When it comes to freestyle wrestling, one name that stands out is Ulan Derkembaev. Born in the Kyrgyz Republic in 1976, Ulan started early in the world of wrestling. In the 6th grade, a freestyle wrestling coach visited his school. From this one encounter, a deep interest was sparked. After this, Ulan enrolled in the children’s and youth sports school in Naryn to begin training. His work under his first coach, Bolot Ibrayev, began to shape the rest of his career.
From the very start, Ulan was committed to his sport. At the age of 14, Ulan won his first competition at the Issyk-Kul Region Championship. A competition filled with significant psychological and emotional pressure, this win became a defining moment in his career. This was just the first of many more victories in regional and national competitions.
While he trained, he also continued to pursue his education. He completed secondary education at School No.2, named after V.P. Chkalov, and earned his qualifications to work as an electric welder from the Vocational Technical School No.87. He then pursued higher education at the Kyrgyz State Institute of Physical Culture, where he focused on freestyle wrestling under some of the country’s most renowned professors. Within just a few short years, he earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Physical Culture.
In 2000, Ulan took a position as a teacher at Naryn State University. From there, he held other positions, including Senior Lecturer at the Kyrgyz State Academy of Physical Culture and Sports and Dean of Coaching. In 2015, he also became an international category referee in wrestling. This experience has sharpened his expertise and also influenced his coaching strategies.
Ulan’s commitment to learning is displayed by his participation in several professional development courses. One of the most influential was an advanced referee training course in the international category UWW (United World of Wrestling) in 2015.
That same year, Ulan became head coach of the student national freestyle wrestling team of the Kyrgyz Republic. Under his excellent leadership, two of his students Zholdoshbekov Ulukbek and Dogdurbek uulu Elaman won bronze medals at the 2016 World University Championships. He also led the student team of the Kyrgyz State Law Academy to victory multiple times at the Universiade of the Kyrgyz Republic.
Some of Ulan’s greatest accomplishments come in the form of his pupils. His three most outstanding students – Zholdoshbekov Ulukbek in 2019 became the Asian Champion among U23 and the World Champion among U23, Dogdurbek uulu Elaman in 2016 won a bronze medal at the World Championship among adults and Akmataliev Ernazar, won a silver medal at the World Championship among adults in 2021 and took part in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Ulan has achieved a lot, but he’s contributed even more. His work has significantly shaped the development of freestyle wrestling in the Kyrgyz Republic, helping it progress. His contribution was recognized with nationwide awards, “Excellence in Physical Culture and Sports of the Kyrgyz Republic” in 2010 and the “Honored Coach of the Kyrgyz Republic in Freestyle Wrestling” award in 2017.
As Ulan continues to make an impact in the field of freestyle wrestling, his story remains inspiring for many young wrestlers around the world. His many accomplishments show his commitment to both the sport and future champions. His biggest wish is to continue to popularize freestyle wrestling in the future, marking it as a dynamic and exciting sport for generations to come.
About the author
Jenna Pappee is a writer in Aurora, Colorado. You can find her climbing her local rock walls when she isn’t writing.