Jore Volk (right) and Ben Kueter (Volk photo courtesy of Kadir Caliskan; Kueter photo courtesy of Kostadin Andonov; UWW)
The first group of medals were handed out at the 2022 U20 World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. The United States men's freestyle team accounted for two of the five golds, as Jore Volk (57 kg) and Ben Kueter (97 kg) both were victorious. Mitch Mesenbrink (70 kg) had to settle for silver in a championships shootout, as well.
Before the medal round, the second set of men's freestylers took the mat. The lone wrestler, of this group, to finish the day unscathed was Bennett Berge at 86 kg. Berge crushed his first three opponents to the combined tune of 32-2 to advance to the semifinals. There he met Turkey's Ismail Kucuksolak, who used a four-point takedown late in the opening stanza to lead 5-0 at the break. Undeterred, Berge repeatedly shot into his Turkish opponent's legs and drove him out of bounds for a single point. This sequence repeated itself five times, until the scoreboard was even (Kucuksolak still held criteria). With about a minute remaining in the bout, Berge was finally able to convert a takedown for the go-ahead score. Another was added for good measure, before Berge fended off a late charge from Kucuksolak, to win 9-7.
Tomorrow, the South Dakota State freshman will face returning world silver medalist Rakhim Magamadov (France) in the gold medal finals.
Incoming Ohio State freshmen, Nic Bouzakis and Nick Feldman, along with Maryland redshirt freshman Jaxon Smith still have bronze medal hopes alive. Bouzakis provided some of the early morning fireworks with back-to-back falls, while he was trailing on the scoreboard. Feldman ran into a behemoth from Iran, Amirreza Masoumi Valadi, who is the returning Cadet world champion. Masoumi Valadi was able to control the mat from the open whistle and dominated to the tune of 11-1. Smith posted a one-sided win over European Junior champion Ion Demian (Moldova), before a 12-2 loss to Georgia's Andro Margishvili.
The first finals of the tournament saw American Jore Volk square off with Asian Champion Merey Bazarbayev (Kazakhstan). The bout was largely a tactical affair as Volk had the only takedown of the contest. He led 3-0 at the intermission and that accounted for all of his scoring output. In the second period, Bazarbayev was more offensive and tallied a point on a step-out and a caution. Despite the one-point margin on the scoreboard, Volk had the upper hand due to his takedown and was able to deftly avoid Bazarbayev for the final :33 of the bout.
Volk's gold medal made him the first US men's freestyle wrestler to win the lowest weight contested since Spencer Lee took the title at 50 kg in 2016.
The afternoon was bookended with world championships for the Americans as Kueter was victorious in the last final of the day at 97 kg. Kueter gave up a quick takedown to Turkey's Rifat Gidak; however, he was able to expose Gidak and finished on top. From the top position, Kueter was able to expose Gidak three more times with a reinforced bar tilt. Still in the same sequence, Kueter switched to a regular armbar and ran Gidak to his back for another set of points and more importantly, a fall.
Kueter is one of only two rising high school seniors on the American team and is a multi-sport superstar. The Iowa football/wrestling recruit still plans to get home and plan in a football scrimmage on Friday evening for West High School in Iowa City. Kueter also stars in baseball and track and field for the Trojans.
The last two upperweights to capture U20 world titles for the US, prior to the senior year of high school, include Gable Steveson (120 kg - 2017) and Kyle Snyder (96 kg - 2013).
This marks the second consecutive year that the US team has claimed the gold medal at 97 kg. Last year, it was Wisconsin's Braxton Amos that blitzed through the field.
57 kg Men's Freestyle
Gold Medal Match - Jore Volk over Merey Bazarbayev (Kazakhstan) 3-2
61 kg Men's Freestyle
Qualification - Nic Bouzakis over Arslan Rakhimiov (Kazakhstan) Fall 1:25
Round of 16 - Nic Bouzakis over Abdullah Toprak (Turkey) Fall 1:58
Quarterfinals - Armin Habibzadehsaroukolaei (Iran) over Nic Bouzakis 13-11
Repechage - Nic Bouzakis vs. Mykyta Abramov (Ukraine)
65 kg Men's Freestyle
Bronze Medal Match - Yoshinosuke Aoyagi (Japan) over Vince Cornella 6-6
70 kg Men's Freestyle
Gold Medal Match - Kanen Heybatov (Azerbaijan) over Mitch Mesenbrink 13-7
74 kg Men's Freestyle
Round of 16 - Erfan Elahi (Iran) over Alex Facundo 5-4
***Facundo eliminated from medal consideration***
79 kg Men's Freestyle
Repechage - Bekir Ovec (Turkey) over Brayden Thompson 2-1
***Thompson eliminated from medal consideration***
86 kg Men's Freestyle
Qualification: Bennett Berge over Gurgen Simonyan (Armenia) 10-0
Round of 16: Bennett Berge over Nandor Hajduch (Hungary) 12-2
Quarterfinals: Bennett Berge over Nazar Dod (Ukraine) 10-0
Semifinals: Bennett Berge over Ismail Kucuksolak (Turkey) 9-7
Gold Medal Match: Bennett Berge vs. Rakhim Magamadov (France)
92 kg Men's Freestyle
Round of 16: Jaxon Smith over Ion Demian (Moldova) 8-1
Quarterfinals: Andro Margishvili (Georgia) over Jaxon Smith 12-2
Repechage: Jaxon Smith vs. Kiril Kildau (Germany)
97 kg Men's Freestyle
Gold Medal Match: Ben Kueter over Rifat Gidak (Turkey) Fall 1:39
125 kg Men's Freestyle
Quarterfinals: Nick Feldman over Georgi Ivanov (Bulgaria) 5-2
Semifinals: Amirreza Masoumi Valadi (Iran) over Nick Feldman 11-1
Bronze Medal Match: Nick Feldman vs. Merab Suleimanashvili (Georgia)