By: Cody Goodwin | USA Today
Amit Elor, at just 18 years old, became the youngest American wrestler ever to win a Senior world title this week.
Elor won gold at the 2022 Senior women’s freestyle world championships in Belgrade, Serbia. She went 4-0 and took first at 72 kilograms (158 pounds), securing a 10-0 technical fall win in Thursday’s final over Kazakhstan’s Zhamila Bakbergenova.
“I’m still in shock,” Elor told USA Wrestling afterward. “It’s unbelievable. It’s setting the new standard for girls younger than me. It’s about being an inspiration for others.”
The California native and New York resident turned 18 on Jan. 1 of this year, and she supplants Kyle Snyder as the youngest American wrestler, man or woman, to become a world champion. Snyder was previously the youngest when he won in 2015.
Elor was dominant this week. She outscored her four opponents 27-2, and registered wins over three past world medalists:
- 3-2 over Japan’s Masako Furuichi, the 2021 world champ;
- a 39-second pin over Turkey’s Buse Tosun, a 2021 world bronze medalist;
- and her 10-0 win over Bakbergenova, the 2021 world silver medalist.
“All the training I’m doing, it’s good and it’s working,” Elor told USA Wrestling. “This has been my dream since I was a little girl. This is what I want more than anything in the whole world. I think about it every single day.”
“I just stuck to my style and what I believe in. If I do that, I can beat anybody in the world. I still have so much to work on. But I believe in my style and I believe in my coaches, and it worked out.”
Elor’s gold-medal finish was the lead highlight for the U.S. women’s freestyle world team this week in Serbia.
The American women took second in the team race for the second straight year, totaling 157 points behind seven medalists. They finished behind Japan, who scored 190 thanks to nine total medalists, including five individual champs. China took third with 84 points.
Elor was one of three American women to win gold, tying the 2019 team for the most by a U.S. women’s freestyle team. The seven medalists also ties a USA Wrestling record, matching the totals from 2003 in New York City and 2021 in Oslo, Norway.
Dominique Parrish won gold at 53 kilos (116) in her first trip to the world championships. At 68 kilos (150), Tamyra Mensah-Stock, the 2020 Olympic gold medalist, won her second world title, outscoring her four opponents 34-0. She recorded a first-period pin in her finals match on Thursday, and is now a five-time world and Olympic medalist.
- Helen Maroulis finished second at 57 kilos (125), and is now an eight-time world and Olympic medalist;
- Kayla Miracle also took second, at 62 kilos (136), for the second consecutive year;
- Sarah Hildebrandt won bronze at 50 kilos (110) to become a four-time world and Olympic medalist;
- and Mallory Velte secured her second Senior-level world medal with a bronze-medal finish at 65 kilos (143).
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In the last 14 months, Elor has won a 2021 Cadet world title, a 2021 Junior world title, a 2022 Junior world title, and now 2022 Senior world gold. Across all four competitions, she’s 14-0 and has outscored her opponents 131-3.
And, again, she’s just 18. She said she plans to stick around for a long, long time.
“There’s still so much more to accomplish,” she continued. “My number one dream is to be an Olympic champion, but there’s world championships every single year, and each year is a new year and a chance to prove that you’re number one. I love that.
“There were a lot of nerves, but every time I felt nerves, I just reminded myself why I’m wrestling, and that I love this sport. So just go out there and enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy the moment, it’s not worth it.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.