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Starocci, Thomas and Sloan advance to semifinals at U23 World Championships in men’s freestyle

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Carter Starocci competing at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials
Carter Starocci action image by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors

PONTEVEDRA, Spain – Team USA put three men’s freestyle wrestlers from Group One into the semifinals at the 2022 U23 World Championships on Friday morning.

Carter Starocci, a member of the Senior Freestyle National team and a two-time NCAA champion for Penn State, is in the 79 kg semifinals. He outscored his three opponents 32-1 during the session.

He opened with an 11-0 technical fall over Oktay Hasan of Bulgaria, who was fifth in the 2022 U23 European Championships. Starocci led 6-0 at the break, with two stepouts, a takedown and an ankle lace turn. In the second period, Starocci closed it out with a step out, a takedown and an ankle lace turn.

Starocci continued his dominance in his second bout, with a 10-0 technical fall over Erik Reinbok of Estonia, who was fifth in the 2018 U20 Worlds. Starocci scored five takedowns, two in the first period and three in the second period.

In the quarterfinals, Starocci kept to the offense in an 11-1 technical fall over 2019 U20 World bronze medalist Abdubasi Balta of Turkey. Starocci gave up a shot clock point early, but scored a takedown to lead 2-1 at the break. In the second period, Starocci scored nine straight points on takedowns and turns to secure the technical fall.

Starocci will face 2022 U23 Asian silver medalist Daulet Yergesh of Kazakhstan in the semifinals.

A pair of 2019 U20 World Team members also advanced to the semifinals, Yahya Thomas at 70 kg and Tanner Sloan at 97 kg. Collegiately, Thomas was third in the 2021 NCAA Championships for Northwestern and Sloan is a three-time NCAA qualifier for South Dakota State,

Thomas pounded out a 2-0 win in his first match over 2022 Pan American Senior champion Emmanuel Olapade of Canada. Thomas scored first on a step out, then added a point in the second period when Olapade was put on the shot clock and did not score.

He followed with a solid 4-1 victory over Tobias Portmann of Switzerland, who was fifth in the 2019 U20 European Championships. Portmann was put on the shot clock. Thomas was able to get a high single and force a step out, while also getting the shot clock point to lead 2-0. A Thomas shot on the edge led to a stepout. Add another Thomas step out, and Portmann with a point when Thomas is on the shot clock, and it’s a three-point win for Thomas.

Thomas will battle 2021 Senior World silver medalist Amirmohammad Yazdani Charati of Iran in the semifinals.

Sloan opened with a powerful 10-2 victory over 2022 U20 European champion Mucahit Celik of Turkey in his first match. Sloan led 3-0 at the break on a step out and a takedown. He turned on the offense in the second period by adding three more takedowns, plus a reversal after a Celik exposure.

In his quarterfinals bout, Sloan won the key positions in a 6-3 win over 2022 U20 World silver medalist Andro Margishvili of Georgia. After giving up a point on the shot clock, Sloan broke the bout over by getting behind Margishvili for a four-point takedown to lead 4-1. Sloan added another takedown, while Margishvili could only must two step outs late in the match.

In the semifinals, Sloan will wrestle 2022 U23 European champion Islam Ilyasov of Azerbaijan.

Two U.S. wrestlers dropped matches but are still eligible for repechage, 2019 U20 World silver medalist Vitali Arujau at 57 kg and Cole Matthews at 65 kg.

Arujau, a member of the last two Senior National Teams, was beaten by 2022 Asian U23 silver medalist Bekzat Almaz Uulu of Kyrgyzstan, 11-6. Arujau jumped to a 5-0 lead on a step out, a takedown and an ankle lace turn. Almaz Uulu tightened it up to a 6-4 lead for Arujau at the break. In the second period, Almaz Uulu scored the next seven points on takedowns and step outs, plus a point from a failed challenge, while Arujau was not able to score at all.

Matthews opened with a strong 6-2 win over Gia Ugrelidze of Georgia, who was ninth in the 2022 U23 European Championships. Matthews led 3-2 in the second period, and scored a clutch takedown late in the period to make it 5-2. Georgia challenged and lost, making it 6-2 at the end.

In the quarterfinals, Matthews was defeated by Adlan Askarov of Kazakhstan, 6-4. Askarov has been a World medalist at U17, U20 and U23 levels. Askarov led 4-1 at the break with two takedowns, while Matthews had a reversal. In the second period, Matthews closed it to 4-3 on a step out and a shot clock point against Askarov. However, Askarov finished of the match with a takedown with 14 seconds left.

The wrestlers who beat Arujau and Matthews must win their semifinals bout in order the U.S. athletes to enter Saturday’s repechage.

Arujau is a two-time Div. I All-American for Cornell, while Matthews is an All-American for Pittsburgh.

The semifinals are set for 4:45 p.m. local time, which is six hours ahead of U.S. Eastern time. It will be followed

Fans can enjoy all of the competition live on FloWrestling.  Pontevedra is six hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time

At Pontevedra, Spain, October 21

U.S. U23 Men’s Freestyle Group One results

57 kg: Vitali Arujau, Syosset, N.Y. (Spartan Combat RTC/TMWC), remains eligible for repechage
LOSS Bekzat Almaz Uulu (Kyrgyzstan), 11-6

65 kg: Cole Matthews, Greenville, Pa. (Pittsburgh WC), remains eligible for repechage
WIN Gia Ugrelidze (Georgia), 6-2
LOSS Adlan Askarov (Kazakhstan), 6-4

70 kg: Yahya Thomas, Chicago, Ill. (Wildcat WC/TMWC), in semifinals
WIN Emmanuel Olapade (Canada), 2-0
WIN Tobias Portmann (Switzerland), 4-1
Semifinals - Amirmohammad Yazdani Charati (Iran),

79 kg: Carter Starocci, Erie, Pa. (Nittany Lion WC/TMWC), in semifinals
WIN Oktay Hasan (Bulgaria), tech fall, 11-0
WIN Erik Reinbok (Estonia), tech. fall, 10-0
WIN Abdubasi Balta (Turkey), tech fall 11-1
Semifinals - Daulet Yergesh (Kazakhstan)

97 kg: Tanner Sloan, Alburnett, Iowa (Jackrabbit WC), in semifinals
WIN Mucahit Celik (Turkey), 10-2
WIN Andro Margishvili (Georgia),
Semifinals - Islam Ilyasov (Azerbaijan)

Group One men’s freestyle semifinal pairings

57 kg
Bekzat Almaz Uulu (Kyrgyzstan) vs. Aman (India)
Giorgi Gegalashvili (Georgia) vs. Ahmet Dumas (Turkey)

65 kg
Vazgen Tevanyan (Armenia) vs. Adlan Askarov (Kazakhstan)
Erik Arushanian (Ukraine) vs. Hamza Alaca (Turkey)

70 kg
Giorgi Elbakidze (Georgia) vs. Orozobek Toktomanbetov (Kyrgyzstan)
Yahya Thomas (USA) vs. Amirmohammed Yazdani Charati (Iran)

79 kg
Vladimeri Gnmkrelidze (Georgia) vs. Georgios Kougioumtsidis (Greece)
Carter Starocci (USA) vs. Daulet Yergesh (Kazakhstan)

97 kg
Amarali Azarpira (Iran) vs. Ertugrul Agca (Germany)
Tanner Sloan (USA) vs. Islan Ilyasov (Azerbaijan)

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