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


Azerbaijan spoils USA party with 2 golds at U17 Worlds

By Vinay Siwach

ROME, Italy (July 30) -- A month ago at the U17 European Championships, Vasif BAGHIROV (AZE) and Ilyas ISAYEV (AZE) were the breakout stars for Azerbaijan. Riding on their gold medals in Bucharest, Azerbaijan finished on top in the team rankings.

The two wrestlers continued their top form and earned world titles with equal dominance and helped the nation bounce back from a disastrous U17 World Championships in Budapest where Azerbaijan managed to win only three bronze medals.

They not only won the gold but also denied the USA to go four out of four in the finals.

Out of the four wrestlers in the finals on day six of the U17 World Championships, only one managed to win the gold medal for USA.

Apart from Baghirov and Isayev, Daryn ASKERBEK (KAZ) was the third wrestler to deny the USA a gold medal.

Vasif BAGHIROV (AZE)Vasif BAGHIROV (AZE) defeated Christian CASTILLO (USA) 5-3 in the 48kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

The night began with Baghirov wrestling Christian CASTILLO (USA) in the 48kg final which went close until the final 15 seconds. Baghirov led 1-1 on criteria and Castillo was looking for ideas.

In the semifinals, the USA wrestler had jumped over his semifinal opponent Arshia HADDADI (IRI) to score a takedown in the final second.

In the gold medal bout, however, there was no such last moment comeback as Baghirov kept Castillo's attempted head pinch at bay. Castillo landed on his back which gave Bahigrov four points. He got two for his exposure but the time ran out which gave Baghirov a 5-3 win.

Ilyas ISAYEV (AZE)Ilyas ISAYEV (AZE) added a world title to his European one after beating Tyler KASAK (USA) in the 65kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

The script for the second Azerbaijan-USA final was a lot similar. Ilyas ISAYEV (AZE) and Tyler KASAK (USA) were tied 3-3. Isayev, surprised by a stepout denied, continued the pressure and hit a single leg to drag Kasak out of bounds. The USA challenged the call claiming that the time ran out. But the clock still had two seconds left. Isayev led 5-3 and defended that lead for the final two seconds.

Isayev's gold helped Azerbaijan to number four in the team title race and winning all bouts Sunday may help them to reach the podium. However, it won't be able to win the title which is locked up by the USA. If defending champions India wins all its bout Sunday, it will finish second in the race.

Currently, Kazakhstan occupies the third spot after Askerbek won the gold at 55kg.

Daryn ASKERBEK (KAZ)The decisive four-pointer which gave Daryn ASKERBEK (KAZ) the win over Jaxen FORREST (USA) in the 55kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

In perhaps the bout of the tournament, Askerbek and Jaxen FORREST (USA) slugged it till the final second but it was the Kazakhstan wrestler who came out on top 11-10.

At the start, Forrest led 6-0 and got involved in a scramble which resulted in a 2-2 and reversal for Forrest, who now led 7-2. Askerbek went for a headlock for four at a crucial moment. A reversal gave Forrest an 8-6 lead.

Forrest, thinking of defending the two-point lead, gave up another headlock for four. The USA challenged the call with a question about Askerbek's action initiating outside the zone. But on review, it appeared that the action began inside. Forrest managed to score a takedown but still lost 11-10.

Koy HOPKE (USA)Koy HOPKE (USA) celebrates after defeating Levan LAGVILAVA (FRA) 11-6 in the 110kg final. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

After three disappointing finals, Koy HOPKE (USA) managed to bring a smile to the USA camp as he defeated Levan LAGVILAVA (FRA), 11-6, in the 110kg final. With the win, he also denied France its first-ever U17 world champion.

Hopke had to stage a comeback against Lagvilava who at one point led 4-1. The USA wrestler scored a takedown just in the nick of time to cut the lead 4-3 at the break.

Like his quarterfinal and semifinal, Lagvilava struggled with his conditioning. He managed to hang on to wins in those bouts but not against Hopke who took the lead in the second period. His relentless attacks ultimately proved too much for his opponent as Hopke won 11-6 to continue the USA's record of having a world champion since 2011.

Sachin MOR (IND)Sachin MOR (IND) celebrates after winning the gold at 80kg. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

India only had one wrestler in the final and Sachin MOR (IND) made it count by winning the gold at 80kg in some fashion.

Wrestling Reza SOLEIMANIAN (IRI) in the final, he began with a four-point move and almost got the pin when Soleimanian poked his fingers in Mor's face. That negative wrestling made the score 6-2 in Mor's favor and the bout restarted in par terre.

In the second period, Mor gave up a takedown after a long defensive sequence. However, that was the only action Soleimanian managed in the final which Mor won 6-3.

Luke LILLEDAHL (USA)Luke LILLEDAHL (USA), silver medalist form 2021, made it to his second straight U17 Worlds final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

USA lead team race

Like it did on day five, the USA sent four more wrestlers into the finals. Iran will now hope to win at least one gold at the U17 Worlds after entering two wrestlers for the Sunday finals. Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Italy and Hungary managed to send a wrestler each into the gold medal bout as well.

Returning silver medalist Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) will look to upgrade his medal to gold when he wrestles Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI) in the 51kg final. The USA wrestler was up against Asian champion Nurdanat AITANOV (KAZ) in the semifinal and came out with a 4-1 win after some smart defense.

Asadi, who was silver to Aitanov in Bishkek, steamrolled his competition including a 12-2 win over Elman AGHAYEV (AZE), the U17 champion of Europe.

Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI)Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI) defeated Nikhil PILANAGOILA (IND) 5-4 in the 60kg semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

At 60kg, Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ) will look to add a world title to his Asian gold. But for that, he will have to beat Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI) who defeated Nikhil PILANAGOILA (IND) 5-4 in a thrilling semifinal.

Sharip Uulu battled it past Taiga OGINO (JPN) 7-2 in the semifinal.

Iran could have had a third finalist but Domenic MUNARETTO (USA) defeated Asian silver medalist Amirmohammad NAVAZI (IRI), 8-2, in the semifinal. He will now face Bashir VERDIYEV (AZE) for the gold after the Azerbaijan wrestler pinned Constantin RUSU (MDA).

Raul CASO (ITA) will look to become Italy's first U17 world champion in freestyle after 39 years after he entered the 71kg final against Joseph SEALEY (USA).

Caso looked a formidable force in Rome and backed by the home fans, he managed to pull off a close 2-1 win against Aghanazar NOVRUZOV (AZE). But Sealey won't be an easy opponent. He has outscored his opponents 43-1 in the four bouts including an 11-0 win over Razmik YEPREMYAN (ARM) in the semifinals.

Musza ARSUNKAEV (HUN)Musza ARSUNKAEV (HUN) won the 92kg semifinal against Erfan ALIZADEH (IRI), 7-4. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

The final gold medal bout pair includes returning bronze medalist Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ) and Musza ARSUNKAEV (HUN). Going a step further from his '21 run, Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ) managed to beat Maxwell MCENELLY (USA), 12-2, in the semifinals and reach the final.

Musza ARSUNKAEV (HUN), looking to become Hungary's first freestyle champion at U17 Worlds after 1989, defeated Erfan ALIZADEH (IRI), 7-4, in the other semifinal.



GOLD: Vasif BAGHIROV (AZE) df. Christian CASTILLO (USA), 5-3

BRONZE: Lalit KUMAR (IND) df. Ramil RASSIM (KAZ), 10-0
BRONZE: Arshia HADDADI (IRI) df. Rassoul GALBOURAEV (FRA), 11-0

GOLD: Daryn ASKERBEK (KAZ) df. Jaxen FORREST (USA), 11-10

BRONZE: Husanboy USMONOV (UZB) df. Jannis REBHOLZ (GER), 10-0
BRONZE: Vaibhav PATIL (IND) df. Takuto OSEDO (JPN), 5-0 

GOLD: Ilyas ISAYEV (AZE) df. Tyler KASAK (USA), 5-3

BRONZE: ANKIT (IND) df. Bohdan OLIINYK (UKR), 11-2

GOLD: Sachin MOR (IND) df. Reza SOLEIMANIAN (IRI), 6-3

BRONZE: Zackary RYDER (USA) df. Muhammadamin ABDULOEV (TJK), 8-0
BRONZE: Alexandru BORS (MDA) df. Yehor HOROKH (UKR), 4-1

GOLD: Koy HOPKE (USA) df. Levan LAGVILAVA (FRA), 11-6

BRONZE: Khikmatullo KURBONOV (UZB) df. Ramini GULITASHVILI (GEO), 3-2
BRONZE: Jaspooran SINGH (IND) df. Mohammadreza LOTFI (IRI), 4-0 



SF 1: Domenic MUNARETTO (USA) df. Amirmohammad NAVAZI (IRI), 8-2
SF 2: Bashir VERDIYEV (AZE) df. Constantin RUSU (MDA), via fall

GOLD: Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) vs Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI)

SF 1: Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) df. Nurdanat AITANOV (KAZ), 4-1
SF 2: Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI) df. Elman AGHAYEV (AZE), 12-2


SF 1: Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI) df. Nikhil PILANAGOILA (IND), 5-4
SF 2: Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ) df. Taiga OGINO (JPN), 7-2

GOLD: Joseph SEALEY (USA) vs Raul CASO (ITA)

SF 1: Joseph SEALEY (USA) df. Razmik YEPREMYAN (ARM), 11-0
SF 2: Raul CASO (ITA) df. Aghanazar NOVRUZOV (AZE), 2-1


SF 1: Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ) df. Maxwell MCENELLY (USA), 12-2
Sf 2: Musza ARSUNKAEV (HUN) df. Erfan ALIZADEH (IRI), 7-4