U23 World C'ships

Pataridze Seeks Sixth World Title

By Andrew Hipps

BYDGOSZCZ, Poland (Nov. 18) – The U-23 World Wrestling Championships take place Nov. 21-26 in Bydgoszcz, Poland. The inaugural event follows on the success of the European U-23 Championships in 2016 where more than 400 wrestlers from 34 nations competed.

Five-time world champion Zviadi PATARIDZE (GEO) headlines the Greco-Roman competition, which takes place Tuesday and Wednesday. In August, the 20-year-old Pataridze captured his third junior world title to go along with two cadet world titles.

Greco-Roman

Tuesday, Nov. 21: 71kg, 75kg, 85kg, 98kg

Ramaz ZOIDZE (GEO), a two-time junior world champion, is the favorite at 71kg. He claimed gold at the European Under-23 Wrestling Championships. Finishing with a bronze in that weight class was Artur POLITAIEV (UKR), who is also entered in the World Championships. Other top contenders at 71kg include cadet world champion Matias LIPASTI (FIN) and cadet world bronze medalist Armen HAKOBYAN (ARM).

Georgia has another junior world champion entered at 75kg, Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO). He was a runner-up at the European U-23 World Championships to Alex KESSIDIS (SWE), who is entered at 80kg. Fatih CENGIZ (TUR) was fifth in Paris at the World Championships. Zotlan LEVAI (HUN) and Akhmed KAYTSUKOV (RUS) are multiple-time junior world medalists who should contend at 75kg. Other junior world medalists to keep an eye on in this weight class are Nasir HASANOV (AZE), Antonio KAMENJASEVIC (CRO), Shohei YABIKU (JPN), Paulius GALKINAS (LTU), George Vlad MARIEA (ROU) and Pavlo MOLNAR (UKR).

A pair of junior world champions, Islam ABBASOV (AZE) and Ali CENGIZ (TUR), are among the top contenders at 85kg. Abbasov was fifth at the World Championships in Paris this year. Junior world bronze medalists Mikita KLIMOVICH (BLR) and Dimitrios TSEKERIDIS (GRE) will look to challenge.

While there is no strong favorite at 98kg, there are several wrestlers who have claimed world medals at the junior or cadet level. Wrestlers to watch at 98kg include Bopembe SYCHEV (BLR), Muhammed SEVER (GER), Zsolt TOEROEK (HUN) and Romas FRIDRIKAS (LTU).

Wednesday, Nov. 22: 59kg, 66kg, 80kg, 130kg

Junior world champions Keramat ABDEVALI (IRI) and Dato CHEKHARTISHVILI (GEO) are among the most credentialed wrestlers at 59kg. Abdevali won his junior world title this year in Tampere, Finland, while Chkhartishvili won gold in 2016. If Abadevali does not compete, Iran could send junior world bronze medalists Meysam DALKHANI (IRI). Erik TORBA (HUN), Masuto KAWANA (JPN), Sergey EMELIN (RUS) and Zoltan LEVAI (SVK) have all been junior medalists and should challenge at 59kg.

Three past junior world champions, Karen ASLANYAN (ARM), Elman MUKHTAROV (AZE) and Shmagi BOLKVADZE (GEO), are on the entry list at 66kg. Aslanyan placed fifth at the Paris World Championships this year. Others to watch in this weight class include Asian junior champ Amin Yavar KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI) and past junior world bronze medalist Mihai MIHUT (ROU).

The 130kg weight class on Wednesday could feature a showdown between the five-time world champion Pataridze and Olympic bronze medalist Sergey SEMENOV (RUS). Semonov won two junior world titles before Pataridze prevented him from winning a third title in 2015. Osman YILDIRIM (TUR) is a three-time junior world medalist who will look to play the role of spoiler. The field also includes junior medalists Konsta Johannes MAEENPAEAE (FIN), Ferenc ALMASI (HUN), Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) and Tracy HANCOCK (USA).