Tuesday was the first day that medals were awarded at the 2023 U23 World Championships and the US men’s freestyle team cleaned up. All five of the Americans who started their tournaments yesterday were in medal contention at the outset of day two. When the smoke cleared, the US went 3-for-3 in gold medal matches and added a bronze to the medal haul.
The first American to take the mat during the medal session was Keegan O’Toole at 74 kg. O’Toole’s opponent was 2017 Cadet World medalist Imam Ganishov (AIN - Russia). The two-time champion from Missouri controlled the pace of the entire match and never let Ganishov get to his offense. Early in the bout, O’Toole got in on the Russian’s legs and needed an extended period of time to get the finish. Along the way, he avoided giving up exposure points via crotch lift. Shortly afterward, O’Toole used a low single to secure his second takedown for a 4-0 lead. Late in the period, O’Toole had the Russian in a quad pod at the edge of the mat. Ganishov refused to concede the position and eventually got a point for an O’Toole step-out. Initially, the sequence was ruled a step out in O’Toole’s favor; however, it was overturned after a review.
Despite a 4-1 lead in the second period, O’Toole continued to be the aggressor. After narrowly missing a takedown after a low attack, O’Toole stayed on the offensive and scored his third and final takedown. That was all he’d need, as he won 6-1. For the Tiger star, it’s his second career world title after winning one at the U20 level in 2021.
Next up for team US was Aaron Brooks at 86 kg. Brooks’s opponent was 2022 U23 world champion Tatsuya Shirai of Japan. Despite his impressive resume, Shirai proved to be no match for the Penn State superstar. Brooks got a takedown just after the one-minute mark, but really blew the match open in later in the opening stanza. He stunned Shirai with an ankle pick and picked up four points for the feet-to-back exposure. Still in the first period, Brooks went back to the ankle pick and finished for two points. Seconds later he’d transition to an ankle lace and turned Shirai to send the bout into match termination territory. Like O’Toole, Brooks is now a two-time world champion. His first title came in 2017 at the Cadet age group.
Completely the championship trifecta was Wyatt Hendrickson at 125 kgs. Hendrickson squared off with Cadet and Junior world bronze medalist Adil Misirci (Turkey), an opponent that had only surrendered one point in his three prior matches.
That would change quickly as Hendrickson attacked off the whistle and stunned his Turkish counterpart with a takedown. Hendrickson continued the onslaught for the better part of the opening period. Late in the first, Misirci got in on a single leg and Hendrickson rubber-knee’d out of trouble. The Air Force All-American would take an extended amount of time returning to the center and was obviously hampered by some sort of a knee injury.
While in pain, Hendrickson continued to wrestle and attack. He finished the first period with a step-out point to lead 7-0. After extending his lead with a takedown and exposure, Hendrickson and Misirci got into a scramble where both wrestlers were exposed. That was enough to give Hendrickson the 13-3 win on technical superiority.
Despite walking back to the corner very gingerly, Hendrickson still managed to take a lap with the American flag and celebrate his world title.
Also competing for a medal at 92 kg was Jacob Cardenas. The Cornell 197 lber grabbed his second consecutive U23 world bronze medal with a 4-3 victory over Pruthviraj Patil (India).
The men’s freestyle team still has the opportunity to add more hardware to their collection as four wrestlers who started their tournaments on Tuesday are still in medal contention. Isaac Trumble at 97 kg leads the way, as he made the finals and has locked up at least a silver medal. Trumble demolished the competition with 11-0 techs in both the quarterfinals and semis. His 13-4 win in the Round of 16 over Japan’s Hibiki Ito represented his “closest” bout of the tournament. Standing between him and a gold medal is Moldova’s Radu Lefter. Lefter was Moldova’s representative at the 2023 Senior World Championships. He picked up a win in his first match before losing to Kyle Snyder, 12-1. Lefter was a U23 World silver medalist back in 2021.
Cooper Flynn (57 kg) and Brock Hardy (65 kg) are both in repechage and need to win a bout tomorrow morning to secure a place in a bronze medal bout. That’s where Penn graduate Doug Zapf (70 kg) is after falling in the semifinals.
Tomorrow will mark the final day of competition in men’s freestyle, but also the first day of women’s freestyle.
Qualification: Cooper Flynn over Vasyl Ilnytskyi (Poland) 4-1
Round of 16: Manvel Khndzrtsyan (Armenia) over Cooper Flynn 11-0
Repechage: Mezhlum Mezhlumyan (Armenia) over Julian Chlebove 11-0
Qualification: Brock Hardy over Sammy Alvarez (Puerto Rico) 12-7
Round of 16: Brock Hardy over Artem Kryvenko (Ukraine) 11-0
Quarterfinals: Ziraddin Bayramov (Azerbaijan) over Brock Hardy 14-11
Qualification: Doug Zapf over Benedikt Huber (Austria) 12-1
Round of 16: Doug Zapf over Ion Marcu (Moldova) 7-0
Quarterfinals: Doug Zapf over Orozobek Toktomambetov (Kyrgyzstan) 3-3
Semifinals: Inalbek Sheriev (AIN - Russia) over Doug Zapf 9-2
Gold Medal Match: Keegan O’Toole over Imam Ganishov (Russia) 6-1
Round of 16: Masaki Sato (Japan) over Dustin Plott 2-2
Gold Medal Match: Aaron Brooks over Tatsuya Shirai (Japan) 10-0
Repechage: Jacob Cardenas over Satoshi Miura (Japan) 6-0
Bronze Medal Match: Jacob Cardenas over Pruthviraj Patil (India) 4-3
Round of 16: Isaac Trumble over Hibiki Ito (Japan) 13-4
Quarterfinals: Isaac Trumble over Oktay Ciftci (Turkey) 11-0
Semifinals: Isaac Trumble over Sergey Sargsyan (Armenia) 11-0
Gold Medal Match: Wyatt Hendrickson over Adli Misirci (Turkey) 13-3