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2023 UWW Worlds Preview: 92k MFS, 87k GR, 68k WFS

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Updated: September 7, 2023

Photos: Zahid Valencia moved up from 86 kilos to beat Michael Macchiavello in men’s freestyle at Final X, where Emma Bruntil also moved up from 65 kilos to beat former World medalist Forrest Molinari in women’s freestyle. Meanwhile Zac Braunagel, who currently wrestles at Illinois, earned his first World team when former World Team member Alan Vera was forced to injury default in Greco-Roman. (Photos by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

It might have been easy to claim that Zahid Valencia (men’s freestyle), Zac Braunagel (Greco-Roman) and Emma Bruntil (women’s freestyle) were not favored to win their weight classes before this summer’s Final X event.

Yet that was the case as Valencia (92k) changed weight classes, as did Bruntil (68k), and Braunagel upset a past World Team member, also as did Bruntil, last June in New Jersey, as all three will compete in their first World Championships, held Sept. 16-24 in Belgrade, Serbia

These are three of the 30 weight classes that WIN Magazine is continuing daily previews through Sept. 11. WIN Magazine will also provide comprehensive coverage of the 2023 Worlds in its next issue, printed Sept. 28. Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe.

 

Men’s Freestyle: 92k/202 lbs — Zahid Valencia (Sunkist Kids WC)

Competes Sept. 17-18

Age: 26 (born May 11, 1997); Hometown: Bellflower, Calif.

Beat Michael Macchiavello at Final X after finishing second at 86 kilos at the U.S. Open

International Experience: This is his first Senior-level World/Olympic tournament. He did compete in three Junior Worlds, which included earning a silver medal in 2017.

Other: Valencia was a three-time NCAA All-American at Arizona State; highlighted by championships in both 2018 and 2019 at 174 pounds. He finished third in the 2017 NCAAs.

Top International Competition: It was unknown if Iran’s Kamran Ghasempour, who beat USA’s J’den Cox in last year’s championship match at 92 kilos for a second straight World title, will compete in the 2023 Worlds. But both 2022 World bronze medalists — Osman Nurmagomedov of Azerbaijan and Miriani Maisuradze of Georgia — are expected to compete in Belgrade this September and were ranked as the top two preliminary seeds. There is another American competing at this weight: former Duke and Michigan national qualifier Matt Finesilver, who will represent Israel at the 2023 Worlds.

Greco-Roman: 87k/191.5 lbs — Zac Braunagel (Illinois RTC / Illinois WC)

Competes Sept. 23-24

Age: 23 (born July 15, 2000, and has a twin brother Danny);    Hometown: Belleville, Ill.

Beat Alan Vera, a 2022 World Team member, by injury default at Final X

International Experience: This is the first time that Braunagel will compete in a Senior-level World/Olympic tournament. The former Fargo champion did represent the United States in the 2019 Junior Worlds at 86 kilos.

Other: He will be a senior at Illinois, where he is a three-time NCAA qualifier: at 184 in 2021 and 2022 and at 197 last March.

Top International Competition: The only returning medalists from 2022 are Hungary’s David Losonczi and Turkey’s Ali Cengiz, who both finished third a year ago. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Zhan Beleniuk, who won Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021, has also returned to compete on the World stage. Another returning Olympian is Sweden’s Alex Kessidis, who earned a silver medal in the 2019 World Championships.

Women’s Freestyle: 68k/150 lbs — Emma Bruntil (USOPTC / Titan Mercury WC)

Competes Sept. 20-21

Age: 24 (born Nov. 6, 1999); Hometown: Acme, Wash.

Beat 2021 World bronze medalist Forrest Molinari at Final X after finishing second at the U.S. Open at 65 kilos.

International Experience: This is the first Senior-level Worlds/Olympics for Bruntil, who avenged a 2019 Final X loss to Molinari at 65 kilos. Bruntil wrestled in two U23 Worlds, finishing eighth in 2021 and 10th in 2022.

Other: Bruntil won two NCWWC championships for McKendree University in 2021 and 2022.

Top International Competition: Japan’s Arni Ishii, who lost 6-0 to USA’s Tamyra Mensah Stock in last year’s Worlds, will be one of the favorites as well as a trio of 2022 bronze medalists Irina Ringaci of Moldova and France’s Larroque (who finished third at 65 kilos last year).  Also watch out for China’s Feng Zhou — a two-time Olympian and 2015 World silver medalist who was seeded No. 1 in the preseeds — and Kyrgyzstan’s Meerim Zhumanazarova, who won gold in 2021 but failed to win a match in 2022. Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria is also expected to return.

The following is a schedule of WIN’s other daily World Championship previews (including pertinent information on the American who will wrestle at that weight class and style). Click on previous days to read those previews: