Zhou Erases Eight-Point Deficit, Downs World Champ Mensah

By Eric Olanowski

ROME, Italy (January 16) --- It's no secret that ZHOU Feng (CHN) was the underdog coming into her Matteo Pellicone finals against reigning world champion Tamyra MENSAH (USA), and though she fell behind by eight points, she remained composed enough to erase an 8-0 second-period deficit to win the 68kg gold medal. Zhou’s shocking win stopped Mensah, the 2019 Women's Wrestler of the Year, from winning her fourth consecutive Ranking Series title.

“For the first period, I didn’t feel prepared or ready, but I didn’t give up,” said Zhou. At that point of the match, Zhou surrendered three takedowns and a trapped arm gut and trailed 8-0. “I was thinking the match is not finished and I didn’t give up.” 

Zhou, a two-time world medalist, kickstarted her unexpected comeback with two points from a defensive stop, which ended in a takedown. She tacked on six additional points from three gut wrenches and closed out the match on top, 8-8. 

After her remarkable come-from-behind win, Zhou said, “I’m happy and excited. From this competition, most of (these wrestlers) will participate in the Olympic Games, so to get the gold medal makes me very happy.” 

Odunayo ADEKUOROYE (NGR) downed Anshu ANSHU (IND), 10-0, in the 57kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

At 57kg, a friendly wager between two presidents sparked three-time world medalist Odunayo ADEKUOROYE (NGR) past Anshu ANSHU (IND) for the gold medal. Understanding the wager was a joke, and with a smile on her face, the long and lengthy Adekuoroye said, “Before the match, my president and one other president had a bet that I’d maybe lose to (Anshu). So, I told him to keep calm; I’m ready for the match. I’m happy to make him proud.” 

The Nigerian, who was last year’s world bronze medalist at 57kg, quickly handled Anshu in the finals, 10-0. She scored an early takedown off a single leg, then picked up eight straight points off exposures – six of which came from a match-ending leg lace.

“I came here to win a gold medal. For me, it’s not like a surprise, and I look forward to some matches again.”

Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) fought through illness to win the 62kg title. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Even though the reigning world champion Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) has been fighting through a nasty illness since the start of the year, she decided to still compete at the Matteo Pellicone. “At the beginning of this year, I got sick and ill, so I wasn’t 100% ready for the competition,” Tynybekova said. “And, actually, before this final, my coach thought I should not go on the mat because of my illness.”

But, midway through today’s session, she felt strong enough to compete in the medal-match session. And luckily for her, she didn’t have to wrestle the entire six minutes. 

She only wrestled for just over a period – three minutes and 16 seconds to be exact -- and after leading 7-2, was awarded the gold medal when 2019 world silver medalist Liubov OVCHAROVA (RUS) broke her nose in the second period and injury defaulted out of the finals.  

“In the final match, I didn’t give my 100%. In my mind, I planned on keeping my energy and strength to wrestle for the two periods. But, accidentally, my Russian opponent couldn’t continue.” 

Erica WIEBE (CAN) wrapped up her 76kg finals match against ZHOU Qian (CHN) in the opening period after a takedown, followed by four leg laces. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

In the 76kg finals, Olympic champion Erica WIEBE (CAN) ended her gold-medal bout against two-time world medalist ZHOU Qian (CHN) in the opening period with a 10-0 shutout victory. 

“When I get into wrestling position, that’s when it gets really fun. She went for kind of a double leg, I redirected, went behind, we get into a scramble, and that’s what wrestling is all about.” 

Wiebe barrel-rolled into four straight leg laces and ended the match 10-0 in the first period. Jokingly, Wiebe said, “I’ve been working on my lace. Watch out world!” 

Mohamed ELSAYED (EGY) scored the come-from-behind fall over Selcuk CAN (TUR) in the 72kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Meanwhile, Mohamed ELSAYED (EGY), Zotlan LEVAI (HUN) and Singh GURPREET (IND) closed out the Greco-Roman portion of the competition with gold medals on Thursday night. 

Elsayed and Levai picked up falls in the 72kg and 77kg finals, respectively, while Gurpreet scored the 8-5 victory over Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) in the 82kg finals. 

Elsayed, a two-time U23 world champion, trailed 5-1 but flattened Selcuk CAN (TUR) in the 72kg finals and backflipped his way to a second career Ranking Series title. And after a pair of Ranking Series final losses, Levai finally got his long-awaited gold medal when he stuck Yunus BASAR (TUR) in the 77kg finals. 

The third day of wrestling at the Matteo Pellicone kicks off on Friday at 10:30 (local time) in Ostia, Italy.

GOLD - Odunayo ADEKUOROYE (NGR) df. Anshu ANSHU (IND), 10-0 
BRONZE - Linda MORAIS (CAN) df. Jenna Rose BURKERT (USA), 10-0 
BRONZE - Allison Mackenzie RAGAN (USA) df. Alina AKOBIIA (UKR), 4-4 

GOLD - Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) df. Liubov OVCHAROVA (RUS), via injury default
BRONZE - Jia LONG (CHN) df. Kayla MIRACLE (USA), 6-1 

GOLD - Feng ZHOU (CHN) df. Tamyra MENSAH (USA), 8-8
BRONZE - Danielle LAPPAGE (CAN) df. Divya KAKRAN (IND), 12-2

GOLD - Erica Elizabeth WIEBE (CAN) vs. Qian ZHOU (CHN), 10-0
BRONZE - Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS) df. Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ), via injury

GOLD - Mohamed Ibrahim Elsayed Ibrahi ELSAYED (EGY) df. Selcuk CAN (TUR), via fall 
BRONZE - Cengiz ARSLAN (TUR) df. Parviz NASIBOV (UKR), 6 - 0
BRONZE - Maksym YEVTUSHENKO (UKR) df. Gaoquan ZHANG (CHN), 5-3 

GOLD - Zotlan LEVAI (HUN) df. Yunus Emre BASAR (TUR), via fall 
BRONZE - Wuileixis RIVAS ESPINOZA (VEN) df. Ravaughn Richard Ravelle PERKINS (USA), 8 - 2
BRONZE - Sajan SAJAN (IND) df. Emrah KUS (TUR), via fall 

GOLD - Singh GURPREET (IND) df. Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR), 8-5
BRONZE - Florian NEUMAIER (GER) df. John Walter STEFANOWICZ JR (USA), 5 - 1
BRONZE - Salih AYDIN (TUR) df. Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB), 6-5


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