Preview: Takhti Cup

By Ali Feiz

The Iranian Wrestling Federation is hosting the 34th Annual Takhti Cup in Tehran Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 Organizers of the tournament with $96,000 in total prize money being handed out to winning wrestlers. The allocation of prize money is $5000 for gold, $3000 for silver and $2000 for bronze.

Teams from around the world are expected to compete at the Takhti Cup, lead by Georgia who is sending Olympic medalists: Vladimir Khinchegashivili, David Modzamanshvili and Dato Marsagishvili.

The initial lineup also includes: Kazakhstan, Romania, Armenia, Hungary, Mongolia and North Korea. 

Who is the late Gholamreza Takhti?

Gholamreza Jahan Pahlevan Takhti

Weight: 79, 87 and +87 kg

Born: 27/08/1930 t

Died: 07/01/1968)

Gholamreza Takhti is arguably Iran’s most popular and best-known athlete. Takhti is still a hero to many Iranians across the world. He won Iran’s first-ever gold medal in Olympics but mysteriously died on January 7th 1968, when he was only 37.  Despite the fact that there are dozens of Iranian athletes that have won more international medals than Takhti, the wrestler’s chivalrous behavior and sportsmanship on the mat has made him one of the Iran’s most popular athletes.

Takhti's world and Olympics titles:

1956 Olympics (Gold)

1952 Olympics (Silver)

1960 Olympics (Silver)

1959 World Championships (Gold)

1961 World Championships (Gold)

1951 World Championships (Silver)

1962 World Championships (Silver) 

Tireless Kurtanidze backs on the mat

It seems nothing can stop Georgian wrestling legend Eldar Luka Kurtanidze. The freestyle wrestler, and president of the Georgian Wrestling Federation achieved his first world title 21 years ago, but at the age of 42 is scheduled to compete at this week’s Takhti Cup.

Kurtanidze is one of Georgia’s most decorated wrestlers. The freestyler won his first world medal 21 years ago when he won a silver medal at the 1993 world championships in Toronto. He won Olympic bronze medals in 1996 and 2000 and added five other world medals (2 gold, 2 silver and one bronze) to his collection during his more than two decades on the mat.

His last appearance in world or continental events was the 2009 European championships.

Kurtanidze’s son, Nodar will also be wrestling at the Takhti Cup. The young wrestler placed fifth at 2013 Henri Deglane Challenge in France, leaving fans to wonder if their might be a first Father v. Son match to take place at the Takhti Cup.

Kurtanidze’s career is filled with firsts. He will become the first wrestler to compete at the Takhti Cup while still the president of a federation. The Georgian’s former rivals Rasul Khadem (IRI) and Alireza Heydari (IRI) are now president and vice president of Iran wrestling federation respectively.

Kurtanidze is no stranger to a challenge. The wrestler tested himself in MMA when he took fights with the “Pride Fighting Championships” in 2006. He’s also active in politics, joining the “Georgian Dream” party.

At 42, the Georgian great is showing no signs of slowing down.

Weight by weight preview

57 kg

In absence of world champion, No. 1 Hassan Rahimi (IRI) East Asians are the favorites to win title. North Koreans seem powerful in 57kg with 2009 world champion and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist No. 9 Yang Kyong Il and Jong Hak Jin, a 2013 world military champion both scheduled to wrestle. No. 5

Rasul Kaliyev (KAZ) who placed fifth at 2013 World championships and No. 10 Fumitaka Morishita (JPN), a 2013 Baku GGP champion, will also add to the depth at this weight. The favorite home wrestler is 2013 world junior champion, Younes Sarmasti (IRI).

61 kg

The top contenders are likely to be 2013 world bronze medalist No. 3 Masoud Esmaeilpour (IRI) and 2012 Olympic silver medalist from No. 9 Vladimir Khinchegashvili (GEO). Takhti will be Esmaeilpour’s first appearance since winning his first world medal.

Challenging Esmaeilpour will be No. 13 Hwang Ryong Hak (PRK) a 2013 Asian champion, and Ri Jong Myong (PRK) who placed fifth at Olympic Games. Veteran Vasyl Fedorishin (UKR) won silvers at 2008 Olympic Games and 2010 world championships, while world bronze medalist No. 15 Daulet Niyazbekov (KAZ) two-time world silver medalist Purevbaatar (MGL) will also vie for gold at 61kg.

66 kg

Two-time world champion No. 14 Mehdi Taghavi (IRI) is unlikely to compete, leaving 2011 world bronze medalist Dauren Zhumagazyev (KAZ) and No. 6 Kang Jin Hyok (PRK) as top contenders. Also, Yang Chun Song (PRK), a two time Asian champion should also challenge for the title.

70 kg

A new weight, it’s difficult to predict how 70 kg will compete. Among host country wrestlers,

Saeid Dadashpour has won Iran nationals just a month ago and competes in Takhti Cup as the heavy favorite.

74 kg

Sadegh Goudarzi, four times world and Olympic medalist, has missed this season due to injury and his comeback to the mat is not clear. But last year, No. 2 Ezattollah Akbari (IRI) who won silver at 2013 world championships and will compete in Takhti Cup. Though Akbari is the favorite, Gabor Hatos (HUN) a 2012 Olympic bronze medal winner, should push the Iranian.

86 kg

Georgia sends a powerful team to Takhti Cup at 86 kg. No. 7 Dato Marsagishvili is one of the best Georgian wrestlers which compete in Tehran. But 2012 Olympic bronze medalist's toughest tests are host team wrestlers and a Hungarian. Joining Marsagishvili is 2013 world bronze medalist No. 4 Istvan Vereb (HUN) who achieved a bronze medal at 2013 world championships.

Iran has entered a talented and experienced group of wrestlers at 86kg.  No. 3 Ehsan Amini, a 2011 Asian champion and 2013 bronze medalist is a tough rival as Meysam Mostafa Jokar is the reigning Takhti Cup champion. Mohammadjavad Ebrahimi, 2012 world junior champion, is looking to make his way up to the senior level. Also, another young Iranian competitor is Mohammadhossein Mohammadian who has defeated both Marsagishvili and Ebrahimi in Iran Pro League during last two months.

97 kg

All eyes are on Georgian wrestling president who wants to be on mat again. But Eldar Kurtanidze has strong rivals. Also contending for the 97 kg title are world bronze medalist No. 3 Pavlo Oliynik (UKR) and Asian Games champion Jamal Mirzaei (IRI).

125 kg

Two London Olympic medalists compete in heavy weight. David Modzmanashvili  (GEO) and No. 10 Komeil Ghasemi (IRI) both won silver and bronze medals in London, respectively.  No. 12 Parviz Hadi which has two Asian titles in 2012 and 2013 may make Olympic medalists in trouble.