2021 Junior World Champion Braxton Amos (Photo courtesy of Kadir Caliskan/UWW)
On the first day that medals were awarded at the Junior World Championships, the Americans came away with three. Braxton Amos (gold), Beau Bartlett (bronze), and Bryce Andonian (bronze) all have some extra hardware with them for their journey back from Ufa, Russia. In addition, Missouri teammates Keegan O'Toole and Rocky Elam have secured a spot in tomorrow's gold medal matches at their respective weights. Finally, Wyatt Henderickson made the semifinals and dropped to a bronze medal bout after an excruciatingly close loss.
In his gold medal match, Amos had to contend with a Turkish opponent, Polat Polatci, that was fearless in his attempts to score and has displayed some clutchness, by earning a last-second win in the semis via exposure. The Wisconsin freshman did his best to ensure there were no buzzer-beating heroics from the Turk, as he got to his offense early and often. Amos needed only :12 to register his first step-out point of the bout, then added two more before the one-minute mark. Another two made the bout 5-0 in favor of Amos late in the opening period. Polatci grew closer in a hurry after turning the tables on an Amos throw attempt for one of his own.
Despite holding a 5-4 advantage in the closing period, Amos was not reluctant to sit on his lead or go conservative. Both big men were vying for position and a possible throw attempt during the bout's final minute. Polatci's momentum helped spark an incredible five-point throw from Amos that will be replayed thousands of times today by American fans. Just for good measure, Amos kept attacking and was able to add a final point via step-out to win 11-4.
With his win, Amos made sure the men's freestyle team would have at least one Junior World Champion in 2021. The Americans have a current streak with one or more that dates back to 2015.
The other two medalists were able to lock up their bronze medals with comebacks, though each was a bit different. Bartlett was not able to generate any offensive for the bulk of his 65 kg contest with Tajikistan's Mustafo Akhmedov and saw himself down 4-1 with under :30 remaining in the bout. Finally, the Penn State freshman broke through and landed a big double leg for four points, giving him a late lead. Akhmedov continued to push and that led to a counter takedown from Bartlett at the buzzer to win 7-4.
Up a weight class, at 70 kg, Andonian found himself in a daunting hole, 8-2, with only a few seconds into the final period. The Virginia Tech 149 lber never wavered and continued to pressure and attack Moldova's Stanislav Novac. The tactics worked and Novac began to wilt under the American's pace. Andonian was able to tie the match at eight points, apiece, less than a minute later. He blew the bout open with a takedown and a pair of gut wrenches just after the 5:00 minute mark of the match. Finally, Andonian ended the bout at 18-8 with another takedown of the exhausted Novac.
The two wrestlers with a shot to win gold tomorrow, O'Toole and Elam, both went about making the finals very differently. O'Toole had a ridiculous path that included 2020 Olympian Turan Bayramov (Azerbaijan) in the quarterfinals. Down 5-3, O'Toole locked up a cradle and recorded the upset. Next up was Russian Idar Khatanov in the semis. In the midst of a back-and-forth battle, but down on the scoreboard in the second period, O'Toole grabbed a takedown after prevailing from the quad-pod position. He got the points as a result of sinking in a far-side cradle on his Russian opponent. O'Toole then proceeded to roll across his back and stuck the stunned Russian. He'll move on to face Nurdaulet Kuanyshbay (Kazakhstan) for the 74 kg gold.
Elam has used stingy defense and opportune offense to grab three wins at the 92 kg weight class. Like O'Toole, Elam had to dispose of a Russian in the semifinals, Ivan Kirillov. He'll meet Madhi Hajiloueianmorafah (Iran) in the gold medal match.
The other medal contender in the bunch is Wyatt Hendrickson at 125 kgs. Hendrickson was bolstered by an opening-round forfeit, before steamrolling Jakub Czerczak (Poland) in the quarterfinals. He needed just :49 to rack up 10 unanswered points for the tech. In the semifinals, Hendrickson and Ali Akbarpourkhordouni (Iran) exchanged the lead five times before the Iranian settled in with a go-ahead step-out to take the lead with under :20 remaining. As the clock expired, Hendrickson almost was able to post a tying takedown, but came up just shy. He'll have to wait to see his opponent in the bronze medal match, based on repechage results.
Full American Results
Jesse Mendez (USA) over Hamza Zopali (Turkey) 9-6
Fedor Baltuev (Russia) over Jesse Mendez (USA) 10-0
Bronze Medal Match
Beau Bartlett (USA) over Mustafo Akhmedov (Tajikistan) 7-4
Bryce Andonian (USA) over Josley Dibo (Congo) Fall :24
Bryce Andonian (USA) over Asset Bauyrzhanov (Kazakhstan) 9-6
Bronze Medal Match
Bryce Andonian (USA) over Stanislav Novac (Moldova) 18-8
Keegan O'Toole (USA) over Balint Balazs (Hungary) 10-0
Keegan O'Toole (USA) over Turan Bayramov (Azerbaijan) Fall 4:47
Keegan O'Toole (USA) over Idar Khatanov (Russia) Fall 4:54
Richard Schroeder (Germany) over Donnell Washington (USA) 9-6
Colton Hawks (USA) over Ilya Khamtsou (Belarus) 12-1
Daviti Kogoashvili (Georgia) over Colton Hawks (USA) 11-9
Rocky Elam (USA) over Mukhammadrasul Rakhimov (Uzbekistan) 8-3
Rocky Elam (USA) over Pruthviraj Patil (India) 12-2
Rocky Elam (USA) over Ivan Kirillov (Russia) 5-3
Gold Medal Match
Braxton Amos (USA) over Polat Polatci (Turkey) 11-4
Wyatt Hendrickson (USA) over Danila Danilov (Belarus) FFT
Wyatt Hendrickson (USA) over Jakub Czerczak (Poland) 10-0
Ali Akbarpourkhordouni (Iran) over Wyatt Hendrickson (USA) 8-5