Day One Wrap: Taylor, Retherford, Arujau reach World finals, Parris to go for bronze in Belgrade

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Zain Retherford (USA) has reached the World finals for the second straight year. (Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors)

BELGRADE, Serbia – It was an excellent day for the United States in men’s freestyle, as the 2023 Senior World Championships got started in Stark Arena on Saturday.

Winning their semifinals match and earning a spot in Sunday’s gold-medal finals were 2000 Olympic champion and two-time World champion David Taylor (86 kg), 2022 World silver medalist Zain Retherford (70 kg) and first-time World Team member Vito Arujau (61 kg).

With his victory in the semifinals, Taylor has clinched a berth for the United States at 86 kg in men’s freestyle for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

Taylor was on fire today, winning two matches by pin and two by technical fall. In the semifinals, he put away Azamat Dauletbekov of Kazakhstan in 3:38. He will face his archrival Hassan Yazdanicharati of Iran in the finals. Taylor has beaten him in two of their three finals matches at either the Olympics or Worlds, including Taylor’s victory at the 2020 Olympic Games.

Retherford has reached the World finals for the second straight year, controlling all three of his matches. Included was a strong 7-0 victory over Arman Andreasyan of Armenia, 7-0. Retherford will battle 2021 World silver medalist Amirmohammad Yazdanicherati of Iran in the finals.

Taylor and Retherford are alumni of Penn State, with Retherford winning three NCAA titles and Taylor two.

Arujau, a 2023 NCAA champion for Cornell, powered past four opponents, outscoring them 40-2. Included was a 12-2 technical fall over Taiyrbek Zhumashbek Uulu of Kyrgyzstan in the semifinals. Arujau has drawn Individual Neutral Athlete Abasgadzhi Magomedov, a 2021 World champion for Russia.

Arujau reaches a Senior World finals, joining his father Vougar Orudzhev, who was a two-time World champion and three-time World finalist for the Soviet Union in the 1990s before emigrating to the United States.

Qualifying for the bronze-medal bout at 125 kg is another first-time Senior World Team member, 2023 NCAA champion Mason Parris. He was impressive in winning his first three bouts. In the second round, he stopped 2020 Olympic bronze medalist Abraham Conyedo Ruano of Italy, 3-0. In the quarterfinals, he defeated 2019 World bronze medalist Zhiwei Deng of China, 8-4.

In the semifinals, Parris led three-time World champion and Olympic medalist Geno Petriashvili most of the match. Parris was able to score points from his feet, and held 4-1 and 6-3 leads. Petriashvili tied the bout at 6-6 with about 45 seconds left and secured criteria. A late counter takedown by Petriashvili made the final score 8-6.

The opponent for Parris in the bronze-medal match will be determined during Sunday morning repechage. If Parris wins the bronze-medal match, or a special wrestle-off for fifth place tomorrow, he will qualify the USA for a berth at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

Group Two of the U.S. men’s freestyle team begin their competition on Sunday: Zane Richards (57 kg), four-time World champion and Olympic medalist Kyle Dake (74 kg), Chance Marsteller (79kg) and Zahid Valencia (92 kg). Richards, Marsteller and Valencia are competing in their first Senior Worlds.

The team race has been close so far with both the United States, the defending team champion, and Iran, last year’s runner-up, both punching three athletes into the finals.


At Belgrade, Serbia, September 16

Men’s Freestyle Group One Finals pairings

61 kg - Vitali Arujau (USA) vs. Abasgadzhi Magomedov (Individual Neutral Athlete)

70 kg - Amirmohammad Yazdanicherati (Iran) vs. Zain Retherford (USA)

86 kg - Hassan Yazdanicharati (Iran) vs. David Taylor (United States)

125 kg - Amir Zare (Iran) vs. Geno Petriashvili (Georgia)

Men’s Freestyle Group One semifinals results

61 kg

Vitali Arujau (USA) tech fall Taiyrbek Zhumashbek Uulu (Kyrgyzstan), 12-2

Abasgadzhi Magomedov (Individual Neutral Athlete) dec. Shota Phartenadze (Georgia), 10-0

70 kg

Amirmohammad Yazdanicherati (Iran) tech fall Ramazan Ramazanov (Bulgaria), 13-2

Zain Retherford (USA) dec. Arman Andreasyan (Armenia), 7-0

86 kg

Hassan Yazdanicharati (Iran) tech. fall Javrail Shapiev (Uzbekistan), 10-0

David Taylor (United States) pin Azamat Dauletbekov (Kazakhstan), 3:38

125 kg

Amir Zare (Iran) dec. Taha Akgul (Turkey), 4-0

Geno Petriashvili (Georgia) dec. Mason Parris (United States), 8-6

U.S. men’s freestyle Group One results

61 kg - Vitali Arujau (Titan Mercury WC/Spartan Combat RTC), in finals

WIN Ossimzhan Dastanbek (Kazakhstan), tech. fall 10-0

WIN Stillyan Iliev (Bulgaria), tech fall, 10-0

WIN Kodei Ogawa (Japan), 8-2

WIN Taiyrbek Zhumashbek Uulu (Kyrgyzstan), tech fall 12-2

Gold Medal Match – vs. Abasgadzhi Magomedov (Individual Neutral Athlete)

70 kg - Zain Retherford (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC), in finals

WIN Mustafo Akhmedov (Tajikistan), 4-0

WIN Abhimanyou (UWW), 9-2

WIN Arman Andreasyan (Armenia), 7-0

Gold Medal Match – vs. Amirmohammad Yazdanicherati (Iran)

86 kg - David Taylor (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC), in finals

WIN Sofiane Padiou Belmir (Morocco), pin 0:15

WIN Benjamin Griel (Austria), 10-0

WIN Magomed Sharipov (Bahrain), tech fall 12-2

WIN Azamat Dauletbekov (Kazakhstan), pin 3:38

Gold Medal Match – vs. Hassan Yazdanicharati (Iran)

125 kg – Mason Parris (Titan Mercury WC/Cliff Keen WC), in bronze bout

WIN Yusup Batirmurzaev (Kazakhstan), tech. fall 11-0

WIN Abraham Conyedo Ruano (Italy), 3-0

WIN Zhiwei Deng (China), 8-4

LOSS Geno Petriashvili (Georgia), 8-6

Bronze Medal Match -  To be determined- either Robert Baran (Poland), Bali Sou (Canada) or Abdulla Kurbanov (Individual Neutral Athlete)

U.S. men’s freestyle Group Two draws for Sunday

57 kg - Zane Richards (Titan Mercury WC/Illinois RTC)

Vs. Aliabbas Rzazade (Azerbaijan), 2023 European champion, Second in 2022 Europeans, 2021 U23 World champion

74 kg – Kyle Dake (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC)

Vs. Magomet Evloev (Tajikistan), 7th in 2023 Asian Championships

79 kg – Chance Marsteller (Titan Mercury WC/NYC RTC)

Bye, vs. winner of Chems Fetairia (Algeria) and Gunwoo Lee (Korea)

Fetairia – 2nd in 2023 African Championships, 2022 African champion

Lee – 11th in 2023 Asian Championships, 10th in 2017 Asian Championships

92 kg - Zahid Valencia (Sunkist Kids)

Bye, vs. winner of Woomin Jang (Korea) and Amirali Azarpira (Iran)