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Berger claims silver medal, McKenna powers to finals at Kunaev D.A. International in Kazakhstan

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Joey McKenna (USA) after a victory at the Kunaev D.A. International in Kazakhstan.
Joey McKenna (USA) after a victory at the Kunaev D.A. International in Kazakhstan. Photo by Brandon Slay, PRTC

TARAZ, Kazakhstan – The Pennsylvania Regional Training Center sent two elite athletes to the respected Kunaev D.A. International this weekend. After day two, both athletes won medals by hammering their way into the finals.

Tyler Berger (Philadelphia, Pa./Pennsylvania RTC/Titan Mercury WC) completed his competition on Friday, winning a silver medal at 70 kg. He was defeated in the finals by talented Ernazar Akhmataliev of Kyrgysztan, 12-6. Akhmataliev is a 2021 World silver medalist, 2022 World bronze medalist and 2021 U23 World champion.

“This is Tyler Berger’s very first international competition, and I am very pleased with how he has competed. He has exhibited faith, full effort, and fortitude in going 4-0 on the day yesterday and beating the #1 guy from Kazakhstan in the semis. We travelled 25 hours to compete against some of the best wrestlers in the world, and it’s all coming to fruition,” said Brandon Slay, PRTC Executive Director and head coach.

Berger, who was a college star at Nebraska, was a 2022 Bill Farrell Memorial International champion, and is a member of the U.S. Senior National Team this year.

Starting his competition at 65 kg on Friday was National Team member Joey McKenna (Philadelphia, Pa./Pennsylvania RTC/Titan Mercury WC), who dominated his four matches to reach the gold-medal finals at 65 kg.

McKenna won all four of his matches by technical fall, outscoring his opponents 41-0. He shut out Kdirnuyazov of Uzbekistan, Timur Shanabayev of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Sadyk of Kazakhstan and Azamat Shagapuly of Kazakhstan in order. Shagapuly was a 2015 World Military Games bronze medalist.

McKenna will face 2021 World bronze medalist and 2020 Olympian Tulga Tumur-Ochir of Mongolia in the finals.

McKenna’s gold medal finals will be streamed live on YouTube on SporttimeKZ. His match will be held at 8:00 a.m. EST on Saturday, according to the PRTC.

McKenna, who starred at Stanford and Ohio State, is a two-time age-group World medalist and was second at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials and the 2021 World Team Trials.

Special thanks to Coach Brandon Slay and Kevin McGuigan of the PRTC for their help on this story.

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At Taraz, Kazakhstan, November 3

U.S. men’s freestyle results

65 kg – Joey McKenna, Philadelphia, Pa. (Pennsylvania RTC/Titan Mercury WC), finalist

WIN Kdirnuyazov (Uzbekistan), tech. fall 11-0

WIN Timur Shanabayev (Kazakhstan), tech. fall 10-0

WIN Nursultan Sadyk (Kazakhstan), tech. fall 10-0

WIN Azamat Shagapuly (Kazakhstan), tech. fall 10-0 2015 World military Games bronze

Gold Medal Finals – Tulga Tumur-Ochir (Mongolia)

70 kg – Tyler Berger, Philadelphia, Pa. (Pennsylvania RTC/Titan Mercury WC), Silver Medal

WIN Zhhassulan Bexultanov (Kazakhstan), tech fall, 13-3

WIN Sanzhar Doszhanov (Kazakhstan), tech. fall 12-1

WIN Orozbek Toktomambetov (Kyrgyzstan), 7-3

WIN Talgat Syrbaz (Kazakhstan), 5-4

LOSS Ernazar Akhmataliev (Kyrgyzstan), 12-6