Six Freestyle Wrestlers Overthrow Reigning World Champs for Nur-Sultan Top Seed
Tuesday, August 20, 2019 - 23:04 By Eric Olanowski
*These seeds are based off the current unofficial entries United World Wrestling has received as of August 21. These seeds are subject to change.
VEVEY, Switzerland (August 21) --- After a year of jockeying for position, the top-four freestyle seeds for the 2019 World Championships (September 14-22) are finally locked up. Six non-returning world champions overthrew a Budapest world gold medalist and head into Nur-Sultan garnering a top spot at their respective weight class.
Here are the five wrestlers who overthrew a 2018 world champion for a No. 1 spot:
57kg - Suleyman ATLI (TUR)
65kg- Bajrang PUNIA (IND)
74kg - Frank CHAMIZO (ITA)
86kg - Fatih ERDIN (TUR)
97kg - Kyle SNYDER (USA)
Suleyman ATLI (TUR) ascended to the No. 1 spot at 57kg -- overthrowing world champion Zaur UGUEV (RUS) by winning the European title. (Photo: Max Rose-Fyne)
Alti Ascends to Top Spot at 57kg
Suleyman Atli made somewhat of a surprising rise to the top seed at 57kg. A year after the 25-year-old departed Paris with a 15th-place finish, Atli improved to a bronze-medal finish at last year's World Championships. En route to overthrowing Russia's returning world champion Zaur UGUEV for the world's top spot at 57kg, Atli reached the top of the European podium for the first time in his senior-level career with a win over Muslim SADULAEV (RUS) in the gold-medal bout. Atli also finished in second and third place, respectively, at the Dan Kolov and European Games.
Uguev returned from a seven-month hiatus in May and grabbed gold at the prestigious Ali Aliev Tournament in his home region of Dagestan, Russia. His second appearance of the season came in Minsk, Belarus, at the European Games, where he finished with a bronze medal. His only loss came at the hands of the eventual champion, Mahir AMIRASLANOV (AZE), 3-2 in the semifinals. For Uguev to make his third consecutive appearance on Russia's world team, he defeated Aryian TYUTRIN (RUS) in a special wrestle-off. That win came after Ugev was granted a release from the Russian National Championships.
Third-seeded Yuki TAKAHASHI, Japan's defensive wizard, will be looking for his third straight world medal at 57kg. Takahashi was named United World Wrestling's 2017 Breakout Wrestler of the Year after capping off his season with a win over Thomas GILMAN (USA) in the Paris world finals. Last year, Takahashi failed to defend his world title in Budapest. He fell to the eventual world champion Uguev in the semifinals, 7-2, but clawed his way back to a bronze-medal finish with a 5-2 win over Reineri ANDREU ORTEGA (CUB).
Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ) is perhaps Kazakhstan's best shot at earning a world title in Nur-Sultan. Last year, Sanayev fell short in the gold-medal bout and will return to the World Championships eyeing a gold medal in his home country. He'll be the fourth seed at 57kg.
Expected 57kg Top-Four Seeds
1. Suleyman ATLI (TUR)
2. Zavur UGUEV (RUS)
3. Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN)
4. Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ)
India's Bajrang PUNIA will be the No. 1-seeded wrestler at 65kg. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)
Punia Pushes Himself Ahead of Otoguro at 65kg
Arguably the most traveled man in wrestling is India's Bajrang Punia. At one point during this season, Punia competed on three different continents in 14 days. Over those two weeks, the reigning world runner-up won titles at the Asian Championships (Xi'an, China) and Ali Aliyev Tournament (Kaspiysk, Russia). He also put it on the line at the Grapple at the Garden (New York, New York).
Top-ranked Punia used gold-medal points from the Asian Championships and Dan Kolov to pass reigning world champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) for the top spot at 65kg.
If Punia improves on his second-place finish from last year's World Championships, he will join Sushil KUMAR as the only Indian wrestlers to ever win a senior-level freestyle world title. Kumar won his title at the 2010 World Championships in Moscow, Russia.
Japan's reigning 65kg world champion Takuto Otoguro nearly missed out on defending his Budapest gold medal. Rio Olympic silver medalist Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) handed him his first loss to a Japanese opponent since junior high school in the Meiji Cup finals. But, the 20-year-old Japanese phenom quickly bounced back from his loss in the Meiji Cup finals and chalked up a solid 5-0 victory over Higuchi in a special wrestle-off to fill the 65kg spot. After making Japan's world team, Otoguro told reports, "I wasn't accustomed to losing, and it was so devastating. It was like I had no idea what to do." He added, "So many people helped me out, and I'm happy I could come out with a win through their support."
The World Championships will be Otoguro's first international competition of the season. The second-seeded wrestler was forced to pull out of the World Cup and the Asian Championships due to knee issues.
Although Akhmed CHAKAEV (RUS) is ranked third in the world at this weight, he lost his starting spot to two-time world runner-up Gadzhimurad Rashidov. He'll surrender his third seed to European runner-up Selahattin KILICSALLAYAN (TUR).
With Rashidov being Russia's world team representative, Nachyn KUULAR (RUS) also got canned from his top-four seed. After removing Kuular from the rankings, it'll slide Sayatbek OKASSOV (KAZ) into the fourth slot.
Expected 65kg Top-Four Seeds
1. Bajrang PUNIA (IND)
2. Takuto OTOGURO (JPN)
3. Selahattin KILICSALLAYAN (TUR)
4. Sayatbek OKASSOV (KAZ)
Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) climbed past Zaurbek SIDAKOV (RUS) for the No. 1 seed at 74kg. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)
Chamizo Climbs to No.1 Seed at 74kg
A year after a fifth-place finish at the World Championships, Frank Chamizo climbed to the top of the world rankings at 74kg after winning the European Championships and Sassari City Tournament. The Italian also won silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the Yasar Dogu and Dan Kolov -- both of which were Ranking Series events.
But, it wasn't Chamizo's rapid rise to the top of the rankings at 74kg or his pair of 2019 gold medals that caught the attention of the wrestling world. It was his forfeiture to his biggest rival Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) in the gold-medal bout of the Yasar Dogu that caused rumblings throughout the wrestling community. Heading into the Yasar Dogu -- which was the final Ranking Series event of the year, Chamizo was ranked second. He trailed only reigning world champion Zaurbek SIDAKOV (RUS) in the rankings. The two-time world champion made it to the finals in Istanbul, Turkey, and collected enough Ranking Series point to lock up the No. 1 seed -- which is why he sat out of the gold-medal bout. Chamizo defended his decision to forfeit out of the finals by saying the choice was made with his head and not with his heart.
London Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs, who is widely regarded as the best offensive wrestler in the world, comes into Nur-Sultan searching for his seventh world medal. The American has won four gold medals and a pair of bronzes -- one of which came at last year's World Championships. Burroughs fell to eventual champion Zaurbek Sidakov in last year's Budapest world quarterfinals. Then, he scored back-to-back wins -- including a 4-4 criteria win over Frank Chamizo in the bronze-medal bout to reach the world podium for the sixth time in his storied career.
This season, Burroughs has torched the rest of the 74kg field at every competition he's entered -- winning a pair of Ranking Series gold medals and two continental championships (Pan-Am Championships and Pan-Am Games). His couple of Ranking Series titles came at the Dan Kolov and Yasar Dogu, where he scored wins over Frank Chamizo in both tournaments. At the Dan Kolov, Burroughs defeated his Italian rival, 9-2 in the second round, then grabbed a win via forfeit at the Yasar Dogu.
Burroughs comes into the World Championships as the second-seeded wrestler in the world at 74kg.
Zaurbek Sidakov came into Budapest relatively unknown but created quite a name for himself after he took down Burroughs and Chamizo en route to the finals. In the gold-medal bout, the 23-year-old Russian finished off his run to the top of the world podium with a 2-2 criteria win over U23 world champion Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO).
Sidakov and Kentchadze are seeded third and fourth, respectively.
Expected 74kg Top-Four Seeds
1. Frank CHAMIZO (ITA)
2. Jordan BURROUGHS (USA)
3. Zaurbek SIDAKOV (RUS)
4. Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO)
Fatih ERDIN (TUR), the No. 1 seed at 86kg, will be looking to improve on his second-place finish from last year's World Championships. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)
Erdin Enters World's as No. 1 Seed at 86kg
Fatih ERDIN (TUR) was jockeying with returning world champion David TAYLOR (USA) for the No.1 spot at 86kg. But, the American suffered a freak injury during a mid-season charity event -- which ended his 2019 campaign after the injury required season-ending surgery.
Erdin, last year's world runner-up will be the top-ranked wrestler at 86kg. This season, Erdin finished in second place at the prestigious Ivan Yariguin and in third place at the European Championships.
Taylor's departure inserts Boris MAKOEV (SVK) into the second seed at 86kg. Makoev will be looking to get back on the world podium for the first time since 2017, where he was a world runner-up.
Hassan YAZDANICHARATI (IRI) and Deepak PUNIA (IND) round out the top four seeded wrestlers at 86kg.
World and Olympic champion Hassan "The Greatest" Yazdani will be the third-seed, while Punia, this year's 86kg junior world champion, will be the fourth seed.
Expected 86kg Top-Four Seeds
1.Fatih ERDIN (TUR)
2. Boris MAKOEV (SVK)
3. Hassan YAZDANICHARATI (IRI)
4. Deepak PUNIA (IND)
Kyle SNYDER (USA) soared past the Abdulrashid SADUALEV (RUS) for the No. 1 seed at 97kg. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)
Snyder Soars Past Sadulaev for the Top Seed at 97kg
Perhaps the biggest rivalry headlining the sport is multiple time world and Olympic champions Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) and Kyle Snyder. The pair squared off twice for the 97kg world title. Snyder, the two-time world and Rio Olympic champion got the best of his Russian rival in Paris at the 2017 World Championships. But, Sadulaev exacted revenge on the American last year in Budapest -- picking up the 69-second fall to claim his third world title.
Though Sadulaev is the reigning 97kg world champion, Snyder comes into Kazakhstan as the weight’s top-rank wrestler. The American amassed 94 Ranking Series points after his title-winning efforts at the Pan-American Championships, Dan Kolov and Yasar Dogu.
Sadulaev will be the second-seeded wrestler at 97kg. He collected gold medals in his two appearances on the year. His titles came at the European Championships and the European Games.
ULZIISAIKHAN Batzul (MGL) and Abraham de Jesus CONYEDO RUANO (ITA) round out the top-four at 97kg, respectively.
Third-seeded Ulziisaikhan wrestled in two Ranking Series tournaments and also the Asian Championships -- where he fell to Iran’s Reza YAZDANI in the gold-medal match.
Conyedo Ruano, last year’s world bronze medalist, capped off his season with back-to-back Ranking Series bronze medals. He finished in third place at the City of Sassari Tournament and the Yasar Dogu.
Expected 97kg Top-Four Seeds
1. Kyle SNYDER (USA)
2. Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS)
3. ULZIISAIKHAN Batzul (MGL)
4. Abraham de Jesus CONYEDO RUANO (ITA)
Yowlys BONNE RODRIGUEZ (CUB) will be looking to defend his 61kg world title from a year ago. He's the top seed at 61kg. (Photo: Max Rose-Fyne)
Meanwhile, five returning world champions started and ended the year as the top-ranked wrestlers in their respective weight classes. The five guys who head into Nur-Sultan just as they departed Budapest are: Yowlys BONNE RODRIGUEZ (CUB), Magomedrasul GAZIMAGOMEDOV (RUS), Kyle DAKE (USA), J'Den COX (USA), and Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO).
Bonne Bounces into Nur-Sultan As No. 1 Seed at 61kg
Returning world-champion Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez is the lone returning medalist from last year’s World Championships that is ranked inside the top four at 61kg. Mongolia’s 2018 world bronze medalist TUMENBILEG Tuvshintulga is also at the weight, but he’s ranked eighth heading into Nur-Sultan.
The other two medalists Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) and Daniel COLON (USA) have either since moved up to another weight or missed out on making their country’s spot.
Russia’s two-time world runner-up Gadzhimurad Rashidov will compete up at the Olympic weight of 65kg, while Colon failed to make the United States’ world team.
India’s Rahul AWARE (IND) had his work cut out for himself to reach a top-four seed. But, the Indian wrestler finished his season with a gold-medal performance at the Yasar Dogu -- which came after he won bronze medals at the Asian Championships and City of Sassari Tournament. After removing Colon and Rashidov from the rankings, Aware will be the No. 2 seed at 61kg.
Beka LOMTADZE (GEO), a fifth-place finisher at the 2018 World Championships, will be the third-seeded wrestler at 61kg.
Mohammadbagher YAKHKESHI (IRI) would have been the fourth-seeded wrestler at the weight, but Iran will instead be rolling with Behnam EHSANPOOR (IRI). The Iranian switch means Nikolai OKHLOPKOV (ROU) will take over the fourth seed at 61kg.
Expected 61kg Top-Four Seeds
1. Yowlys BONNE RODRIGUEZ (CUB)
2. Rahul AWARE (IND)
3. Beka LOMTADZE (GEO)
4. Behnam EHSANPOOR (IRI)
Adam BATIROV (BRN) will be the top seed at 70kg after Magomedrasul GAZIMAGOMEDOV (RUS) bumped up to the Olympic weight of 74kg. (Photo: Gabor Martin)
Gazimagomedov Gone, Batirov Bumps up to No. 1 at 70kg
Although reigning 70kg world champion Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov is the top-ranked wrestler in the world heading into the World Championships, he's moved up to the Olympic weight class of 74kg. He'll forfeit his top seed to Adam BATIROV (BRN), who was last year's world runner-up at 70kg.
Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ), the Asian and City of Sassari Tournament champion, will be the second-seeded wrestler at 70kg.
Had Andriy KVYATKOVSKYY (UKR) made Ukraine's team, he would have been the third seed at the weight. But, they will instead be sending Semen RADULOV (UKR). Ukraine's flipping their entires means Yones EMAMICHOGHAEI (IRI) and Devid SAFARYAN (ARM) will be seeded third and fourth, receptivity.
Expected 70kg Top-Four Seeds
1. Adam BATIROV (BRN)
2. Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ)
3. Yones EMAMICHOGHAEI (IRI)
4. Devid SAFARYAN (ARM)
Kyle DAKE (USA) will return to the World Championships looking to win his second consecutive world title. He'll be the No. 1 seed at 79kg. (Photo: Max Rose-Fyne)
Dake Locks Up Top Spot at 79kg
The top-two 79kg wrestlers from last year’s World Championships Kyle Dake and Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE) headline the entries at the weight again this year. Dake, the returning world champion, will be the top seed at 79kg, while his world finals opponent Hasanov will be seeded second.
Akhmed GADZHIMAGOMEDOV (RUS) would have been the third seed at 79kg, but he had knee surgery to repair injuries suffered during the semifinals at the European Championships and won’t compete until at least mid-October.
Alexander DIERINGER (USA), who is ranked fourth in the world, lost to Kyle Dake in America’s wrestle-offs and will give up the third seed to Turkey’s Muhammet KOTANOGLU, who’ll be making his world championship debut.
Bahman TEYMOURI (IRI) rounds out the top-four seeded wrestlers at 79kg.
Expected 79kg Top-Four Seeds
1. Kyle DAKE (USA)
2. Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE)
3. Muhammet KOTANOGLU (TUR)
4. Bahman TEYMOURI (IRI)
J'den Cox is undefeated this season and has cruised to the No. 1 seed at 92kg. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)
Cox Cruises to No.1 Seed at 92kg
J’den Cox is the fourth returning world gold medalist that heads into Kazakhstan atop the world rankings. He’ll be the No. 1 seed at the weight where he claimed his first world title.
Alireza KARIMIMACHIANI (IRI), a bronze-medal finisher at last year’s World Championships, will be seeded second.
Magomed KURBANOV (RUS), Batyrbek TCAKULOV (RUS) and Atsushi MATSUMOTO (JPN), who are ranked third through fifth, respectively, failed to make their country’s world teams. Without those three guys, Ivan YANKOUSKI (BLR) will move up into the third seed.
Finally, Viky VIKY, who is ranked seventh, also missed out on making a world team, so Irakli MTSITURI (GEO) will be the fourth seed at 92kg.
Expected 92kg Top-Four Seeds
1. J'Den COX (USA)
2. Alireza KARIMIMACHIANI (IRI)
3. Ivan YANKOUSKI (BLR)
4. Irakli MTSITURI (GEO)
Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) will be looking to win his third consecutive world title. He enters the World Championships as the No. 1 seed at 125kg. (Photo: Gabor Martin)
Petriashvili Picks up No. 1 Seed At 125kg
You have to go back to 2013 to find the last 125kg world champion not named Geno Petriashvili or Taha AKGUL (TUR). The pair have accounted for every world and Olympic title since 2014.
Petriashvili, the reigning two-time 125kg world champion, comes into Nur-Sultan as the No. 1-seeded wrestler. But, he’s not the clear-cut favorite to win his third consecutive world title after his most prominent Turkish rival reclaimed 125kg supremacy with a dominating 7-0 victory in the European finals.
The pair will be stationed on opposite sides of the bracket and wouldn’t meet until the finals. They were ranked first and fourth, but Akgul leaped into the third seed after he won the final Ranking Series event, the Yasar Dogu, in his home country of Turkey.
If the seeds hold, Petriashvili will meet Nicholas GWIAZDOWSKI (USA) for a spot in the finals, and Akgul will see China’s DENG Zhiwei in the semifinals. Zhiwei, the returning world finalist, is seeded second, while Gwiazdowski, a two-time world bronze medalist, is seeded fourth.
Expected 125kg Top-Four Seeds
1. Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO)
2. DENG Zhiwei (CHN)
3. Taha AKGUL (TUR)
4. Nicholas Edward GWIAZDOWSKI (USA)