Olympic Weight Class Preview: Men's Freestyle 57kg and 74kg

By William May

Khinchigashvili Sets Sights on Rio Gold, Last Jewel in the Crown

Freestyle, 57kg (20 entries) -- Venue: Carioca Arena 2, Barra Olympic Park -- Time: Friday, August 19: 10:00-13:00 and 16:00-19:00

Favorite: Reigning world champion Vladimir KHINCHEGASHVILI (GEO) earned a silver medal four years ago in London and is back for an upgrade.  In 2014, Khinchegashvili won his first European championship crown and grabbed his first world title last year.  Only one jewel remains to be captured.

In Las Vegas, Khinchegashvili slipped behind 2013 world champion Hassan RAHIMI (IRI) in the closing seconds of championship final for a 5-4 win. The win was welcome as Khinchegashvili gave up the lead late to YANG Kyong-Il (PRK) in the 2014 final and had to settle for the silver medal in Tashkent.

In 2016, Khinchegashvili went up to 61kg to challenge two-time world champion Haji ALIEV (AZE) and scored a 4-2 victory in the semifinals on his way to his second continental crown.  He also notched four wins at the World Cup, including a 4-1 win over world bronze medalist ERDENEBAT Bekhbayar (MGL), in his final tune-up before Rio 2016.

Challengers: Haji ALIEV (AZE) won the last two world titles at 61kg, a non-Olympic weight category, and made the cut to 57kg after it became clear that London 2012 gold medalist Togrul ASGAROV (AZE) would be the Azerbaijan’s entry at 65kg.

Hassan RAHIMI (IRI) won the 2013 world title with a win over Amit KUMAR (IND) and added a bronze medal in 2014 after a loss to Yang in the Tashkent semifinals. Rahimi pinned two-time world champ Viktor LEBEDEV (RUS) in the quarterfinals.

ERDENEBAT Bekhbayar (MGL), who turns 24 on Saturday (August 13), earned his first world medal in 2015 with a bronze after a 10-1 loss to Khinchegashvili in the semifinals.

YANG Kyong-Il (PRK) won his second world title in 2014 with a late front headlock and turn for a 5-3 win over Khinchegashvili. Yang, however, has apparently not wrestled in an international event since 2014, with JONG Hak-Jin (PRK) qualifying DPR Korea with a fifth place finish in Las Vegas. 

Dark Horses: Victor LEBEDEV (RUS) won a pair of world titles in 2010 and 2011 before giving way to eventual gold medal winner Djamal OTARSULTANOV (RUS) at London 2012. Lebedev won a bronze medal in Las Vegas after a loss to Rahimi in the semifinals.

Yowlys BONNE RODRIGUEZ (CUB), a bronze medalist at 61kg in 2014, is a dynamic wrestler who often gets fans on their feet, won the Pan American Games in 2015 before slumping to 16th in Las Vegas after a loss to Lebedev, 2-2, in the round of 32.

Vladimir DUBOV (BUL) won a bronze medal at 61kg in Las Vegas, following a 6-2 loss to Aliev in the semifinals. He won the European qualifiers with four wins in Zrenjanin and took second at the Ziolkowski tourney in Poland to an untested Rei HIGUCHI (JPN).

Burroughs Tries to Kick Off New Olympiad with Second Gold Medal

Freestyle, 74kg (20 entries) -- Venue: Carioca Arena 2, Barra Olympic Park -- Time: Friday, August 19: 10:00-13:00 and 16:00-19:00

Favorite: London 2012 gold medalist Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) won his third world title in Las Vegas and looks to kick off the 31st Olympiad with a second gold medal.

In Las Vegas, Burroughs was largely unchallenged as he won six matches by a combined score of 45-5. Only European Games champion Aniuar GEDUEV (RUS) kept it close in the semifinals, giving up a takedown in the final minute for a 4-3 win for Burroughs. 

The field Burroughs faces at Rio 2016 is essentially the same group he prevailed over last September – although Geduev has had another year to prepare for Burroughs quickness and lower level attacks and Iran replaces the powerful Alireza GHASEMI (IRI) with the more unorthodox Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI).

Challengers: Three-time European champ Aniuar GEDUEV (RUS) has not wrestled in any major international competitions since Las Vegas but came out ahead of 2014 world champ Denis TSARGUSH (RUS) in the Russian nationals.

Junior world champion in 2014 Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) took the silver medal at 70kg in Las Vegas, but opened 2016 with a pair of runner-up showings at 74kg – at the Paris Grand Prix and Medved Prizes, suggesting he might not be ready for 74kg.

Yazdani, 21, reversed a loss by fall to 2014 world champ at 70kg Khetik TSABOLOV (RUS) in February with a technical fall in the World Cup final in June.

Dark Horses:  Livan LOPEZ AZCUY (CUB) was bronze medalist at 66kg in London four years ago and took the silver medal at lightweight in the 2013 world meet in Budapest. He earned another bronze at 74kg in Tashkent but slipped to seventh in Las Vegas.

Lopez, however, closed out his pre-Olympic tune-up in Spain with a win over a field that included Las Vegas silver medalist PUREVJAV Unurbat (MGL) and bronze medalist Narsingh YADAV (IND).

Sosuke TAKATANI (JPN) took the silver medal behind Tsargush at the 2014 world meet, but tumbled to 14th after an early loss to Geduev in Las Vegas. Takatani qualified for Rio 16 in Astana with a 4-2 semifinal win over 2014 Asian Games gold medalist Rashid KURBANOV (UZB).