Belgrade, Serbia was the stage for the 2023 World Championships, where Stevan Micic, an alumnus of the University of Michigan wrestling team, claimed the gold medal in the 57kg freestyle category. The event took place on September 17th and 18th, and Micic’s victory was a significant achievement for the program. He became Michigan’s first freestyle world champion, joining the ranks of champions such as Joe Warren, who won gold in the Greco-Roman 60kg class in 2006.
Micic’s success at the World Championships marked his second consecutive medal win, after earning a bronze in the 57kg class the previous year. The tournament also proved to be a landmark moment for fellow University of Michigan alumnus Miles Amin, who secured a bronze medal in the 86kg category. Amin, who had previously won a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics representing San Marino, made his mark on the senior level. Mason Paris, another alumnus of the Wolverines, also made a standout performance by winning bronze medals in both the 86kg and 125kg weight divisions.
Micic’s path to victory involved defeating the reigning world champion in his last three matches. His final bout in the 57kg category was against Japan’s Rei Higuchi, the 2022 61kg world champion and Olympic silver medalist. After exchanging takedowns in the first period, Micic managed to score five unanswered points to secure a 7-4 victory. He showcased his agility and skill by executing a single-leg takedown and effectively countering Higuchi’s moves. Micic’s ability to avoid conceding points on the edge helped solidify his lead and secure the gold medal.
In the semifinals, Micic faced Zelimkhan Abakarov from Albania, the reigning 57kg world champion. Despite initially trailing by decision, Micic turned the match around with a four-point chest lock throw in the final minutes. He earned another point due to a missed challenge by his opponent, resulting in a 6-2 victory. Micic’s quarterfinal win was even more astonishing, as he overcame the formidable Zaur Uguev from Russia, a two-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist. Micic’s tenacity and skill earned him a dramatic 9-7 victory, with three takedowns in the second period, including a single leg at the buzzer.
Amin’s journey to the bronze medal in the 86kg category was not without its challenges. He faced Aliazam Yazdani from Iran, a three-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist, in the quarterfinals. Despite an initial deficit, Amin fought back and secured an 8-2 victory. Although he suffered a loss in the quarterfinal round, Amin showcased his resilience by defeating Jabuler Shapiev from Uzbekistan 8-4 in the bronze medal match. Amin’s strategic use of exposure points in the final seconds ensured his victory.
Paris, who was recently chosen to represent the United States on the World Team, also made an impressive performance in the 125kg weight class. With five takedowns, including a four-pointer at the edge of the mat, Paris dominated his opponent from Russia, Abdullah Kurbanov, with a commanding 12-2 victory. Paris displayed his technical superiority and ended the match with a double leg takedown in the middle of the second period. Though he suffered a devastating loss to Geno Petriashvili from Georgia in the semifinals, Paris had a strong start in the tournament with three dominant wins.
The success of Micic, Amin, and Paris contributed to the most fruitful world championship campaign in the history of the University of Michigan wrestling program, with a total of three medals. Their outstanding performances not only earned them qualification to the 2024 Paris Olympics but also secured their second consecutive Olympic berth. Paris also qualified for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Championships finals in his weight class. The trials for the Olympic Championships are scheduled for April next year.
The University of Michigan was well-represented at the World Championships, with two other alumni competing in different weight categories. Malik Amin participated in the 74kg division, marking his fourth appearance at the world championships, while Matt Finesilver made his debut in the 86kg category.
Overall, the University of Michigan wrestling alumni showcased their skills and determination on the global stage, making history for their alma mater and securing their places among the elite wrestlers in the world.