USA men make championship, USA women go for 3rd

CORALVILLE, Ia. — It was a wild first day of wrestling at the men’s and women’s freestyle World Cup with roughly 2,000 or so fans in the stands here at Xtream Arena … and a mixed bag of mostly positive results for both teams from the United States.

The U.S. men’s freestyle team went 2-0 — first with a dominant 7-3 win over Mongolia then a perfect 10-0 rout over Georgia to advance to the finals. Team USA, the top seed after winning the 2022 world championship team title in September, will meet second-seeded Iran in Sunday evening’s title meet.

The U.S. women’s freestyle team went 1-1 — first with a lopsided 8-2 loss to China, the eventual finalist, then finished with a very nice rebound performance in a 6-4 win over the All-World Team. The U.S. women will wrestle Mongolia for third on Sunday morning.

Here are a few takeaways from the action:

USA men’s freestyle team dominates on first day of wrestling World Cup

How dominant was the U.S. men’s freestyle team on Saturday?

They went 17-3 overall, which is pretty good. Of those 17 victories, eight were by technical fall, and 10 were by shutout, which is also pretty good.

More than that, you can really see the dominance when you add up the classification points, where it looks more like a normal dual meet — regular wins are worth three points, technical falls are four, pins/forfeits are five, and so long as you don’t get pinned, you can still score a team point in a loss so long as you don’t get shut out.

Through that lens, USA’s men’s squad beat Mongolia 33-9 and pummeled Georgia 34-4.

Pretty good!

Yianni Diakomihalis loses early … then beats a world champ

In USA’s opener against Mongolia, Yianni Diakomihalis, the 2022 world silver medalist, took a rare loss, 10-3 to Tulga Tumur Ochir, the 2021 world bronze medalist. Tumur Ochir frustrated Diakomihalis with strong inside ties, a mean under-hook, and broke the match open with a 4-point throw in the second period.

All Diakomihalis did in response was beat a past world champ in his next match — and beat him bad.

Diakomihalis rebounded with a 78-second 11-0 technical fall over Georgia’s Beka Lomtadze, a 2019 world champion and 2016 world silver medalist. Diakomihalis just overwhelmed him from the opening whistle. It was an impressive second match.

Hayden Zillmer rallies from early loss with come-from-behind win

Like Diakomihalis, Hayden Zillmer dropped his opening match, 3-1 to Mongolia’s 2022 world silver medalist Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur, then rebounded with an impressive come-from-behind victory over Georgia’s Solomon Manashvili.

Zillmer trailed Manashvili 5-0 after the first period after giving up a 4-point takedown, then chipped away with four second-period takedowns to ultimately prevailed 8-7. It polished off USA’s perfect 10-0 win over Georgia to send them to Sunday’s championship dual.

Jordan Burroughs Zahid Valencia both go 2-0 for USA men’s freestyle

Jordan Burroughs and Zahid Valencia were the only two USA wrestlers to, one, wrestle twice on Saturday, and two, win both of their matches.

Valencia registered two blink-and-you-missed-it technical falls at 86 kilograms. He won 10-0 over Mongolia’s Bat Erdene Bayasgalan in just 29 seconds, then topped Georgia’s Sandro Aminashvili in 56 seconds. That’s 21 points scored, none allowed, in 1:25 of mat time. Not bad, Zahid.

Burroughs, on the other hand, had one speedy technical fall, 10-0 over Mongolia’s Temuujin Mendbileg in just 64 seconds — after which, he took a selfie with one of Mongolia’s coaches — then had to rally from down 3-0 to win 5-3 over Georgia’s Vladimeri Gamkrelidze, a U23 world champion earlier this year.

After Mendbileg scored a takedown off a counter early in the second period to lead 3-0, Burroughs chipped away with a trio of step-out points, then finally connected for a takedown on the edge with 26 seconds left to not only win, but mathematically clinch USA’s dual meet against Georgia to send them to Sunday’s final.

Zane Richards thumps 2022 world bronze medalist

This may get lost in the shuffle, since it was the very first match of the day, but Zane Richards, one of USA’s options at 57-kg this weekend, jump-started the day with an impressive 10-0 win over Mongolia’s Zanabazar Zandanbud, a world bronze medalist this year. Richards led 6-0 at the break, after a couple of takedowns and an exposure out of a cradle, then converted two more quick shots for the 10-0 technical fall in just 4:19.

Slow start for USA women’s freestyle team

The U.S. women’s freestyle team, the 2-seed this week, did not start well at all, losing 8-2 to a tough China squad. USA dropped the first eight matches — five by technical fall, six by shutout — and scored a grand total of 24 match points the entire dual. Using the classification points from earlier, China thumped the U.S. women 30-8.

USA had moments to stop the bleeding, but came up short each time. At 55-kg, Jenna Burkert lost 4-0 to Qianyu Pang, an Olympic silver medalist. At 62-kg, Kayla Miracle held a 2-2 criteria lead in the second period against world bronze medalist Xiaojuan Luo, then lost 6-4. At 65-kg, Mallory Velte led 8-2 against world silver medalist Jia Long … then lost 12-8.

It wasn’t until the final two matches that USA cracked the goose egg, thanks to wins from 18-year-old superstar Amit Elor (72-kg) and U23 world silver medalist Dymond Guilford (76-kg). (China, the 3-seed in the women’s freestyle competition, ultimately went on to advance to the final.) Vibes weren’t good during or after the dual.

Strong finish for USA women’s freestyle team

The second dual for the U.S. women’s freestyle was a night-and-day difference, as they notched a 6-4 win over a very tough All-World squad. Not only that, but USA won 28-14 via classification points, securing two shutouts, a win by forfeit, plus a pair of pins in the second half of the dual.

Erin Golston kick-started the gotta-have-it third-round dual meet for the U.S. women with a 3-0 win over Poland’s Anna Lukasiak, a world bronze medalist earlier this year. Burkert rebounded with a 4-0 win over Canada’s Karla Godinez, yet another world bronze medal-winner.

The U.S. led 3-2 at the break, then Miracle picked up a monster 9-3 win over Kyrgyzstan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova, a two-time world champ who beat Miracle in the 2021 world finals. Velte followed with an emphatic second-period pin to effectively ice the dual, and Yelena Makoyed slammed the door shut by pinning Turkey’s Yasemin Adar, a two-time world champion, at 76-kg to solidify the USA’s 6-4 triumph.

Sunday Matchups and Schedule for Wrestling World Cup

  • Women’s Freestyle, 3rd Place Match: USA vs. Mongolia, 11AM
  • Men’s Freestyle, 3rd Place Match: Georgia vs. All-World Team, 12:30PM
  • Women’s Freestyle, 1st Place Match: China vs. Ukraine, 4PM
  • Men’s Freestyle, 1st Place Match: USA vs. Iran, 5:30PM

All times are Central. All duals will take place on Mat A.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

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