Olympic Weight Class Preview: Men's Freestyle 65kg and 97kg

By William May

World Champs Ramonov, Chamizo Lead Chase for Rio 2016 Gold

Freestyle, 65kg (21 entries) -- Venue: Carioca Arena 2, Barra Olympic Park -- Time: Sunday, August 21:

Co-Favorites: Soslan RAMONOV (RUS) held on for an 7-7 victory -- 8-7 after the challenge -- over 2015 champ Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) in a seesaw final in the Medved Prizes tourney in February. It was the 2014 champ’s only major international appearance of this year.

In his most important match of the year, Ramonov slipped behind European bronze medalist Israil KASUMOV (RUS) in the final minute of their Russian national finals for a 4-3 lead and then pulled away, 8-3, for the title.

In his bouts with Chamizo and Kasumov, Ramonov escaped dangerous near-fall situations for wins, but in his semifinal loss in Las Vegas, Ikhtyor NAVRUZOV (UZB) stepped over Ramonov’s gut wrench attempt and held the defending champ down for the fall.

Frank CHAMIZO (ITA), meanwhile, takes difficult situations and turns them to his advantage as seen in his last-second victory, 5-4, over Navruzov in the Las Vegas championship final.

Before defeating Navruzov in Las Vegas, Chamizo also rolled over European Games silver medalist at 70kg Magomedmurad GADZHIEV (POL) and 2014 world runner-up Sayed Ahmad MOHAMMADI (IRI).

Challengers: London 2012 gold medalist at 60kg Togrul ASGAROV (AZE) won the European Games with a fall over Chamizo in the 65kg final, but Chamizo reversed that loss with a 10-5 win in the Las Vegas quarterfinals.

Asgarov comes to Rio 2016 with a triumph at the German Grand Prix in July and a 5-4 win over Pan American champ Frank MOLINARO (USA).

London 2012 bronze medalist Yogeshwar DUTT (IND) is somewhat an international wrestling recluse, but when he appears at events, he usually finishes at the top of a medals podium as in the 2014 Asian Games and March’s Asian qualifying tourney for Rio 2016 in Astana.

Dark Horse: Las Vegas runner-up Ikhtiyor NAVRUZOV (UZB) was also a bronze medal winner at the 2014 Asian Games, but has a ragbag of mixed results at other international events.

GANZORIG Mandakhnaran (MGL) is a two-time world bronze medalist (2013, 2014) but slipped to fifth place in Las Vegas, after losses to Navruzov and Ramonov.

Boltukaev Set to Bring Curtain Down on Banner Year on the Mats at Rio 2016

Freestyle, 97kg (19 entries) -- Venue: Carioca Arena 2, Barra Olympic Park -- Time: Sunday, August 21: 8:30-11:15 and 12:45-15:15

Favorite: Anzor BOLTUKAEV (RUS) kicked off 2016 with wins over world champion Kyle SNYDER (USA) and London 2012 gold medalist Jakob VARNER (USA) at the Yarygin Grand Prix in January. The 2013 world bronze medalist has not looked back since then.

In his march to the European crown in Riga, Boltukaev, 30, defeated London 2012 silver medalist Valeri ANDRIITSEV (UKR) and 2015 European Games runner-up Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO).

At Russian nationals, “Bolt: God of Thunder,” as wrestling fans have dubbed him for his imposing Olympian beard, wrapped up six-time world champion Khadshimurad GATSALOV (RUS) with an cross-ankle lock and turn for a 10-0 technical fall in just 62 seconds.

Challengers: World champion Kyle SNYDER (USA) has collected bronze medals at the Yarygin Grand Prix, Medved Prizes in February and the German Grand Prix in July. Snyder lost to Gatsalov in Minsk, 5-2, and to Khetag GAZYUMOV (AZE), 2-1, in Dortmund.

Since winning a bronze medal at Beijing 2008, Khetag GAZYUMOV (AZE) has won the world title in 2010 and has stood on the medals podium seven out of the last eight years – with three silver medals and bronze medals from London 2012 and Las Vegas.

Reza YAZDANI (IRI) won world titles in 2011 and 2013, and is taking part in his third Olympic Games.  Yazdani, the favorite coming into London 2012, lost by injury default to Andriitsev in the semifinals and to Gazyumov in the bronze medal final.

Dark Horse: Robert BARAN (POL) made an early exit from Las Vegas, losing to Snyder in the round of 16, but defeated Andriitsev on his way to a win at the Sassari tourney in May and was second to Gazyumov after defeating Asian qualifier Mamed IBRAGIMOV (KAZ) in Germany.

Oldies But Goodies: Former Russian national team members Georgi KETOEV (ARM) and Albert SARITOV (ROU), wrestling for new countries, won the last two world qualifying tournaments in Ulaanbaatar and Istanbul, respectively.

Ketoev was Beijing 2008 bronze medalist for Russia at 84kg and Saritov was a bronze medal winner at 84kg for Russia in the 2011 world championships. Saritov, however, was replaced for London 2012 by Anzor URISHEV (RUS).