Nick Gwiazdowski of Duanesburg made his first appearance on a senior world team a medal-winning one on Friday.
Wrestling at 125kg, the two-time NCAA champion from North Carolina State defeated Zolboo Natsagsuren 6-1 to win the bronze medal at the World Wrestling Championships at AccorHotels Arena in Paris, one of three Team USA freestyle athletes to medal.
Gwiazdowski took control of the medal match against Zolboo Natsagsuren of Mongolia early, heading into the second round with a 3-0 lead on a shot clock violation and a double leg takedown before putting away Natsagsuren. He gave up a passivity point, then used a leg shot for a takedown and a pushout to clinch it.
“Today was a good day on the mats, minus one match,” Gwiazdowski said in a release on the Team USA website. “At the World Championships, it feels good leaving with something. I don’t know if it was what the staff was telling me and I started believing it, or if it was true. But every day they said I was looking good. I don’t know about that. But it showed out there in the ones I won. I did good.”
Gwiazdowski won three matches before running into the No. 1 seed, the Olympic gold medalist and now three-time world champion Taha Akgul in the semifinals.
The Turkish wrestler dispatched Gwiazdowski by technical fall 10-0.
Akgul went on to win the gold medal with a 10-8 decision over Geno Patriashvili of Georgia.
Gwiazdowski reached the semifinals against Akgul with two easy wins and a 5-4 decision over Yadollah Mohebi of Iran in the quarterfinals.
He opened the World Championships with a 10-0 victory over Alexandr Romanov of Moldova and followed that up with a 10-1 win over Daniel Ligeti of Hungary.
“The matches I won, I started early, then I fell off there a little bit in the semifinals, just got caught off guard on a couple things,” Gwiazdowski said in a video interview on the website www.trackwrestling.com.
Despite it being his first trip to the worlds, Gwiazdowski said he didn’t have the jitters and treated it like any other tournament.
“It’s cool, but at the same time, it’s wrestling, something I’ve done hundreds of thousands of time,” he said in the trackwrestling interview. “To me, it’s easy to relax and not think about that. I guess it’s different [from the NCAA tournament], but at the same time, there’s a lot of pride on the line. It’s not a university you’re representing, it’s your country, it’s the United States.
“I don’t know if my mindset was in the exact spot it needed to be [in the semifinals against Akgul], and I didn’t make adjustments early on. He’s good, but I don’t know if it was my best. That’s frustrating.”
In other Team USA results, Thomas Gilman won the silver at 57kg with a 6-0 decision over Yuki Takahashi, and J’den Cox won the bronze medal at 86kg.