Monday morning marked the start of the final World Championship event of the 2023 calendar year, the U23 World Championships from Tirana, Albania. Men’s freestyle was the first discipline to take place and the American contingent showed out with an excellent performance. All five of the wrestlers who took the mat on Monday are still in the medal hunt. Three have clinched at least a silver as they’ve made it to the championship finals. Two others are in repechage with a bronze medal still in sight.
Missouri’s two-time NCAA champion Keegan O’Toole became the first American to make the finals after pinning North Carolina’s Sonny Santiago (Puerto Rico) in the semifinals. O’Toole was dominant for the entire day, winning two matches via tech and another with a 10-1 score, prior to the finals. He’ll be aiming for his second age-group world title tomorrow; back in 2021, O’Toole won a U20 world championship.
Another American in the finals and looking for another age-group world title is Penn State’s three-time national champion, Aaron Brooks. Brooks was a Cadet World Champion in 2017 and a Junior silver medalist the following year. Like O’Toole, he had a relatively quiet path to the semifinals. There he’d meet Russia’s Arslan Bagaev, who recently competed at the Senior World Championships. Brooks got the scoring going by finishing a low attack while his opponent was on the shot clock. That led to a 3-0 lead he’d never relinquish. The shot clock would come into play in the second period as Brooks was on the clock. Again, he was the aggressor and completed a takedown just before the clock expired. He’d hold on to take the 5-4 victory.
The final American to make the finals came at 125 kg when Air Force All-American Wyatt Hendrickson got his hand raised. Hendrickson now has his first career world medal. In 2021, he came up a match shy of a bronze medal in the U20 division. Like he’s been known to do in college, Hendrickson racked up points and earned a fall on the day. In his first match, Hendrickson pinned Abdullah Kurbanov of Russia. At the 2023 Senior World Championships, Kurbanov earned Russia a spot in the 2024 Olympic Games (provided Russia can participate) with his wrestle-off victory.
The other two Americans that were in action today, Julian Chlebove (61 kg) and Jacob Cardenas (92 kg), both are alive for medals. Each earned a win before falling in the quarterfinals, yet got pulled back into repechage.
The rest of the men’s freestyle team will be in action tomorrow morning and medal round matches for today’s participants will be held in the afternoon.
Round of 16 - Julian Chlebove over Antonio Margiotta (Philippines) 11-0
Quarterfinals - Bashir Magomedov (AIN - Russia) over Julian Chlebove 14-3
Repechage - Julian Chlebove vs. Mezhlum Mezhlumyan (Armenia)
Qualification: Keegan O’Toole over Vadym Kurylenko (Ukraine) 10-0
Round of 16: Keegan O’Toole over Krisztian Biro (Romania) 12-2
Quarterfinals: Keegan O’Toole over Hikaru Takata (Japan) 10-1
Semifinals: Keegan O’Toole over Sonny Santiago (Puerto Rico) Fall 3:32
Gold Medal Match: Keegan O’Toole vs. Imam Ganishov (AIN - Russia)
Qualification: Aaron Brooks over Ismail Kucuksolak (Turkey) 5-1
Round of 16: Aaron Brooks over Owen Martin (Canada) 10-0
Quarterfinals: Aaron Brooks over Ivan Ichizli (Moldova) 7-0
Semifinals: Aaron Brooks over Arslan Bagaev (AIN - Russia) 5-4
Gold Medal Match: Aaron Brooks vs. Tatsuya Shirai (Japan)
Round of 16: Jacob Cardenas over Alan Bagaev (AIN - Russia) 4-3
Quarterfinals: Muhammed Gimri (Turkey) over Jacob Cardenas 10-1
Repechage: Jacob Cardenas vs Satoshi Miura (Japan)
Round of 16: Wyatt Hendrickson over Abdulla Kurbanov (AIN - Russia) Fall 5:15
Quarterfinals: Wyatt Hendrickson over Nicolae Stratulat (Moldova) 14-1
Semifinals: Wyatt Hendrickson over Azamat Khosonov (Greece) 4-2
Gold Medal Match: Wyatt Hendrickson vs. Adil Misirci (Turkey)