UWW's 25-Under-25: No. 16-No. 20

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (February 15) -- United World Wrestling looked at 25 wrestlers who will undoubtedly keep wrestling fans at the edge of their seats throughout '22 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. It's time to whisk in the next generation of talent that'll shoulder the weight of the sport into the '24 Olympics and beyond.

The question you asked, and we answered: "Who are the Top 25 Under 25?"

Here's UWW's second segment -- No. 16 through No. 20 -- 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

No. 20 Anshu MALIK (IND), 20-years-old (August 5, 2001) 


After a remarkable '21 season, Malik inserted herself into the discussion as one of India's women's wrestling greats. She earned her seat at the table with fellow trailblazers like Sakshi MALIK (IND), Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) and Pooja DHANDA (IND), among many others, after she strung together a '21 campaign that ended in a history-making world finals berth.

Last year, Malik entered five competitions and finished with at least a silver medal on three of those occasions. However, she started the season on a slow note, finishing in fifth place at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event. After that, she pushed the pressure aside and qualified India for the Olympic Games with a second-place finish at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Almaty before finishing top-ten at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

But the highlight of her year came in Oslo at the World Championships, where she became the first Indian woman ever to reach the world finals. In Norway, she outscored her first three opponents 31-6 – including 11-0 semifinals win over '20 European finalist Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR) – before dropping her gold-medal match against three-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist Helen MAROULIS (USA).

No. 19 Irinia RINGACI (MDA), 21-years-old (August 23, 2001)

Instagram: i.r.i.n.e.l.l.001

Heading into '21, Ringaci set the seemingly unrealistic goal of winning world titles at the junior, U23 and senior levels.

The only thing that stopped her from winning the trifecta was how the calendar fell with the U23 World Championships coming after the Senior World Championships.

In August, Ringaci ran through the competition at the Junior World Championships, proving how far ahead of the competition she really is. She dominated each of her five opponents by a combined score of 49-10 but saved her most impressive performance in Ufa, Russia for the 65kg finals, where she stomped India's BHATERI, 12-2, en route to the gold medal.

Two months later, she shocked the world by becoming Moldova's first-ever women's wrestling world champion. She did so in a stacked 65kg bracket that featured the likes of two-time U23 world champ Koumba LARROQUE (FRA), world finalist Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) and world bronze-medal finishers Malin MATTSSON (SWE), Elis MANOLOVA (AZE) and Forrest MOLINARI (USA).

Although she would have loved to win a trio of world titles in the same year, after winning gold in Ufa and in Oslo, Ringaci and the Moldovan coaching staff felt that she had proved everything she set out to prove in '21 and elected to forgo the U23 World Championships.

No. 18 Zagir SHAKHIEV (RUS), 23-years-old (April 15, 1999)


There's no secret that the top guy for the Russian Federation at 65kg is world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS). But, after winning world and European gold in '21, rising star Shakhiev added his name to the shortlist of guys Coach Tedeev trusts with giving the starting nod.

Shakhiev debuted in the Russian Wrestling Federation's lineup at the European Championships in Poland in mid-'21 and quickly showed why he's trusted to hold such a coveted spot in the lineup.

In Warsaw, Shakiev opened up the competition with back-to-back technical superiority wins before earning his finals berth with an 8-5 decision over '18 U23 world runner-up Ali RAHIMZADE (AZE). Then, in the finals, the Russian Federation wrestler cruised past Krzysztof BIENKOWSKI (POL), 13-2, earning his first senior-level continental medal.

Fast forward six months and Shakhiev was in a familiar situation as he ended the World Championships atop the podium.

In Oslo, Shakhiev kicked off his senior world debut with a close 5-4 win over Rohit ROHIT (IND) but followed that up with three massive wins to establish himself as the world's best wrestler at 65kg.

He thrashed two-time European medalist Selahattin KILICSALLAYAN (TUR), 10-0, and edged Olympian Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (MGL), 4-4, which set up a showdown with fan-favorite Amirmohammad YAZDANICHERATI (IRI).

Shakhiev made quick work of Yazdanicherati in the finals of Oslo. The match was scoreless in the first period, but the 23-year-old put up 14 points in less than a minute to grab gold with the 14-4 technical superiority win.

No. 17 Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ), 23 years old (March 30, 1999)

Instagram: aiperi_medet_kyzy

Over the last 24 months, wrestling fans have witnessed the emergence of a women's wrestling powerhouse in Kyrgyzstan with Medet Kyzy being one of the core members of the Central Asian nation's "Big Three."

When you think about Kyrgyzstan's meteoric rise in the women's wrestling standings over the last two years, you think of Medet Kyzy standing arm-to-arm alongside Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) and Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ).

The former junior world champion took her licks in one of wrestling's most challenging weight classes, 76kg, before building the confidence and courage to compete with the best-of-the-best. The turning point for the 23-year-old -- validation, if you will -- came at the beginning of '21 when she pinned Olympic champion Erica WIEBE (CAN) to reach the finals of the International Ukrainian Tournament.

From that point on, Medet Kyzy's confidence and popularity skyrocketed. She punched Kyrgyzstan's ticket to the Olympic Games by winning the Asian Olympic Qualifiers, then followed that up with a silver medal at the Asian Championships.

In Tokyo, Medet Kyzy fell one match short of an Olympic medal. She dropped her bronze-medal match in Tokyo to former world champion Yasemin ADAR (TUR) and finished in fifth place.

Medet Kyzy closed out the year with two remarkable world-level competition performances. First, in Oslo at the Senior World Championships, she fell to rival Epp MAEE (EST) before bolting past Anastasiia OSNIACH SHUSTOVA (UKR), 12-1, to win her first world medal on the senior circuit.

Then, Medet Kyzy closed out the year by winning 76kg gold at the U23 World Championships. However, her most impressive competition win came in the semifinals, where she shut out America's '21 junior world champion Kylie WELKER (USA), 8-0.

No. 16 Leri ABULADZE (GEO), 23 years old (January 19, 1999)


Abuladze is the lone Georgian holding a spot on the Top 25 Under 25 list.

Despite only having nine senior-level competitions under his belt, Abuladze has proved to be one of the best 63kg wrestlers on the world and continental level. On the continental stage, his lone loss last season came against Zhambolat LOKYAEV (RWF) in the European championship semifinals. He bounced back for bronze after a win over former European champion Mihai MIHUT (ROU).

In Oslo, Abuladze took out Sultan ASSETULY (KAZ), Kensuke SHIMIZU (JPN) and Erik TORBA (HUN) before running into the Iranian buzzsaw Meysam DALKHANI in the gold-medal match.


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.