Men’s freestyle repeats as World team champs with three gold medalists

Updated: September 19, 2023

Photo: David Taylor shows off how many World and Olympic titles he has won in each hand after he pinned his Iranian rival Hassan Yazdani of Iran at 86 kilograms during the 2023 UWW World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Tony Rotundo,

Competing a second straight year in Belgrade, Serbia, for the 2023 UWW World Championships, the USA men’s freestyle squad repeated as team champions Tuesday evening at Stark Arena.

The total number of World champions (3) and total medals (7) did not match last year’s total of four gold medals and eight overall. But this year’s Worlds did provide plenty of drama as David Taylor (86k) added his fourth overall championship at an Olympic weight, while Vito Arujau (61k) and Zain Retherford (70k) claimed their first World gold medals at non-Olympic weights on the second day of the week-long event.

Meanwhile four other American also placed, including three who also qualified their weight classes for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris: silver medalist Kyle Dake (74k) and bronze medalists Kyle Snyder (97k) and Mason Parris (125k). The final medal by Team USA in men’s freestyle came at a non-Olympic weight (92k) by bronze medalist Zahid Valencia.

The United States must still qualify the 57k and 65k weight classes after failing to finish in the Top 5 in those weight classes.

In the team race, the United States finished with 148 points, followed by Iran (which had one champ and four medal winners) with 108 points. This marks the fifth time that USA has captured a team championship; the others coming in 1993, 1995 and 2017.

Top-10 Countries in Men’s Freestyle

Rk. Country (G/S/B) Pts
1 United States (3/1/3) 148
2 Iran (1/2/1) 108
3 Georgia (0/2/1) 75
4 Kazakhstan (1/0/1) 74
5 Azerbaijan (0/1/1) 66
6 Japan (0/1/1) 65
7 Armenia (0/0/3) 49
8 Serbia (1/0/1) 40
9 Hungary (1/0/0) 35
9 Ukraine (0/0/1) 35


The following are individual highlights from the 10 Americans who won 33 of 39 matches in men’s freestyle. The 2023 World Championships will continue with women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. WIN Magazine will provide even more comprehensive coverage of all three styles from the World Championships in its next issue, printed Sept. 28. Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe.

The weight classes marked with a (•) are non-Olympic weight classes

57 kg – Zane Richards (Titan Mercury WC/Illinois RTC), did not place

Vito Arujau (right) won all five bouts at 61 kilos in his first World Championships. (Tony Rotundo photo)

Prelim – lost to Aliabbas Rzazade (Azerbaijan), 3-2 – Richards led 2-1 on a single with 23 seconds left in the first period, before Rzazade rallied to score a pair of stepouts in the second period, second one coming with 1:31 left. Richards was eliminated when Rzazade lost his next match 8-4 to Iran’s Milad Valizade.

• 61 kg – Vitali Arujau (Titan Mercury WC/Spartan Combat RTC), Gold Medalist

Prelim – won by TF over Ossimzhan Dastanbek (Kazakhstan), 10-0, 2:24 — Arujau needed just 15 seconds to score exposure points off a single to lead 4-0, then added a double, spin-around and high gut to end the match before the first period ended.

Round of 16 – won by TF over Stillyan Iliev (Bulgaria), 10-0, 1:09 — A second single led takedown led to three straight leglaces as Arujau collected his second technical fall.

Quarterfinal – dec. Kodei Ogawa (Japan), 8-2 — Using a defensive tilt to lead 3-0 two minutes into the match, Arujau added three more stepouts and a single-leg takedown with a minute left to clinch the victory. Ogawa’s two points came when he won a challenge for exposure points off a scramble and cut the margin to 3-2.

Semifinal – won by TF over Taiyrbek Zhumashbek Uulu (Kyrgyzstan), 12-2, 3:46 — Arujau jumped out to a 4-0 lead 90 seconds into the bout when his single leg takedown turned into a gut wrench turn for exposure. A video review cut the margin to 4-2 before Arujan used another single leg with 45 left in the period to add three straight leglaces and end the match.

Gold Medal Match – dec. Abasgadzhi Magomedov (Individual Neutral Athlete), 10-9 — The NCAA champion from Cornell captured his first World championship by scoring a takedown and stepout in the final 1:15.  Magomedov, the 2021 World champ from Russia had just rallied from a 7-4 deficit to take a criteria lead 7-7 when he scored a takedown at the edge of the mat with 2:17 left, then earned another point when a Arujau lost a challenge on the takedown. The final two points came with seven seconds left when the American was called for fleeing. The bout opened in a scramble with 90 seconds in the match that forced a video challenge led to a defensive tilt and takedown by Arujau and two exposure points for the Russian.

65 kg Nick Lee (Nittany Lion WC / Titan Mercury WC), 7th place

Prelim 1 – dec. Krzysztof Bienkowski (Poland), 6-0 — After earning a pair of stepouts in the first period, Lee added a single-leg with 2:14 left, then added a go-behind with 11 seconds left.

Prelim 2 — pinned Austin Gomez (Mexico), 10-3, 3:56 — Lee countered a strong bear hug and eventually put the former NCAA All-American from Wisconsin on his back for the fall. Lee jumped out on top 6-0 with a single-leg takedown and added a pair of gut wrenches. Gomez cut the margin to 6-2 with a front headlock tilt then added a stepout to end the first period.

Round of 16 — dec. Umidjon Jalolov, Uzbekistan, 4-3 — All the points were scored in the first period as the final two came when Lee countered a Jalolov shot for a takedown with eight seconds left in the period. Jalolov, who led 3-2 off a stepout and as both exchanged exposure points with 1:28 left in the first, was bothered by a lower back injury and took several timeouts in the scoreless second period.

Quarterfinal — lost to Rahman Amouzad (Iran), 7-4 — The defending World champ used a similar move where he used an underhook and dropped down to a single to score three takedowns and added a stepout to lead 7-0 with 1:05 left. Lee made the end exciting when he appeared to go upper body before tripping the Iranian to his back with 21 seconds left. After the match, Lee showed great sportsmanship when he reached down to help up a very tired Amouzad. Lee was eventually eliminated when the Iranian lost 6-5 in the semifinal to Hungary’s Ismail Musukaev.

After settling for a silver medal in 2022, former Penn State star Zain Retherford won the 70-kilogram World championship this week in Belgrade, Serbia. (Tony Rotundo photo)

• 70 kg – Zain Retherford (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC), Gold Medalist

Round of 16 – dec. Mustafo Akhmedov (Tajikistan), 4-0 — Shortly after being put on a shot clock, Retherford scored a takedown off a high crotch with 52 seconds left in the first period, then added two more points off a defensive tilt for the American.

Quarterfinal – dec. Abhimanyou Abhimanyou (UWW), 9-2 — An arm drag by Retherford led to a pair of takedowns, including one in the first period when he used a leg tilt to score two exposure points. After Abhimanyou scored on a double with two minutes left, Retherford added a single 30 seconds later.

Semifinal – dec. Arman Andreasyan (Armenia), 7-0 — Retherford scored all his points in the first period: a single-leg takedown 45 seconds into the match, then a takedown that include a bar arm tilt 30 seconds later. The final point came off a lost challenge by the Armenian.

Gold Medal Match – dec. Amirmohammad Yazdani (Iran), 8-5 — Trailing 2-1 a minute into the match, Retherford — a 2022 World silver medalist — scored three single-leg takedowns and stepout to lead 8-2 with 1:48 left. The Iranian, who earned a silver medal at 65 kilos in 2021, cut the margin on takedown and fleeing call against Retherford in the final 11 seconds.

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

Prelim – won by TF over Magomet Evloev (Tajikistan), 12-2 — Dake’s third takedown came with about a minute left for the technical fall after he scored four exposure points off a bar arm roll with 19 second left in the first period and off a leg lace with two minutes left in the bout.

Round of 16 – dec. Nurkozha Kaipanov (Kazakhstan), 9-4 — Dake led 9-0 with seven seconds left in the first after he scored a takedown off a low single then added three high gut wrenches and a stepout.  Kaipanov fought back with a double-leg takedown and two stepouts in the second period.

Quarterfinal – dec. Daichi Takatani (Japan), 6-4 — Dake clinched the victory when he tallied a stepout with 27 seconds left, then earned the final point when Takatani lost a challenge to a possible late takedown in the closing seconds. Takatani jumped out to a 4-1 lead before Dake rallied with a reversal and bar arm ride for exposure points with 2:28 left in the match.

Semifinal – dec. Georgios Kougioumtsidis (Greece), 4-1 — Dake led 2-0 at the break off a shot clock passivity point and a stepout before added a takedown off a scramble with 2:28 left. The Greek wrestler battled back with a stepout with 45 seconds left, then nearly scored a takedown as time expired.

Gold Medal – lost to Zaurbek Sidakov (Individual Neutral Athlete), 10-7 —Dake, the defending World champ, held a 3-3 criterial lead with 40 seconds left when the two-time (2018 and 2019) World champ from Russia outscored the American 5-4 during a scramble that was rescored after a video challenge from Dake. Sidakov added two more points for exposure in the final seconds as Dake tried valiantly to score. Dake took a 1-0 lead from a stepout before the Russian took a 3-1 lead off a takedown and passivity point against Dake, who fought back on a single-leg takedown with 1:31 left in the match. Dake now has six World/Olympic medals. In addition to his four World gold, he also earned a bronze medal in the 2020 Olympics.

• 79 kg – Chance Marsteller (Titan Mercury WC/NYC RTC), did not place

Round of 16 – dec. Chems Fetairia (Algeria), 7-2 — A third takedown with 2:22 left gave Marsteller a 6-2 lead in his first-ever World match. His first takedown came off a go-around 15 seconds into the match, then added a single-leg takedown after Fetairia scored two off a defensive lift.

Quarterfinal – lost to Orkhan Abasov (Azerbaijan), 9-3 — Abasov jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first 20 seconds off a snap down takedown and two gut wrenches. Marsteller battled back to trail 7-3 on a pair of stepouts and fleeing call against Abasov, who clinched the victory when he countered a Marsteller shot with 41 seconds left. Marsteller was eliminated from medal contention when Abasov lost 3-0 in the semifinals to AIN’s (Russian) Akhmed Usmanov.

86 kg – David Taylor (Titan Mercury WC/Nittany Lion WC), Gold Medalist

Prelim – pinned Sofiane Padiou Belmir (Morocco), 0:15 — Taylor countered a single attempt and put Belmir on his back with a cradle and fall.

Round of 16 – won by TF over Benjamin Griel (Austria), 10-0 — 16 seconds after scoring a four-point takedown, Taylor rocked Griel back and forth three times with gut wrenches for the technical fall.

Quarterfinal – won by TF over Magomed Sharipov (Bahrain), 12-2 — Taylor actually gave up a takedown that allowed Sharipov to tie the bout 2-2, but the American scored five more takedowns, including several off low singles.

Semifinal – pinned Azamat Dauletbekov (Kazakhstan), 3:38 — Leading 5-0 with a pair of single-leg takedowns, Taylor barred an arm and slipped in a power half to flatten last year’s bronze medalist.

Gold Medal Match – pinned Hassan Yazdani (Iran), 9-3 (5:57) — Meeting for the fourth time in either a World/Olympic final, Taylor’s third takedown with 15 seconds left also put the Iranian World on his back and the eventual fall to give him five career wins over Yazdani. It appeared that Yazdani led 5-0 when he used a defensive lift to put Taylor on his back, a video challenge by USA gave Taylor a lead with 18 second left in the first period.

• 92 kg – Zahid Valencia (Sunkist Kids), Bronze Medalist

Round of 16 – dec Amirali Azarpira (Iran), 12-9 — Trailing 9-4 at the start of the second period, Valencia battled back when his single-leg put the Iranian on his back, and a second single led to a low gut wrench with 1:22 left. Valencia also scored a pair of takedowns off snap downs to lead 4-0 before Azarpira rallied with two takedowns and two gut wrenches.

Quarterfinal – lost to Osman Nuragomedov (Azerbaijan), 5-1 — With the match tied 1-1 and Valencia holding criteria, Nuragomedov clinched the victory when he countered a pair of Valencia shots for takedowns in the final 41 seconds.  Valencia stayed alive for medal contention when the Azerbaijan wrestler reached the finals.

Repechage – dec. Denys Sahaliuk (Ukraine), 6-0 — Valencia scored three takedowns, including a single with 1:11 left before countering a single for a clinching score with 21 seconds left.

Bronze Medal — won by TF over Arash Yoshida (Japan), 11-0, 1:41 — Valencia scored just two takedowns, but the second, a double, came midway through the first period that also resulted into three straight leglaces that gave the former Arizona State star his first Senior-level World medal.

97 kg — Kyle Snyder (Nittany Lion WC / Titan Mercury WC), Bronze Medalist

Prelim — won by TF over Nishan Preet Singh Randhawa (Canada), 11-0, 2:33 — Other than getting poked in the eye twice, Snyder scored four straight go-behinds in the first period to earn the technical fall.

Round of 16 – won by TF over Radu Lefter (Moldova), 12-1 2:20 — Snyder opened with a pair of stepouts, then added five takedowns via a high crotch, two singles, duck under and go-behind for the easy victory.

Quarterfinal – lost by TF to Akhmed Tazhudinov (Bahrain), 11-0, 2:51 — The 20-year-old Tazhudinov, competing in his first World Championships, stunned the defending World champ when he countered three separate shots by Snyder for the technical fall. The first came off a defensive lift against a Snyder double with 2:19 left in the first period, then countered another shot with a bar arm that led to a takedown, then countered a high crotch attempt by Snyder that ended up in a scramble and four more exposure points for Tazhudinov. The final point came off a lost challenge by Snyder, who stayed alive when Tazhudinov stunned former World/Olympic champ Abdulrashid Sadulaev, 9-2 injury default, in the semifinals.

Repechage – dec. Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan), 10-6 — Moments after the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist grabbed a criteria lead at 4-4, Snyder responded by catching Ibragimov in a reverse cradle for four points, then added a go-behind takedown with 1:19 left.

Bronze Medal – won by injury forfeit over Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Individual Neutral Athlete) — Sadulaev, who had beaten Snyder in the last three Worlds/Olympics after Snyder beat the Russian in the 2017 Worlds, did not weigh in Tuesday morning after suffering an injury in the semifinals. This gives Snyder a ninth all-time World/Olympic medal to with two World titles, one Olympic gold medal, one Olympic silver, two World silvers and one other World bronze medal.

125 kg – Mason Parris (Titan Mercury WC/Cliff Keen WC), Bronze Medalist

Prelim – won by TF over Yusup Batirmurzaev (Kazakhstan), 11-0 — Parris, a late replacement for Gable Steveson at this weight, scored three takedowns: the first leading to a leg lace and gut for a 6-0 lead 32 seconds into his first-ever World match.  He later added a stepout, double-leg takedown, then countered a shot for the final two points.

Round of 16 – dec. Abraham Conyedo Ruano (Italy), 3-0 — After scoring his first two points off stepouts, the final point came when the Italian failed to score on a shot clock with 24 seconds left in the first period.

Quarterfinal – dec. Zhiwei Deng (China), 8-4 — Trailing 4-3, Parris threw Deng to his back for four points, then added another point off a lost challenge.

Semifinal – lost to Geno Petriashvili (Georgia), 8-6 — The 2020 Olympic silver medalist scored two takedowns in the final 44 seconds to beat Parris, who led 6-3 on a defensive lift with 1:32 left in the match. Parris also led 4-1 when he scored a stepout, takedown and lost challenge by the Georgian.

Bronze Medal – won by TF over Abdulla Kurbanov (Individual Neutral Athlete), 12-2 — Parris scored five takedowns, including an upper-body throw that put the Russian on his back and gave Parris a 6-1 lead midway through the first period.