2022 U23 silver medalist Tanner Sloan (photo courtesy of Kadir Caliskan/UWW)
It was an eventful day in Pontevedra, Spain at the 2022 U23 World Championships as three American men competed for medals and the final four men's freestyle wrestlers started their tournaments.
At 97 kg, Tanner Sloan was the lone American in the finals on Saturday and nearly came away with the gold. The South Dakota State star jumped out to an early lead with a first-period takedown, the only one of the entire contest. His opponent, Amirali Azarpira (Iran) got on the scoreboard in the second period with four straight points via step-out. Sloan pulled within a point of the lead on a step out of his own, then got extremely close to a takedown that would have given him the match. His corner challenged and the original ruling was upheld. A point for the lost challenge made the final score 5-3 in favor of the Iranian.
Sloan will settle for the silver medal in his second world-level tournament. In 2019, Sloan was 15th at the Junior World Championships.
Carter Starocci was the other American to come away with a medal when he clinched a bronze medal at 79 kg. After scoring on a pair of step-out's, Starocci blew open his bout against Valentyn Babii (Kazakhstan) with four points off of a cradle. In the second period, Starocci continued to pour it on and ended the match with a takedown :03 seconds before the final buzzer.
The third American that wrestled in a medal match was Yahya Thomas at 70 kg. Thomas was neutralized by Kota Takahashi of Japan, 4-0.
Two more Americans will compete for gold medals tomorrow, Trent Hidlay (86 kg) and Jacob Cardenas (92 kg). Hidlay was dominant during his four matches Saturday. His first bout, a 15-6 victory over Iran's Sajjad Gholami proved to be his toughest challenge. Hidlay won the following three matches by a combined score of 23-1. Hidlay will face Japan's Tatsuya Shirai in tomorrow's gold medal match. This marks the second world-level medal for the two-time NCAA All-American from NC State. In 2019, he was a Junior world bronze medalist.
Cardenas had a huge international debut headlined by a win over 2022 Senior world bronze medalist Miriani Maisuradze (Georgia) in the semifinals. Not only did Cardenas get the victory, but he totally shut down the Georgian, 8-0. To make the semis, Cardenas got a pair of workman-like wins over opponents from Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Sunday, Cardenas will face Amirhossein Firouzpourbandpei (Iran), a two-time U20 world champion and 2021 U23 world bronze medalist.
Also alive for a potential bronze medal tomorrow are Aaron Nagao (61 kg) and Tony Cassioppi (125 kgs). Cassioppi picked up a win before his loss in the quarterfinals, while Nagao was defeated in his opening match. Both have been pulled into repechage.