Who’s In? Freestyle Wrestling Olympic Qualifiers
Wednesday, April 22, 2020 - 17:20 By Andrew Hipps
CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (April 22) -- In response to the IOC’s decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympic Games until the summer of 2021, United World Wrestling has announced that all Olympic qualification spots already earned will continue to be honored.
For the nations whose wrestlers qualified at the World Championships or Pan Am Qualifiers that means they are done, but for those who haven’t qualified in each weight category there will be events in March and April of 2021 to determine the remaining eight spots in each category.
We’ve broken down “Who’s In,” and which stars still need to qualify.
Russia crowned four world champions and one bronze medalist in Olympic freestyle weight categories at the 2019 World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, to qualify five weight categories for the Tokyo Olympics. The only weight category not yet qualified for Russia is 125kg.
The United States had a strong performance at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier in Ottawa, Canada, qualifying three weight categories to go along with the two qualified at the World Championships.
Kazakhstan has four Olympic qualifiers in freestyle and will look to add to that total at the Asian Olympic Qualifier and World Olympic "Last Chance" Qualifier.
Cuba, India, and Iran currently sit at three Olympic qualifiers.
Let's examine where things stand in each of the six freestyle weight categories heading into the final four Olympic qualifying events.
Thomas GILMAN (USA), a 2017 world silver medalist, won gold at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier to qualify the United States at 57kg.
Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) and Bekhbayar ERDENEBAT (MGL) will be among the favorites at the Asian Olympic Qualifier. Higuchi was an Olympic silver medalist in 2016. He competed at 65kg in 2018 where he won a U23 world title and has since made the move down to 57kg.
Erdenebat is a two-time world bronze medalist. The Mongolian fell short of a world medal in Nur-Sultan, losing in repechage.
The 57kg wrestlers to watch at the European Qualifier include Mahir AMIRASLANOV (AZE) and Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM). Amiraslanov was a European Games gold medalist in 2019 and past junior world champion while Harutyunyan was a European champion in 2019 and a European bronze medalist in 2020.
At the Pan Am Qualifiers it was Alejandro VALDES TOBIER (CUB) who was able to wrestle well in Ottawa and came through to win gold, and punch his ticket to the 2020 Games.
He was joined by Agustin DESTRIBATS (ARG) who defeated Zain RETHERFORD (USA) in the semifinals, preventing the United States from qualifying all six weight categories in freestyle. Destribats also became Argentina's first male Olympic wrestler since 1996.
Expect some fireworks at the European Olympic Qualifier as world champions Haji ALIYEV (AZE) and Vladimer KHINCHEGASHVILI (GEO) are expected to compete. Aliyev defeated Khinchegashvili to win the European Games gold in 2019. Three years prior, it was Khinchegashvili who defeated Aliyev on his way to Olympic gold in 2016.
Another wrestler to watch at the European Olympic Qualifier is Selahattin KILICSALLAYAN (TUR). He won a bronze medal at the Matteo Pellicone and has won multiple European medals.
Amirmohammad YAZDANICHERATI (IRI) is a top contender in the Asian Olympic Qualifier.
Jordan BURROUGHS, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist and four-time world champion, qualified the United States for this weight category in Nur-Sultan, but he will likely have to defeat two-time 79kg world champion Kyle DAKE to earn a spot on USA's Olympic team.
There are several accomplished wrestlers in this weight category still looking to secure Olympic berths. The European Olympic Qualifier is expected to include multiple-time Olympic medalist Toghrul ASGAROV (AZE) or junior world champion Khadzhimurad GADZHIYEV (AZE), Olympic and world medalist Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), world silver medalist Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO), Murad KURAMAGOMEDOV (HUN) and Azamat NURYKAU (BLR).
Multiple-time world medalist Bekzod ABDURAKHMONOV (UZB) will look to qualify at the Asian Olympic Qualifier.
David TAYLOR (USA), a world champion in 2018, missed the 2019 season due to injury. He came back in March to earn a qualification spot at 86kg for the United States by winning the Pan American Olympic Qualifier.
Past world medalists Ali SHABANAU (BLR), Fatih ERDIN (TUR) and Boris MAKOEV (SVK) headline the top contenders at the European Olympic Qualifier in this weight category. Shabanau has won four world bronze medals, with the most recent being in 2018. Erdin reached the finals of the World Championships in 2018, but failed to reach a medal match in 2019. Makoev earned a silver at the Paris World Championships in 2017.
Other notable European wrestlers looking to earn spots at the Tokyo Olympics include Aleksandr GOSTIYEV (AZE), Ahmed DUDAROV (GER) and Zbigniew BARANOWSKI (POL).
Top wrestlers in Asia looking to qualify include past world silver medalist Sohsuke TAKATANI (JPN) and Adilet DAVLUMBAYEV (KAZ).
Olympic champion Kyle SNYDER earned the qualification spot for the United States, but will likely have to get past two-time 92kg world champion J'den COX to make the USA team.
Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) will look to qualify at the Asian Olympic Qualifier. He dominated the field at the Matteo Pellicone, outscoring his four opponents 32-0 and scored a fall in the quarterfinals over Snyder.
Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB), an Olympic bronze medalist and multiple-time Asian champion, is also expected to be at the Asian Olympic Qualifier.
Khadshimourad GATSALOV, one of the all-time great freestyle wrestlers, is now competing for Armenia. Gatsalov won an Olympic gold medal and five world titles for Russia. He will attempt to qualify for the Olympics at the European Olympic Qualifier, along with Olympic bronze medalist Albert SARITOV (ROU).
This is the lone weight class that Russia has not yet qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Russia will likely send European Games gold medalist Anzor KHIZRIEV or Alan KHUGAEV to the European Olympic Qualifier. Multiple-time world medalist Jamaladdin MAGOMEDOV (AZE) and multiple-time European bronze medalist Robert BARAN (POL) are also expected to be at the European Olympic Qualifier.