BUDAPEST, Hungary – The United States has a new World champion in men’s freestyle wrestling. His name is Logan Stieber.
Stieber (Columbus, Ohio/Titan Mercury WC/Ohio RTC) put together a memorable performance at 61 kg/134 lbs., winning four difficult matches with poise and style and getting to the top of the podium in his first Senior World Championships held in Budapest on Saturday.
The four-time NCAA champion and 2011 Junior World silver medalist from Ohio topped it off with an 8-4 win in the gold medal finals over Beka Lomtadze of Georgia.
The first period saw a lot of scrambles and action, but Stieber emerged with a 1-0 lead. It was the second period where Stieber was able to open things up and take control. He scored a takedown and ankle lace, and Lomtadze was able to get two counter points, putting Stieber up 5-2. A Stieber low single made it 7-2. Lomtadze came back with a takedown to close the lead to 8-4. Rather than try to defend, Stieber shot in and almost scored another takedown and when time ran out, it was time to celebrate.
“I wanted to be all over him. I just wasn’t scoring. But I felt really good at the end of the first period. I knew it was a matter of time getting in. I knew he was dangerous with his chest lock and his fireman’s. But once I shut that down, I knew I was going to get to him. He did a good rip when I laced him, and I let up for a second with the takedown that made it 8-4. But I felt comfortable,” said Stieber.
Lomtadze’s best effort in two previous World Championships appearances was seventh in 2015 World Championships. Lomtadze’s top Senior-level achievement was second in 2015 European Games.
“I wrestled well. There are lots and lots of things, different areas that I can do better. I have been working on my defense and stuff with J (Jaggers) and Tervel (Dlagnev) the last three months. It takes a while. It’s a learning process and I can’t thank them enough for helping me get there,” said Stieber.
Stieber made an amazing three-match run in the morning session to earn his spot in the finals, knocking off three high-quality opponents.
In his first match, Stieber quickly beat 2015 World bronze medalist Vasyl Shuptar with a 10-0 technical fall. The next two matches were won by Stieber scoring dramatic takedowns in the closing seconds. In the quarterfinals, he beat medalist Akhmed Chakaev of Russia, 13-11. In the semifinals, a last-second takedown defeated 2012 Junior World champion Behnam Ehsanpoor of Iran, 9-8.
After the morning session, Stieber explained how he was able to win the close matches at the very end.
“It is just focus. I don’t really think. I am just out there trying to score. I have confidence in my sprint and my short time offense. I didn’t draw it up this way,” said Stieber.
The two other U.S. competitors in Saturday’s action were eliminated in the morning session, and both placed 10th in their weight classes: Christopher Gonzalez (Bolingbrook, Ill./U.S. Army WCAP) at 71 kg/156 lbs. in Greco-Roman and Sarah Hildebrandt (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) at 55 kg/121 lbs. in women’s freestyle.
Gonzalez opened with an 8-0 technical fall over Filip Dubsky of the Czech Republic. In the second round, he lost a 2-2 criteria decision against Ilie Cojocari of Romania. When Cojocari lost in the semifinals, Gonzalez was not eligible for repechage.
Hildebrandt fell in her opening match to the eventual champion, 19-year-old Mayu Mukaida of Japan by a 13-2 margin. When Mukaida made the finals, Hildebrandt was beaten in her repechage match by Ramona Galambos of Hungary, 7-4.
Both Gonzalez and Hildebrandt were also competing in their first World Championships.
The competition concludes on Sunday with three more weight classes. The USA will send out 2015 World bronze medalist James Green (Lincoln, Neb. (Titan Mercury WC/Nebraska WTC) at 70 kg/154 lbs. in men’s freestyle, Alli Ragan (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids) at 60 kg/132 lbs. in women’s freestyle, and Patrick Martinez (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP) at 80 kg/176 lbs. All have previous World Championships experience.
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