At the recent U20 world championships, Team USA brought home three gold medals across all three styles and came up 13 tournament points short of the team title in men’s freestyle. The following article looks at some of the top statistical performers for the squad and how the team performed collectively.
After redshirting last season at Cal Baptist, Mitchell Mesenbrink transferred to Penn State this past offseason. Based on his performance at the U20 World Championships, it looks like the Nittany Lions might have another star on their hands. On his way to the men's freestyle title at 74 kg, Mesenbrink scored a team-high 59 match points across his five matches. No other wrestler on Team USA came particularly close to that point total as the second-highest scorers were tied at 47 points.
Mesenbrink scored at least three takedowns in all of his matches and scored a tournament-high five takedowns against Elkan Garayev of Azerbaijan in the round of 16. He was also equally dynamic on the ground as he scored five exposures via the gut wrench and another four with the leg lace.
On his path to the finals, Mesenbrink allowed only a single match point. In the title match, Iran’s Hossein Mohammad Aghaei was able to score five points, but the U.S. wrestler still finished the bout via match termination. The takedown and leg lac scored by Aghaei were the only two-point scores Mesenbrink allowed in the entire tournament.
Team USA’s other champion in men’s freestyle was the second-highest scorer on the team. Meyer Shapiro, who will join Cornell for the upcoming college season, scored 47 points and won the title at 70 kg. He averaged three takedowns per match and scored a personal high of four in his shootout title match against Iran’s Ali Rezaeian Ghazaleh.
Shapiro allowed only 10 points across his five matches with six coming in the final against Ghazaleh. The Iranian scored the first four points of the bout with an arm spin takedown and a gut wrench. However, Shapiro was then able to pull away and take the match via an 11-6 score.
In women’s freestyle, the highest-scoring wrestler for Team USA was Amit Elor. The 72 kg champion scored 36 points despite only wrestling four matches. While she scored seven takedowns, Elor was devastating in par terre. She scored seven turns via the leg lace (four against Kazakhstan’s Shamshiyabanu Tastanbek and three against Bukrenaz Sert of Turkey), and she added a gut wrench against Japan’s Yuka Fujikura.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Elor’s performance was that she was the only wrestler on Team USA to not surrender a single point in the tournament. Part of this is due to her offensive dominance as she finished all four of her matches prior to the full six minutes with three of those match terminations coming inside the first two minutes. However, Elor did showcase some impressive defense against Fujikura who won a gold medal at the 2022 U20 Asian championships.
Team USA’s Greco-Roman squad failed to bring home a medal, but Northern Iowa’s Wyatt Voelker came quite close at 87 kg. He went 3-2 and came up short in one of the bronze medal matches. Across those five matches, he scored 20 points, which was the most by a U.S. Greco competitor. He scored three takedowns and added another eight points via four gut wrenches. Landon Drury who also finished just one match short of a medal down at 63 kg was the second-highest-scoring Greco wrestler with 19 points.
As a team, the U.S. outscored their opposition 638 to 399. Men’s freestyle had the largest edge with a 338 to 154 advantage, while the women’s freestyle team also edged their opponents 223 to 121. The Greco team was outscored 124 to 77. Takedowns are where Team USA really separated themselves from the opposition. Across the three styles, the team scored 160 takedowns while allowing only 79. Even though the Greco team was outscored, they still managed 11 takedowns while allowing only nine.
Not to fuel any wild conspiracy theories, but the squad certainly got the short end of the stick when it came to cautions. The team was awarded with only six cautions, while the opposition collected 12 across all three styles. This edge was particularly evident in Greco where Team USA got cautioned six times without their opponents being penalized once.