Olympic Weight Class Preview: Men's Freestyle 86kg and 125kg

By William May

Tank” Sadulaev Set to Roll in Rio, Will Anyone Go the Distance?

Freestyle, 86kg (19 entries) -- Venue: Carioca Arena 2, Barra Olympic Park -- Time: Saturday, August 20: 10:00-13:00 and 16:00-19:00

Favorite: Two-time world champion Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS), also known as “The Tank,” has rolled over every obstacle thrown in his way since November 2013.

Since he has started wrestling regularly at the senior level, Sadulaev has notched technical falls in 15 of the 20 bouts, along with one fall, at the European and world championships.

Selim YASAR (TUR) has gone the distance twice with Sadulaev -- in the 2014 and 2015 world championships – while Alireza KARIMIMACHIANI (IRI) lasted the full six minutes in the semifinals in Las Vegas.

In 2016, Sadulaev opted out of the European championships and entered the European under-23 championships in March, five weeks before his 20th birthday, and notched technical falls in each of his four bouts.

Challengers: Selim YASAR (TUR) took a second at the Yasar Dogu tourney to kick off 2016, but fell to eighth in the European championships after a loss to 2013 world champion Ibragim ALDATOV (UKR). At the World Cup, however, he was the top performer at 86kg with four wins.

London 2012 gold medalist Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE) spent much of this Olympic cycle wrestling at heavyweight (96kg and 97kg) with several trips to the medals podium, but not enough to unseat No.1 Khetag GAZYUMOV (AZE).

Sharipov, 27, returned to middleweight (86kg) for the German Grand Prix in early July, finished second and received the nod for Rio 2016.

Reineris SALAS PEREZ (CUB) was two-time world silver medalist (2013, 2014) and a bronze medalist in 2010. The 29-year-old Pan American Games gold medalist won four international events in June and July in his final warm-up for Rio 2016.

Dark Horse: Junior world champion Alireza KARIMIMACHIANI (IRI) grabbed a bronze medal in Las Vegas after a semifinals loss to Sadulaev and a technical fall triumph over 2010 world champ Michail GANEV (BUL).

J’den COX (USA) burst on the international scene at the world qualifier in Ulaanbaatar with five wins and posted three wins at the World Cup, including a 6-2 win over Karimimachiani. At the German Grand Prix, Cox dropped a 6-2 quarterfinal decision to Sharipov before bouncing back for a bronze medal.

Akgul, Petriashvili to Tangle for Taimazov’s Super Heavyweight Mantle

Freestyle, 125kg (20 entries) -- Venue: Carioca Arena 2, Barra Olympic Park -- Time: Saturday, August 20: 10:00-13:00 and 16:00-19:00

Co-Favorites: Taha AKGUL (TUR) won the last two world titles, but had his string of four straight European titles snapped in Riga by Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO), the two-time world bronze medalist with the bottomless gas tank.

Although Akgul was reportedly nursing a pulled hamstring, the world champ roared out to a 6-0 lead in Riga, Petriashvili began to chip away at the deficit and scored a takedown in the final seven seconds for an 8-8 last-point win. 

Akgul was entered in the World Cup meet in June but did not wrestle, while Petriashvili was the top individual performer at 125kg with four wins.

In fact, Petriashvili has been undefeated since his semifinal loss by technical fall to Jamalladin MAGOMEDOV (AZE) in Las Vegas, a loss he avenged two months late at the Golden Grand Prix Final in Baku.

Challengers: London 2012 bronze medal winner Bilyal MAKHOV (RUS) experimented with wrestling in both freestyle and Greco-Roman in Las Vegas, taking bronze medals in both disciplines. However, he will wrestle only freestyle at Rio 2016.

At the Ziolkowski tourney in June, Makhov defeated 2013 world champion Khadshimourad GATSALOV (RUS) by fall in the semifinals and Russian national champ Muhamadgazi MAGOMEDOV (RUS), 11-0, in the final.

London 2012 bronze medalist Komeil GHASEMI (IRI) won a silver medal in Tashkent behind Akgul.

In 2016, Ghasemi won the Paris Grand Prix in January, beginning with a 3-2 win over 2014 world bronze medal winner Tervel DLAGNEV (USA). He also took a bronze medal at the Medved Prizes after a 9-4 semifinal loss to Petriashvili.

Dark Horse: Alen ZASIEIEV (UKR) was 2013 European silver medalist to Akgul and six months later world silver medalist to Khadshimourad GATSALOV (RUS). In March, he collected a bronze medal in Riga after a 9-6 loss to Petriashvili in the semifinals.

Two-time world bronze medalist Tervel DLAGNEV (USA) advanced to the semifinals at London 2012 with a win over 2011 world champ Aleksei SHEMAROV (BLR). He, then, lost by fall to Artur TAIMAZOV (UZB) – on his way to his third Olympic Games gold -- and to Ghasemi, 2-1 (4-0, 0-1, 1-0) in the bronze medal final.