Barka Seeks First World-Level Title at Non-Olympic World Championships

By William May

BUDAPEST (December 7) – Hometown hero Emese BARKA (HUN) returns this weekend to the scene of her most notable wrestling success -- a bronze medal at the 2013 world championships in Budapest.

Barka comes to Budapest this year as one of the favorites at 60kg with a chance to reach her first world final at the world championships for the six wrestling weight categories not contested at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Barka, a gold medal winner at the 2015 European Games, came up short in three Rio 2016 qualifying tournaments at 58kg but is now eligible to compete in this weekend’s championships at the Syma Csarnok event center in the Hungarian capital.

The categories on tap for the weekend are 55kg and 60kg in women’s wrestling, 61kg and 70kg in freestyle, and 71kg and 80kg in Greco-Roman.

Like Barka, a trio of Budapest 2013 bronze medalists are entered in freestyle – Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) at 61kg as well as Magomed KURBANALIEV (RUS) and Rashid KURBANOV (UZB) at 70kg – each with a chance of grabbing a shinier medal this visit to Hungary.

Meanwhile, Barka’s compatriot Balint KORPASI (HUN), a silver medalist at the European Games, seeks his first world championships medal in the classic style, but will likely – at some point – have to get by 2010 world champion Hasan ALIYEV (AZE).

Aliyev, the only world champion on the preliminary entry lists for Budapest, edged Korpasi, 1-1, in the 71kg final at the Golden Grand Prix Final in Baku two weeks ago.

Wrestlers who took part in Rio 2016 in August are not eligible to compete in the championships. Five of the six world champions at Las Vegas 2015 in the non-Olympic weights qualified for Rio 2016 at different categories.

Saturday, December 10 - FS 61kg, GR71kg & WW55kg

Aliyev leads all four medal winners from last month’s Golden Grand Prix Final into Budapest, seeking his first return to the top of the medals podium since winning the world title in 2010 at the age of 20.

GGP Final runner-up Korpasi kicked off 2016 with a victory at the Grand Prix of Hungary in February and has climbed onto the podium in his last six events, including the silver medal in Baku.

The Baku finalists are joined by bronze medal winners ZHANG Ridong (CHN) and Aleksander MAKSIMOVIC (SRB).

Asia champion Afshin BYABANGARD (IRI), a gold medal winner in his last four events, and European champion Varsham BORANYAN (ARM) top the list of continental champions.

At 61kg in freestyle, two-time Ali Aliev tournament winner Akhmed CHAKAEV (RUS) will get his first shot at a world championship crown, while 2013 junior world champ Akhmednabi GVARZATILOV (AZE) is coming off a triumph at the GGP Final.

Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ) and Behnam EHSANPOUR (IRI) are the top names coming out of Asia, while Logan STIEBER (USA) could find a place on the podium after winning a silver medal at the 2015 GGP Final and a bronze at the Medved Prizes in February.

For the women, Irina OLOGONOVA (RUS) with silver medals at the 2014 and 2015 world championships is the most seasoned of the entries at 55kg, followed by Tetyana KIT (UKR), runner-up to Ologonova at this year’s European championships.

Japan, meanwhile, sends junior world champ Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) who will be seeking her first senior world title. Mukaida is regarded one of the heirs apparent to 13-time world champion Saori YOSHIDA (JPN), who will miss her first world championships since 2002.

Mukaida, 19, has finished first or second in nine of her 10 international appearances and defeated Ologonova, 5-1, in the semifinals of the Klippan Open in February.

Sunday, December 11 - FS 70kg, GR80kg & WW60kg

Barka tops the list of entries at 60kg but could face challenges from Rio Test Event winner Yui SAKANO (JPN), European under-23 champion Tetyana OMELCHENKO (AZE) and Yarygin Grand Prix titlist Yulia PRONTSEVICH (RUS).

In freestyle, Kurbanaliev, who has won the last two GGP Finals at 65kg, and Asian Games gold medalist Kurbanov -- dropping from 74kg -- lead the freestyle field at 70kg. But, 2015 world bronze medalists Yakup GOR (TUR) and James GREEN (USA) could challenge for the title.

Asia champion Moustafa HOSSEINKHANI (IRI) tops the list of entries with continental credentials, followed by European silver medalist David TLASHADZE (GEO) along with bronze medal winners Semyon RADULOV (UKR) and Azamat NURIKOV (BLR).

In Greco-Roman, 2015 world silver medalist and European Games bronze medal winner Viktor SASUNOVSKI (BLR) is the leading entry at 80kg, followed by world bronze medalists Lasha GOBADZE (GEO) and Yousef GHADERIAN (IRI).

European Games silver medalist Rafik HUSEYNOV (AZE) defeated European bronze medalist Aslan ATEM (TUR), 2-1, in the GGP Final title match two weeks ago. European champion Pascal EISELE (GER) won the world military title in September with a 2-1 win over Huseynov in the final.


Friday, December 9

16:00-16:45 – Medical Examination: FS 61kg, GR71kg & WW55kg
17:00-17:30 – Weigh-in: FS 61kg, GR71kg & WW55kg

Saturday, December 10

10:00-13:00 – Qualification Rounds and Repechage: FS 61kg, GR71kg & WW55kg
16:00-16:45 – Medical Examination: FS 70kg, GR80kg & WW60kg
17:00-17:30 – Weigh-in: FS 70kg & GR80kg & WW60kg
18:00-20:00 – Finals and Awards Ceremonies: FS 61kg, GR71kg & WW55kg

Sunday, December 11

10:00-13:00 – Qualification Rounds and Repechage: FS 70kg, GR80kg & WW60kg
18:00-20:00 – Finals and Awards Ceremonies: FS 70kg, GR80kg & WW60kg