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Penn wrestling alumnus Doug Zapf during last season's meet against UNC on Jan. 7. Credit: Anna Vazhaeparambil

The U23 World Wrestling Championships were held in Tirana, Albania late last month, where the best athletes in the NCAA represented their countries. Among them was former Quaker Doug Zapf, a Class of 2023 graduate, representing Team United States. 

After wrapping up his time in Red and Blue, Zapf started wrestling professionally and currently trains at Pennsylvania Olympic Regional Training Center. Having won the National U23 Championship, he qualified for the freestyle category in the World Championships. As a wrestler new to the professional scene, the championship was only Zapf’s second international tournament. He was neither surprised nor disappointed by the weekend, where he finished fifth overall. 

“I am simply grateful to have the chance to display my skills and do what I love,” he said. 

Zapf competed in five matches, winning his first three and making it to the semifinals. His first match was against Austria’s Benedikt Huber, whom he beat convincingly 12 points to one. His next match was also one of domination, beating Moldova’s Ion Marcu in a seven point shutout. 

In the quarterfinals, Zapf came out on top in a thrilling contest against Orozobek Toktomambetov of Kyrgyzstan. The winning streak came to an end, however, with a semifinal loss to Russia's Inalbek Sheriev, who competed as an Individual Neutral Athlete. Zapf was also unable to clinch victory in his bronze medal match, settling for a fifth place finish in the tournament. 

The entire experience prompted a steep learning curve for Zapf as he faced off against the best in the world, with each match providing him invaluable lessons to build on upon his return to the PRTC. 

“There were certain positions I thought I was strong in and realized I wasn’t as good as I thought I was,” Zapf said. “There were some important takeaways that I am excited to work on, but more importantly I’m sure my coaches have some great insight as well.” 

Looking to the rest of the year, Zapf’s major goal is to keep improving and to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Trials in April. He has adjusted seamlessly to the life of a professional athlete: “Wrestling is wrestling and now I get to do it as my job.”