Five Rio 2016 Free-Style Champs Greedy for Gold, But Only Four Can Succeed in Paris

( Five freestyle champions from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games come to Paris hungry for yet another gold medal. But, at most, only four of these wrestlers can leave the City of Light with a little more swagger in their walk and some golden swag in their hand luggage.

Vladimir KHINCHEGASHVILI (GEO), Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) and Taka AKGUL (TUR) are favorites to win gold in their respective weight categories.  But, the winner of the fourth gold medal could very well be decided in the final bout on the final day of the Senior World Wrestling Championships.

And, a fitting conclusion it would be — Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) and Kyle SNYDER (USA) squaring off in the 97kg final. The middleweight ruler versus the defending heavyweight champion – for one gold medal and bragging rights until the next “Match of the Century”.

Championship organizers surely must have consulted a psychic on scheduling to put three of the Rio 2016 gold medalists in action on the first day of freestyle wrestling at AccorHotels Arena while saving the Sadulaev-Snyder showdown for the grand finale.

On the first day, Khichegashvili, the gold medalist at 57kg in Rio de Janeiro, is entered at 61kg along with two-time world champ Haji ALIEV (AZE). Yazdani, the victor at 74kg in Rio, will be at 86kg where he will try to claim his first senior world title, while Akgul seeks a third world crown at 130kg to go with his Rio gold.

The fourth event on tap for Friday will be 57kg, which has no clear favorites in the absence of all four medalists from Rio 2016. And, the only medalist returning from the Las Vegas 2015 world championships is  bronze medal winner ERDENEBAT Bekhbayar (MGL).

For the final day of competition, 65kg is also near-impossible to handicap with the absence of both gold medal finalists and the migration of Rio bronze medalists Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) and Ikhtiyor NAVRUZOV (UZB) to 70kg. There, the duo is ready to reprise their Las Vegas 2015 lightweight championship final – won by Chamizo, 4-3, in the closing seconds.

Entries at 65kg, meanwhile, include Rio Olympian Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO), who won the Ziolkowski Memorial at 70kg in July, as well as 2010 world silver medalist Alan GOGAEV (RUS) and European runner-up at 70kg Magomedmurad GADZHIEV (POL).

At 74kg, London 2012 gold medalist Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) will be seeking a fourth world title for go with a gold medal from London 2012. But, the bracket is filled with talented opponents, including European under-23 silver medalist Zelimkhan KHADJIEV (FRA) who will have locals in the arena on their feet when he is on the mats.

57kg (31 entries)

Favorite – Giorgi EDISHERASHVILI (AZE). 2017 European champion and 2016 Golden Grand Prix Final winner. Made the move to Azerbaijan in 2016 after being a world team member and 2013 European champ for Georgia.

Challengers – 2016 world runner-up Beka LOMTADZE (GEO), European U23 champion Suleyman ATLI (TUR)
Dark Horses – Dan Kolov tourney titlist ERDENEBAT Bekhbayar (MGL), 2017 Europe runner-up Andrei DUKOV (ROU)

61kg (33 entries)

Favorite – Vladimir KHINCHEGASHVILI (GEO). Rio 2016 gold medalist, 2015 world champion, both at 57kg. Two-time European champion at 61kg. Uncanny balance and flexibility, difficult to score on. Most dangerous when trailing on the scoreboard.

Challengers – 2016 world champion Logan STIEBER (USA), European U23 champion Gadshimurad RASHIDOV (RUS)
Dark Horses – Two-time world champion Haji ALIEV (AZE), 2017 Asia champion Behnam EHSANPOOR (IRI)

65kg (34 entries)

Favorite – Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO). Won Ziolkowski Memorial at 70kg, 13-7, over Magomedkhabib KADIMAGOMEDOV (RUS). 2017 European bronze medalist. Top six place-winners at Rio 2016 either absent or at 70kg, leaving the door open for an new champion.

Challengers – Ziolkowski Memorial titlist Alan GOGAEV (RUS), 2017 Asia champion Bajrang BAJRANG (IND)
Dark Horses – 2016 European champion at 70kg Magomedmurad GADZHIEV (POL), 2017 Pan American silver medalist Franklin GOMEZ (PUR)

70kg (31 entries)

Favorite – Frank CHAMIZO (ITA). Rio 2016 bronze medalist, 2015 world champion, both at 65kg. 2017 European champion. Also, 2010 world bronze medalist for Cuba at 55kg. Unorthodox style, adept at turning defensive situations into scoring opportunities for points on the board.

Challengers – Rio 2016 bronze medalist Ikhtiyor NAVRUZROV (UZB), Yasar Dogu titlist Magomedkhabib KADIMAGOMEDOV (RUS)
Dark Horses – 2016 world bronze medalist Moustafa HOSSEINKHANI (IRI), 2015 world bronze medalist James GREEN (USA)

74kg (34 entries)

Favorite – Jordan BURROUGHS (USA). Three-time world champion, London 2012 gold medalist. Stumbled to ninth at Rio 2016. Comes to Paris with more world-level titles than any other wrestler in freestyle (4) this year. Faces a strong field in quest for No.5.

Challengers – Rio 2016 bronze medalist Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), 2014 world champion at 70kg Khetik TSABOLOV (RUS)
Dark Horses – Two-time Asia champion Bekzod ABDURAKHMANOV (UZB), 2017 Yasar Dogu titlist Muslim EVLAEV (KGZ)

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86kg (26 entries)

Favorite – Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI). Rio 2016 gold medalist at 74kg, 2015 world silver medalist at 70kg. Notched a pair of wins for Iran in the World Cup, but lost by fall in the final. Raises the question if the added heft, gained over two years, has affected his style and stamina.

Challengers – Two-time European runner-up Aleksander GOSTIEV (AZE); Rio 2016, Las Vegas 2015 silver medalist Selim YASAR (TUR)
Dark Horses – Rio 2016 bronze medalist J’Den COX (USA), Ziolkowski Memorial titlist Vladislav VALIEV (RUS)

97kg (30 entries)

Co-Favorites – Kyle SNYDER (USA) & Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS). Both Rio 2016 gold medalists, 2015 world champions.  Sadulaev two-time cadet world champion (2012, 2013); Snyder junior world champion (2013, junior world bronze (2014).  Last loss: Sadulaev, November 2013; Snyder, February 2017

Dark Horses – Ali Aliev tourney titlist Arslanbek ALBOROV (AZE), 2016 Golden Grand Prix Final runner-up Reineris SALAS PEREZ (CUB)

125kg (29 entries)

Favorite – Taha AKGUL (TUR). Rio 2016 gold medalist, two-time world champion. Seeking to become the first freestyle wrestler at super heavyweight to win four world-level titles in a row since Soslan ANDIEV (URS) from 1975 to 1978.

Challengers – Rio 2016 bronze medalist Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO), Ali Aliev tourney titlist Alan ZASIEIEV (UKR)
Dark Horses – 2015 world silver medalist Jamalladin MAGOMEDOV (AZE), 2017 Ziolkowski Memorial titlist Daniel LIGETI (HUN)


Thursday, August 24
16:00-17:00 – Medical Examination: 57, 61, 86 & 125kg
17:15-17:45 – Weigh-in: 57, 61, 86 & 125kg

Friday, August 25
10:00-16:00 – Elimination rounds & Repechage: 57, 61, 86 & 125kg
16:00-17:00 – Medical Examination: 65, 70, 74 & 97kg
17:15-17:45 – Weigh-in: 65, 70, 74 & 97kg
19:00-21:30 – Finals & Award Ceremonies: 57, 61, 86 & 125kg

Saturday, August 26
10:00-16:00 – Elimination rounds & Repechage: 65, 70, 74 & 97kg
19:00-21:30 – Finals & Award Ceremonies: 65, 70, 74 & 97kg
21:30-21:40 – Closing Ceremony