Steveson Nails Down Freestyle Team Title for U.S. at Jr Wrestling World C’Ships

By Tim Foley
Gable STEVESON (USA)

By William May

TAMPERE, Finland (August 2) – Two-time cadet world champion Gable STEVESON (USA), who has outgrown the cadet's 100kg super heavyweight category, loomed even larger on Wednesday as he helped the U.S. squad to the freestyle team title at the Junior Wrestling World Championships.

Steveson fashioned a 5-1 win over 2015 Asian cadet champion Naeiim HASSANZADEH (IRI) in the 120kg gold medal final at Tampere Exhibition and Sport Center for his first junior world title while securing a 68-67 triumph for the U.S. over Russia in the final team rankings.

"It was great winning the team title and it was also great winning my first title at the junior level since the competition here is tougher (than at the cadet level)," Steveson said after receiving his gold medal.

In the morning session, Steveson racked up four technical falls, including a 21-10 victory over Zaur KOZONOV (RUS) in the semifinals which opened the door for the U.S. squad to the team title. After the competition, American partisans were hailing their team as "the greatest ever" junior team ever assembled by the U.S.

Four wrestlers, including Steveson, all advanced to the gold medal matches on the final day of freestyle competition – one more than Russia who pushed through a trio.

Daton FIX (USA)

Daton FIX (USA), a bronze medal winner at last summer's world meet in Macon (FRA), overwhelmed 2015 junior European champion Ismail GADZHIEV (RUS) with his fifth technical fall of the day, 12-1, in the 55kg final.

David BAEV (RUS)

David BAEV (RUS), however, answered back in the 66kg final with a technical fall over Team USA newcomer Ryan DEAKIN (USA) to knot the team score at 49-49 with Russia owning the tie-breaker with three gold medalists to two for the U.S.

Artur NAIFOZOV (RUS)

In the middleweight final, Zahid VALENCIA (USA) scored a four-point trip late the first period for a 5-4 lead, but Artur NAIFOZOV (RUS), but rallied with a takedown and step-out point in the second for a 7-5 victory as Russia moved ahead 59-58 in the team rankings.

Kozonov, then, won the bronze medal with a 4-2 decision over 2016 European bronze medal winner Zuriko URTASHVILI (GEO), leaving the U.S. needing a win from Steveson to secure its first junior world team title since 1984.

Meanwhile, in the other bronze medal matches, Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) took it one takedown at a time for a 9-0 win over Ramzan AWTAEW (GER) at 55kg.

Last year's world champ Afgan KHASHALOV (AZE), who fell to Fix in the round of 16, scored a leg control and turn in the closing seconds for an 8-7 win over Asian bronze medal winner Nader NASRISAMAKOUSH (IRI).

At 66kg, ENKHTUYA Temuulen (MGL) scored a pair of takedowns in the final minute for a 6-4 win over Asian runner-up Amirhossein HOSSEINI (IRI) for his first-ever bronze medal in international competition.

Iveriko JULAKIDZE (GEO), a bronze medal winner at the European under-23 meet in March, jumped behind Gevorg MKHEYAN (ARM) midway through the second period for a 6-4 lead and the win.

At 84kg, two-time European champion Gadzhimurad MAGOMEDSAIDOV (AZE) wasted little time in rolling up a 10-0 technical fall over Deepak PUNIA (IND) to claim a world bronze medal for the second year in a row.

Ahmed BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), world silver medalist at 74kg last year, rallied for 14 points in the second period to claim an 18-8 technical fall victory over 2016 middleweight runner-up Osman GOCEN (TUR)

In the first bronze-medal final at 120kg, Feyzullah AKTURK (TUR) received a point of the 30-second clock and two more penalty points when DAVAADORJ Erdenetulga (MGL) attempted a footsweep which was more like a kick for a 3-0 win.

Junior world wrestling continues Thursday with the first day of women's wrestling events – 44kg, 51kg, 59kg and 67kg.

Results of Gold & Bronze Medal Bouts & Team Standings

Freestyle

55kg (23 entries)
Gold – Daton FIX (USA) df. Ismail GADZHIEV (RUS) by TF, 12-1, 4:17
Bronze – Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) df. Ramzan AWTAEW (GER), 9-0
Bronze – Afgan KHASHALOV (AZE) df. Nader NASRISAMAKOUSH (IRI), 8-7

66kg (25 entries)
Gold – David BAEV (RUS) df. Ryan DEAKIN (USA) by TF, 10-0, 1:50
Bronze – ENKHTUYA Temuulen (MLG) df. Amirhossein HOSSEINI (IRI), 6-4
Bronze – Iveriko JULAKIDZE (GEO) df. Gevorg MKHEYAN (ARM), 6-4

84kg (24 entries)
Gold – Artur NAIFONOV (RUS) df. Zahid VALENCIA (USA), 7-5
Bronze – Gadzhimurad MAGOMEDSAIDOV (AZE) df. Deepak PUNIA (IND) by TF, 10-0, 1:42
Bronze – Ahmed BAZRIGHALEH (IRI) df. Osman GOCEN (TUR) by TF, 18-8, 5:33

120kg (20 entries)
Gold – Gable STEVESON (USA) df. Naeiim HASSANZADEH (IRI), 5-1
Bronze – Feyzullah AKTURK (TUR) df. DAVAADORJ Erdenetulga (MGL), 3-0
Bronze – Zaur KOZONOV (RUS) df. Zuriko URTASHVILI (GEO),4-2

Final Team Rankings (Top Six)
1. United States, 68 points (3 gold medals, 3 silver, 1 bronze)
2. Russia, 67 (4-1-1)
3. Iran, 49 (0-1-3)
4. Turkey, 36 (0-0-2)
5. Azerbaijan, 34 (1-0-2)
6. Armenia, 32 (0-1-1)