Host Kazakhstan among 6 Nations with 2 Semifinalists each as Greco Gets Underway

By Ken Marantz

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (Sept. 14) --- Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ) gave the opening session of the world championships the perfect closing act, thrilling the hometown crowd in the Barys Arena by grabbing the final semifinal spot on tap as Greco-Roman kicked off the competition.

Kebispayev, with a thrilling 7-4 win in the 63kg quarterfinals over Rahman BILICI (TUR), became one of two wrestlers in four weight classes from the host nation to earn places in the semifinals, to be held later in the day.

Kebispayev’s path to the final is blocked by Shinobu OTA (JPN), a Rio 2016 Olympic silver medalist aiming for his first world medal. The other semifinal pits European champion and top seed Stepan MARYANYAN (RUS) against Slavik GALSTYAN (ARM).

In the second round, Kebispayev forged out a close 2-2 win over Asian champion TUO Erbatu (CHN). 

Khorlan ZHAKANSHA (KAZ) was one of two wrestlers from the host nation of Kazakhstan to make the opening day semifinals at the World Championships. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Khorlan ZHAKANSHA (KAZ) also made the last four from the host nation, but faces a tough task ahead when he takes on defending world champion Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) for a place in the 55kg final.

In the other bracket, Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) will take on Shota OGAWA (JPN), a fifth-place finisher a year ago in the U23 World Championships who knocked off Asian champion Ilkhom BAKHRAMOV (UZB) in the quarterfinals.

It was tough day all around for the Bakhramov family, as older brother Islomjon, the Asian gold medalist at 60kg who moved up to 63kg, lost minutes later in the quarterfinals to lanky Galstyan, who scored a takedown with :25 left and held on for a 3-3 win.

The medals, to be awarded after the finals on Sunday, will be well spread around, as no country put more than two wrestlers into the semifinals. Azerbaijan, Georgia, Japan, Russia and Uzbekistan joined Kazahstan with two wrestlers each still in the running for gold. 

Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL) defeated Raymond  BUNKER III (USA), 6-2 in the quarterfinals, and will wrestle Aram VARDANYAN (UZB) for a spot in Sunday night's finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan) 

Bulgaria and Hungary both have one semifinalist each, and they are in the same weight class, 72kg, and both returning medalists. 

Top seed Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL), a bronze medalist a year ago in Budapest, will meet Aram VARDANYAN (UZB) for a place in the final, while veteran Balint KORPASI (HUN), a former world champion and 2018 silver medalist, has a semifinal date with European champion Abulazid MANTSIGOV (RUS).

Mantsigov advanced with a 4-0 victory over up-and-coming world junior champion Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM). 

The big upset of the session came at 82kg, when QIAN Haitao (CHN) threw down 2018 world silver medalist and top seed Emrah KUS (TUR) with a headlock and held on for a fall in 2:00. 

That was a harbinger of things to come in a weight class that threw away the form book and saw only one of the four seeds make it to the semifinals. 

Unheralded Nurbek KHASHIMBEKOV (UZB) knocked off European champion and fourth seed Rajbek BISULTANOV (DEN), lifting him from the par terre and dumping him onto his back before securing a fall at 1:43. 

Khashimbekov will next face European silver medalist Lasha GOBADZE (GEO), who had little trouble ousting Qian by technical fall. 

In the other semifinal, Asian champion Saied ABDVALI (IRI) will face Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE). Abvali defeated Adlan AKIEV (RUS), who had ousted 2018 bronze medalist Maksim MANUKYAN (ARM) by fall in a thrilling second-round match.

Huseynov quieted the home crowd momentarily when he threw down Maxat YEREZHEPOV (KAZ), who suffered an apparent rib injury and was forced to default. Earlier, Yerezhepov had ousted 2018 world bronze medalist and No. 2 seed Viktor SASUNOVSKI (BLR).  

Day 1 Results

Greco-Roman - Semifinal Pairings
55kg (20 entries)
Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) v Khorlan ZHAKANSHA (KAZ)

63kg (18 entries)
Shinobu OTA (JPN) v Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ)

72kg (25 entries)

82kg (23 entries)


Sadulaev Still Reigns Supreme at 97kg with Win over Sharifov; Yazdani Regains 86kg Crown

By Ken Marantz

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (Sept. 22) --- Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) wasn’t surprised that his opponent in the final wasn’t the one everyone expected. He just went out and showed again he could dominate whoever stood between him and another gold medal.

Sadulaev captured his second straight world title and fourth overall with a rock-solid 4-o victory over Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE) in the freestyle 97kg final to bring the curtain down on the Nur-Sultan World Championships.

The victory establishes Sadulaev as the one to beat at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where he will look to add to the 86kg gold he won at Rio 2016.

This year’s World Championships served as the first qualifier for Tokyo 2020, with the top six finishers in each of the Olympic weight classes securing berths for their country.

The pretournament hype at 97kg revolved around a potential rematch between Sadulaev and Kyle SNYDER (USA) of the 2018 final in Budapest, which the Russian won to avenge a loss to the American the previous year in Paris.

Asked if he regretted not facing Snyder this time, Sadulaev replied, “No, because the most important final is still waiting for us, the Olympic Games.”

Sharifov, a former Olympic champion in his own right, spoiled the party in Nur-Sultan by beating Snyder in the semifinals.

Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) shutout fellow Olympic champion Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE), 4-0, in the 97kg finals. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

“In our weight category, there are so many wrestlers with many titles,” Sadulaev said. “Even in the final, I met with an Olympic champion. His technique is very good. I wasn’t surprised that Sharifov reached the final because all wrestlers have equal chances.”

In the final---a battle between natives of the wrestling hotbed of Dagestan, a Russian republic situated on the Caspian Sea---Sadulaev gained a point with Sharifov on the activity clock, then added a single-leg takedown just before the first period ended.

In the second period, a stepout for Sadulaev was the lone point as the powerful Russian kept his Azeri opponent at bay.

Sadulaev said he never imagined himself winning the title before stepping on the mat. 

“I never think like that,” he said. “I know situations when sportsman becomes a champion in their mind, then they don’t have good result.”

Sadulaev said this gold will be special because of the warm reception he received in the former Soviet republic from the crowd at Barys Arena.

“I will keep this championship in my memory for a long time because the organization was of the highest degree and I was surprised that I have so many fans in Kazakhstan,” he said. 

“Even when I met with the Kazakh wrestler, I saw that many Kazakh people supported me.”

Sadulaev’s victory topped off a dominant tournament by Russia, which ran away with the team title with 190 points after medaling in all but one weight class  (125kg) and coming away with five of the 10 golds. 

Host Kazakhstan had no champions, but enough wrestlers in the medal matches to finish second with 103 points, while the United States edged Iran by 1 point for third place with 94 after each added a gold and a bronze on the final day. 

Hassan YAZDANI (IRI) won his second world title after Deepak PUNIA (IND) was forced to withdraw from the gold-medal match due to injury (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Iran’s title on Sunday came without a match, although Deepak PUNIA (IND) would have been hard-pressed to prevent Hassan YAZDANI (IRI) in the 86kg final from regaining the world title he won in 2017 after finishing third last year.

Yazdani was declared the winner when Punia defaulted due to a left ankle injury suffered in his opening match. While Yazdani would have preferred having to work for the victory, it capped a dominant run through the field in which he won three matches by fall or technical fall. 

“The level of this competition is high,” Yazdani said. “But I trained very hard and I was given the opportunity and the chance to win.”Yazdani, the Rio 2016 gold medalist at 74kg, minced no words in stating his determination to earn a second Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

“After a few days rest, I will start to become more prepared and get the best medal in the Olympics,” he said. “This medal was to raise the flag of my country and I want to raise the flag at the next Olympics and make the Iranian people happy.”  

Kyle DAKE (USA) defeated Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE) for the second year in a row in the 79kg finals. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

In the non-Olympic weight of 79kg, Kyle DAKE (USA) repeated his victory from the Budapest 2018 final over Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE), this time coming away with a 4-1 victory for his second world title.

“I did a lot better job this time,” said Dake, who won 2-0 a year ago. “I moved my feet, which has been a really big focus of mine this past eight months. I’m glad to see it’s coming together.”

Dake went on the offensive from the outset and picked up a pair of stepout points in the first period. He padded the lead in the second period with a single-leg takedown before Hasanov, with his back to wall, finally began launching attacks.

“There were some positions where he got in on my leg at the end, and he would never shoot if it was 0-0,” Dake said. 

“I knew I could not leave it in the hands of the refs. I couldn’t leave it up to cautions, I needed to go out and execute. I got the first pushout, second pushout, takedown and that was the difference.”

In the final minute, Hasanov’s efforts only resulted in a pair of stepouts as Dake forced stalemates from the Azeri’s takedown attempts to come up golden. 

“I was hoping they would have let those scrambles go a little bit longer,” Dake said. “I feel I was ready to score a couple of times, but it is what it is.” 

It was the latest major accomplishment for the 28-year-old father of two, who became the first wrestler in U.S. collegiate history to win four titles in four different weight classes, when he did it while at the Ivy League’s Cornell University.

“It’s a testament to the way I live, the way my wife and family support me, my friends, coaches, teammates, sponsors---I couldn’t do it without them,” he said. “It’s been a crazy road this past year to say the least, and I’m just really excited I was able to get it done again.

Beka LOMTADZE (GEO) scored a trio of takedowns and defeated Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS), 6-1, in the 61kg finals. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

In the final at 61kg, also a non-Olympic weight, European silver medalist Beka LOMTADZE (GEO) relegated 2018 world U23 champion Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS) to second place by scoring three takedowns in the second period for a 6-1 win.

In the bronze-medal matches, Stefan REICHMUTH (SUI) became the first-ever world freestyle medalist from Switzerland when he chalked up three stepouts to defeat Carlos IZQUIERDO (COL) 3-1 at 86kg. 

History was going to be made regardless of the outcome as Colombia also has never had a freestyle medalist. Switzerland had previously won one world bronze each in the other styles---Kurt RUSTERHOLZ (SUI) in Greco-Roman 87kg in 1953, and Inge KRASSER (SUI) at women’s 57kg in 1989. 

Artur NAIFANOV (RUS) won the other bronze at 86kg with a 6-0 victory over Myles AMINE (SMR), the U.S.-born wrestler who clinched the first-ever Olympic berth for tiny San Marino, the birthplace of his grandfather.

At 97kg, Snyder gained some consolation from his semifinal loss to Sharifov when he grinded out a 5-0 win over Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO) at 97kg to add a world bronze to his collection of two golds and a silver. 

Magomedgadji NUROV (MKD) captured a bronze medal with an 8-5 win over Alisher YERGALI (KAZ). (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Magomedgadji NUROV (MKD) became the first wrestler to win a world medal while competing for the newly named nation of North Macedonia when he rallied to defeat Alisher YERGALI (KAZ) 8-5.

Host Kazakhstan came up short in its other shot for a medal before the home crowd when Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) edged Galymzhan USSERBAYEV (KAZ) 3-2 at 79kg.

Gadzhi NABIEV (RUS) built up an 8-point lead against Rashid KURBANOV (UZB) and held on for a 8-3 victory for the other 79kg bronze.

Asian bronze medalist Rahul AWARE (IND) became the 10th wrestler in Indian history to win a world freestyle medal when he defeated Tyler GRAFF (USA) 11-4 at 61kg.

Aware, nursing a 4-2 lead, scored a takedown with a slick duck under, then padded his lead with a pair of 2-point exposures. 

Two days earlier, Kumar RAVI (IND) became the eighth Indian medalist when he won a bronze at 57kg, and Punia become No. 9 when he was assured of at least a silver by making the 86kg final.

The other 61kg bronze went to Behnam EHSANPOOR (IRI), an 8-0 winner over Abbos RAKHMONOV (UZB).

Day 9 Results


61kg (25 entries)
Gold – Beka LOMTADZE (GEO) df. Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS), 6-1
Bronze – Behnam EHSANPOOR (IRI) df. Abbos RAKHMONOV (UZB), 8-0 
Bronze – Rahul AWARE (IND) df. Tyler GRAFF (USA), 11-4

79kg (23 entries)
Gold – Kyle DAKE (USA) df. Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE), 4-1
Bronze – Gadzhi NABIEV (RUS) df. Rashid KURBANOV (UZB), 8-3
Bronze – Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) df. Galymzhan USSERBAYEV (KAZ), 3-2

86kg (43 entries)
Gold – Hassan YAZDANI (IRI) df. Deepak PUNIA (IND) by Inj. Def. 
Bronze – Stefan REICHMUTH (SUI) df. Carlos IZQUIERDO (COL), 3-0 
Bronze – Artur NAIFANOV (RUS) df. Myles AMINE (SMR), 6-0

97kg (26 entries)
Gold – Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) df. Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE), 4-0 
Bronze – Kyle SNYDER (USA) df. Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO), 5-0 
Bronze – Magomedgadji NUROV (MKD) df. Alisher YERGALI (KAZ), 8-5