Ranking Series

Punia and Atli Ascend to Top of Freestyle World Rankings After Continental Title Runs

By Eric Olanowski

Hypothetically speaking, with only two Ranking Series events left, it’s only possible for a wrestler to receive 36 Ranking Series points before the World Championships. The most points a wrestler could receive is 18 points per tournament if they were to win gold medals in a bracket with 20+ entries.

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (May 1) -- The five Continental Championships are in our rear view mirror, and six European wrestlers own a No. 1-ranking in the latest set of United World Wrestling’s point-based world rankings. Pan-American countries boast a trio of wrestlers who are ranked No. 1, while Asia has the remaining wrestler sitting atop of the world rankings heading into the final set of freestyle Ranking Series events.

The most significant changes atop this month’s rankings came at 57kg and 65kg where Suleyman ATLI (TUR) and Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) respectively gained control of the world No. 1 ranking with their continental title-winning performances.

Atli Ascends to No. 1 at 57kg 
Turkey’s 24-year-old reigning world bronze medalist Suleyman Atli surged to the 57kg European title and jumped Russia’s 2018 world champion Zavur UGUEV for the No. 1 spot in May’s rankings. Atli heads into the final pair of Ranking Series events with 61 Ranking Series points, giving him a one-point advantage over Uguev, who has 60 points.

Atli and Uguev have built such commanding leads over their nearest competition, they’ll only have to medal at one of the final two Ranking Series events to seal up a top two seed at the World Championships. It’s not clear whether Uguev will make the trip to the Sassari or the Yasar Dogu (the two remaining Ranking Series events), but Atli has confirmed that he’ll compete at July's Yasar Dogu in Istanbul, Turkey. 

The other pair of top-four ranked wrestlers at 57kg are Japan’s Yuki TAKAHASHI and Kazakhstan’s Nurislam (Artas) SANAYEV (SANAA).

Takahashi, the Asian third-place finisher, hopped over 2018 world runner-up Nurislam Sanayev and is ranked third with 41 Ranking Series points.

Although he’s ranked fourth at 57kg, Nurislam Sanayev hasn’t competed at this weight since his run to the Budapest world finals back in October. If Sanayev elects to stay up at the non-Olympic weight of 61kg where he’s been all season, Cuba’s Reineri ANDREU ORTEGA, who is ranked fifth with 36 Ranking Series points, will replace him in the fourth spot.

Potential 57kg Semifinals
SEMIFINAL – No. 1 Suleyman ATLI (TUR) vs. No. 4 Nurislam (Artas) SANAYEV (SANAA)
SEMIFINAL – No. 2 Zavur UGUEV (RUS) vs. No. 3 Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN)

Bajrang Bags Top Spot After Winning 65kg Asian Title
India’s Bajrang PUNIA was the second wrestler that leveraged his continental championship points to bump into the top spot in this month’s world rankings. Bajrang intercepted the top spot at 65kg from Japan’s defending world champion Takuto OTOGURO after winning his fourth Asian title (two Asain Championships and two Asian Games) with a 12-7 win over Kazakhstan’s Sayatbek OKASSOV last week in Xi’an, China.

Punia, the highest ranked freestyle Asian wrestler in the world, holds 78 Ranking Series points. He has an 18 point advantage over the Otoguro, the man who defeated him in last year’s world finals. Interestingly, Punia has done so well this season and has so much breathing room over the rest of the competition at 65kg that he’s guaranteed himself at least the second seed at the World Championships.

Russia’s two-time world bronze medalist Akhmed CHAKAEV (41 points) and Turkey’s European silver medalist Selahattin KILICSALLAYAN (32 points) are the third and fourth-ranked wrestlers at 65kg, respectively.

Potential 65kg Semifinals
SEMIFINAL – No. 1 Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) vs. No. 4 Selahattin KILICSALLAYAN (TUR)
SEMIFINAL – No. 2 Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) vs. No. 3 Akhmed CHAKAEV (RUS)

Taylor and Yazdani Round Three Brewing at 86kg 
Perhaps the most intriguing weight class that everyone has their eyes on is 86kg.

Currently, Turkey’s world runner-up Fatih ERDIN  (84 points) owns the top spot and sits four points in front of defending world champion David TAYLOR (USA) (80 points). More importantly, Erdin and Taylor both have nearly double the number of points as everyone else at 86kg, meaning the pair can flip flop for the No. 1 seed; but they've both locked up at least a second seed at the World Championships.

If Taylor holds onto the No. 2 ranking until September’s World Championships, the defending world champion will square off against Iran’s world and Olympic champion and third-ranked Hassan YAZDANICHARATI (43 points) in the semifinals.

When the two meet in Nur-Sultan, Taylor will own the upper hand over Yazdani, because the American has come out on top of the pair’s previous two meetings. Taylor stuck Yazdani at the World Cup back in 2016, then clinched an 11-6 come-from-behind victory over “The Greatest” in the opening round of last year’s World Championship.

While we’re on the topic of 86kg, it’s worth noting that Erdin has entered his name into the third Ranking Series event, the Sassari, which takes place later this month in Sardinia, Italy. If he reaches the top of the podium (and there are 20+ entries), Erdin will lock up the No. 1 seed at 86kg and could sit out of the final freestyle Ranking Series event, the Yasar Dogu.

Potential 86kg Semifinals
SEMIFINAL – No. 2 David TAYLOR (USA) vs. No. 3 Hassan YAZDANI (IRI)

Big Move Bonne Remains the Top-Ranked Wrestler at 61kg 
“Big Move Bonne” fell short in the Pan-American Championships and settled for 16 Ranking Series points after collecting a silver medal, but remained the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the world at 61kg. The man who won the Pan-American title at 61kg, Joe COLON (USA), comes in as the No. 2 wrestler in the world with 53 Ranking Series points.

Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS), who is currently ranked No. 3 at 61kg with 40 Ranking Series points, has moved up to 65kg.

Rashidov's departure frees up the third slot, meaning Beka LOMTADZE (GEO), who has 38 Ranking Series points, will command the third place spot. Romania’s Nikolai OKHLOPKOV (ROU), who has 28 Ranking Series point will move into the fourth slot.

Potential 61kg Semifinals
SEMIFINALS – No. 2 Joseph Daniel COLON vs. No. 3 Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS)

Gazimagomedov Gets Bronze at Europeans, Still No. 1 
At 70kg, Magomedrasul GAZIMAGOMEDOV locked up the No. 1 seed at the 2019 World Championships after amassing 92 Ranking Series points, which is 52 points more than Bahrain’s second-ranked Adam BATIROV, who has since moved up to 74kg.

With Batirov competing up at 74kg, the rush for the No. 2 seed becomes the focus at this weight. Right now, Ukraine’s Andriy KVYATKOVSKYY (30 points) will move up to the No. 2 spot, with Devid SAFARYAN (ARM) (26 points) and Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO) (25 points) falling into the third and fourth spots respectively.

Potential 70kg Semifinals
SEMIFINALS – No. 1 Magomedrasul GAZIMAGOMEDOV (RUS) vs. No. 4 Devid SAFARYAN (ARM)

Sidakov Sits out of Europeans, Remains No.1 at 74kg
Although Russia’s reigning 74kg world champion Zaurbek SIDAKOV missed the European Championships, he remains the world’s top-ranked wrestler at 74kg. Sidakov has earned 76 Ranking Series points, 60 of which came from winning the Budapest World Championship points and 16 came from his gold-medal performance at the Ivan Yariguin.

America’s world bronze medalist Jordan BURROUGHS is the second-ranked wrestler in the world at this weight. Burroughs, who is coming off winning his fifth Pan-American title, has accumulated 63 Ranking Series points.

The third and fourth-ranked wrestlers at 74kg are Georgia’s world runner-up Avtandil KENTCHADZE (58 points) and Italian superstar Frank CHAMIZO MARQUEZ  (56 points), who won the 74kg European title in Bucharest. 

If the rankings stay the same until the World Championships, Sidakov and Chamizo will wrestle in semifinals on the top side of the bracket, and Burroughs and Kentchadze will scrap it out for a spot in the finals on the bottom side of the bracket.

Potential 74kg Semifinals

Dake and Hasanov Tied After Continental Championships 
Even though he didn’t compete at the Pan-American Championships, world champion Kyle DAKE (USA) retained his No. 1 ranking at 79kg with 60 Ranking Series points.

The second-ranked wrestler at 79kg is European champion and 2018 world runner-up Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE). Hasanov also has 60 Ranking Series points heading into the final two Ranking Series events, but Dake placed higher in Budapest, giving him the upper hand on the Azeri in the rankings.

Hasanov recently announced that he'd be dropping down to the Olympic weight of 74kg for the 2019 World Championships, and ultimately, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which will eventually move him out of the rankings at 79kg. Benefiting the most from Hasanov's move will be Russia’s Akhmed GADZHIMAGOMEDOV (57 points), who is ranked third at the moment. Gadzhimagomedov will be relocated to the second seed for the Nur-Sultan World Championships.  

Nika KENTCHADZE (GEO) (28 points) and PUREVJAV Unurbat (MGL) (26 points) will also receive a bump from Hasanov’s move and will slide into the third and fourth spots respectively.

Potential 79kg Semifinals

Cox Continues to Widen Gap, Holds 33 Point Advantage After Pan-Am Championships
At 92kg, the United States’ reigning world champion J'Den COX (USA) (78 points) retains his No. 1 ranking after winning the Pan-American Championships. With only 36 available points available for the rest of this weight class to earn, and Cox commanding the 33 point lead, he’s at least locked up a top-three seed in Nur-Sultan. 

Iran’s Alireza KARIMIMACHIANI (45 points), who won his fourth Asian title (two Asian Championships and two Asian Games), edged Russia’s Ivan Yariguin gold medalist Magomed KURBANOV (44 points) for the second spot in this month's rankings. 

The fourth-ranked wrestler at this weight is Japan's world and Asian bronze medalist Atsushi MATSUMOTO (41 points).

Potential 92kg Semifinals
SEMIFINALS – No. 1 J'Den COX vs. No. 4 Atsushi MATSUMOTO (JPN)

Sadulaev Stays No.1 at 97kg
The “Russian Tank” Abdulrashid SADULAEV (80 Ranking Series points) soared to the top of the European podium and kept his grasp on the No. 1 ranking at 97kg with a two-point advantage over “Captain America” Kyle SNYDER (USA). Snyder, who was last year’s world silver medalist, won the Pan-American Championships and the Dan Kolov and has 78 Ranking Series points.

This means that Sadulaev and Snyder have both at least locked up a top-three seed at 97kg.

Mongolia’s Asian runner-up ULZIISAIKHAN Batzul, who has 44 points, is quietly sticking around with Sadulaev and Snyder and is the only wrestler that could sneak in to gain at least the second seed. For the Mongolian wrestler to do so, he’d have to win the two remaining Ranking Series tournaments.

The fourth-ranked wrestler at 97kg is Georgia's world and European bronze medalist Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO), who has 41 points. 

Potential 97kg Semifinals
SEMIFINALS – No. 1 Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) vs. No. 4 Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO)

Despite European Finals Loss, Petriashvili Still No. 1
Despite falling in the European finals, two-time reigning world champion Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) still commands the top spot at 125kg. The Georgian big man has 88 Ranking Series points, which will guarantee him at least a top-two seed at the World Championships.

The second-ranked wrestler at 125kg is China’s 2018 world runner-up DENG Zhiwei, who has 77 Ranking Series points. Deng is coming off a second-place finish at the Asian Championships in his home country of China. 

Anzor KHIZRIEV (RUS) and Taha AKGUL (TUR) each have 50 Ranking Series points, but the tiebreaker goes to the wrestler who placed higher at the 2018 World Championships. In this case, Khizriev grabs the third spot because of his fifth-place finish in Budapest compared to Akgul’s seventh-place finish a season ago.

If the rankings remain the same until the 2019 World Championships, This means that Petriashvili and Akgul will meet in the semifinals. Between the two, they have won

Potential 125kg Semifinals
SEMIFINALS – No. 2 Zhiwei DENG vs. No. 3 Anzor KHIZRIEV (RUS) 

The full set of updated freestyle world rankings can be found on www.unitedworldwrestling.org 's homepage. 

Ranking Series

Rome, Warsaw Tapped to Host 2020 Ranking Series Events

By United World Wrestling Press

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY (October 10) – United World Wrestling has announced Rome and Warsaw as hosts of the 2020 Ranking Series. Both events will include all three wrestling styles: freestyle, women’s wrestling, and Greco-Roman and will influence seeding for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Rome will host its competition January 15-18, while Warsaw will welcome wrestlers June 4-7 – one month after the final Olympic qualification tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.

“We are pleased to announce our host cities for the 2020 Ranking Series,” said United World Wrestling president Nenad Lalovic. “There was outstanding participation at the 2019 events, which helped create excitement around our wrestlers and the World Championships in Nur-Sultan. We thank the local organizing committees in Rome and Warsaw for hosting these events.”

The 2020 Ranking Series will influence the top four seeds at the Tokyo Olympic Games, which will mark the first-time wrestling has used the Ranking Series to seed at the Olympics. With weight classes limited to 16 entries per weight, 25-percent of each category will be seeded, ensuring fans will enjoy several premier matchups in the semifinals and finals.

Ranking Series points are collected from finishes from the World Championships, Continental Championships, and Ranking Series events. Current rankings are posted on the United World Wrestling homepage and are updated after each relevant tournament.

The remaining Olympic qualification tournaments will also utilize seeding for the top two positions, drawing from the 2019 World Championships, first Ranking Series event, and the Continental championships.

Currently all NOC’s who earned Olympic qualification at the 2019 World Championships have confirmed their nation’s participation at the 2020 Olympic Games.

Wrestling at Tokyo 2020 will run from August 2-8 at Makuhari Messe in Chiba.