Arionas Kolitsopoulos became the Greco-Roman wrestling world champion by winning the gold medal in the 71kg category at the U17 World Wrestling Championship held in Turkey.
The Greek athlete attained victory by defeating Iranian competitor Iranian Mohammadian 6-5.
🥇 Χρυσό μετάλλιο στο Παγκόσμιο πρωτάθλημα Πάλης U17 στην Κωνσταντινούπολη κατέκτησε ο Αρίωνας Κολιτσόπουλος
🤼 Nίκησε τον Ιρανό Μοχαμαντιάν με 6-5 και έγινε ο πρώτος Ελληνας στο στυλ της Ελληνορωμαϊκής που κατακτά το χρυσό μετάλλιο στην ηλικιακή κατηγορία U17#TeamHellas pic.twitter.com/hZshD0kyGC
— Ηellenic Olympic Committee (@HellenicOlympic) August 2, 2023
Once again, the Greek champion etched his name in history much as he did the previous year. At that time, he became the first Greek athlete to achieve the prestigious title of European champion in the Greco-Roman category at the U17 level.
Arionas Kolitsopoulos becomes Greco-Roman wrestling champion
Over the past several years, nearly two hundred wrestlers from Greece have strived to claim the coveted U17 World Championships gold medal. However, they were unable to achieve this goal.
Things changed when Arionas Kolitsopoulos emerged on the scene. He shattered barriers and made history by becoming the first Greek wrestler ever to secure a gold medal at the U17 world event.
Though six Greek wrestlers had previously clinched seven world titles across various age groups and styles, none had managed to achieve this feat at the U17 level. Kolitsopoulos also put an end to a 24-year-long drought for Greco-Roman world gold medals, a record that had been held by Theofanis Anagnostou since the 1999 U20 World Championships.
Surprisingly, just two months before this historic accomplishment, nobody would have expected the seventeen-year-old Kolitsopoulus to come so far. At the U17 European Championships in Tirana, Albania, he experienced an opening-round loss at the hands of Turkish wrestler Salih Yazici and ended up finishing eighteenth in the tournament. However, he showed incredible resilience and determination. He ultimately bounced back to achieve a remarkable victory on the world stage.
“At the European Championships, I lost,” Kolitsopoulos said. “I was not ready. I got angry,” the young wrestler previously commented at the European Championships.
Kolitsopoulos embarked on his world championship journey on Tuesday. He showcased his prowess with impressive victories over Moldovan athlete Cristian Risca in the opening round, Korean wrestler Seongmin Jang in the pre-quarterfinals, and Dias Seitkalyev representing Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals. He even defeated the reigning U17 European champion Abdurakhman Abdulkadyrov in the semifinals.
Overcoming Abdulkadyrov in the semifinals was only one of the challenges on his path to becoming a champion. The following day on Wednesday, he faced a formidable opponent in Mohamadian, who managed to take the lead at one point in the final with a score of 5-3.
During the first period, Mohamadian found himself in a par terre position, and Kolitsopoulos capitalized on the opportunity, earning a 3-0 lead. However, Mohamadian quickly turned the tables, executing a reversal and a throw that earned him four points and put him ahead at 5-3 by 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,” Kolitsopoulos reflected.
Mohamadian received a second passivity call in the second period. It is unusual for the same wrestler to be called passive consecutively. Nonetheless, this narrowed Mohamadian’s lead to 5-4. Seizing the opportunity, Kolitsopoulos executed another successful turn, taking a 6-5 lead with only thirty-seven seconds remaining on the clock. Despite Mohamadian’s efforts to find an opening, he couldn’t succeed. Thus, this resulted in a historic victory for the Greek wrestler.
The world champion’s reflections and his future plans
“I have dreamed it like [a] thousand times,” Kolitsopoulos said. “I am feeling great and I hope kids out there in Greece start training more to become like me or better.”
Arionas Kolitsopoulos looks up to Olympic and World Champion Mohammareza Gerari as his role model. His father, Alexios, a former Greco-Roman wrestler, who competed at the 2004 Athens Olympics, also serves as an inspiration for the young athlete and is his coach.
In Istanbul, during the U17 World Wrestling Championship, the Greek wrestler had the support of both of his parents, who cheered for him from the stands. Their encouragement meant a lot to him, as he aimed for victory in the tournament.
“The most important thing is the results at the senior level,” Kolitsopoulos explained. “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,” he added. “So I am talented but why not be better than him?”