UWW 25-Under-25: No. 11-No. 15

By Vinay Siwach

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (February 9) -- The mental and physical strain wrestling puts on the body once led Olympic champion Dan GABLE (USA) to say: “Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.”

Over the last few months, some of the biggest fixtures in wrestling from the last decade – Aline FOCKEN (GER), Tamas LORINCZ (HUN), Cenk ILDEM (TUR) and Frank STAEBLER (GER), among many others – hung up their shoes and decided to head into that “easy” phase of life.

As we continue to pay homage to those trailblazers heading into their post-wrestling chapters of life, it’s time to whisk in the next generation of talent that’ll shoulder the weight of the sport into the Paris Olympic Games and beyond.

With three short years left until the Paris Games, we’re redirecting our attention to the sport's brightest young stars who are entering the prime of their careers. United World Wrestling looked at 25 wrestlers who will undoubtedly keep wrestling fans at the edge of their seats throughout '22 and beyond.

The question you asked and we answered: “Who are the Top 25 Under 25?”

UWW 25-Under-25: No. 21-No. 25
No. 25 - Alina AKOBIYA (UKR), 23-years-old
No. 24 - Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE), 24-years-old
No. 23 - Artur SARGSYAN (RWF), 24-years-old
No. 22 - TUMUR OCHIR Tulga (MGL), 24-year-old
No. 21 - Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM), 22-years-old

UWW 25-Under-25: No. 20-No. 16
No. 20 - Anshu MALIK (IND), 20-years-old
No. 19 - Irinia RINGACI (MDA), 21-years-old
No. 18 - Zagir SHAKHIEV (RUS), 23-years-old
No. 17 - Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ), 23-years-old
No. 16 - Leri ABULADZE (GEO), 23-years-old

Here's UWW's third segment -- No. 11 through No. 15 -- of the Top 25 Under 25 to keep an eye on.

No. 15 - Ernazar AKMATLIEV (KGZ), 23-years-old, (July 2, 1998)

Instagram - akmataliev_ernazar

No freestyle wrestler has made a more rapid rise in the ranks than Ernazar AKMATLIEV (KGZ). The 24-year-old shocked the world when he pinned Ilyas BEKBULATOV (UZB) at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers to book his ticket to Tokyo at 65kg. He later defeated eventual world runner-up Amirmohammed YAZADANI (IRI) in an action-packed final.

While he could not win a medal at the Tokyo Games, Akmatliev made a name for himself. He followed that performance with a silver-medal winning run at the Oslo World Championships at 70kg. In the process, he registered wins over junior world champion Erfan ELAHI (IRI) and Evgenii ZHERBAEV (RWF). A month later, he became the U23 world champion by beating Individual World Cup winner Vazgen TEVANYAN (ARM) in a one-sided final in Belgrade, Serbia.

Akmatliev's counterattacks have become a problem for his opponents as he continues to accumulate points despite being in danger positions. He uses the underhook to a great effect to not allow others to hold their preferred positions as well.

As he continues his journey towards Paris Games 2024, Akmatliev has a big year in front of him with Asian Championships, World Championships and the Asian Games scheduled this year.

No. 14 - Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI), 24-years-old (January 8, 1998)


The super heavyweight category in Greco-Roman has been dominated by two legends -- Mijain LOPEZ (CUB) and Riza KAYAALP (TUR). But as a young generation tries to uproot them, Amin Mirzazadeh is the strongest of them.

The Iran wrestler was at the Tokyo Olympics and won the U23 Worlds last year. Mirzazadeh suffered the burnt of a tough draw as he faced Lopez in the semifinal and later Kayaalp in the bronze medal and finished fifth. But he returned to win the gold in Belgrade. He missed the Oslo World Championships after contracting COVID.

In his five-year career, Mirzazadeh has won the junior and U23 worlds, junior and senior Asian Championships and is yet to make his senior World debut. Incidentally, he was selected on Iran's Tokyo Olympics team after he defeated Aliakbar YOUSOFIA (IRI) in the Poland Open Ranking Series event. Yousofia went on to win the Oslo Worlds in Mirzazadeh's absence.

Like Lopez and Kiyaalp, Mirzazadeh boasts of a strong groud-defense along with some of the best cardio in the weight class. While he still has to gain the power to finish bouts early, Mirzazadeh can be the biggest breakout of the year.

No. 13 - Akari FUJINAMI (JPN), 18-years-old (November 11, 2003)

Instagram - 11.akrstagram.11

Japan's stronghold in women's wrestling might have found a new leader. The Kawai sisters, Yui SUSAKI (JPN) and now Akari Fujiname. Still in high school, Fujinami has been the latest phenom from the Land of Rising Sun, winning the Senior World Championships in Oslo without surrendering a point in four bouts.

Fujinami, who has participated in four international competitions in her three-year career, is yet to lose a bout. Even in Japan, she is unbeaten at the two senior-level competitions she participated in, with wins over Nanami IRIE (JPN) and Haruna OKUNO (JPN).

Domestically, she will have to get past Tokyo Olympic champion Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) to make the senior team in the near future but if her performance in Oslo was any indication, Fujinami looks set to pull off an upset.

A mix of quick attacks and agile defense, the former cadet world champion's wrestling style was a treat to watch in Oslo. Japan Wrestling experts had long waited for her senior debut and she did not disappoint on her first outing.

The Paris Olympic cycle will be a big test for Fujinami as tries to make 53kg her own, both domestically and internationally.

No. 12 - Abasgadzhi MAGOMEDOV (RWF), 23-years-old (March 15, 1998)

Instagram - abas_60._

Who can challenge Abasgadzhi MAGOMEDOV at 61kg? As the wrestling season for 2022 begins, Magomedov is still waiting for an opponent who can defeat him at the weight class which he has dominated since 2019. The world champion has won the European Championships in 2021 and will be looking to defend the title in Budapest, Hungary next month.

Once he won the Individual World Cup in 2020 in Belgrade, Serbia, the fans asked if Magomedov would jump to 65kg for the Tokyo Olympics. But he remained at 61kg to win the Russian, European and World Championships. The former junior world champion looked unfazed in Oslo as he defeated Daton FIX (USA) in the final and also overcame U23 world champion Toshihiro HASEGAWA (JPN) in the semifinal via fall.

Hailing from the mountains of Dagestan, the Russian Wrestling Federation star was UWW's top-ranked wrestler of the year in 2021. A big decision is awaited if he will decide to move to the Olympic weight class of 65kg to challenge the strong field at Paris Olympics.

No. 11 - Koumba LARROQUE (FRA), 23-years-old (August 22, 1998)

Instagram - koumba_larroque

Back in 2015, Koumba LARROQUE (FRA) won the cadet world title. The following year, she won gold at Junior World Championships. The trend continued in 2017 when she was crowned U23 world champion and senior-level world bronze medalist at the age of 19 years. In 2018, she almost continued the streak by reaching the senior World Championships final in Budapest but an injury on the mat in the final stopped her.

Four years since that horrific knee injury, Larroque is back as one of the top wrestlers at 68kg. The Paris native qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by winning the European Qualifiers but she suffered a shock fall in the early rounds. But still on the road to recovery from that injury, Larroque is looking forward to Paris.

A two-time world medalist, in 2017 and 2018, France's big hope for a wrestling medal at home Olympics in Paris, Larroque won the U23 Worlds in Belgrade in 2021 to further confirm her return to the top level. She began her year with the Olympic qualification and followed that with the European Championships gold.

The new year will present Larroque with an opportunity to establish herself as the top wrestler at 68kg as Paris fast approaches.


UWW 25-Under-25: No. 1-No. 5

By Vinay Siwach

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (February 19) -- For the past week, United World Wrestling brought you the top 20 wrestlers who could put on a show throughout 2022. These stars, all under the age of 25 years, have proved their mettle in the past and are likely to continue, especially with the Paris Olympics just two years away.

Now, it's time for the top five wrestlers on the list -- the number 1 to 5. All these wrestlers are already big names in the wrestling world and fans would be keen to follow going into this Olympic cycle.

These stars are not only the 'next big thing,' but they are trendsetters who can rewrite history moving forward.

Here's UWW's fifth and final segment -- No. 1 through No. 5 -- of the Top 25-Under-25 to keep an eye on.

UWW 25-Under-25: No. 21-No. 25
No. 25 - Alina AKOBIYA (UKR), 23-years-old
No. 24 - Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE), 24-years-old
No. 23 - Artur SARGSYAN (RWF), 24-years-old
No. 22 - TUMUR OCHIR Tulga (MGL), 24-year-old
No. 21 - Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM), 22-years-old

UWW 25-Under-25: No. 20-No. 16
No. 20 - Anshu MALIK (IND), 20-years-old
No. 19 - Irinia RINGACI (MDA), 21-years-old
No. 18 - Zagir SHAKHIEV (RUS), 23-years-old
No. 17 - Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ), 23-years-old
No. 16 - Leri ABULADZE (GEO), 23-years-old

UWW 25-Under-25: No. 15-No. 11
No. 15 - Ernazar AKMATLIEV (KGZ), 23-years-old
No. 14 - Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI), 24-years-old
No. 13 - Akari FUJINAMI (JPN), 18-years-old
No. 12 - Abasgadzhi MAGOMEDOV (RWF), 23-years-old
No. 11 - Koumba LARROQUE (FRA), 23-years-old

UWW 25-Under-25: No. 10-No. 6
No. 10 - Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR), 23-years-old
No. 9 - Mohammad EL SAYED (EGY), 23-years-old  
No. 8 - Parviz NASIBOV (UKR) – 23-years-old
No. 7 - Akzhol MAKHMUDOV – 22-years-old
No. 6 - Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) – 22-years-old

No. 5 - Ravi KUMAR (IND), 24-years-old (December 12, 1997)

Instagram: ravi_kumar_60

There is no doubt that Kumar is one of the most exciting wrestlers in the sport. For more than three years after winning junior silver in 2015, Kumar was sidelined with injuries. But he came back to win the silver medal at the U23 Worlds. Yet, he never was a threat at the senior level.

It all began with a bronze medal at the '19 World Championships in Nur-Sultan. A close bout with Zavur UGUEV (RWF) in the semifinal was his only loss. He followed that with Asian championship golds in 2020 and 2021, beating veterans like Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN) and Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ).

By the time Tokyo Olympics arrived, Kumar was a medal threat. His style, stamina and ability to come from behind made fans talk about him being an Olympic champion. Using his exceptional pace to attack, the Haryana-native reached the final of the Olympics at 57kg and faced a familiar opponent in Uguev, who once again overcame Kumar to win the gold in Tokyo. Kumar's hopes of being India's first-ever wrestling Olympic champion were dashed. The silver medal in Tokyo left the Indian dissatisfied.

The challenge for Kumar going into the Paris cycle will be to maintain his weight at 57kg. A big year ahead will see him compete at the Asian Championships and Asian Games which could give an insight into his condition for the next two years.

No. 4 - Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI), 24-years-old (January 6, 1998)

Instagram: mohammadhadi_saravi

When it comes to the 97kg Greco-Roman weight class, Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) and Musa EVLOEV (RWF) have dominated the world for two consecutive Olympic cycles. But there is a new name that is on a mission to remove the two greats. Saravi has proven that he can be a world-beater at 97kg.

A junior world and Asian champion, Saravi won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, losing to Aleksanyan in an encounter closer than the 4-1 scoreline suggested. Two months later, he was back on the mat for the World Championships in Oslo, Norway.

He humbled every wrestler that came in his way to the gold, claiming his first senior world title in dominating fashion. He began with a 6-4 win over U23 world champion and friend Artur SARGSIAN (RWF). He followed that up with a technical superiority win over Giorgi MELIA (GEO), a 5-1 victory over Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA), and in the final, broke Hungary's Alex SZOKE (HUN).

In 2022, Saravi needs to find a way to match the strength of Evloev and even Aleksanyan. But by the time Paris comes, Saravi's name will be in the same league as the two Olympic champions.

No. 3 - Amir ZARE (IRI), 21-years-old (January 16, 2001)

Instagram: amirhossein.zarre

Iran was without a 125kg gold medal at the World Championships for the last 32 years. Then, Zare!

The teenager not only ended that draught, but he did so in style. Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) and Taha AKGUL (TUR) fell victims to Zare's wrath in Oslo as the Iranian wrestler did everything right. Zare defeated Akgul, 6-0, in the semifinals, and later avenged his Olympics loss to Petriashvili with a 9-2 gold-medal win, backed by the electrifying Iranian fans.

Zare shot to limelight in 2019 when he won the U23 Worlds at the age of 18 years and followed that up with a 15-11 win over Petriashvili in the Iranian league. But Mason PARRIS (USA) and Sergey KOTZEV (RWF) scored victories over Zare at the Junior Worlds and Youth Olympics to keep him under check.

The Amol-born star later qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and won a bronze at 125kg after losing his semifinal 6-4 to Petriashvili.

The stunning turnaround to beat the Georgian star only took two months and it stunned wrestling fans. With a lot of wrestling left in him, Zare could be a name that will be repeated at the medal ceremonies around the world for a long time.

No. 2 - Yukako KAWAI (JPN), 24-years-old (July 27, 1997)

Instagram: yukako_kawai27

How does it feel to win an Olympic gold medal at home with your sister? Just ask Yukako KAWAI (JPN).

Yukako and her sister Risako won gold medals at 57kg and 62kg, respectively, in Tokyo. But before being an Olympic champion, Kawai overcame a big hurdle.

Kawai's biggest hurdle was two-time world champion Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ), who defeated her at the 2019 Asian and World Championships. She needed to avenge her loss before the Olympics rolled around so she had a psychological advantage over the Kyrgystan wrestler. She did that with a final second four-point move at the Asian Championships in 2020.

That helped her when the two met in the final in Tokyo with Tynybekova being a slight favorite to win the gold. But as the match progressed, Kawai kept her cool and took home the gold medal with a 4-3 win, ending Tynybekova's dream of becoming the nation's first-ever Olympic gold medalist in any sport.

Both Risako and Yukako would like to repeat the feat in Paris 2024 and it will be an exhibition of high-class wrestling over the next three years whenever the two are on the mat.

No. 1 - Yui SUSAKI (JPN), 22 years old (June 30, 1999) and Takuto OTOGURO (JPN), 23-year-old (December 5, 1998)

Instagram: yui106301susaki, 01096taku

When you have two wrestlers who've won the world and Olympic titles before the age of 23 years old, it's impossible to give one the top spot over the other. With that being, Susaki and Otoguro share UWW's No. 1 spot for the Top 25 Under 25!

A little to differentiate the two Japanese studs as they handled the pressure of home Olympics with ease.

Susaki won her first world title in Paris in 2017. That was also the last time she surrendered a two-point takedown. Furthermore, in the last five years, the Japanese star has only given up exposure once. That came against her rival, SUN Yanan (CHN) during the World Cup in Narita, Japan in 2019.

A mind-blowing fact upcoming: Susaki has not allowed an offensive point to be scored on her since November 2019. That is more than two years of just toying with her opponents.

It remains unclear how long she will continue to wrestle internationally, but there’s one thing that’s clear: Susaki has the talent and will to match the all-time Japanese greats like Kaori ICHO (JPN) and Saori YOSHIDA (JPN).

Otoguro became a cadet world champ in 2014 but outlasted his 65kg foes at the ’18 Budapest World Championships and became Japan’s youngest-ever senior world champion at 19 years and 10 months old.

After an uncharacteristic fifth-place finish in Nur-Sultan, Otoguro bounced back and grabbed gold at back-to-back Asian Championships before winning Tokyo Olympic gold on home soil.

Otoguro's growth as a wrestler was visible during the Asian Championships in 2020 as he matured after that heartbreaking loss at the World Championships in 2019.