Christian Castillo's last-second quarterfinal win (photo courtesy of UWW/Kadir Caliskan)
On Friday morning, the men's freestyle team hit the mat for the first time at the U17 World Championships in Rome, Italy. Things couldn't have gone too much better as the American team won 13 of 14 matches and put four wrestlers into tomorrow's gold medal matches.
Christian Castillo (48 kg), Jax Forrest (55 kg), Tyler Kasak (65 kg), and Koy Hopke (110 kg) all have only one match standing between them and a world championship. Hopke was the outlier and was generally dominant throughout his three bouts today. Only one went the entire four minutes and that was â€œjustâ€ a nine-point victory (11-2). Castillo, Forrest, and Kasak all were pushed and looked to be vulnerable, at one point or another; however, each persevered and clinched a spot in the finals.
Castillo has one of the highlights of the tournament, when he found himself down to Arshia Haddadi (Iran) on criteria (after a questionable challenge was ruled in favor of the Iranian), with only four seconds remaining in the bout. Unphased, Castillo attempted a flying squirrel and actually got the two points needed for a victory.
Forrest also had a last-second win, but his came in the semifinals rather than the quarters. Trailing by a point with :15 seconds left on a restart, Forrest was on the offensive. After a brief scramble, Vaibhav Patil (India) appeared to be very close to a takedown; however, Forrest wrestled through the position and locked up one of his own at the edge with :02 seconds remaining to win 8-7. A failed challenge made it 9-7.
Kasak used a beautiful throw-by with under ten seconds left in the Round of 16 contest to take a 6-6 lead on criteria. His opponent, Akobir Rahimov (Uzbekistan), challenged the call, which ended up being upheld, leading to a 7-6 final score for the American.
Two American women, Gabriella Gomez (46 kg) and Valerie Hamilton (61 kg), both wrestled for gold medals on Friday. Both were on the losing end of one-sided bouts against opponents from powerhouse nations. Gomez was bested 13-0 by Koko Matsuda (Japan) and Hamilton fell to Savita (India), 12-0.
The final medal tally for the women's squad is three. Gomez and Hamilton, along with Erica Pastoriza (43 kg) all came away with silver medals.
Tomorrow the final five men's freestyle wrestlers will start their tournament, while the first half will wrestle for medals.
48 kg Men's Freestyle
Round of 16 - Christian Castillo (USA) over Ozgur Caglayan (Turkey) 10-0
Quarterfinals - Christian Castillo (USA) over Arshia Haddadi (Iran) 8-6
Semifinals - Christian Castillo (USA) over Rassoul Galbouraev (France) Fall
Gold Medal Matchup - Christian Castillo (USA) vs. Vasif Baghirov (Azerbaijan)
55 kg Men's Freestyle
Qualification - Jax Forrest (USA) over Takuto Osedo (Japan) 12-2
Round of 16 - Jax Forrest (USA) over Sandro Hungerbuehler (Switzerland) 10-0
Quarterfinals - Jax Forrest (USA) over Zalkarbek Tabaldiev (Kyrgyzstan) 10-6
Semifinals - Jax Forrest (USA) over Vaibhav Patil (India) 9-7
Gold Medal Matchup - Jax Forrest (USA) vs. Daryn Askerbek (Kazakhstan)
65 kg Men's Freestyle
Round of 16 - Tyler Kasak (USA) over Akobir Rahimov (Uzbekistan) 7-6
Quarterfinals - Tyler Kasak (USA) over Bohdan Oliinyk (Ukraine) Fall
Semifinals - Tyler Kasak (USA) over Ankit (India) Fall
Gold Medal Matchup - Tyler Kasak (USA) vs. Ilyas Isayev (Azerbaijan)
80 kg Men's Freestyle
Qualification - Reza Soleimanian (Iran) over Zack Ryder (USA) 10-0
Repechage Matchup - Zack Ryder vs. Slavi Stamenov (Bulgaria)
110 Men's Freestyle
Round of 16 - Koy Hopke (USA) over Ramini Gulitashvili (Georgia) 14-3
Quarterfinals - Koy Hopke (USA) over Mateusz Pudlowski (Poland) 11-2
Semifinals - Koy Hopke (USA) over Khikmatullo Kurbonov (Uzbekistan) 12-2
Gold Medal Matchup - Koy Hopke (USA) vs. Levan Lagvilava (France)
46 kg Women's Freestyle
Gold Medal Matchup - Koko Matsuda (Japan) over Gabriella Gomez (USA) 13-0
61 kg Women's Freestyle
Gold Medal Matchup - Savita (India) over Valerie Hamilton (USA) 12-0