Photo of Rocky Elam by Kadir Caliskan, United World Wrestling.
UFA, Russia – Two American men’s freestylers will wrestle for gold medals on Wednesday as Keegan O’Toole and Rocky Elam advanced to the finals on Tuesday night at the 2021 Junior World Championships in Ufa, Russia.
Wrestling at 74 kg, Mizzou wrestler Keegan O’Toole impressed to make the tournament’s semifinals. He began his tournament with a 10-0 tech fall over Balint Balazs of Hungary before stunning 2019 U23 World champion and 2018 Cadet World champion Turan Bayramov of Azerbaijan, who just put together a top-10 performance at the Tokyo Olympics last week. Bayramov stormed out to a 5-1 lead, which he held at the break. With some key scrambling from O’Toole in the final 90 seconds, he locked up a cradle on the Azeri to earn the fall in 4:52.
In the semifinals, O’Toole had a similar finish, trailing Russia’s Idar Khatanov late in the bout, 10-5, O’Toole, in on a leg, worked his way to a cradle for a fall in 4:55. For gold, the American will face 2019 Cadet Asian bronze medalist Nurdaulet Kuanyshbay from Kazakhstan.
Rocky Elam, also a Mizzou Tiger, scored a first-round win at 97 kg over 2018 Youth Olympic Games silver medalist Mukhammadrasul Rakhimov from Uzbekistan. Elam led 6-0 at the break, but a second-period takedown for Rakhimov, which resulted in two chances on top in par terre, put a stop to Elam’s shut out. The American ended the match with another takedown for an 8-3 win. In the quarterfinals, Elam blew out India’s Pruthviraj Patil, rattling off takedowns for a 12-2 technical fall.
In the semifinals, Elam faced Ivan Kirillov from Russia, who he outwrestled with two takedowns in the second period to give him the advantage and the 5-3 win. In the gold medal match, Elam will take on Mahdi Hajiloueianmorafah from Iran.
Air Force Academy cadet and 125 kg representative Wyatt Hendrickson opened his tournament with a win by forfeit against Danila Danilov from Belarus. In the first bout he competed in, it took him less than a minute to dominate Poland’s Jakub Czerczak, 10-0. He finished the bout with a big four-pointer to secure his spot in the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Hendrickson lost a tight match to Iran’s Ali Akbarpourkhordouni, 8-5. The American nearly scored a takedown at the end, but when the call was challenged, the result was another two points for Iran on exposure as well as a point for a failed USA challenge. Hendrickson’s medal hopes are still alive as he wrestles for bronze tomorrow. His opponent will be either 2019 Junior Asian bronze medalist Arslanbek Turdubekov of Kyrgyzstan or 2019 Cadet European champion Andrei Bestaev of Russia, which will be decided in tomorrow morning’s repechage action.
Two U.S. athletes that lost earlier in the day will not be pulled into repechage as their victors were unable to make it to the finals.
High schooler Jesse Mendez represented the United States at 61 kg, where he grinded out a tough win against Hamza Zopali from Turkey. Down 6-1 in the second period, Mendez stormed back, scoring unanswered points, including a buzzer-beating takedown for an 8-6 score at the end of the bout. Turkey’s corner challenged the takedown but lost, resulting in a point for Mendez and a 9-6 final. In the quarterfinals, Mendez dropped a 10-0 match to 2017 Cadet World champion Fedor Baltuev from Russia. Unfortunately, Baltuev filed to make the finals, losing to Iran’s Rahman Amouzadkhalili by fall in the semifinals, eliminating Mendez from the tournament.
A third Mizzou wrestler, Colton Hawks, competed for Team USA today at 86 kg, where he cruised to the quarterfinals from a 12-1 tech fall against Ilya Khamtsou from Belarus, thanks to two four-pointers. In the quarterfinals, Hawks fell in a 9-6 heartbreaker to 2019 Cadet European bronze medalist Daviti Koguashvili of Georgia, who was able to counter at crucial moments. However, Koguashvili dropped his semifinal match to Amirhossein Firouzpourbandpei from Iran, 14-4, knocking Hawks out of tournament.
2021 JUNIOR WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Aug. 16-22 | Ufa, Russia
U.S. men’s freestyle results
61 kg: Jesse Mendez (Crown Point, Ind./Region Wrestling Academy) – eliminated
WIN Hamza Zopali (Turkey), 9-6
LOSS Fedor Baltuev (Russia), 10-0
74 kg: Keegan O’Toole (Hartland, Wisc./Tiger Style WC) – FINALS
WIN Balint Balazs (Hungary), 10-0
WIN Turan Bayramov (Azerbaijan), fall 4:52
WIN Idar Khatanov (Russia), fall 4:55
vs. Nurdaulet Kuanyshbay (Kazakhstan)
86 kg: Colton Hawks (Wentzville, Mo./Tiger Style WC) – eliminated
WIN Ilya Khamtsou (Belarus), 12-1
LOSS Daviti Koguashvili (Georgia), 11-9
92 kg: Rocky Elam (Kansas City, Mo./Tiger WC) – FINALS
WIN Mukhammadrasul Rakhimov (Uzbekistan), 8-3
WIN Pruthviraj Patil (India), 12-2
WIN Ivan Kirillov (Russia), 5-3
vs. Mahdi Hajiloueianmorafah (Iran)
125 kg: Wyatt Hendrickson (Colorado Springs, Colo./Air Force RTC) – bronze match
WIN Danila Danilov (Belarus), win by forfeit
WIN Jakub Czerczak (Poland), 10-0
LOSS Ali Akbarpourkhordouni (Iran), 8-5