Photo: In his first Junior Worlds appearance, Mitch McKee advances to tonight’s gold-medal finals. Photo by Richard Immel.
TAMPERE, Finland – The U.S. Junior men’s freestyle team put on a show to open the 2017 Junior World Championships, sending Mark Hall and Mitch McKee to the gold-medal match and Kollin Moore to the bronze-medal bout.
Hall’s run to the 74 kg/163 lbs. finals was nothing short of spectacular, earning two tech falls and two solid decisions. He ran over Ukraine’s Adlan Bataiev with a quick 10-0 technical fall, before running into Yarygin bronze medalist and Russia Nationals runner-up Radik Valiev of Russia in the round of 16. Hall controlled the match, walking away with a 6-2 win.
In the quarterfinals, the two-time age-group World champion earned his second tech fall of the day, shutting down Mohammad Mottaghinia of Iran, 10-0, to earn his spot in the semifinals. There, he met up with Turkey’s Muhammet Kucukyildirim, who scored the first takedown early in the bout. Hall turned it on and beat the Turk, 10-3.
Hall will look to defend his 2016 Junior World title and join a short list of two-time Junior World champs from the U.S. He’ll see Isa Shapiev of Uzbekistan in the finals.
Shapiev was the 2017 Asian Championships silver medalist.
“I’m looking to wrestle as hard as I can and through all the positions and not give anything up and just have fun,” Hall said. “I would say that I look at it like any other match, but there have only been so many two-time Junior World champions in United States history, so I’m just looking at it that way and not putting pressure on myself. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to be on that same list as Spencer Lee and guys like that.”
McKee has impressed so far in his first Junior Worlds, pulling out three close wins in the morning session at 60 kg/132 lbs. He trailed 9-4 in his opening bout against Georgia’s Edemi Bolkvadze. In the final minute, McKee put up seven unanswered points for an 11-9 win.
He won his second match with ease, defeating Hiromu Sakaki of Japan, 10-0, with a deadly head pinch he used throughout the day.
Collectively, four points separated him and his final two opponents in the morning session. McKee went back and forth with Utku Dogan of Turkey for an eventual 11-9 win, before storming back for a 16-14 win over India’s Ravinder Ravinder in the semis after trailing, 8-2.
The Minnesota Gopher will face Russia’s Abdulla Akhmedov, the 2017 Junior European Championships bronze medalist and 2016 Stepan Sargsyan bronze medalist.
“This is my first major thing that I’m coming through that I feel like I have a shot at winning,” McKee said. “Always in the back of my mind, I was thinking world champ. I’ve been telling myself that for months now, so when I get in those tough matches, I just think about being a world champ and to finish the match as hard as I can.”
Two-time Junior World teamer Moore advanced to the semifinals of the 96 kg/211 lbs. bracket, taking out tough competitors from Iran and Kazakhstan. In his wins, he outscored his challengers 20-5. In the semis, he met up with 2014 Cadet World champion Givi Matcharashvili of Georgia, who took the match in a 16-4 tech fall.
Moore will wrestle 2014 Cadet World bronze medalist Ilja Matuhin of Germany in tonight’s third-place match.
First-time Junior World Team member at 50 kg/110 lbs. Malik Heinselman was unable to qualify for a medal match, despite a tremendous effort that included a clutch 5-4 win over Horst Lehr of Germany.
“These guys are scrapping and they definitely want to win. I need to just keep on getting better and grinding,” Heinselman said.
The medal matches are set for 6:30 p.m. local time (11:30 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 in Tampere, Finland
50 kg/110 lbs.
Gold – Shahin Mukhtarov (Azerbaijan) vs. Karen Zurabyan (Armenia)
Bronze – Aslan Minkailov (Russia) vs. Akbar Uulu (Kyrgyzstan)
Bronze – Rakhat Kalzhan (Kazakhstan) vs. Nasanuyan Narmandakh (Mongolia)
60 kg/132 lbs.
Gold – Mitchell McKee (USA) vs. Abdulla Akhmedov (Russia)
Bronze – Yones Emamichoghaei (Iran) vs. Eriglent Prizreni (Albania)
Bronze – Ravinder Ravinder (India) vs. Hiromu Sakaki (Japan)
74 kg/163 lbs.
Gold – Mark Hall (USA) vs. Isa Shapiev (Uzbekistan)
Bronze – Yajuro Yamasaki (Japan) vs. Veer Dev Gulia (India)
Bronze – Muhammet Kucukyildirim (Turkey) vs. Mohammad Mottaghinia (Iran)
96 kg/211 lbs.
Gold – Shamil Musaev (Russia) vs. Givi Matcharashvili (Georgia)
Bronze – Ibrahim Ciftci (Turkey) vs. Sargis Hovsepyan (Armenia)
Bronze – Kollin Moore (USA) vs. Ilja Matuhin (Germany)
U.S. men’s freestyle results
50 kg/110 lbs. – Malik Heinselman, Castle Rock, Colo. (Olympian WC)
WIN Horst Lehr (Germany), 5-4
LOSS Rakhat Kalzhan (Kazakhstan), 8-2
60 kg/132 lbs. – Mitchell McKee, Hanover, Minn. (Minnesota Storm)
WIN Edemi Bolkvadze (Georgia), 11-9
WIN Hiromu Sakaki (Japan), 10-0
WIN Utku Dogan (Turkey), 11-9
WIN Ravinder Ravinder (India), 16-14
74 kg/163 lbs. – Mark Hall, Apple Valley, Minn. (Nittany Lion WC)
WIN Adlan Bataiev (Ukraine), 10-0
WIN Radik Valiev (Russia), 6-2
WIN Mohammad Mottaghinia (Iran), 10-0
WIN Muhammet Kucukyildirim (Turkey), 10-3
96 kg/211 lbs. – Kollin Moore, Burbank, Ohio (Titan Mercury WC)
WIN Danyal Shariatinia (Iran), 10-5
WIN Alisher Yergli (Kazakhstan), 10-0
LOSS Givi Matcharashvili (Georgia), 16-4