Deng and Olli Among History Makers of the Year Recipients

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (December 15) -- United World Wrestling has named China’s DENG Zhiwei, Finland’s Petra OLLI, and Russia’s Greco-Roman world team the History Makers of the Year award.

Deng Zhiwei captured a silver medal at the 2018 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary and became China’s first-ever freestyle world medalist. Prior to the 2018 World Championships, China had reached the bronze medal match four times and failed to win a bronze in each of those four matches.

Deng’s road to finals was sparked by a 4-1 opening round victory over Canada’s 2014 junior world champion, Amarveer DHESI. In the quarterfinals, the Chinese big-man outlasted defending world bronze medalist, Nicholas GWIAZDOWSKI (USA), 5-4. In the semifinals, Deng rolled pasted India’s Sumit SUMIT, 5-0, securing his spot in the Chinese wrestling record books.

After his semifinals win over Sumit, Deng said, “I’m always having dreams about wrestling, and I’ve dedicated my life to the sport for the past 16 years…Now I get to bring honor to my country.”

Deng ultimately fell short in the finals, dropping the 125kg gold-medal bout to Georgia’s two-time world champion, Geno PETRIASHVILI.

In women’s wrestling, Petra OLLI (FIN) improved on her 2015 World Championships silver medal finish when she avenged her Poland Open finals loss and hung on to beat Canada’s Danielle LAPPAGE, 6-5. Olli’s final win at 65kg granted Finland their first-ever women’s wrestling gold medal and first world title since Marko YLI-HANNUKSELA (FIN) won Greco-Roman gold at the 1997 Wroclaw, Poland World Championships.

In addition to her gold medal at the World Championships, Olli also won titles at the Klippan Lady Open, the International Ukrainian Tournament, and the European Championships.

In Greco-Roman, Russia made history by winning six of ten possible gold medals. Russia’s 2018 Greco-Roman team outdid their fellow countrymen who set the gold medal record when they won five world titles in 1994. The six Russian wrestlers who won gold medals in Budapest were Sergey EMELIN (60kg), Stepan MARYANYAN (63kg), Artem SURKOV (67kg), Aleksandr CHEKHIRKIN (77kg), Musa EVLOEV (97kg), and Sergey SEMENOV (125kg).

The Russian Federation finished the 2018 World Championships with a record of 37-6. Of those six Russian defeats, their opponents went on to win two golds and four bronze medals.

The next award to be released is the Biggest Rivalries of the Year award. That'll come out on Wednesday. 


Gray and Adar, Otoguro and Punia Among Match of the Year Award Winners

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (December 27) -- United World Wrestling designated a freestyle, Greco-Roman, and women’s wrestling match for the 2018 Matches of the Year.

The 25-point shootout in the 65kg gold-medal bout at the World Championships between Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) and Bajrang PUNIA (IND) was voted the Freestyle Match of the Year. 

The two wrestlers went back-and-forth in a high-scoring affair that was filled with tons of action. 

The first period saw several wild exchanges, which resulted in four takedowns, a four-point throw, and a step out, giving Otoguro the 7-6 lead heading into the second and final period.

The pair of rising stars remained offensive after their 13 point opening period and tacked on 12 addition points in the second period for a match total of 25 points. 

Otoguro, at just 19 years old, was not going to be denied a gold medal and pulled away for a 16-9 victory, becoming Japan’s youngest freestyle world champion ever. 

The Greco-Roman Match of the Year was the 72kg Asian Championship finals between Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) and Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ). 

Makhmudov, a two-time junior world medalist, introduced himself to the senior level by forging an 8-6 win over 2017 world runner-up Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) in the 72kg finals of Greco-Roman Asian finals in his home country of Kyrgyzstan. 

"The biggest help for me was that the Kyrgyz people screamed for me to be strong and also to do better," Makhmudov told the Kyrgyz media of the thunderous roar from the crowd. "When I heard it, I thought, 'I can die here on the floor but I will still win. This win will be for them.'"

The women’s wrestling Match of the Year was the 2018 Klippan Lady Open 76kg finals between four-time world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) and then-reigning world champion Yasmin ADAR (TUR). 

Gray struck early with a head outside single and grabbed the 2-0 advantage after the first 20 seconds of the bout. Adar rebounded with her patented arm spin and took the 4-2 lead into the closing period. 

The American came out firing in the final period and scored her second takedown of the match, but still trailed 4-4 on criteria. Adar regained the 6-5 outright lead with 90 seconds remaining, stepping over a Gray gut wrench attempt for the two-point exposure. 

Gray closed out the Klippan Lady Open finals with a takedown with less than a minute remaining to steal the match, 7-6. More importantly, Gray regained supremacy of the 76kg weight class after sitting out the entire 2017 season.