Wednesday night's Matteo Pellicone finals set

By Eric Olanowski

ROME, Italy (June 21) --- We've finally reached the opening day of action at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event. Wednesday's action will feature Greco-Roman stars at 55kg, 60kg, 63kg, 67kg, 87kg, 97kg and 130kg. 

Stars in Action on Wednesday:
- Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) - '21 world bronze
- Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) - '18 world champ 
- Victor CIOBANU (MDA) - '21 world champ
- Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE)- '22 U23 and junior world champ
- Morten THORESEN (NOR) - '20 European champ
- Tamas LEVAI (HUN), Erik SZILVASSY (HUN) and Istvan TAKACS (HUN) - Potential Hungarian wrestle-off for the 87kg world team spot. 
- Alex BJURBERG KESSIDIS (SWE) - '19 world silver
- Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN) - '22 European silver, Olympic fifth place
- Felix BALDAUF (NOR) - '17 European champ
- Oskar MARVIK (NOR) -  '21 world bronze

Biggest Upset of the Day (thus far): At 97kg, Aleksandar Georgije STJEPANETIC (SWE) df. Felix BALDAUF (NOR), 5-2.

55kg: Nordic-style bracket
60kg: Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) vs. Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE)
63kg: Victor CIOBANU (MDA) vs. Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) 
67kg:  Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) vs. Furkan YILDIZ (TUR) 
87kg:  Islam ABBASOV (AZE) vs. Erik SZILVASSY (HUN) 
97kg:  David LOSONCZI (HUN) vs.  Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA) 
​​​​​​​130kg:  Sabah Saleh SHARIATI (AZE) vs. Riza KAYAALP (TUR) ​​​​​​ 

1:56: I'm not too sure what's going on over on Mat B, but Alex Gergo SZOKE (HUN) is complaining about Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA) being slippery while in par terre. I think he's saying there's a foreign substance stopping him from gripping the Italian.

1:51: I won't lie, I was selfishly rooting for a 130kg rematch between Kayaalp and Beka KANDELAKI (AZE)Sabah Saleh SHARIATI (AZE) had different plans, as the Rio Olympic bronze medalist edged Kandelaki on criteria to punch his ticket to the gold-medal match.

1:40: Justas PETRAVICIUS (LTU) leads '21 world champ  Victor CIOBANU (MDA) by four points heading into the second period. That match is underway on Mat B.

1:12: In what is likely the determining competition in the fight for the Belgrade spot, Erik SZILVASSY (HUN) sends Tamas LEVAI (HUN) packing his bags after picking up the 2-1 win.

12:55: We have one or two matches left on each mat then will roll directly into the Day One semifinals.

12:51: Kayaalp, the four-time world champion from Turkey, is up now on Mat B. He trailed Knystautas 1-0 after the first but scored a gut wrench after picking up an inactivity point. It looks like he'll close out the match with a two point win and take on reigning world bronze medalist Oskar MARVIK (NOR).

12:43: How are they going to call this? Cohlton Michael SCHULTZ (USA) was down 7-0 against Sabah Saleh SHARIATI (AZE) when the Azeri gutted him for two more points. But things got interesting when the American put Shariati to his back. The refs stop the match and are now reviewing the call. This should be interesting.

12:32: The scoreboard reads 9-4 in favor of Islam ABBASOV (AZE) over Istvan TAKACS (HUN). After Erik SZILVASSY (HUN) and Tamas LEVAI (HUN) both reached the semifinals on the other side of the bracket, this likely ends Takacs' quest for a world team spot at 87kg for Hungary.

12:25: This Jafarov kid from Azerbaijan is going to be a star. The 2021 junior and U23 world champion has picked up back-to-back technical superiority victories and is awaiting the winner of Mohammad Javad Saadat REZAEI (IRI) and Morten THORESEN (NOR).

12:18:  In a clash of world medalist Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) scored a remarkable comeback against Hossein Ahmad NOURI (IRI). The Swedish wrestler trailed 7-2 but scored seven consecutive points and will take on the winner of Istvan TAKACS (HUN) vs. Islam ABBASOV (AZE).

12:01: Alex Gergo SZOKE (HUN) eeks past Artur OMAROV (CZE), 3-1, in what was a battle of Tokyo Olympians.

11:49: Mohammad Hajiali HOSSEINVAND PANAHISANI (IRI) just erased a 7-0 first-period deficit against Florin TITA (ROU) by scoring 11 unanswered points.

11:41: We still haven't seen Turkish legend Riza KAYAALP (TUR) take the mat yet. He's still a ways out, but will take on Knystautas in eight matches on Mat B (Bout 43).

11:31: Keep an eye out for world champion Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) on Mat A. He's coming up in three matches and will wrestle Teodor HORATAU (ROU).

11:27: In a battle of Tokyo Olympians Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) picked up the 2-0 opening-round win over Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU).

11:07: Reigning world champ Victor CIOBANU (MDA) just made Taleh MAMMADOV'S (AZE) feet touch the ceiling at the Palla Pellicone with a back-arching throw!

10:59: This should be a great one over on Mat B. Youngster Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) is climbing the ranks at 67kg while Erik TORBA (HUN) is an established vet.

10:55: As the day progresses, we'll be paying close attention to Hungarian 87kg wrestlers Erik SZILVASSY (HUN)Istvan TAKACS (HUN) and Tamas LEVAI (HUN), who are all in contention to hold the world championship spot in Belgrade.

10:52: Norway's second European champ of the day Morten THORESEN (NOR) is now on the middle mat. He's wrestling Italy's Giovanni Paolo ALESSIO (ITA) on Mat B.

10:41: Mammadov looked really impressive in his first-round match, defeating Ozturk, 14-1. I'm not sure where the Turking wrestler goes for the World Championships, but I'm sure there's talk about him moving back down to 55kg. I think that's what give Turkey the best shot at a medal at 55kg and 60kg, with European champion Kerem KAMAL (TUR) taking over the 60kg position.

10:37: It's nice to see European champion Felix BALDAUF (NOR) wrestling over on Mat C. While at the European Championships in Budapest earlier this year, we were shooting out Question of the Day with fans, wrestlers and coaches when someone ran past and said, "Felix just broke his leg on the mat. He's done for a while." Luckily that turned out to be false and it was just a minor injury and he's back to looking like the early 2022 Baldauf.

10:30: We'll kick the day off with hammers Ekrem OZTURK (TUR) and Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) wrestling on Mat A. This is Ozturk's sixth Ranking Series event. He's reached the finals in all five of his previous Ranking Series outings. 


USA closes out U17 Worlds with 3 golds, historic FS title

By Vinay Siwach

ROME, Italy (July 31) -- James GREEN (USA) was part of the USA team which won the freestyle team title for the first time in 22 years at the 2017 World Championships. The two-time world medalist won a silver medal in that edition.

Five years later, Green got another chance to hold the team trophy, this time as the chief coach of the USA team at the U17 World Championships in Rome on Sunday.

USA won a historic first U17 freestyle world title in Rome with nine out of their 10 wrestlers winning medals including four golds. It finished with 190 points which was more than enough to exchange places with defending champions India which finished with 126 points.

Azerbaijan, a nation that won the European team title, finished third with 122 points.

USA became the fourth nation to win the U17 world freestyle title after Russia, Iran and India since the U17 Worlds were reinstated in 2011. Russia won the title every year until 2018 when Iran broke that streak.

Russia won again in 2019 before India became only the third country to win the title in 2021.

USAUSA coach James GREEN, center, with the team title trophy. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

"It feels like it's straight out of a movie," he said. "It's like a reminiscent of 2017 when I was part of the world team that won the title for the USA after 22 years."

After finishing with a gold, three silver and a bronze medal on day six, the USA rocked again on the final day with three gold and a bronze to close out the tournament.

"I know how these guys are feeling," he said. "I am so excited to win this on my first trip and looking forward to more coaching."

Since 2011, the USA finished in the second spot five times in nine U17 Worlds with the latest being to India at the previous edition. But this year, all the USA wrestlers won their head-to-heads against India which ultimately proved to be the difference between who became the champions.

"The draw kind of worked in our favor," Green said. "We definitely had a gameplan not just for India but for everyone else including the Europeans as well.  But I can tell you one thing that our wrestlers wanted to get a hand on Indian wrestlers because we lost to them last time."

Luke LILLEDAHL (USA)Luke LILLEDAHL (USA), blue, upgraded his '21 silver to gold. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) finished with a silver medal in 2021 after suffering a loss against Aman GULIA (IND) but there was no stopping Lilledahl this year as he upgraded to gold with a dominating 10-1 win over Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI).

The 51kg final, pretty much controlled by Lilledahl, began with two exchanging stepout but then the USA wrestler switched levels after the break and scored takedowns whenever he found Asadi going for a half shot. He countered two of Asadi's attacks while he scored a takedown and added a leg lace in his 12-1 victory for the gold medal.

"Luke wrestlers at a hard pace," Green said. "He keeps a low head but is always moving and engaging. He takes the points as they come and doesn't rush into attacks."

Two other gold medalists for the USA on Sunday, Domenic MUNARETTO (USA) and Joseph SEALEY (USA), also impressed Green.

Munaretto won the 45kg gold medal by beating Bashir VERDIYEV (AZE), 2-0 in the final. Overall, the champion outscored his opponents 30-2 in the tournament.

Joseph SEALEY (USA)Joseph SEALEY (USA) outscored his opponents 55-1 in Rome. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

At 71kg, Sealey dashed local hopes to see a home champion by decimating Raul CASO (ITA), 12-0, in the gold medal bout.

Sealey, like his all other bouts, was wrestling at a completely different level and pace which Caso had no answer to. When Caso tried to engage in underhooks, he would get tripped by Sealey and when he tried to score a takedown, Sealey would easily stop any such attempts.

His two inside trips and two takedowns were enough to help Sealey win the crown and get some praise from coach Green.

"Sealey was very impressive," he said. "He wrestles like a senior athlete and can wrestle someone from that level. He conceded the least points in the whole tournament."

Sealey wrestled five bouts to win the gold and in an impressive record, scored 55 points and conceded only one.

Drawing experience from the title-winning run in 2017, Green had communicated to his team to 'have fun' during the tournament.

"I just told them that you are capable of being world champs and future Olympic champions," he said. "But more importantly I told them to have fun at this tournament. Most of these guys are wrestling for the first time and they can be hard on themselves so I didn't want that. And once we all met, they had the team chemistry and it clicked right away."

Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI)Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI), blue, pulled off a 5-4 win against Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ) in the 60kg final. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

The other gold medals of the night were shared between Iran and Kazakhstan.

At 60kg, Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI) defeated U17 Asian champion Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ), 5-4 to win the gold after trailing 3-1 at one point. Sharip Uulu scored the first points with a duck-under during the activity period against Elahi. It was initially awarded as four but Iran challenged the call and it was reversed to two points only.

But Elahi's constant moves towards Sharip Uulu's legs paid dividends as he leveled the score 3-3 and led on criteria. He then added a takedown against the tiring Kyrgyzstan wrestler to extend his lead to 5-3. He was warned for fleeing during the final 10 seconds which made the score 5-4 but did not change the result.

Elahi's gold was Iran's first of the tournament as it finished fifth in the team rankings.

Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ)Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ) won the 92kg gold, the second of the tournament for Kazakhstan. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Returning bronze medalist Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ) went all the way this year and captured his maiden world title, a month after he had won the U17 Asian title.

Musza ARSUNKAEV (HUN) had no answers to Kurugliyev's style of wrestling, inspired by his former world bronze medalist father and cousin-brother, European champion Duaren KURUGLIEV (RWF).

After a 3-0 lead in the first period, Kurugliyev began the second with a huge double-leg for four and then added two takedowns to close out a statement win in Rome.

The World Championships season will now move to Sofia, Bulgaria with the U20 Worlds beginning August 15.




GOLD: Domenic MUNARETTO (USA) df. Bashir VERDIYEV (AZE), 2-0

BRONZE: Arman HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) df. Amirmohammad NAVAZI (IRI), via fall
BRONZE: Nikoloz BOTCHORISHVILI (GEO) df. Constantin RUSU (MDA), 5-4

GOLD: Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) df. Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI), 10-1

BRONZE: Nurdanat AITANOV (KAZ) df. Ben TARIK (MAR), 1-1

GOLD: Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI) df. Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ), 5-4

BRONZE: Taiga OGINO (JPN) df. Alessandro NINI (ITA), 3-1

GOLD: Joseph SEALEY (USA) df. Raul CASO (ITA), 12-0



BRONZE: Maxwell MCENELLY (USA) df. Sahil JAGLAN (IND), 2-1