It was a tight battle, but the U.S. men’s wrestlers came through to earn the bronze medal with a 6-4 victory over Japan at the Freestyle World Cup on Sunday in Yakutsk, Russia.
The bronze-medal bout produced several shutout victories by U.S. athletes, including former Penn State standout Zain Retherford. The two-time NCAA champion closed out the tournament undefeated after topping Japan’s Daichi Takatani 10-0 by technical fall at 65 kg. That gave the U.S. a 2-1 lead after Zach Sanders’ win by forfeit to start the match.
Soon, the score was tied 2-2 but the U.S. regained the lead when 2016 U23 world team member Isaiah Martinez beat Yuto Miwa 10-0 at 74 kg.
Japan would take the next two matches but Hayden Zillmer, a former North Dakota State standout who wrestles freestyle and Greco-Roman for the U.S., also won 10-0 with four takedowns against 2018 world bronze medalist Atsushi Matsumoto at 92 kg. Once again, the U.S. and Japan were tied.
That’s when Kyven Gadson and Tony Nelson came up big at 97 kg. and 125 kg., respectively, both winning to help the Americans secure bronze. Gadson defeated Naoya Akaguma 3-2 and Nelson beat Nobuyoshi Arakida 5-3.
The U.S. was 2-1 in pool play, defeating Georgia 7-3 and Mongolia 8-2, while losing to Iran.
Last year in Iowa City, Iowa, the U.S. won its first World Cup title since 2003, but brought only three members of that team to this year’s tournament. This is the third consecutive year Team USA is on the podium.