57 kg U20 World Finalist Jore Volk (photo courtesy of Kadir Caliskan; UWW)
The 2022 U20 World Championships got started with a bang, at least from an American perspective. Men's freestyle was at the forefront on day one and the team did not disappoint. Of the five wrestlers who competed Monday, three are in the gold medal finals, another will wrestle for bronze, and another is alive in repechage.
While each wrestler had their own story, the overarching theme of the day was the gas tanks and never-say-die attitude of the US wrestlers. The majority of the American wrestlers had to grit out wins in come-from-behind fashion.
The first American to reach the finals was the smallest wrestler, Jore Volk. After a close 2-2 period, where the Wyoming-signee led on criteria, 2-2, Volk blew the match open in the second. Volk scored a takedown on the edge, following a reshot, and was allowed to start from par terre, as a result of a penalty point for fleeing. In the ensuing restart, Volk gained two sets of two points from a gut wrench and four more for a lift. Initially, the bout was ruled over; however, after a challenge, Luke Gvinjilia was given a pair of points for exposure at the tail end of the sequence. The Georgian was able to capitalize on this, to an extent, as he posted a takedown and another two points for a leg lace, but that was it. The damage was done and Volk prevailed 13-6.
In Volk's first bout he was able to get by an Iranian opponent, Ahmad Mohammad Nezhad Javan, who had earned a bronze medal at U23 World's last year.
The second finalist for the American contingent was Mitch Mesenbrink at 70 kg. Mesenbrink was able to wear down both of his opponents in the quarters and semis with a ridiculous gas tank. Though he was trailing in the second period of the semifinal bout 3-0 to Armenia's Hayk Papikyan, it was evident that the first three and a half minutes of movement and handfighting took its toll on the Armenian. Mesenbrink scored the last six points of the bout and faced little resistance in doing so. The Cal Baptist signee also posted wins by technical superiority in his first two contests.
The only high schooler of the bunch, Ben Kueter at 97 kg, showed maturity beyond his years. Kueter quickly fell behind European bronze medalist Luka Khutchua of Georgia 8-0, after a takedown and three subsequent turns. Although he was only one score away from match termination, Kueter never was flustered and chipped away at his Georgian opponent. At the break, the two were embroiled in a 9-9 shootout. Kueter continued to attack in the final period and piled on for a 17-14 victory.
Cornell's Vince Cornella was the fourth semifinalist for the Americans, but he fell to Umidjon Jalolov of Uzbekistan, 4-0. To get to the semis, Cornella picked up a huge 6-5 win over 2021 Cadet World fifth-place finisher Mohammad Shakeri of Iran. The win is expected to be significant since Iran figures to be in the team race. With Cornella's loss, Shakeri is now out of medal contention. Cornella will have to wait for two repechage matches before finding his bronze medal opponent.
Brayden Thompson at 79 kg lost his opening bout, a hard-fought 6-1 affair to Iran's Sobhan Yari. Yari went on to win his next two matches 8-0 and 9-6 to make the finals and pull the American back into repechage.
57 kg Men's Freestyle
Round of 16 - Jore Volk over Ahmad Mohammad Nezhad Javan (Iran) 7-5
Quarterfinals - Jore Volk over Azizbek Naimov (Uzbekistan) 7-2
Semifinals - Jore Volk over Luka Gvinjilia (Georgia) 13-6
Gold Medal Match: Jore Volk vs. Merey Bazarbayev (Kazakhstan)
65 kg Men's Freestyle
Qualification: Vince Cornella over Olzhas Olzhakanov (Kazakhstan) 8-0
Round of 16: Vince Cornella over Ismail Pomakov (Bulgaria) 10-0
Quarterfinals: Vince Cornella over Mohammad Shakeri (Iran) 6-5
Semifinals: Umidjon Jalolov (Uzbekistan) over Vince Cornella 4-0
Bronze Medal Match: vs. TBD
70 kg Men's Freestyle
Qualification: Mitch Mesenbrink over Muhammad Abdurachmanov (Belgium) 12-0
Round of 16: Mitch Mesenbrink over Kanat Kerimbekov (Kyrgyzstan) 10-0
Quarterfinals: Mitch Mesenbrink over Hossein Mohammad Aghaei (Iran) 9-7
Semifinals: Mitch Mesenbrink over Hayk Papikyan (Armenia) 6-3
Gold Medal Match: Mitch Mesenbrink vs. Kanan Heybatov (Azerbaijan)
79 kg Men's Freestyle
Round of 16: Sobhan Yari (Iran) over Brayden Thompson (USA) 6-1
Repechage Matchup: Brayden Thompson vs. Bekir Ovec (Turkey)
97 kg Men's Freestyle
Round of 16: Ben Kueter over Dmitrii Duscov (Moldova) 10-0
Quarterfinals: Ben Kueter over Niraj (India) 8-1
Semifinals: Ben Kueter over Luka Khutchua (Georgia) 17-14
Gold Medal Match: Ben Kueter vs. Rifat Gidak (Turkey)