ABADAN, Iran (March 13) – A juggernaut of Russian world and Olympic Games medalists are headed to the Persian Gulf city of Abadan seeking to overturn three years of runner-up finishes and hoist the Greco-Roman World Cup for the first time since 2013.
Eight of the world’s top countries in the classic style of wrestling will vie in the two-day dual meet competition at Kowsar Arena in Abadan with preliminary rounds scheduled for Thursday and Friday morning, followed by the final placement duals on tap for Friday evening.
Two-time Olympic gold medalist Roman VLASOV (75kg) and Rio 2016 champion Davit CHAKVETADZE (85kg) spearhead the Russian effort and will be joined by bronze medalists Mingiyan SEMENOV (59kg) and Sergei SEMENOV (130kg).
Reigning and former world champions Ramazan ABACHARAEV (80kg) and Chingiz LABAZANOV (75kg) help anchor the middle of the Russian line-up along with 2014 world silver medalist Evgeny SALEEV (85kg), 2015 bronze medalist Artem SURKOV (66kg) and 2015 European Games champion Stepan MARYANYAN (59kg).
Despite all the firepower, Russia can expect a stiff challenge in the Group A preliminaries from defending champion Iran in Thursday’s evening session, even though Rio 2016 bronze medalist Saeid ABDVALI (75kg) is the lone Olympian on the Iranian roster.
Ghasem REZAEI (98kg), Iran’s other bronze medal winner in Rio de Janeiro, will be subbed for by Asia champion Mahdi ALIYARI FEYZABADI (98kg) – one of four continental champs on the roster, which includes Afshin BYABANGARD (71kg), Ramin TAHERISARTANG (80kg) and Amir GHASEMI MONJAZI (130kg).
Meanwhile, in Group B, Azerbaijan brings in a squad featuring seven members of the team that hoisted the 2015 World Cup, including Rio 2016 bronze medalists Rasul CHUNAYEV (71kg) and Sabah SHARIATI (130kg).
Azerbaijan has also entered two-time junior world champion Islam ABBASOV (85kg), whose surprise win by fall over future Olympic Games gold medalist Chakvetadze in 2015 lifted the Azerbaijanis to their first World Cup triumph (4-4, 18-17).
Turkey, which has won three World Cup titles -- most recently in 2006, will challenge in Group B with Rio 2016 bronze medal winner Cenk ILDEM (98kg) and silver medalist Riza KAYAALP (130kg).
World runner-up Aslan ATEM (80kg) and 2013 bronze medal winner Emrah KUS (75kg) will keep Azerbaijan’s coaches on their toes in the Group B opener on Thursday morning.
Among the other four teams in Abadan, Kazakhstan will be without its Rio 2016 trio in Group A, dispatching junior world champ Tamerlan SHADUKAEV (75kg) and Paris Grand Prix bronze medal winner Daulet ZHAKSYLYKOV (80kg) into the fray.
Germany will be minus Rio 2016 bronze medalist Denis KUDLA (85kg) and world champion Frank STAEBLER (66kg), but will have Eduard POPP (130kg), who finished in fifth place in Rio de Janeirto, along with European champion Pascal EISELE (80kg) and 2014 world runner-up Oliver HASSLER (98kg).
In Group B, Rio 2016 Olympian Aleksander CHERNETSKI (130kg) heads up a Ukraine squad with European Games bronze medal winner Dmitri PYSHKOV (80kg) and a trio of junior European silver medalists – Zhora ABOVIAN (59kg), Parviz NASIBOV (66kg) and Artem MATIASH (75kg).
World student champion Pavel LIAKH (71kg), runner-up Nikolai STARUB (85kg) and Radzik KULIEV (75), silver medalist at the recent Vehbi Emre tourney in Istanbul, will battle to keep Belarus out of the celllar.
Wednesday, March 15
17:00-17:45 – Medical Examination, All weight categories
18:00-19:00 – Weigh-In, All weight categories
Thursday, March 16
9:00-12:00 – Session 1
Group A – Russia v Kazakhstan, Iran v Germany
Group B – Azerbaijan v Turkey, Belarus v Ukraine
17:20-18:00 – Opening Ceremony
18:00-20:00 – Session 2
Group A – Russia v Iran, Kazakhstan v Germany
Group B – Azerbaijan v Belarus, Turkey v Ukraine
Friday, March 17
9:15-11:45 – Session 3
Group A – Russia v Germany, Kazakhstan v Iran
Group B – Azerbaijan v Ukraine, Turkey v Belarus
11:45-13:00 – Finals for 7th-8th Place & 5th-6th Place
16:45-18:00 – Final for 3rd-4th Place
18:00-19:30 – Championship Final & Award Ceremonies