Nur-Sultan Mats Ready for Action as Worlds Kick Off with Greco Competition

By Ken Marantz

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (September 13) --- The road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics makes its first stop in Nur-Sultan over the next nine days, where the first Olympic berths will be allotted in the Kazakh capital to the nations of the top six finishers in each weight class. 

The first whistle will be blown Saturday at the gleaming Barys Arena, when the tournament starts with competition in Greco-Roman. Russia will look to exceed its showing from a year ago in Budapest, when it took home six of the 10 golds.

From there, Greco-Roman keeps the stage through Tuesday (Sept. 17), when it will share it with the women, who get started with qualification rounds in four weight classes. How many of the powerful Japanese women can clinch berths for the Olympics in their home country will be the main focus of interest.

The women will continue through the seventh day, Friday (Sept. 20), when the freestylers take to the mat in two weight classes, then close the tournament with four each over the final two days. The final day on Sunday could see the highly anticipated clash at 97kg between titans Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) and Kyle Snyder (USA).  

The opening day Saturday will see action in the four non-Olympic weight classes (55kg, 63kg, 72kg, and 82kg) in Greco-Roman. While Olympic berths will not be stake and the weight classes lost some top wrestlers who moved to Olympic divisions, that doesn’t mean they will be any less competitive.

Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) is one of two returning world champions who kick off their day on Saturday morning. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) and Stepan MARYANYAN (RUS) return to defend their world titles at 55kg and 63kg, respectively, while Maryanyan will be one of four European champions in action along with Vitali KABALOEV (RUS) at 55kg, Abuyazid MANTSIGOV (RUS) at 72kg and Rajbek BISULTANOV (DEN) at 82kg. 

Bilsutanov will have to contend with Budapest 2018 silver medalist Emrah KUS (TUR) and bronze medalists Viktor SASUNOVSKI (BLR) and Maksim MANUKYUAN (ARM). And that’s not to discount Asian champion Saeid ABDVALI (IRI).

Advali is one of four Asian gold medalists in action Saturday. The brother combination of Ilkhom and Islomjon BAKHROMOV (UZB) took the 55kg and 60kg, respectively, at Xi’an 2019, but Islomjon has moved up to 63kg, so the two will be competing on the same day this time. 

Stepan MARYANYAN (RUS) has remained unbeaten during his 2019 campaign after claiming world gold in a season ago. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

The 63kg field, led by Maryanyan, includes Asian champion Erbatu TUO (CHN) and bronze medalist JUNG Jinwoong (KOR). Also entered is Rio 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shinobu OTA (JPN), who moved up to 63kg when he failed to beat 2017 world champion Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) for the place on Japan’s team at 60kg.  

At 72kg, Budapest champion Frank STABLER (GER) has moved down to 67kg, but runner-up Balint KORPASI (HUN) and bronze medalist Aik MNATSAKANIAN (HUN) look to be the top contenders along with Mantsigov and Asian silver medalist ZHANG Hujun (CHN). 

Tournament Schedule   
Saturday, September 14

11:00-16:00 Qualification Rounds GR 55-63-72-82kg  
18:00-19:30 Semifinals GR 55-63-72-82kg

Sunday, September 15
11:00-16:00 Qualification Rounds GR 67-87-97kg
11:00-16:00 Repechage GR 55-63-72-82kg
16:45-17:30 Opening Ceremony
18:00-18:45 Semifinals GR 67-87-97kg
19:00-22:00 Finals GR 55-63-72-82kg

Monday, September 16
11:00-16:00 Qualification Rounds GR 60-77-130kg
11:00-16:00 Repechage GR 67-87-97kg
17:00-17:45 Semifinals GR 60-77-130kg
18:00-20:30 Finals GR 67-87-97kg

Tuesday, September 17
11:00-15:00 Qualification Rounds WW 50-53-55-72kg 
11:00-15:00 Repechage GR 60-77-130kg      
16:45-17:45 Semifinals WW 50-53-55-72kg
18:00-20:30 Finals GR 60-77-130kg

Wednesday, September 18
11:00-15:00 Qualification Rounds WW 57-59-65-76kg
11:00-15:00 Repechage WW 50-53-55-72kg
16:45-17:45 Semifinals WW 57-59-65-76kg
18:00-21:00 Finals WW 50-53-55-72kg

Thursday, September 19
11:00-16:00 Qualification Rounds WW 62-68; FS 57-65
11:00-16:00 Repechage WW 57-59-65-76kg
16:45-17:45 Semifinals WW 62-68; FS 57-65
18:00-21:00 Finals WW 57-59-65-76kg

Friday, September 20
11:00-16:00 Qualification Rounds FS 70-74-92-125kg
11:00-16:00 Repechage WW 62-68; FS 57-65
16:45-17:45 Semifinals FS 70-74-92-125kg
18:00-21:00 Finals WW 62-68; FS 57-65

Saturday, September 21
11:00-16:00 Qualification Rounds FS 61-79-86-97kg 
11:00-16:00 Repechage FS 70-74-92-125kg
16:45-17:45 Semifinals FS 61-79-86-97kg
18:00-21:00 Finals FS 70-74-92-125kg

Sunday, September 22
15:30-17:30 Repechage FS 61-79-86-97kg
18:00-21:00 Finals FS 61-79-86-97kg


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