Dake’s World gold adds to USA’s record medal count

Updated: September 17, 2022

Photo: Kyle Dake showcases his American pride after claiming his fourth all-time World title at 74 kilos in Belgrade, Serbia. With one day remaining at the Worlds, Team USA has guaranteed eight medals in men’s freestyle. (Justin Hoch photo)

By Mike Finn

Kyle Dake, a former four-time NCAA champion from Cornell University, claimed his fourth UWW World championship by beating the same opponent he beat last year for his World title at 74 kilograms Saturday in Belgrade, Serbia. The 31-year-old native of Ithaca, N.Y., who won his first two titles at 79 kilograms, edged Slovakia’s Taimuraz Salkazanov, 3-1, at this year’s Worlds.

Team USA had three wrestlers reach the gold-medal matches on Saturday, but both Thomas Gilman and J’den Cox came up one win short of their goal and settled for silver medals.

Gilman, 28-year-old native of Council Bluffs, Iowa, a 2021 World champ and 2020 Olympic bronze medalist, lost to Zelimkhan Abakarov of Albania, 7-2, in the 57-kilogram final. Cox, the 27-year-old native of Columbia, Mo., who has won two past World titles, lost 2-0 to Iran’s defending World champ Kamran Ghasempour.

The United States’ men’s freestyle squad, which has already wrapped up a team championship, has locked up at least eight medals … with a chance at nine … among the 10 weight classes at this year’s Worlds.

That could include two more gold medals from both Yianni Diakomihalis and Kyle Snyder, who advanced to Sunday’s finals after winning all their matches at 65 kilos and 97 kilos, respectively, on Saturday. Meanwhile, Seth Gross, who lost his semifinal bout on Saturday, will wrestle for a bronze medal on Sunday at 61 kilos.

With Jordan Burroughs and David Taylor also earning gold medals on Friday, the U.S. men’s freestyle team has tallied three championships, one off the record of four set in 1993 and 1995.

The most medals that the United States has earned in past Worlds in men’s freestyle was also eight in 1987, when that team produced two gold, three silver and three bronze.

Overall, Team USA has also tied the record for most total medals (15) by its three teams — set by last year’s World teams — as the women’s freestyle team earned seven medals earlier this week. With three gold medals by these American women, the U.S. broke the record for most overall gold medals by Team USA of five; set in 2019 and 2021.

On a side note, Stevan Micic, a former multiple All-American from Michigan, captured a bronze medal at 57 kilos while representing the host country Serbia. There are several wrestlers with American college ties who wrestled for different countries. That included Sebastian Rivera, the former multiple-time All-American from Rutgers, who lost in the semifinals to Diakomihalis on Saturday.

2022 UWW World Championships Men’s Freestyle

USA Results and Match Notes from Sept 16-17

57k/125.5 pounds: Thomas Gilman (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC/Titan Mercury WC) – Silver

Thomas Gilman, a 2021
World champ, settled for silver after losing to Zelimkhan Abakarov of Albania in the 57-kilo gold-medal match. (Justin Hoch photo)

1st round – won by TF over Georgii Okorokov (Australia), 11-0 – Gilman opened the match on a four-pointer when he lifted and threw Okorokov midway through the first period, then ended the bout on a single and gut-wrench with 1:27 left in the match.

Quarterfinal – dec. Zanabazar Zandanbud (Mongolia), 5-1 – Gilman’s body lock to a single gave him a 4-0 lead with 2:24 left in the match.

Semifinal – dec. Wanhao Zhou (China), 8-2 – Gilman scored three takedowns, the first coming while Zhou was on the activity clock midway through the first period before scoring two more takedowns via a body lock and snap-down in the final two minutes.

Gold-Medal Match – lost to Zelimkhan Abakarov (Albania), 7-2 — The Albanian, who formerly wrestled for Russia, upset the 2021 World champ; first by scoring off an arm throw in the first 30 seconds, then scored on a go-behind midway through the first period. Gilman was penalized one point for grabbing fingers before scoring a step-out point before the intermission to trail 5-1. Abakarov, who became Albania’s first World champ, scored on a double seven seconds into the second period before Gilman added another step-out at the 1:50 mark.

74k/163 pounds: Kyle Dake (Ithaca, N.Y./Spartan Combat RTC/Titan Mercury WC) – Gold

Prelim – won by TF over Islambek Orozbekov (Kyrgyzstan), 10-0, 4:33 – Dake scored two takedowns, the first on single that put Orozbekov on his back 15 seconds into the match, then turned a second takedown into a gut-wrench with 2:17 left in the match.

1st round – won by TF over Suldkhuu Olonbayar (Mongolia), 12-2, 5:09 — Dake’s well-known defensive chest lock gave him a 6-0 lead with six seconds left in the first period. After swapping exposure points with the Mongolian off a scramble, Dake ended the match on a takedown with 51 seconds left.

Quarterfinal – pinned Sagar Jaglan (India), 0:44 – Dake used a body lock to slam Jaglan to his back 39 seconds into the match and scored the fall five seconds later.

Semifinal – dec. Yones Emamichoghaei (Iran), 2-2 — After the Iranian scored a pair of step-outs to lead, Dake earned the criteria win when Emamichoghaei was called for fleeing to avoid a takedown while also stepping out with 1:45 left in the match.

Gold-Medal Match – dec. Taimuraz Salkazanov (Slovakia), 3-1 — In a rematch of the 2021 final, also won by Dake, the former Cornell star scored all his points in the first period: a stepout a minute into the match and takedown with 1:11 in the frame. The Slovakian’s only point came on a caution-and-1 penalty against Dake with 1:15 left in the match.

92k/202.5 pounds: J’den Cox (Ann Arbor, Mich./Michigan RTC/Titan Mercury WC) – Silver

J’den Cox showed his displeasure to the official stopping action in his 2-0 gold-medal loss to Kamran Ghasempour of Iran at 92 kilos. (Justin Hoch photo)

1st round – won by TF over Yuxiang Bi (China), 10-0, 1:11 – Cox’s five-point throw a minute into the match led to a pair of gut-wrenches to end the bout.

Quarterfinal – won by TF over Radoslaw Marcinkiewicz (Poland), 11-0, 3:15 – Cox scored three takedowns, including a single that led to a caution-and-1 against the Pole 10 seconds into the second period and finally a go-behind, which led to a gut-wrench five seconds later to end the bout.

Semifinal – dec. Osman Nurmagomedov (Azerbaijan), 7-0 – Cox led just 1-0 at the break before scoring on two single-leg takedowns and countering a shot by Nurmagomedov for two exposure points with five seconds left.

Gold-Medal Match – lost to Kamran Ghasempour (Iran), 2-0 — The Iranian defended his World championship by scoring the bout’s only takedown (while on the activity clock) with 1:11 left in the first period. Cox, who lost on criteria to Ghasempour in the 2021 World semis, came out with a strong underhook, but could not penetrate the Iranian’s defense.