photo courtesy of Justin Hoch; Jhoch.com
Day one of the Junior World Championship from Tallinn, Estonia ended on a high note for the Americans and made up for an otherwise rough showing for the men’s freestyle team. Five members of the men’s freestyle squad started their competition on the first day of the tournament and all but one of them has been eliminated from medal contention. Now, the only wrestler that is still alive in the tournament is Vito Arujau at 57 kg, who has secured a spot in tomorrow’s gold medal match.
The US team was dealt a bunch of difficult draws on Monday and that was no exception for the All-American from Cornell, Arujau. The only difference between Vito and his teammates is that he was able to overcome his highly credentialed opposition. Match one in the Round of 16 saw Arujau face Giorgi Gegelashvili of Georgia, a three-time Cadet World Medalist. Gegelashvili was the opponent that Kurt McHenry defeating in the Cadet World finals, back in 2017. In this match, the Georgian was up by a point with under two minutes remaining in the bout. Arujau notched a pair of takedowns and held on to advance to quarterfinals, 4-3. In the quarters, Vito would face India’s Vijay Patel. Arujau blew open the match with a pair of exposure points from a chest wrap situation. A late takedown by his opponent made the final score appear closer than it actually was at 10-8. Now, all that was standing in the way of Vito and a spot in the finals was the defending Junior World Champion Akhmed Idrisov (Russia). Like his previous two matches, Arujau was able to distance himself from his opponent with a high-scoring second period. A pair of exposures from a scramble helped Arujau to an 8-1 win over Idrisov. Tomorrow, Vito will face Japan’s Toshiya Abe in the world finals.
The only other American who was able to earn a win on the day was Yahya Thomas at 65 kg. Thomas jumped out to a 5-0 lead on Adilet Zhaparkulov (Kyrgyzstan), before coasting to a 5-2 victory in the Round of 32. In his next match, Thomas fell to Turan Bayramov of Azerbaijan, 9-1.
Azerbaijan proved to be a thorn in the Americans side Monday, as two other US wrestlers dropped their first match of the tournament to an Azeri foe. Brayton Lee at 70 kg lost a tight 3-2 bout to Ashraf Ashirov in the Round of 16. 2018 Junior World Silver Medalist Aaron Brooks ran into another silver medalist in Abubakr Abakarov. A pair of takedowns led to a 5-3 win for Abakarov. If that name sounds familiar, it’s the same opponent that Mekhi Lewis defeated in the world finals last year.
The other American that competed on day one was Tanner Sloan at 97 kg. Sloan got out to an early lead on Feyzullah Akturk (Turkey), but two four-pointer in the second period helped Akturk turn in a 12-2 tech fall victory.
All four of the US wrestlers who lost on Monday were eliminated from medal contention as the opponent that defeated them failed to make the finals.
Day Two Draws:
61 kg: Gabe Tagg vs. Dzmitry Pryhozhy (Belarus)
74 kg: David Carr vs. Devid Betanov (Russia)
86 kg: Trent Hidlay vs. Teng Zhao (China)
92 kg: Lucas Davison vs. Julien Choquette (Canada)
125 kg: Mason Parris vs. Vasil Khvistani (Georgia)