U.S. freestyle turns in historic morning session, sending all four to Junior World Championship finals

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Aug. 02, 2017, 8:59 a.m. (ET)

Photo: Ryan Deakin in his semifinals bout against Iran to earn a spot in the Junior World finals. Photo by Richard Immel.

VIDEO: Junior World Championships interviews

TAMPERE, Finland – The U.S. Junior men’s freestyle team had an historic morning session, sending all four wrestlers to the gold-medal finals of the 2017 Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland, on Wednesday.

As a squad, USA went 14-0 with 11 technical falls to put on an exciting show.

Three of the night’s four finals will pit the U.S. against Russia, which will determine this year’s team champions. USA must win two gold to secure its first Junior men’s freestyle team title since 1984.

Rolling through every opponent with ease was Oklahoma State freshman Daton Fix (Sand Springs, Okla./Titan Mercury WC), who outscored his opponents 41-0 at 55 kg/121 lbs.

Fix made quick work of Salah Kateb of Algeria before facing returning Junior World champion Afgan Khashalov of Azerbaijan. The 2016 Junior World bronze medalist scored the opening takedown against Khashalov and locked up a trapped-arm gut for a quick 6-0 lead. He wrapped it up with another takedown and gut combo just moments after for a 10-0 win.

His quarterfinals match had a slower start with Fix holding a 1-0 at the break against Gulomjon Abdullaev of Uzbekistan. Eventually Fix’s gut was deadly to his opponent and the American sailed to the semifinals with an 11-0 win.

In the semis, he spent only 31 seconds on the mat, scoring a quick takedown on 2017 Asian Championships bronze medalist Nader Nasrisamakoush of Iran and turning him four times for a 10-0 tech fall and earning a spot in his first Junior World finals.

Tonight, he’ll face 2015 Junior European champion Ismail Gadzhiev of Russia.

“I’m feeling great,” Fix said. “I’m getting to my offense and getting to my turns on top. I’m just ready for tonight. I’m going to keep wrestling the way I have been.”

Zahid Valencia (Bellflower, Calif./Sunkist Kids WC) guaranteed the first World medal of his career, after defeating a collection of tough international foes at 84 kg/185 lbs.

“I’m looking to go out there and have fun and try to dominate as much as possible,” Valencia said. “The last two years, I played cautious. It’s a big tournament, and I showed too much respect. This year, I just had to go out there and get to my attacks and score as many points as possible. I think that’s the major difference this year."

He came out on fire, opening the tournament with a vengeful 11-2 win over 2016 Junior World bronze medalist Gadzhimura Magomedsaidov of Azerbaijan, who edged out Valencia in last year’s quarterfinals.

He carried the momentum into the quarters, running through Korea’s Cheolyeon Lee in 50 seconds with a 10-0 tech fall.

The Arizona State Sun Devil’s final win of the morning came against 2016 Cadet World champion Deepak Punia from India. Valencia went up 8-0 in the first period, thanks to a pair of slick first-period takedowns and three gut wrenches. He sealed the win early in the second period with a step out, followed by a hard-earned takedown for an 11-0 win.

Valencia will go against Russia’s Artur Naifonov, whose lone international credential is a 17th-place finish at the 2017 Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix.

Two-time Cadet World champion Gable Steveson showed no hesitation in his first Junior World Championships, despite being the youngest wrestler in the field at 120 kg/264 lbs.

His run started with back-to-back World silver medalists. He began with Uzbekistan’s Khasanboy Rakhimov in a rematch of the 2015 Cadet World finals. In their last meeting, Steveson won gold with a 9-0 triumph. This time, he finished off the Uzbek in 2:35, 11-0.

Steveson was even more dominant in his second bout, handling 2016 Junior World silver medalist Umar Israilov in a 13-0 win.

The quarterfinals featured another rematch from his Cadet days as he was put against Georgia’s Zuriko Urtashvili, who he upended, 13-2, in the 2015 Cadet World Championships. The youngster took control of the bout and wrapped up an 11-0 technical fall with two seconds remaining in the first period.

His only test of the morning came in the semifinals against Zaur Kozonov of Russia. Steveson blasted the Russian to his back for four to open scoring. He led 9-2 with 20 seconds left in the first before getting hit with two caution and twos to put the Kozonov back in it the match. However, Steveson continued to separate himself and teched the Russian, 21-10, in a wild ending.

Seeking his third-straight age-group World title, Steveson will battle Naeiim Hassanzadeh of Iran in tonight’s final.

“Tech fall,” Steveson said of his final’s game plan. “I know who the guy is. He was in my Cadet World bracket. I have a better pace than him, and I’m going to win.”

Having never faced a foreign opponent before, Northwestern wrestler Ryan Deakin (Broomfield, Colo./Northwestern) stunned the 66 kg/145 lbs. field, declaring himself as one of the best wrestlers in the world.  

“I came in here and treated like any other tournament,” Deakin said. “[International wrestlers] just have a different feel, so throughout the match, you’re adjusting and trying to figure out what the guy does. It’s just not the same as Americans. I think a lot of these foreign guys aren’t used to you shooting on them a lot, so I’ve just been pushing the pace and not worrying if I give up points because I can just keep going and get more.”

In his international debut, Deakin breezed his way to a 13-0 tech fall, taking out Ukraine’s Oleksandr Rybalko. It was a series of slick takedowns that put Deakin into the quarterfinals.

There, he showed immense effort against Temuulen Enkhtuya of Mongolia. Deakin trailed 6-0 at the break, but he was not broken. The Wildcat put his takedown abilities on display, scoring three in the second period to hold criteria at the end of the 6-6 bout. Mongolia challenged the final takedown and failed, resulting in a point for Deakin and a 7-6 victory.

In the semis, the American showed his prowess against 2017 Freestyle Asian Championships runner-up and 2016 Greco-Roman Asian champ Amirhossein Hosseini of Iran. Deakin went up 8-0 after the first. Despite giving up an early second-period takedown, Deakin battled with Iranian, picking up another two points at the buzzer to advance to the Junior World Championships finals.

Deakin will go head-to-head with 2014 Cadet World Champion and Russia Nationals bronze medalist David Baev of Russia.

The medal matches are set for 6 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) Tuesday evening. Live stream and brackets can be found on trackwrestling.com. Viewers must pay to watch the live stream.

2017 JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Aug. 1-6 at Tampere, Finland

Finals matchups
55 kg/121 lbs.
Gold – Daton Fix (USA) vs. Ismail Gadzhiev (Russia)
Bronze –
Ramzan Awtaew (Germany) vs. Arsen Harutyunyan (Armenia)
Bronze –
Nader Amir Nasrisamakoush (Iran) vs. Afgan Khashalov (Azerbaijan)

66 kg/145 lbs.
Gold – Ryan Deakin (USA) vs. David Baev (Russia)
Bronze –
Amirhossei Hosseini (Iran) vs. Temuulen Enkhtuya (Mongolia)
Bronze –
Gevorg Mkheyan (Armenia) vs. Iveriko Julakidze (Georgia)

84 kg/185 lbs.
Gold – Zahid Valencia (USA) vs. Artur Naifonov (Russia)
Bronze –
Gadzhimura Magomedsaidov (Azerbaijan) vs. Deepak Punia (India)
Bronze –
Ahmad Yous Bazrighaleh (Iran) vs. Osman Gocen (Turkey)

120 kg/264 lbs.
Gold – Gable Steveson (USA) vs. Naeiim Hassanzadeh (Iran)
Bronze –
Erdenetulg Davaadorj (Mongolia) vs. Feyzullah Akturk (Turkey)
Bronze – Zaur
Kozonov (Russia) vs. Zuriko Urtashvili (Georgia)

U.S. men’s freestyle results
55 kg/121 lbs. – Daton Fix (Sand Springs, Okla./Titan Mercury WC)
WIN Salah Eddi Kateb (Algeria), 10-0
WIN Afgan Khashalov (Azerbaijan), 10-0
WIN Gulomjon Abdullaev (Uzbekistan), 11-0
WIN Nader Amir Nasrisamakoush (Iran), 10-0

66 kg/145 lbs. – Ryan Deakin (Broomfield, Colo./Northwestern)
WIN Oleksandr Rybalko (Ukraine), 13-0
WIN
Temuulen Enkhtuya (Mongolia), 7-6
WIN
Amirhossei Hosseini (Iran), 10-2

84 kg/185 lbs. – Zahid Valencia (Bellflower, Calif./Sunkist Kids WC)
WIN
Gadzhimura Magomedsaidov (Azerbaijan), 11-2
WIN
Cheolyeon Lee (Korea), 10-0
WIN
Deepak Punia (India), 11-0

120 kg/264 lbs. – Gable Steveson (Apple Valley, Minn./Minnesota Storm)
WIN
Khasanboy Rakhimov (Uzbekistan), 11-0
WIN
Umar Israilov (Azerbaijan), 13-0
WIN
Zuriko Urtashvili (Georgia), 11-0
WIN
Zaur Kozonov (Russia), 21-10