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Tuesday, 02 September 2014

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Junior World Championships sets the stage for next generation of Olympic champions

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (August 9) – The Junior Wrestling World Championships will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, August 13-18, with eyes looking ahead to next month’s International Olympic Committee meeting, hoping the 2020 Olympic dreams of these wrestlers will be given renewed life.

Competition in the three Olympic styles – Greco-Roman, men’s freestyle and women’s freestyle – will be held at Arena Armeetz in the Bulgarian capital.  Greco-Roman, or the classic style, will kick-off the championships on Tuesday, August 13.

After two days of competition in Greco-Roman, the women take center stage August 15-16 with men’s freestyle bringing the curtain down on the championships August 17-18.  Four weight categories will be contested and medals awarded on each of the six days of competition. 

More than 600 of the top junior wrestlers representing 58 national wrestling federations from around the world have been entered. NFs from all five continental organizations will be represented, including wrestlers from Oceania and Africa.

This year’s championships take on a special significance for all competitors – medalists and also-rans – since this corps of young wrestling elites in Sofia will likely form the vanguard of competitors for the 2020 Olympic Games.

The future of wrestling in the 2020 Olympic Games remains undecided pending a vote of the IOC Session in Buenos Aires on September 9.  Wrestling, along with baseball/softball and squash, are vying for the final position on the Olympic Progam for 2020.

The junior world championships represent period of maturity for many wrestlers between the ages of 18 and 20 as they develop from energetic, mistake-prone teenage wrestlers to physically stronger, more stable emotionally and tactically savvy wrestlers at the senior level.

So while some of the wrestlers may be targeting Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for their Olympic dream, for others 2020 will be a more realistic goal.

Junior wrestlers are allowed to compete in senior-level events, and a number of them enjoy success quickly, but for the majority of wrestlers, there is the need for patience and perserverence.

Hamid SORYAN (IRI) won the junior world title in Greco-Roman in 2005 and followed two months later with the first of five world senior crowns.  SORYAN, however, flopped at the Beijing 2008 Games before putting it all together for the gold medal at 55kg in London.

In a similar fashion, Dyamal OTARSULTANOV (RUS) was a two-time junior world champion in freestyle in 2006 and 2007, but did not get his chance at a world-level event until last summer when he won the gold medal at 55kg.

On the other hand, Natalya VOROBIEVA (RUS) and WANG Jiao (CHN) both had the emotional rush of being a junior world champion and Olympic gold medalist the following year as both won the women’s 72kg crown in 2008 and 2012.

At the same time, being a junior world champion or even competing at the junior level is not a prerequisite to being an Olympic champion.  Tatsuhiro YONEMITSU (JPN) was 12th at the junior worlds in 2006 and Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) was 10th in 2008, but both were Olympic champions when the curtain came down on London 2012.

Three-time Olympic champions Artur TAIMAZOV (UZB) and Kaori ICHO (JPN) did not have any experience at all at the junior level.  Still, the junior world meet is a chance to meet one’s peers from other parts of the world and to get a measure of one’s own development.

In this regard, European countries tend to dominate the junior world championships with teams for Europe winning 61 of the 96 medals on offer in 2012, with 13 gold medals going to Europe, 10 to Asia and one to the Americas.  The numbers and percentages vary only slightly year-to-year.

Among some of the wrestlers to watch in Sofia may be Karapet CHALYAN (ARM) and Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO) in Greco-Roman.  Both were bronze medalists at the junior world meet in Thailand and both won their respective categories, 74kg and 120kg, in the European junior championships in Skopje one month ago.

There may also be Musa EVLOEV (RUS), who is a two-time European junior champion at 96kg, who finished only 11th at last year’s junior worlds.  He stormed back in January, however, with a second place in the prestigious Ivan Poddubny tournament – considered one of Greco-Roman wrestling’s premier events.

When the women take to the mats, eyes will be on Patimat BAGOMEDOVA (AZE) who was a gold medalist at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in 2010. In addition to her European junior crown, she also has a silver medal from the World University Games last month and a bronze from the senior European meet in March.

Petra OLLI (FIN) won her second European junior crown last month and will be seeking to improve on her bronze medal from last year’s junior worlds.

For the Japanese, who have seen nine of their wrestlers crowned junior world champions in 2011 and 2012, expectations are high for Yu MIYAHARA (JPN), a 2010 YOG gold medalist, 2011 world cadet champion and a member of the senior national team headed for Budapest in September.

In men’s freestyle, Ruslan SURKHAEV (AZE) won the European crown at 55kg after finishing with the world silver medal at 50kg in Thailand. European champion Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) will look to improve on his world bronze medal at 120kg last year.

So, the focus in Sofia will be on the wrestlers, the surprises, thrills and disappointments they bring to the championships, leaving thoughts and dreams of 2020 for another day.

Event Schedule

Local time in Sofia, Bulgaria

Tuesday, August 13

Weight Classes contested: Greco-Roman 50, 60, 74 and 96 kg

9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Qualification Rounds

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Semifinals and Repechage

6:00 – 6:30 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies

6:30 – 8:30 p.m. – Finals

Wednesday, August 14

Weight Classes contested: Greco-Roman 55, 66, 84 and 120 kg

9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Qualification Rounds

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Semifinals and Repechage

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Finals

Thursday, August 15

Weight Classes contested: Women’s freestyle 44, 51, 59 and 67 kg

9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Qualification Rounds

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Semifinals and Repechage

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Finals

Friday, August 16

Weight Classes contested: Women’s freestyle 48, 55, 63 and 72 kg

9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Qualification Rounds

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Semifinals and Repechage

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Finals

Saturday, August 17

Weight Classes contested: Men’s freestyle 50, 60, 74 and 96 kg

9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Qualification Rounds

4:00 – 5:30 p.m. – Semifinals and Repechage

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Finals

Sunday, August 18

Weight Classes contested: Men’s freestyle 55, 66, 84 and 120 kg

9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Qualification Rounds

5:00 – 6:00 p.m. – Semifinals and Repechage

6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Finals

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