What a rollercoaster of a day for American wrestling fans! There were some great moments and some shocking ones, as well. The last American wrestler to take the mat on Monday was Kyle Dake, who was searching for his fifth world title against Russian, Zaurbek Sidakov, who came into the match with three World/Olympic gold medals. Though they were both in the 2020 74 kg Olympic weight class, the two had never previously met.
The first period was largely uneventful as Dake was put on the shot clock; however, he managed to push Sidakov out of bounds to take a 1-0 lead. That would be the score after the first period.
The second period is where things started to go sideways. Dake was put on the shot clock for a second time and Sidakov immediately attacked. He would finish the takedown near the edge with :01 on the shot clock. Once that final second ticked off, Sidakov led 3-1. Shortly after that exchange, Dake got in on a single leg and finished quickly to retake the lead 3-3.
With under a minute remaining in the contest, Sidakov got in on a deep shot and was close to finishing. He and Dake took turns exposing each other's backs in a wild sequence. After a review, the score was deemed to be 8-7 in favor of Sidakov.
During the final seconds of the contest, Dake tried to expose Sidakov, who was in on a leg again. While he was close, Sidakov never gave up his back. After a review, Sidakov was given two points to make the final score 10-7 in favor of the Russian.
Both wrestlers have earned slots at the 2024 Olympics, so a Sidakov/Dake rematch suddenly becomes one of the most anticipated bouts on the horizon in Paris.
The other American wrestling in a medal match on Monday was Zahid Valencia at 92 kg. As he’s been known to do, Valencia shot quickly off the opening whistle. Shortly afterwards, his opponent Arash Yoshida, locked up a front headlock and Valencia drug out of it for a takedown. Yoshida quickly escaped and the Japanese corner buzzed to challenge the sequence. A quick replay confirmed the call and gave Valencia a 3-0 lead for the challenge loss.
With a 3-0 lead, Valencia continued to attack and scored with one of his best weapons a low double leg. Valencia held onto both legs and was able to quickly transition into a turn with what looked to be a low gut wrench. He would move down to the ankles and lock up a leg lace in the same sequence. Two turns later the match was over, 11-0.
Valencia would win a bronze medal in a weight class he originally did not plan to compete in. After a loss to Aaron Brooks in the US Open finals, Valencia moved up to 92 kg from 86 and won the World Team Trials and Final X.
One of the best moments of the day came from a competitor not wrestling for the United States, but one that American fans are extremely familiar with. Northwestern and Rutgers All-American, Sebastian Rivera wrestling for Puerto Rico, pulled off one of the best comebacks of the tournament to make the world finals at 65 kg. Rivera was trailing Vazgen Tevanyan (Armenia) 6-0 with under two minutes remaining in the bout. He was never flustered and got on the board with four points after a high finish from a leg attack.
Rivera got within a point with only :15 seconds remaining after getting a takedown after changing directions multiple times in a front headlock situation. For the bulk of those :15 seconds, Rivera furiously worked to set up a leg lace. As the final two seconds ticked off the clock, Rivera finally was able to turn Tevanyan for two points and an 11-10 win.
Rivera’s win also locked up a spot in the 2024 Olympic Games for Puerto Rico. He’ll face Iszmail Musukaev (Hungary) for a world title tomorrow.
Down at 57 kg, another former collegiate star had a huge day. Michigan All-American Stevan Micic became the first Serbian wrestler to win a gold medal in freestyle. Micic had quite the road to the gold medal with wins over three past world champions, including Japan’s Rei Higuchi in the finals. Micic struck first with an early takedown, but was matched by Higuchi late in the first period.
The two exchanged takedowns in the second period before Micic went ahead for good. Higuchi was ever-so-close to a takedown at the edge of the mat with only four seconds in the bout. No takedown was ruled; however, the Japanese corner did challenge. The initial call was upheld and Micic added a point, which made the final score 7-4.
Micic’s win gives the University of Michigan three world medalists at this tournament. Myles Amine (San Marino) and Mason Parris both earned bronze medals.
Perhaps the most shocking match of the day came in the 97 kg quarterfinals as 20-year-old Akhmed Tazhudinov (Albania) handled the legendary Kyle Snyder, 11-0. Tazhudinov took a surprising 4-0 lead after chest-wrapping Snyder and taking him feet-to-back in the opening period. Later in the period, Snyder continued to attack but couldn’t finish against Tazhudinov and the Albanian continued to add to his score. Another four-pointer, late in the opening period, was challenged by Snyder and his corner, which wasn’t overturned making the final score 11-0.
After beating Snyder, Tazhudinov also handily defeated another Olympic champion, Abdulrashid Sadulaev (AIN - Russia), before Sadulaev injury defaulted out. Most expected a Snyder/Sadulaev rematch in the semis, but now there’s a chance it could happen tomorrow for a bronze medal, provided Snyder advances and Sadulaev can wrestle.
Monday also marked the first day of competition for two weight classes in women’s freestyle. Both Americans, Jacarra Winchester (55 kg) and Jennifer Page (59 kg), advanced to the semifinals. Winchester would lock up her second world medal and a second berth in the world finals with her 11-0 tech fall victory over Anastasia Blayvas (Germany).
Page was impressive in the quarterfinals downing 2021 World bronze medalist Sae Nanjo (Japan) in the quarterfinals, before getting shut down by Zhang Qi (China), 5-1 in the semis.
Winchester will have to contend with 2x world champion Haruna Okuno in the world finals. Page will await the winner of a repechage contest that takes place tomorrow morning.
The other American in action today was Nick Lee at 65 kg. Lee posted three impressive victories before running into 2022 world champion Rahman Amouzadkhalili (Iran). Though Amouzadkhalili controlled most of the bout, Lee did toss the Iranian to his back late in the contest and was close to securing a fall. Lee would be eliminated when Amouzadkhalili lost on a buzzer-beater in the semifinals.
In order to guarantee a 65 kg representative at the 2024 Olympics, an American will need to place in the top-two at the 2024 Pan-American Championships or be forced to finish top-three at a World Qualifier.
Gold Medal Match: Stevan Micic (Serbia) over Rei Higuchi (Japan) 7-4
Bronze Medal Match: Arsen Harutyunyan (Armenia) over Meirambek Kartbay (Kazakhstan) 11-0
Bronze Medal Match: Zelimkhan Abakarov (Albania) over Zavur Uguev (AIN - Russia) 4-4
Olympic Quota Wrestle-Off: Zavur Uguev (AIN - Russia) over Meirambek Kartbay (Kazakhstan) 4-0
Gold Medal Match: Zaurbek Sidakov (AIN - Russia) over Kyle Dake (USA) 10-7
Bronze Medal Match: Daichi Takatani (Japan) over Georgios Kougioumtsidis (Greece) Fall 3:38
Bronze Medal Match: Khetig Tsabolov (Serbia) over Turan Bayramov (Azerbaijan) 6-4
Olympic Quota Wrestle-Off: Georgios Kougioumtsidis (Greece) over Turan Bayramov (Azerbaijan) 9-8
Gold Medal Match: Akhmed Usmanov (AIN - Russia) over Vladimeri Gamkrelidze (Georgia) 4-1
Bronze Medal Match: Mohammad Nokhodilarimi (Iran) over Orkhan Abasov (Azerbaijan) 10-0
Bronze Medal Match: Vasyl Mykhailov (Ukraine) over Bolat Sakayev (Kazakhstan) 3-1
Gold Medal Match: Rizabek Aitmukhan (Kazakhstan) over Osman Nurmagomedov (Azerbaijan) 5-2
Bronze Medal Match: Feyzullah Akturk (Turkey) over Miriani Maisuradze (Georgia) 5-3
Bronze Medal Match: Zahid Valencia (USA) over Arash Yoshida (Japan) 11-0
65 kg Round of 64: Nick Lee (USA) over Krzysztof Bienkowski (Poland) 6-0
65 kg Round of 32: Nick Lee (USA) over Austin Gomez (Mexico) 3:56
65 kg Round of 16: Nick Lee (USA) over Umidjon Jalolov (Uzbekistan) 4-3
65 kg Quarterfinals: Rahman Amouzadkhalili (Iran) over Nick Lee (USA) 7-4
92 kg repechage: Zahid Valencia (USA) over Denys Sahaliuk (Ukraine) 6-0
92 kg Bronze Medal Match: Zahid Valencia (USA) over Arash Yoshida (Japan) 11-0
97 kg Round of 32: Kyle Snyder (USA) over Nishan Singh Randhawa (Canada) 11-0
97 kg Round of 16: Kyle Snyder (USA) over Radu Lefter (Moldova) 12-1
97 kg Quarterfinals: Akhmed Tazhudinov (Albania) over Kyle Snyder (USA) 11-0
55 kg Round of 16: Jacarra Winchester (USA) over Neha Sharma (UWW - India) 7-2
55 kg Quarterfinals: Jacarra Winchester (USA) over Mariia Vynnky (Ukraine) 11-1
55 kg Semifinals: Jacarra Winchester (USA) over Anastasia Blayvas (Germany) 11-0
59 kg Round of 16: Jennifer Page (USA) over Anjli (UWW - India) 11-0
59 kg Quarterfinals: Jennifer Page (USA) over Sae Nanjo (Japan) 6-4
59 kg Semifinals: Zhang Qi (China) over Jennifer Page (USA) 5-1