They waited six years for it but Iran finally reclaimed it. For the first time since 2015, Iran won the junior world team title and in style. With five gold medals, one silver and one bronze, Iran accumulated 178 points to win the top position in freestyle wrestling at the Junior World Championships in Ufa, Russia.
Two-time cadet world champion Rahman AMOUZADKHALILI (IRI) led the way with the gold medal at 61kg before former cadet world champion Amirhossein FIROUZPOURBANDPEI (IRI) and Ali AKBARPOURKHORDOUNI (IRI) won gold at 86kg and 125kg respectively.
Amouzadkhalili began the night with 9-3 win over two-time cadet Worlds bronze medalist RAVINDER (IND). The two had an intense battle in the first period with one stepout for Amouzadkhalili. Ravinder began the second period with a lift on counter and lead 2-1 but Amouzadkhalili quickly scored a takedown to take back the lead.
"I am good at working with collar ties and arm drags," he said and used the same to up the pressure on the Indian. With the time running out, Amouzadkhalili scored a big four using an ankle pick which India challenged and lost. A stepout each gave them one point but gold went to Iran.
The 61kg wrestler's win was another step towards his transition to senior level in which he won a bronze medal at the 2020 Individual World Cup. He will now wrestle at the Oslo World Championships.
"I only wanted gold and I won it," he said. "I go to Norway and I hope to win the gold there."
It was followed by Firouzpourbandpei's win which was on similar lines as he continued to pressure Rakhim MAGAMADOV (FRA) and ultimately won 10-0.
A stepout opened the scoring for him before a takedown made it 3-0. He led 4-0 at the end of the first period. His continued pressure and defense to Magamadov's attacks eventually tired the French wrestler and a series of takedowns ended the bout 10-0 with 1:15 seconds remaining.
He won the world title in 2019 and said he is a much better wrestler since and enjoyed winning his first junior world title.
"The feeling is totally different," he said. "Back then, I was a child and inexperienced but this time was much more difficult and I like it better."
About staying at 86kg which has Iran's top wrestler Hassan YAZDANI (IRI), Firouzpourbandpei said that he will wait and decide about it.
The day was capped with Akbarpourkhordouni's nail-biting win at 125kg. Trailing 2-4 in the second period, the Iran wrestler scored a stepout against 2021 junior Euro champion Lyova GEVORGYAN (ARM) but still trailed 3-4. With 12 seconds remaining, he took advantage of a tiring Gevorgyan and scored a stepout and lead 4-4, marking his third straight win in the dying seconds after the quarterfinal and semifinal.
"After eight years of hard training I am a champion," he said. "Regarding the final, I watched his bouts so I know how to wrestle him."
Explaining his strategy for the bout, he said that keeping up the pressure was important if he wanted to win.
"In first round, I put pressure on him to tire him and I could get points in the second period," he said.
While he missed the chance to be on the team to Oslo, the new junior world champ is looking to improve and make the next Iran team.
"This competition pushed me up one step but it is not the last step," he said. "I am hoping to be at U23 World Championship and take same [gold] medal
"I learned too much from this competition and it pushed me up to one level but I need to learn and train more for senior level and Olympic Games."
Also in first day, In the two Iran-Azerbaijan finals, both Iran wrestlers came out on top, ending Azerbaijan's day in disappointment.
Elahi was the first one to stun Dzharbrail GADZHIEV (AZE) in the 70kg final as he kept on the pressure and ultimately won 7-5.
Gadzhiev, a U23 European champion, began the scoring with a stepout but Elahi also scored a stepout. Gadzhiev scored a quick takedown to make it 3-1. Bur Elahi then managed three stepout against a tiring Gadzhiev to make it 4-3. Two stepouts from each wrestler changed the score to 6-5 but that was not enough for Gadzhiev. Iran got an extra point for a lost challenge from Azerbaijan.
Elahi said that his bouts were difficult but it was his training in Iran that helped him win in Ufa.
"I was on the mat for five matches and bouts were tough and high-pressure," Elahi said. "I trained very hard before competition, even more than what I did on mat during competition."
Elahi began as a gymnast before switching to wrestling and said that he will now look forward to winning the trial for Oslo World Championships and work towards the Paris Olympics by moving up to 74kg.
"This competition is one step for me for Norway so that I can enter the selection trials for the World Championship," he said. "I will not remain in70kg because I am thinking about the Olympic Games and I will be 74kg for the Paris Games."
At 79kg, Mohammad NOKHODILARIMI (IRI) defeated Ashraf ASHIROV (AZE) with an identical score of 7-5, giving Iran the second gold of the day.
Like Gadzhiev, it was Ashirov who began the scoring and got a takedown. But Nokhodilarimi reversed and got two points as well. He then went for a duck under but pulled out and scored a takedown to make 4-2. A gut wrench increased the score to 6-2.
Ashirov began the second period with a fake to the right leg then scored a takedown from the left to reduce the lead. But he gave up one stepout before scoring one at the end which was not enough for a win.
Nokhodilarimi said that he was the underdog against Ashirov which made the win a special one for him. "I was underrated to my opponent," he said before adding, "and he was dangerous for me but God helped me to win."