The U20 World Championships got started off in a major way for the United States on Monday morning from Amman, Jordan. Men’s freestyle led off and set a pace that will be hard to match. As the first five weights were conducted, the United States won its first 17 matches of the day. That streak included three semifinal victories by Luke Lilledahl (57 kg), Jesse Mendez (65 kg), and Meyer Shapiro (70 kg).
Each will wrestle for gold medals tomorrow afternoon. The other two wrestlers that hit the mat on Monday, Matthew Singleton (79 kg) and Camden McDanel (97 kg) both advanced to the semifinals but lost and will have to win a match tomorrow to claim a bronze medal.
The lightest member of the team, Lilledahl, has plenty of international experience despite heading into his senior year of high school. Lilledahl is a two-time U17 world finalist and already owns a gold and silver medal.
Lilledahl showed maturity way beyond his years during his semifinal clash with Ruslan Abdullayev of Azerbaijan. The pair exchanged step-out points in the first period before Lilledahl put together a sweet sweep single to get the match's first takedown. Abdullayev struck in the second period on a reshot that found him immediately in position for a pair of leg laces. In an instant, he was leading 7-3.
Undeterred, Lilledahl notched a second takedown off a single leg to pull the margin to 7-5. He appeared close to taking the lead after another shot; however, with Lilledahl behind him, Abdullayev used a Peterson-like finish to get exposure and lead, 9-5.
Lilledahl continued to attack and with under :15 seconds remaining in the bout, he was on the verge of another takedown. Abdullayev stuck out his right arm to block a Lilledahl spin attempt. Rather than spin. Lilledahl hopped over the block attempt and torqued Abdullayev’s shoulder in a manner that forced him onto his back. With six seconds remaining in the contest, the official signaled for a fall, which was quickly confirmed.
While behind on the scoreboard and racing against time, Lilledahl forced a fall and advanced to his third age-group world championship bout. In tomorrow’s gold medal match, he’ll face Japan’s Yuto Nishiuchi, a U20 world champion at 61 kg last year. He also defeated Northern Colorado star Stevo Poulin for a U17 world bronze medal in 2019.
Before you could catch your breath after Lilledah’s stunning victory, Ohio State All-American Jesse Mendez took the mat in the 65 kg semifinals against Turkey’s Abdullah Toprak. The bout didn’t have the fireworks of its predecessor, it was more of a tactical affair. A shot clock violation on Mendez resulted in a point for Toprak, which was the only score from the opening stanza.
In the second period, the two wrestlers both exchanged a series of re-shots, which led to a Mendez single leg, then a takedown at the edge. Later in the period, the official put Toprak on the shot clock. When he didn’t score, another point was awarded to Mendez to make the bout 3-1. He’d fend off any further attacks from Toprak and go on to win by that score.
Mendez is now in the world finals and has locked up his first world medal. The third time was the charm for the Buckeye, who had previously wrestled at the U17 and U20 World Championships and didn’t return with any hardware. He’ll face Mohammad Shakeri of Iran. Last year, at the U20 World Championships, Shakeri fell to Cornell’s Vince Cornella, 6-5 in the quarterfinals.
The third finalist of the day for the United States was the most dominant in Meyer Shapiro at 70 kg. The Cornell signee only surrendered points during his Round of 16 win over Mirjavad Nabiyev of Azerbaijan. In his next match, Shapiro blanked 2021 U21 world champion, Magomed Baitukaev, (Russia - Individual Neutral Athlete), 8-0 in the quarterfinals. He’d punch a ticket to the finals by teching future Wisconsin Badger Julian George (Puerto Rico), 11-0 in less than a period.
In tomorrow’s gold medal match, Shapiro will square off with Iran’s Ali Rezaei Aghouzgeleh (Iran). The two were in the same U17 weight class in 2021, but did not meet. There Shapiro grabbed a gold medal, while the Iranian was a bronze medalist on the opposite half of the bracket.
Both Singleton and McDanel will need to wait and see who emerges from repechage as an opponent in their respective bronze medal matches.
The remainder of the men’s freestyle team will start their tournaments on Tuesday morning, highlighted by 2022 world silver medalists Mitchell Mesenbrink and Bennett Berge.
Qualification: Luke Lilledahl (USA) over Lev Pavlov (Russia - Individual Neutral Athlete) 9-2
Round of 16: Luke Lilledahl (USA) over Tolga Ozbek (Turkey) 6-1
Quarterfinal: Luke Lilledahl (USA) over Edik Harutyunyan (Armenia) 8-3
Semifinal: Luke Lilledahl (USA) over Ruslan Abdullayev (Azerbaijan) Fall 5:54
Qualification: Jesse Mendez (USA) over Mykyta Zubal (Ukraine) 2-1
Round of 16: Jesse Mendez (USA) over Aden Sakybaev (Kyrgyzstan) 7-2
Quarterfinals: Jesse Mendez (USA) over Ion Berghi (Moldova) 13-4
Semifinal: Jesse Mendez (USA) over Abdullah Toprak (Turkey) 3-1
Qualification: Meyer Shapiro (USA) over Yuma Tomiyama (Japan) 11-0
Round of 16: Meyer Shapiro (USA) over Mirjavad Nabiyev (Azerbaijan) 6-4
Quarterfinals: Meyer Shapiro (USA) over Magomed Baitukaev (Russia - Individual Neutral Athlete) 8-0
Semifinals: Meyer Shapiro (USA) over Julian George (Puerto Rico) 11-0
Qualification: Matthew Singleton (USA) over Denizbek Ulan Uulu (Kyrgyzstan) 12-2
Round of 16: Matthew Singleton (USA) over Nandor Hajduch (Hungary) 10-0
Quarterfinals: Matthew Singleton (USA) over Narek Grigoryan (Armenia) 10-6
Semifinals: Sagar Jaglan (India) over Matthew Singleton (USA) 16-6
Round of 16: Camden McDanel (USA) over Toyoki Hamada (Japan) 12-1
Quarterfinals: Camden McDanel (USA) over Taron Shahinyan (Poland) 12-2
Semifinals: Abolfazi Babaloo (Iran) over Camden McDanel (USA) 5-1