Arionas Kolitsopoulos Makes History as Greco-Roman Wrestling World Champion

Kolitsopoulos

Arionas Kolitsopoulos, the young Greek athlete, has achieved an extraordinary feat by becoming the Greco-Roman wrestling world champion in the 71kg category at the U17 World Wrestling Championship held in Turkey. His journey to victory was nothing short of remarkable.

Over the years, nearly 200 wrestlers from Greece had vied for a U17 World Championships gold medal, but none managed to break through. That changed when Arionas KOLITSOPOULOS (GRE) stepped up. He became the first wrestler from Greece to win a gold medal in the U17 world event in any style, finally breaking the barrier.

While six wrestlers from Greece had secured seven world titles in different age groups and styles, none had achieved it at the U17 level. Kolitsopoulos also ended a 24-year drought for a Greco-Roman world gold medal, which Theofanis ANAGNOSTOU (GRE) accomplished at the U20 World Championships in 1999.

No one would have bet on the 17-year-old Kolitsopoulus achieving this historic feat just two months ago. At the U17 European Championships in Triana, Albania, he suffered an opening-round defeat at the hands of Salih YAZICI (TUR) and finished 18th in the tournament.

Arionas Kolitsopoulos
Arionas Kolitsopoulos

"At the European Championships, I lost," Kolitsopoulos said. "I was not ready. I got angry."

Fortunately, he channelled that anger in the right way and rallied to beat some of the world's best wrestlers, including U17 Asian champion Ahmadreza MOHAMADIAN (IRI) in the 71kg final, winning the gold medal on the third day of the U17 World Championships.

As Greco-Roman concluded in Istanbul on Wednesday, Iran managed to defend its team title with 113 points, with Azerbaijan finishing a close second with 108 points. Georgia secured the third spot with 96 points, India came in fourth with 88 points, and Armenia claimed the fifth position with 77 points.

Kolitsopoulos' journey began on Tuesday as he secured wins over Cristian RISCA (MDA) in the opening round, Seongmin JANG (KOR) in the pre-quarterfinals, Dias SEITKALIYEV (KAZ) in the quarterfinals, and U17 European champion Abdurakhman ABDULKADYROV (AIN) in the semifinals.

The semifinal win over Abdulkadyrov was just a small hurdle on his path to becoming a champion. On Wednesday, he faced a formidable force in Mohamadian, who even had a 5-3 lead at one point in the final.

During the first period, Mohamadian was put in par terre and Kolitsopoulos managed to get a turn for a 3-0 lead. However, Mohamadian scored a reversal and executed a throw for four points and led 5-3 at the break.

"My plan was to be the aggressor from the start but it was only in the second par terre that I managed to win," he said.

Mohamadian was handed a second passivity in the second period, a rarity in Greco-Roman to see the same wrestler being called passive consecutively. That narrowed Mohamadian's lead to 5-4. Kolitsopoulos executed another turn, taking a 6-5 lead with 37 seconds left. Mohamadian attempted to find an opening but failed, resulting in a historic win for the Greek wrestler.

"I have dreamed it like thousand times," he said. "I am feeling great and I hope kids out there in Greece start training more to become like me or better."

Kolitsopoulos, an ardent follower of Olympic and world champion Mohammareza GERARI (IRI), draws inspiration from his father and coach, Alexios, a former Greco-Roman wrestler who competed at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Both of Arionas' parents cheered him on from the stands in Istanbul.

Though the senior level is still a while away for Kolitsopoulos, he has already set his sights on surpassing his father's achievements.

"The most important thing is the results at the senior level," he said. "So step by step. Maybe next year I will be ready for seniors. I am not ready now because it's different power between senior and U17.

"I made history because my father was a talent. So I am talented but why not be better than him."

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