UWW 25-Under-25: No. 21-No. 25
Wednesday, February 9, 2022 - 13:57 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.