2021 Junior World Championships

A Look Back: Team USA’s Reign of Freestyle Dominance at 74-kg at Junior Worlds

Pictured: Former Penn State wrestler and two-time Junior World Champion Mark Hall. Image courtesy of Penn State Athletics. 

Keegan O’Toole’s gold medal at the 2021 Junior World Championships on August 18 was the latest in both a dominant summer for American freestylers, and the win marked a streak of four straight U.S. gold-medal match victories in the 74-kg division at the event.

Seven wrestlers have won Junior World gold medals in this category since 2009, including these four Americans, all which have owned the 74 kg weight class.


Here’s a look back at those matches.

2016: Hall vs. Bazrighaleh

Mark Hall won his first of two Junior World Championships in 2016, facing Iran’s Ahmad Bazrighaleh after dominating his competition in the preliminary rounds. With an impressive performance, Hall trounced Bazrighaleh, winning the match 10-0 tech just thirty seconds in thanks to a slick ankle pick and a leg lace to finish it.

2017: Hall vs. Shapiev

Hall appeared in the Junior World Championships in 2017 for his second straight year. The then-sophomore at Penn State saw significant success in the preliminary rounds once again, before facing Uzbekistan’s Isa Shapiev for the gold. In the gold-medal finals, Hall won by fall in just 0:42 to win his second consecutive Junior World Championship at 74 kg.

2018: Lewis vs. Abakarov

In 2018, a year before Mekhi was a 2019 ACC Champion, 2019 National Champion (165), 2019 NCAA Championships’ Most Outstanding Wrestler, and 2019 ACC Wrestler of the Year, he faced Azerbaijan’s Abubakar Abakarov in the final round of the Junior World Championships. Abakarov scored the first point via step-out, but Lewis quickly with five unanswered points to preserve the win 5-1.

2019: Carr vs. Motoyama

In 2019, David Carr, then a freshman at Iowa State, faced Japan’s Jintaro Motoyama for gold. The match was close, but Carr hung on to win a tight one, 5-4 after a first-period takedown, followed by three more points in the final frame.

2021: O’Toole vs. Kuanyshbay


Wisconsin native Keegan O’Toole became the latest American wrestler to come out on top in the 74-kg division on August 18, winning 11-0 by technical fall over Kazakhstan’s Nurdaulet Kuanyshbay. O’Toole, a 2021 NCAA All-American, 2020 Junior Dan Hodge Award winner, and four-time high school state champion (2017-20), has now has made a name for himself on the collegiate and international stage after bringing home Junior World gold in Ufa this summer.

The successes of Team USA at 74-kg in men’s freestyle during Junior World Championships has been nothing short of dominance for the Red, White, and Blue over the last five years. 

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