of the day as he defeated U17 Asian champion Mohammadreza LOTFI (IRI), 11-9 in the semifinal. The France wrestler struggled with his conditioning but every time it seemed he would give up the takedown, he managed to either score a stepout or takedown.

India did manage to reach one final as Sachin MOR (IND) scrapped past Yehor HOROKH (UKR), 4-0. He will have to beat Reza SOLEIMANIAN (IRI) if he wants to win gold.




Women's wrestling

GOLD: MUSKAN (IND) df. Mona EZAKA (JPN), via fall (10-0)

BRONZE: Yevheniia DRUZENKO (UKR) df. Yagmur KARABACAK (TUR), 8-2
BRONZE: Diana VOICULESCU (ROU) df. Gulasal ABDUNAZAROVA (UZB), via forfeit

GOLD: Koko MATSUDA (JPN) df. Gabriella GOMEZ (USA), 13-0

BRONZE: Alexandra VOICULESCU (ROU) df. SHRUTI (IND), via inj. def.
BRONZE: Yelyzaveta KULAKIVSKA (UKR) df. Kornelia LASZLO (HUN), 4-2

GOLD: Mariia YEFREMOVA (UKR) df. Sakura ONISHI (JPN), 3-1

BRONZE: Sevim AKBAS (TUR) df. Khaliun BYAMBASUREN (MGL), 9-6
BRONZE: Lilya COHEN (FRA) df. Ya CHEN (TPE), via fall

GOLD: SAVITA (IND) df. Valerie HAMILTON (USA), 12-0

BRONZE: Suzu SASAKI (JPN) df. Ana CRETU (MDA), 10-0
BRONZE: Sevinch SULTONOVA (UZB) df. Yen LI (TPE), 2-1


BRONZE: Veronika VILK (CRO) df. Nikoleta BARMPA (GRE), 6-3

FS semifinals


SF 1: Christian CASTILLO (USA) df. Rassoul GALBOURAEV (FRA), 12-1 
SF 2: Vasif BAGHIROV (AZE) df. Lalit KUMAR (IND), 7-4


SF 1: Jaxen FORREST (USA) df. Vaibhav PATIL (IND), 9-7 
SF 2: Daryn ASKERBEK (KAZ) df. Jannis REBHOLZ (GER),  6-3

GOLD: Tyler KASAK (USA) vs. Ilyas ISAYEV (AZE)

SF 1: Tyler KASAK (USA) df. ANKIT (IND), via fall (10-3)
SF 2: Ilyas ISAYEV (AZE) df. Goga OTINASHVILI (GEO), 9-4


SF 1: Reza SOLEIMANIAN (IRI) df. Muhammadamin ABDULOEV (TJK), 10-0
SF 2: Sachin MOR (IND) df. Yehor HOROKH (UKR), 4-0


SF 1: Koy HOPKE (USA) df. Khikmatullo KURBONOV (UZB), 12-2
SF 2: Levan LAGVILAVA (FRA) df. Mohammadreza LOTFI (IRI), 11-9


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