I started traveling internationally with USA Wrestling in 2017, about a year after I was hired. That year, I went to the Cadet, Junior and U23 World Championships. Since then, I’ve been to at least two World Championships and two Pan American Championships every year.
It is such a treat getting to watch the USA’s top athletes test themselves against wrestlers of all ages from all over the globe. It NEVER gets old.
While it seems we won’t have any live sports for a while, I decided to put together a list of my favorite international matches that I’ve been able to witness in person. This list includes Senior Pan Ams, Cadet Worlds, Junior Worlds and U23 Worlds.
I decided not to throw in any Senior Worlds matches as those could dominate the list.
Take note that not every match is win for the USA, but it’s definitely entertaining! I hope you enjoy!
10. Adeline Gray vs. Erica Wiebe (Canada) – 2019 Pan American Championship in Buenos Aires, Argentina – Women’s Freestyle 76 kg
This was the 76 kg quarterfinals of the 2019 Pan American Championships. Then-four-time World champion Adeline Gray throttled 2016 Olympic champion Erica Wiebe. Not that I was surprised, but I was definitely entertained!
9. Alexandria Glaude vs. Khishigmaa Munkhbat (Mongolia) – 2018 U23 World Championships in Bucharest, Romania – Women’s Freestyle 68 kg
Talk about resilience! Watch how Alexandria Glaude battles her way to a bronze medal at the U23 World Championships. In her post-match interview, she talked about how this was a breakthrough for her in so many ways.
8. Thomas Gilman vs. Reineri Andreu Ortega (Cuba) – 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier in Ottawa, Canada – Men’s Freestyle 57 kg
Thomas FREAKING Gilman! In order to qualify the USA for the Olympics at 57 kg in men’s freestyle, Gilman had to go through two-time U23 World champion Reineri Andreu Ortega, who owned a win over Gilman from two years earlier.
7. Cohlton Schultz vs. Balint Vatzi (Hungary) – 2017 Cadet World Championships in Athens, Greece – Greco-Roman 100 kg
This was a historic moment for USA Greco. Cohlton Schultz became the first Cadet Greco-Roman World champion for the United States in 20 years. It was so cool to see it all go down and the celebrations behind the scenes.
6. Jaydin Eierman vs. Ernazar Akmataliev (Kyrgyzstan) – 2019 U23 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary – Men’s Freestyle 65 kg
So…this one didn’t exactly go in favor of the USA, but it was WILD!!! Bias aside, I’m not even sure that the right person won. There were 24 points scored just in the second period and tons of drama. Check it out.
5. Mitch McKee vs. Ravinder Ravinder (India) – 2017 Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland – Men’s Freestyle 60 kg
What a comeback! Mitch McKee overcame a six-point deficit to earn a spot in the Junior World finals at 60 kg. It was another barn burner with tons of points on the board.
4. Kayla Miracle vs. Ilona Prokopevniuk (Ukraine) – 2019 U23 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary – Women’s Freestyle 62 kg
Down 7-0 at the break of the World semifinals, Kayla Miracle steadily piled on the points, getting within one point of the Ukrainian. I won’t ruin the ending, but dang, Kayla’s emotions in the moment is something that has stuck with me.
3. Emily Shilson vs. Shahana Nazarova (Azerbaijan) – 2018 Cadet World Championships in Zagreb, Croatia – Women’s Freestyle 43 kg
This was incredibly special for me watching Emily Shilson win her first World title. I cover several age-group women’s freestyle events and had a chance to get to know Emily and dad/coach, Chad, pretty well, so when I watched her fall short in the 2017 finals, I was heartbroken with her. But in 2018, she came back stronger than ever, beating a returning World champion in the finals. This is a must-watch! Have y’all ever seen the power of the Minnesota gut? Well you’re about to.
2. G’Angelo Hancock vs. Gabriel Rosillo Kindelan (Cuba) – 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier in Ottawa, Canada – Greco-Roman 97 kg
Man, this is a rivalry I can’t wait to see more of. I’ve seen these two wrestle four times in less than a year, and it is high-flying! Unfortunately, this didn’t go Hancock’s way, BUT it was so much fun to watch. Both of these competitors are good sports every time they step on the mat against each other. It’s like you can feel that they appreciate getting to wrestle and challenge each other.
1. Kamal Bey vs. Akhol Makhmudov (Kyrgyzstan) – 2017 Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland – Greco-Roman 74 kg
[insert mind-blown emoji] Holy wow, this match is awesome, and it ended in a gold medal for the USA! Any match that Kamal Bey is wrestling, I want to watch, and you should, too. Throws on throws guaranteed!