The first day of wrestling at the U20 World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria kicks off tomorrow, which means we can all enjoy glorious brackets today!
U20 World Cup 2022
Ten Americans are now able to outline their path to stardom (link in parentheses). Five weights (57, 65, 70, 79 & 97) start tomorrow, the other five (61, 74, 86, 92 & 125) start the day after. It’s a two-day tournament for each group, so we’re fighting our way through the semifinals on Day 1 with repechage and medal fights on Day 2, and three days total to complete all the men’s freestyle weights.
Bulgaria is seven hours ahead of time on the east coast, so plan accordingly! Now for the quick settings for each bracket.
57 kilograms: Jore Volk
Jore Volk received a bye in the first round and then won the winners Iran and Italy. This is going to be an excellent game indeed. The Italian was a Cadet World bronze medalist a few years ago and won U20 Euros this year. Although this will be the Iranian’s first World Championship, he won the Takhti Cup and was runner-up at Iran’s Senior World Team Trials.
61 kilograms: Nic Bouzakis
Iran’s Habibzadeh stands out in Nic Bouzakis’ neighborhood. The U20 Asian champions will be one of the toughest obstacles for Nic, who must first get past Rakhimov of Uzbekistan and Toprak of Turkey before getting a shot at Iran in the quarters.
Bouzakis’ semi-final favorite is Abdaladze from Gerogia, who has twice finished fifth at the U17 World Championships and won the 2022 U20 Euro gold. France and Belgium are also in this quarter of the group and although neither nation is known for their freestyle wrestling, both contestants have long surnames ending in a “V”, indicating a Russian pedigree from the Caucus mountain region, who is a good sign of their caliber of wrestling ability.
65 kilograms: Vince Cornella
65 kg is one of the tougher classes here in Bulgaria but Vince Cornella couldn’t have drawn a better draw. He will have Asian junior bronze medalist Olzhas Olzhakanov of Uzbekistan in the first round, followed by Bulgaria and Iran. Most of the firepower, like Sujeet and Zubal, is on the opposite side of the mount.
70 kilograms: Michell Mesenbrink
Usually, a first-round draw against Belgium is considered auspicious, but Mitchell Mesenbrink would be wise not to look past his round of 16 opponents Muhammed Abdurachmanov, having won a silver medal at this year’s European U20 Championship. It doesn’t get much easier for Mesenbrink, as in the round of 16 Krygisistan expects a nation on the rise and investing heavily in their senior teams, and then probably a duel with Hossein Mohammed, a 2022 U20 Asian champion from Iran, in the quarterfinals.
The reward for reaching the semifinals is likely a European U20 gold medalist in Papikyan in Armenia. No finals fights will be easy, but if Mesenbrink runs this gauntlet, he’ll be in good shape to secure a gold medal.
74 kilograms: Alex Facundo
There would be no easy draw in this loaded 74kg class. Iran straight away for Alex Facundo. A returning junior world champion, Elahi is also one of Iran’s best. He is also on the same page as 2021 U17 World Champion Sugar Jaglan of India, as well as Turkey, Kazakhstan and Japan.
79 kilograms: Brayden Thompson
Brayden Thompson avoids a pigtails fight and starts his tournament in the round of 16, but still drags the historically strong Iranian into their first World Cup competition. The Oklahoma State youngster will have his hands full but a win over Iran’s Yari, a 2022 Asian U20 champion, will be further proof of his sky-high potential.
A win in the first round will not only be a huge boon to Thompson’s medal hopes, but will also have a major impact on the team race, as Iran are considered Team USA’s main rivals for team gold. In addition, many of the other countries with team title ambitions are on the other side of the table like Brayden, like Azerbaijan, India and Armenia.
86 kg: Bennet Berge
Great draw for Bennett Berge. He’s on the other side of the other two toughest guys in the bracket, Magomedov of France and Ranjbari of Iran. I like it when he does the final from below. He received one of the pigtails against Armenia and will then have Hungary.
92 kilograms: Jaxon Smith
Jaxon Smith, an aspiring redshirt freshman at the University of Maryland, was dragged into the only quarter of the bracket that doesn’t have a braid, which is a plus. However, Smith begins the tournament in the round of 16 against Moldova’s Demian, a 2022 European U20 champion and one of the favorites to win gold in Sofia. Another favorite to win gold, Firouzpour of Iran is on the other side of the bracket from Smith.
97 kilograms: Ben Keuter
I love the Ben Kueter draw. The Iranian is the odd favorite to win this bracket but he’s on the bottom side. As are Romania and Kazakhstan, the other two most recognized wrestlers in the bracket. Kueter has to go through Moldova first, then the winners from Korea and India.
125 kilograms: Nick Feldman
Only 12 competitors in Nick Feldman’s weight class, and Nick avoids an opponent in the round of 16 and is drawn straight into the quarterfinals. He will have the winner Ivanov of Bulgaria wrestling on home soil and Fujita of Japan, a country that historically hasn’t fared well in heavyweight.
Feldman will likely be awaiting Masoumi of Iran in the semifinals, a 2021 U17 world champion, although Masoumi won’t take a walk in his quarterfinal bout against Gevorgyan of Armenia, a two-time world age-group title, nor Suleimanashvili of Georgia, a medalist of the U20 EURO 2022.