Greco-Roman fails to medal as 2023 World Championships wrap up in Serbia

Updated: September 24, 2023

Photo: Alejandro Sancho won two of the nine total victories earned by the USA Greco-Roman team at the 2023 UWW World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. (Tony Rotundo photo)

For the second straight year, the United States Greco-Roman team failed to win a medal at the UWW World Championships as the 10 American wrestlers won nine of 21 matches over four days in Belgrade, Serbia.

Eight of the Americans did win at least one match and two wrestlers each won two matches: Alejandro Sancho (67k), who was the only American to reach the quarterfinals, and Kamal Bey (77k). By not placing in the top five in the six Olympic weight classes — 60k, 67k, 77k, 87k, 97k, 130k — Team USA must now qualify those weights either at the Pan Am Championships next February or at a couple other qualifying tournaments in the spring to compete at the 2024 Games in Paris.

Overall, the United States scored six team points to finish in 23rd place among 59 countries that competed in Greco-Roman. Azerbaijan with two gold medals and three silver medals won the team title with 129 points, followed by Iran with one gold, one silver, three bronze and 102 points.

Greco-Roman wrestling was the last of three styles that took place in Stark Arena for a second straight year. Earlier, the USA men’s freestyle team earned three individual championships, seven overall medals and a second straight team title. Later, women’s freestyle took place and Team USA came home with one championship, seven medals and a second-place team finish.

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The following are the highlights of the American Greco-Roman matches. The weight classes marked with a (•) are non-Olympic weight classes.


55 kg – Brady Koontz (Dubuque WC/Titan Mercury WC), did not place

Prelim – dec. Hyeokjin Jeon (Korea), 7-3 — Koontz jumped out to a 7-0 lead in his first-ever World championship match when he earned a passivity point then scored three separate exposure turns, including two gut wrenches. The Korean got on the board with two minutes left after Koontz was called for passivity and Jeon scored two more on a chest lock.

Round of 16 — lost by TF to Denis Florin Mihai (Romania), 9-0, 2:03 — After Koontz was called for passivity one minute into the match, he was called for a caution-and-2, before the Romanian used a pair of reverse lifts, including the second for four points, to end the match. Koontz was eliminated after Mihai lost in the quarterfinals.


60 kg — Ildar Hafizov (U.S. Army WCAP), did not place

Prelim — lost to Mehdi Nejad (Iran), 7-0 — The only points came when the Iranian first earned a passivity point against Hafizov, then added three gut wrenches with the par terre advantage. Hafizov was eliminated when Nejad lost in the semifinals.

63 kg — Xavier Johnson (U.S. Army WCAP), did not place

Prelim — won by TF over Vikram Kurade, UWW), 2:23 — Leading 1-0, Johnson first earned a passivity point, then used the par terre advantage to score exposure points off a gut wrench. That included a four pointer when he lifted Kurade and threw him to his back.

Round of 16 — lost to Murad Mammadov (Azerbaijan), 3-1 — The 2021 World bronze medalist scored the deciding points off a gut wrench with 2:20 left after he earned a passivity point against Johnson.

Repechage — lost by TF to Hrachya Prohosyan (Armenia), 8-0, 0:39 — Prohosyan used an arm drag to score a takedown 15 seconds into match, then used a gut to lift and expose Johnson for 4, then ended the match with another gut wrench for 2.

67 kg — Alejandro Sancho (U.S. Army WCAP), did not place

Prelim — dec. Valentin Petic (Moldova), 5-1 — Sancho scored the deciding points when with a par terre advantage he lifted Petic back to his back for four points with two minutes left.

Round of 16 — dec. Husiyuetu Husiyuetu (China), 3-1 — Sancho scored the winning points on a takedown near the edge of the mat with three seconds left. This came after each wrestler earned a passivity point with Husiyuetu holding criteria before the Sancho takedown.

Quarterfinal — lost by TF to Slavik Galstyan, Armenia, 9-0 — Galstyan, the 2019 World bronze medalist, scored all his points from par terre after earning a passivity point midway through the first period. That included a four-pointer with a gut wrench where he lifted Sancho off the ground. Sancho was eliminated when Galstyan lost in the semifinals.

 72 kg — Pat Smith (Minnesota Storm), did not place

Prelim — pinned Kamil Czarnecki (Poland), 5-7, 4:08 — One point from losing by technical fall, Smith battled back with two takedowns, the second coming with 1:53 when he countered a throw and put the Pole on his back and eventually earned the fall. Czarnecki had jumped out 4-0 when his arm throw put Smith on his back a minute into the bout then added a two-point gut with 55 seconds left in the first to lead 7-0.

Round of 16 — lost to Ibragim Magomadov, Kazakhstan, 5-1 — A passivity point against Magomadov gave Smith a 1-0 lead heading into the second period before his opponent also earned a passivity point before scoring a pair of gut wrenches with two minutes left. Smith was eliminated when Magomadov lost in the quarterfinals.

77 kg – Kamal Bey (U.S. Army WCAP), did not place

Prelim 1 – dec. Fabio Dietsche (Switzerland), 4-1 — Down 1-0 after giving up a passivity point midway through the first period, Bey reversed the Swiss wrestler to his back for two exposure points. Bey then added two stepouts, final one with two minutes left.

Prelim 2 – lost by TF to Sanan Suleymanov (Azerbaijan), 8-0, 0:56 — Suleymanov, the 2021 World silver medalist took a 6-0 lead after he first countered a Bey headlock for four points, then added a gut wrench. He then used a body lock 30 seconds later for a takedown and technical fall. Bey remained alive for bronze medal contention when Suleymanov reached the finals.

Repechage — dec. Kunnari Sarkkinen (Finland), 7-3 — Trailing 3-1, Bey scored two takedowns in the final 30 seconds, first when he caught the Finn off balance, then when he countered a headlock with 13 seconds left. Bey led 2-0 in the first period off a stepout and passivity point, before Sarkkinen scored a takedown 15 seconds into the second frame.

Repechage — lost to Alexandrin Gutu (Moldova), 3-3 — The criteria points came when Gutu caught Bey in a body lock to score a takedown with 13 seconds left in the first period. Bey earned a passivity point midway through the second period but could not score with par terre advantage.


 82 kg — Spencer Woods (U.S. Army WCAP), did not place

Prelim — lost to Stanislau Shafarenka (Individual Neutral Athletes), 5-3 — After holding a 1-0 lead on a passivity point at the break, Woods was called for passivity with two minutes left before he gave up a pair of gut wrenches. Woods cut the margin to two on a takedown with one minute left. Woods was eliminated when Shafarenka lost his next match.

97 kg — Joe Rau (Wildcat WC / Titan Mercury WC), did not place

Prelim — dec. Filip Smetko (Croatia), 4-1 — Trailing 1-0, Rau used an overhook to put Smetko on his back with 13 seconds left in the first period.

Round of 16 — lost by TF to Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia), 9-0, 2:00 — The Olympic gold medalist and four-time World champ used a passivity par terre advantage to score four gut wrenches and earn the technical fall.

Repechage — lost by fall to Nicu Ojog (Romania), 2-1, 1:54 — Rau had just taken a 1-0 lead when Ojog was called for passivity. But while working on par terre with a front headlock, Rau fell to his side and the Romania reversed Rau to his back and pinned the American.

130 kg — Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kids WC), did not place

Prelim — pinned Marcel Albini (Czechia), 9-1, 5:02 — The NCAA All-American from Arizonan State was leading 5-1 when he pancaked Albini to his back and scored the fall. Schultz scored his other points from passivity, a stepout and a reversal that led to back points after he was put down in par terre.

Round of 16 — lost by fall to Romas Fridrikas (Lithuania), 4-0, 0:45 — Fridrikas caught Schultz in a body lock 35 seconds into the match before pinning the American 10 seconds later. Schultz was eliminated when the Lithuanian lost his next match.