Israeli teen wins bronze at Greco-Roman wrestling world championship

Fetene Itzhak Melkamu won a bronze medal in the Under-23 Greco-Roman wrestling world championship in Pontevedra, Spain in October.

  ISRAELI GRECO-ROMAN WRESTLER Fetene Itzhak Melkamu poses with his longtime coach,  Ariel Zimkind, at a recent competition. (photo credit: Fetene Itzhak Melkamu)
ISRAELI GRECO-ROMAN WRESTLER Fetene Itzhak Melkamu poses with his longtime coach, Ariel Zimkind, at a recent competition.
(photo credit: Fetene Itzhak Melkamu)

Fetene Itzhak Melkamu brought some impressive hardware home to Israel in October – namely a bronze medal from the Under-23 Greco-Roman wrestling world championship in Pontevedra, Spain.

The 19-year-old Melkamu won his medal in a highly demanding form of wrestling that only permits upper body moves and bans leg shots to score points.

When asked about his remarkable accomplishment at such a young age, Melkamu said: “ I feel very happy, thank God, all that hard work, sweat, suffering and sacrifice on the way to achieving the world championships was worth it, with God’s blessing. And that I see how every year I progress more and more towards my dreams in the field of wrestling, although an intermediate achievement. But definitely very exciting reaching such a status and achievement, this is on the way to accomplishing my goals, which are to be a European, world champion and the biggest dream to be an Olympic champion.”

An inspiration for Israeli wrestlers

Competing in the 60kg weight class, Melkamu defeated Columbia’s Ronaldo Sanchez Ramirez 3-0. Melkamu lost a tight second match, 5-4 to Turkey’s Kerem Kamal. Kamal would go on to win the gold medal at the tournament.

“I am sure that my achievement in Spain at the world championships was a lot of inspiration, motivation, and confidence for many wrestlers in Israel"

Fetene Itzhak Melkamu

In the wrestlebacks, Melkamu defeated Iran's Omid Hossein Arami by forfeit. Kamal defeated Arami in an earlier round of the championship. In the bronze-medal match, Arami was leading the Georgian wrestler Irakli Dzimistarishvili 11-7 when Dzimistarishvili ended the match due to injury.

ORI SASSON was the last Israeli to win a medal at Olympics, capturing the bronze in the judo men's heavyweight competition at the 2016 Games in Rio (credit: REUTERS)ORI SASSON was the last Israeli to win a medal at Olympics, capturing the bronze in the judo men's heavyweight competition at the 2016 Games in Rio (credit: REUTERS)

I am sure that my achievement in Spain at the world championships was a lot of inspiration, motivation, and confidence for many wrestlers in Israel, especially in my home club, that they too can achieve such achievements in official competitions,” said Melkamu.

“Apart from all of the congratulations I received from many people and athletes in Israel, I believe that many young people heard about my achievement and will want to come and try this sport out of curiosity. I hope they will love the sport as much as I do and they will be able to train properly and represent Israel with respect.”

International success for Israeli athletes

Ariel Zimkind, Melkamu’s Greco-Roman wrestling coach, also expressed pride in the medal. “I am happy that we have achievements and wrestling developing in Israel. We need sponsorship for the public relations and marketing. It is an Olympic sport and very popular in the world. There are 90 countries in the United World Wrestling organization.”

While Israeli judo athletes have achieved enormous international success, wrestlers like Melkamu and the American-born Mitch Finesilver have recently raked in medals at elite competitions.

With the presence of many veteran wrestlers in Israel who arrived here from the former Soviet Union, Israel’s wrestling branch is positioned to make enormous progress. The Israel Wrestling Federation is located in Beersheba.