2022 U23 World Champion Amit Elor (photo courtesy of Kadir Caliskan/UWW)
History was made Friday afternoon in Pontevedra, Spain at the U23 World Championships as Amit Elor added another gold medal to her collection. Actually, it was her third world gold medal in 2022, all of which have come in the last four months. Elor becomes the first American wrestler (male or female) to have won world championships at three different age groups within the same year.
Elor won this championship bout the way that she has won most of her matches this year; by pure domination. After about a minute and a half of feeling out her opponent, Wiktoria Choluj (Poland), Elor got on the scoreboard with a takedown. She'd add another point via step out and four more after a takedown and leg lace to lead 7-0 at the break.
In the second period, it was more of the same. Elor took some time to pick her spot, but got another takedown followed by a leg lace to end the bout decisively, 11-0.
None of Elor's three matches at this tournament went the distance as she had a pair of techs and a fall in the semifinals.
Elor's title marks the second consecutive year in which the US women have won a gold medal at this event (Emily Shilson - 50 kg). She is also only the second American woman to win since the tournament's inception in its current form in 2017.
The US women also had a fourth medalist for the tournament as Alex Hedrick put on a show at 57 kg. Midway through the first period of her bronze medal contest, Hedrick secured a takedown on Laura Almaganbetova (Kazakhstan) followed by a trapped-arm gut. She'd never look back and proceeded to roll to a 13-2 tech. The win marked Hedrick's first age-group world medal. She was a part of two Junior world teams and the 2021 U23 team.
Just missing out on a bronze medal by the slightest of margins was Felicity Taylor at 53 kg. Taylor held onto a slim 3-2 late in the third period when she was involved in a flurry at the edge of the circle against Germany's Anastasia Blayvas. Taylor stepped out which knotted the score, but pushed the German ahead on criteria. The University of Iowa star pushed during the final :20 seconds but was unable to finish a takedown. She appeared close to the criteria as the final whistle sounded. This was Taylor's second U23 appearance after taking ninth in 2019.
On Friday, the men's freestyle team took the mat for the first time, as well.
One wrestler has already locked up a medal, yet still has his sights set on gold and that is Tanner Sloan at 97 kg. In his three matches, Sloan faced tough competition every time around. He disposed of the 2022 European U20 champion Mucahit Celik (Turkey), before downing 2022 U20 World silver medalist Andro Margishvili (Georgia), and 2022 European U23 champion Islam Ilyasov (Azerbaijan). The semifinal against Ilyasov was a workman-like 10-2 victory that never saw Sloan in serious trouble.
Two more American men will wrestle for bronze medals tomorrow, Yahya Thomas (70 kg) and Carter Starocci (79 kg). Thomas picked up a pair of wins before running into Amirmohammad Yazdani (Iran) and falling 4-2. Starocci teched three foes before getting edged by Daulet Yergesh (Kazakhstan), 8-7. Starocci almost came all the way back from an 8-1 deficit in the second period, but came up just short.
The remainder of the men's freestyle team will also take the mat for the first time on Saturday.