UWW 25-Under-25: No. 21-No. 25

By United World Wrestling Press

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?”

Here's UWW's first segment -- No. 21 through No. 25 -- of the Top 25 Under 25 to keep an eye on!

No. 25 - Alina AKOBIYA (UKR), 23-years-old (September 5, 1999)

Alina Akobiya has been one of the brightest stars of Ukrainian women's wrestling. While she had success prior to 2021, she made a name for herself last year, winning the U23 World and European Championships. She also qualified Ukraine for the Tokyo Olympics at 57kg. Unfortunately, an elbow injury kept her out of competing in Tokyo.

Ukraine has been challenging women's wrestling powerhouses like Japan and China for a few years now with Akobiya being one of the mainstays. She began her international career in 2015. A year later, she won the Cadet European Championships, and in 2017, finished with a bronze medal at the U23 Worlds,

At the senior level, Akobiya is a two-time European medalist with silver in 2020 and bronze in 2021. But her active wrestling and clean technique make her one of the stronger wrestlers at 57kg -- a weight class that is arguably the deepest in the world.

With European Championships scheduled next month in Budapest, Hungary, Akobiya will have a chance to further her place on the Ukrainian team and make her senior Worlds debut when Belgrade, Serbia comes around.

No. 24 - Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE), 24-years-old (May 21, 1998)
Azerbaijan's next generation of wrestlers has a bunch of talented wrestlers ready to take on the world. Osman Nurmagomedov is a part of that group. A senior world bronze medalist, Numagomedov made his international debut in 2020 but has since then won gold at U23 Worlds, apart from winning medals at senior and U23 Euros.

His methodical style of wrestling can be frustrating for his opponents, and according to him, it is only a matter of time before he will be one of the best at the senior level.

With his age-group tournaments in the rearview, Nurmagomedov, who hails from the family of Olympic champion Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE), will have to increase his strength and stamina to be a force internationally.

No. 23 - Artur SARGSYAN (RWF), 24-years-old (March 13, 1998)
Wrestling fans will have their eyes on Artur Sargsyan during the '24 Paris Olympic cycle. He is destined to clash with Olympic champion Musa EVLOEV (RWF) if he wants to make the Russian team for Paris.

The 24-year-old has all the qualities to achieve the highest in wrestling. A bronze medalist at the Oslo World Championships, Sargsyan won the U23 Worlds a month later in Belgrade, adding to his U23 European and senior Russian titles in 2021.

He already has a bronze at senior Worlds after losing to eventual champion Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI), but as he gains more experience, Sargsyan will be a tough competitor. Bur first, he has a big hurdle to cross domestically and that's Evloev.

No. 22 - TUMUR OCHIR Tulga (MGL), 24-year-old (February 11, 1998)
Tumur-Ochir Tulga has waited a long time for a senior world medal, but he ended that drought with a bronze medal at the '21 Oslo Worlds. In 2019, he dropped his medal match and finished in fifth place, but qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Tumur-Ochir finished in ninth-place at the Olympics after losing to champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN). But that doesn't do justice to a hard worker like Tumur-Ochir, who has stunning defense and can surprise his opponents with big throws and leg attacks.

If Oslo was any evidence, Tumur Ochir will be a strong contender at 65kg in the upcoming Olympic cycle. A real test will be the home Asian Championships in April later this year.

No. 21 - Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM), 22-years-old (November 22, 1999)
At his first senior-level tournament in 2019, Arsen Harutyunyan came home with a gold medal at the European Championships. He was always primed to be a star with his U17 and U20 wins at the continental and world level.

A year later, he qualified Armenia for the Tokyo Olympics with a gold-medal-winning performance, with a bronze at the Oslo Worlds, and to cap it all, won the U23 World title in Belgrade.

In 2022, Harutyunyan will be a wrestler to watch out for at 61kg as he looks to put behind the disappointing Olympics at 57kg as he finished 13th. But with some confidence-boosting wins throughout the last year, Harutyunyan will be Armenia's best bet for medals at most tournaments this year.


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.