Weekly FIVE!

Weekly FIVE! December 24, 2018

By Eric Olanowski

Reviewing the new Ranking Series point structure and tournament locations. Also taking a look at Icho's win over Kawai, the #UWWAwards, and the 2018 Greco-Roman World Clubs Cup. 

1. Wrestling Revamps Ranking Series System, Names 2019 Host Locations
The United World Wrestling Bureau has approved new regulations for the 2019 Ranking Series. The recommendations were brought forward by the Technical Commission at a meeting last week in Belgrade.

The most important changes to the 2019 Ranking Series centered around the allocation of points at world championships, continental championships, and Ranking Series events. The points were rebalanced to emphasize participation, and success, at the world and continental championships.

New worldwide rankings have been updated on the United World Wrestling website. The 2018 World Championships results are the basis of the rankings, as each year the world championships results will be the first points for the following year.

The seeding process for the World Championships and Olympic Games will now also include a field of the top four wrestlers in each weight category with lower seeded athletes bumping up, should one of the top four not participate in the world championships. The previous version of the world championships did not replace top seeds when they were absent of the competition.

Click HERE to see locations for the freestyle, Greco-Roman, and women's wrestling Ranking Series events. 


2. Icho Pulls Off Dramatic Win over Kawai to Move Step Closer to Shot at Olympic 5-peat
Adding another chapter to her bulging legend, Kaori ICHO pulled off a dramatic last-second victory over the new titan on the block, and moved a step closer to gaining a shot at winning a historic fifth Olympic gold medal in her home country.

Icho scored a takedown with 10 seconds left to clinch a 3-2 victory over fellow Rio 2016 Olympic champion Risako KAWAI in a nationally televised women’s 57kg final that brought a close to the All-Japan Championships in Tokyo.

Icho’s stunning victory came a day after Kawai, this year’s world champion at 59kg, edged the four-time Olympic champion 2-1 in a preliminary round-robin group match, handing Icho her first loss to a Japanese opponent since 2001.

I knew it was going to be a tough match, but I’m happy I could pull it off,” said Icho, who let out a short scream of joy and clenched her fists after the victory. “It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this nervousness, so I thought to just try and stay relaxed.”

The 34-year-old Icho won her first national title since 2015 and 13th overall dating back to 2002, despite spending more than two years away from the mat after winning the gold in Rio, which made her the first woman in Olympic history to win four straight titles in a single event.

She returned to competition in September as a prelude for the All-Japan Championships, also referred to as the Emperor’s Cup and which was serving as the first stage in the qualifying process for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Click HERE to read the full recap of the final day of wrestling at the Emperor’s Cup. 
Day One: Emperor's Cup Wrap 
Day Two: Emperor's Cup Wrap 
Day Three: Emperor's Cup Wrap 

3. Bonne, Bacsi and Gray Named Comeback Athletes of the Year

United World Wrestling named Yowls BONNE-RODRIGUEZ (CUB), Peter BACSI (HUN), and Adeline GRAY (USA) the 2018 Comeback Athletes of the Year.

In freestyle, Cuba’s Yowls Bonne-Rodriguez won his first world title just days before his 35th birthday. Bonne finally obtained the elusive world gold medal after three previous attempts, scoring come-from-behind wins in the quarterfinals and finals.

In the quarterfinals, Bonne trailed Iran’s Mohammadbagher YAKHKESHI by two points with five seconds left when he hit a four-point inside trip and stole the match, 10-8.

Then, in the finals, Bonne trailed Russia’s Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV  2-0 before scoring a massive five-point move, which ultimately catapulted him to the top of the podium with a 5-5 criteria win.

This was Bonne's third world medal, previously finishing up the 2014 and 2017 World Championships with bronze medals.

Peter Bacsi, the 35-year-old Hungarian, won his first world championship since 2014 earning himself this year's Greco-Roman Comeback Athlete of the Year.

Basci trailed Turkey’s Emrah KUS 3-0 in the 82kg gold medal bout but scored four unanswered points to give the host nation their first and only gold medal of the Budapest World Championships.

The 2018 World Championships were rumored to be Bacsi’s last, but after his surprise victory he didn't rule out the 2019 Astana World Championships, though he did confirm he will not be making a run for Hungary’s 2020 Tokyo Olympic team.

Adeline Gray (USA) was named the women’s wrestling Comeback Athlete of the Year after returning from a year absence to win her fourth world title.

The American’s impressive road to her fourth world title went through reigning Olympic champion Erica WIEBE (CAN), and reigning world champion, Yasmin ADAR (TUR).

In the semifinals, Gray edged Wiebe, 3-1, and wrapped up the gold-medal bout early with a 13-1 win over Adar, winning the gold medal in a weight class that featured eight previous world champions.

4. Burroughs and Chamizo, Snyder and Sadulaev Headline Biggest Rivalries of the Year

United World Wrestling has named four of the Biggest Rivalries of the Year. There were two in freestyle, and one in Greco-Roman and women's wrestling.

The freestyle season saw more than one top-level rivalry, so a pair were selected for this category. The first freestyle rivalry selected was the 74kg showdown between Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) and Frank CHAMIZO (ITA), and the second was Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) and Kyle SNYDER (USA).

Perhaps no weight category was more competitive in 2018 than women’s wrestling’s 76kg. Lead by reigning world champion, Yasmin ADAR (TUR), four-time world champion, Adeline GRAY (USA), and Rio Olympic champion, Erica WIEBE (CAN). It was the American Adeline Gray who prevailed and won her fourth world title.

In Greco-Roman, Kyrgyzstan’s Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) was looking for redemption coming into the Junior World Championships the American Kamal Ameer BEY (USA) was victorious in the 2017 junior world finals. Makhmudov dominated the bronze-medal bout at the Junior World Championships and picked up the 8-1 win.

5.  Iran Team Wins GR World Clubs Cup, Azizli & Kayaalp Remain Undefeated
Iran's Team Bimeh Razi Ardabil defeated Team Russia to capture 2018 Greco-Roman World Clubs Cup title in Ardabil city of Iran. 

The Iranian team, lifted by Eldaniz AZIZLI and Sergey SEMENOV, the pair of reigning world 2018 world champions, defeated Russia, 8-2 to claim the 2018 Greco-Roman World Clubs Cup team title. 

Azerbaijan’s 55kg world champion Eldaniz Azizli gave Bimeh Razi their first win of the finals with a technical fall victory over Vitalii Kabaloev (RUS). 

Bimeh Razi added wins from Mehrdad MARDANI and Saman ABDEVALI (Bimeh) and took a three match lead into the 67kg matchup between Maksim SURKOV (RUS) df. Mohammad ELYASI (Bimeh). Surkov put Russia on the board with a 1-1 criteria win, and closed the scored to 3-1. Denis MURTAZIN (RUS) gave Russia their second and final win of the night with a 10-8 win over Boroumand ASLAN. 

Bimeh Razi closed out the gold-medal bout on a five match win steak, including two 5-0 shutout wins at 82kg and 87kg, and a fall from Russia’s reigning 130kg world champion, Sergey Semenov, who was competing for the Iranian side. 

In the bronze medal match, Iran’s Sina Sanat Izeh narrowly defated Turkey, 6-4. 

In the fifth-place match, Georgia defeated Iran’s Shohadaye Modafe Haram, 6-4, while Ukraine beat Serbia, 8-2 in the seventh-place bout. 

Click HERE for full results of the final day of the 2018 Greco-Roman World Clubs Cup.

Day One: Greco-Roman World Clubs Cup Wrap 

Weekly FIVE! In Social Media 

1. REPOST: @usawrestling you don’t wanna miss this one! 🔥🔥🔥@btslosangeles#wrestlelikeagirl
2. Over the next two weeks @unitedworldwrestling will share our most popular videos and photos from 2018. 
#FrankChamizo VS  #JordanBurroughs
📷 @beatthestreets 
В течении следующих двух недель мы будем делиться с вами лучшими публикациями 2018 года. 
#ФрэнкЧамизо VS  #ДжорданБарроуз
3. Over the next two weeks @unitedworldwrestling will share our most popular videos and photos from 2018. 
#DavidTaylor 📷 @kadircaliskan
В течении следующих двух недель мы будем делиться с вами лучшими публикациями 2018 года. 
4. Best photos of 2018 GR World Clubs Cup in Iran, Ardabil city.

Phtos by @alireza_akbari_62 
بهترین تصاویر از مسابقات کشتی فرنگی باشگاه های جهان در اردبیل
5. Check out the 2019 Ranking Series events! Link in stories!

Weekly FIVE!

Weekly FIVE! March 10, 2020

By Eric Olanowski

Discussing the list of Olympic champions entered into the Tokyo Olympic qualification events and Greco-Roman world runner-up Pino HInds winning freestyle bronze at the Pan-Am C'ships. Also looking at Japan's special wrestle-offs for the Olympic spot.

1. Aliyev and "King Vlad" Entered into European Qualifier at 65kg
Lightweight superstars Haji ALIYEV (AZE) and Vladimer KHINCHEGASHVILI (GEO) entered the European Olympic Qualifier in Budapest, Hungary (March 19 – 22), with hopes of qualifying Azerbaijan and Georgia for the Olympic Games at 65kg.

The pair of past world champions and Rio Olympic medalists suffered uncharacteristic early-round losses at the Nur-Sultan World Championships and missed out on qualifying their nations for the Olympic Games. 

Aliyev, a three-time world champion, failed to qualify Azerbaijan for the Olympics at 65kg. The Rio Olympic bronze medalist dropped his opening round match at the World Championships to eventual world champion Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS). Aliyev scored a 10-1 win over Reda HUSSEN (EGY) in his first repechage match but fell to 2018 world champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) in a heartbreaking 11-9 match. He was knocked out of the tournament after his second loss and finished in 12th place.

Khinchegashvili, a Rio Olympic champion and London silver medalist, also failed to qualify his nation for the Toyko Olympic Games. The Georgian opened up his 2019 World Championships campaign with a 4-0 win over YUN Junsik (KOR), but lost 5-1 in his next match to eventual bronze medalist Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN). The Hungarian dropped a 3-2 nail biter against Rashidov -- knocking Khinchegashvili out of the tournament with a 22nd-place finish. 

If either fails to make the finals in Budapest, their last opportunity will be the World Olympic Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria (April 30 – May 03). 

Qualified Nation – Qualifying Wrestler 
RUS via Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (Europe)
KAZ via Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (Asia) 
IND via Bajrang BAJRANG (Asia)
HUN via Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (Europe) 
JPN via Takuto OTOGURO (Asia)
MGL via Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (Asia)

2. Olympic Champs Maroulis and Wiebe Entered into Pan-American Qualifier
The road for Helen MAROULIS (USA) and Erica WIEBE (CAN) to repeat as Olympic champions runs through this week's Pan-American Qualifiers in Ottawa, Canada.

The pair needed the post-world championship qualifiers in 2016 to earn berths to the Olympics and find themselves in eerily similar situations heading into the Tokyo Olympic Games. In 2016, Maroulis qualified for the Olympics with a gold-medal performance at the 1st OG World Qualifying Tournament, while Wiebe punched her ticket to Rio after winning the 2016 Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. 

They'll compete at this week's Pan-American Qualifiers to try to qualify their nations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which will kick start their journey to try to become the first non-Japanese wrestlers to win a pair of Olympic titles.

Since women's wrestling inception into the Olympic Games in 2004, Japan has claimed 11 of the 18 Olympic gold medals. But, of the seven non-Japanese women whose resume boasts an Olympic gold, surprisingly enough, there's never been a non-Japanese two-time Olympic champion.

Maroulis, America's first women's wrestling Olympic champion, returns to USA's lineup for the first time since falling to a 21st-place finish at the 2018 World Championships. She's faced difficulties with concussions over the last two seasons but locked up her spot on the Pan-American Qualifier team with two straight pins against Nur-Sultan world team member, Jenna BURKERT (USA). 

She's wrestling at arguably the deepest weight in the world, 57kg, and is joined by reigning 59kg world champion Linda MORAIS (CAN) and 2019 Pan-American champion Lissette ANTES (ECU).

Wiebe enters the Pan-American Championships as the favorite to the 76kg weight category. Especially with the absence of her archrival Adeline GRAY (USA), who qualified the United States for the Tokyo Olympics with her American history-breaking fifth world title. Her biggest threat at 76kg is Genesis REASCO (ECU), who was last year's Pan-American runner-up. 

3. Greco-Roman World Silver Medalist Pino Hines Captures Pan-Am Freestyle Bronze 
Cuban big man Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB), fresh off his Greco-Roman runner-up finish at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, shifted to freestyle and captured the 125kg bronze medal at the Pan-American Championships.

Pino Hinds transitioned to freestyle after he took a backseat to Mijain LOPEZ (CUB), who is looking to become the first male wrestler ever to win four Olympic titles.

In his 2020 freestyle debut, Pino Hinds went 2-2 and scored wins over Charles MERRILL (PUR) and Brandon ANGUIANO (MEX) en route to his bronze-medal finish. His losses came against Anthony Robert NELSON (USA) and Amarveer DHESI (CAN), who finished in first and second, respectively, at 125kg.  

Pino Hinds refocused his attention on joining Bilyal MAKHOV (RUS) as the only wrestlers since 2015 to qualify their nations for the Olympic Games in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. Although he fell in the finals at the World Championships, Pino Hinds qualified Cuba for the Tokyo Olympic Games at 130kg in Greco-Roman. 

Hinds is wrestling freestyle again at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier, which kicks off on Friday. 

His toughest competition at the Pan-American OG Qualifier is the two-time world bronze medalist, Nicholas Edward GWIAZDOWSKI (USA). The pair met twice last year, with Gwiazdowski scoring a pair of technical superiority victories. 

Pino Hinds led 1-1 on criteria in the second period but gave up two takedowns and four leg laces before ultimately finishing the tournament with a bronze medal. He also fell 10-0 in the Pan-American Games finals.

4. Russia Inserts Bukina into European Qualifier over Olympic Champ Vorobeva
The biggest question after the European Championships wrapped up: Who will Russia roll with at 76kg heading into the European Olympic Qualifier? 

The Russian coaching staff had the insanely tough decision on whether to insert reigning European champion Ekaterina BUKINA (RUS) or replace her with the reigning 72kg world and European champion, Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS). 

Ultimately, they elected to place the ball in Bukina's hand to earn Russia their berth to the Olympics at 76kg.

Bukina is coming off a successful European championship campaign where she went 5-0 and captured the 76kg gold medal. In Rome, she defeated 2017 world silver medalist Vasilisa MARZALIUK (BLR) in the semifinals, then downed 2017 world champion Yasemin ADAR (TUR) in the finals.

After winning her first continental title, Bukina, a Rio Olympic bronze medalist, was asked where she sees herself in the race to represent Russia at the Olympic Games. She said, "It depends on who will be in better shape. Right now, she is wrestling in the other weight category, but we will decide later when it's closer to the Olympics. It's too early to talk about it."

Vorobeva also won gold at the European Championships, but she did so at the non-Olympic weight of 72kg. When she was asked about the log jam between herself and Bukina at 76kg, she said, "I gave Bukina this place, and it's good for her that she used her chance. But if there is a need for me to wrestle at 76kg, we'll both go on the mat, wrestle and see who the best is."

It's not clear what Russia will do if Bukina qualifies her nation for the Olympics, but it seems like a special wrestle-off is almost certain.

5. Dosho Earns Shot at Olympic Repeat With Win in Japan Team Playoff
Having stuck it out through trying times since her triumph in Rio four years ago, Sara DOSHO (JPN) finally assured that she will be able to defend her Olympic crown at this summer's Tokyo Games.

Dosho edged world junior champion Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) 3-1 in a special playoff to fill the Olympic spot at 68kg that she herself secured for Japan by placing fifth at last year's World Championships in Nur-Sultan. Morikawa had forced the playoff by winning the All-Japan title last December, where she defeated Dosho 9-2 in the semifinals.

"I had a lot of injuries, but I was able to come back and be here today," Dosho said. "I want to be completely healthy for the Tokyo Olympics and wrestling at a high level. From the time I won in Rio, my aim was to win again in Tokyo. That has not changed. I'll do what I can to make that happen."

Meanwhile, Keisuke OTOGURO (JPN) will join younger brother Takuto on Japan's team at Tokyo 2020 after he chalked up a 5-2 victory over Mao OKUI (JPN) at freestyle 74kg in the other playoff held behind closed doors at the National Training Center in Tokyo. Okui had earned Japan's spot by finishing fifth at Nur-Sultan.

READ: Ken Marantz provides a full breakdown of Japan's special wrestlers-offs.

Weekly FIVE! In Social Media
1. Big Move Monday -- Grace BULLEN
2. Happy International Women’s Day!
3. 🖐 points for 5x World champ @adelinegray 
4. Olympic Champion Vorobeva’s New Title: Mother!
5. Outrageous first-round action at the Greco-Roman Pan Am Championships!