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|OLYMPIC NEWS SERVICE: Men’s freestyle preview for 60 kg, 84 kg, 120 kg
Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Men's freestyle wrestling 60 kg: World title rematch set for first round
LONDON, 10 August - World champion Besik KUDUKHOV (RUS) and Franklin GOMEZ (PUR) will square off Saturday at ExCeL in a rematch of their men's freestyle wrestling 60kg title fight at last year's world championships, but this time in the preliminary round of matches.
KUDUKHOV and GOMEZ were drawn together in the 60kg bracket on Friday, so the two favourites will kick off the second day of men's freestyle wrestling as one of the first bouts instead of being featured as one of the finals in the evening at London 2012 Olympic Games.
Also in the lower half of the bracket, world No.3 Dauren ZHUMAGZYYEV (KAZ) will have a bye to the round of 16 where he will likely face Asia champion Masoud ESMAEILPOORJOUYBARI (IRI).
In the upper half of the bracket, Beijing 2008 silver medallist Vasyl FEDORYSHYN (UKR), Beijing bronze medallist Keniichi YUMOTO (JPN) and 2010 world No. 2 Toghrul ASGAROV (AZE) will likely be scrapping for a place in the finals.
KUDUKHOV won his first world title at 55kg in 2007 and went into the Beijing 2008 Olympics as a heavy favorite. He had to settle, however, for a bronze medal. He brings three more world titles to London but some wrestling analysts suggest that KUDUKHOV has not had enough competition this year, so his loss to GOMEZ in Germany may serve as a wake-up call.
GOMEZ won Puerto Rico's first senior-level silver medal at the world championships in 2011. Since then, he has won a handful of tournaments in Europe, including the German grand prix where he defeated KUDUKHOV in the final. GOMEZ now seeks to become Puerto Rico's first Olympic Games medallist in wrestling, while a gold medal will be the first for his NOC.
ASGAROV won the junior world championships in 2011 and came right back in the spring to win the senior European crown and the European Olympic qualifier - both times defeating Anatolie Ilarionovitch GUIDEA (BUL). ASGAROV was also the senior world runner-up at 55kg in 2010.
ZHUMGAZYEV is the 2011 Asia champion and world bronze medallist. He lost a close match in the semifinals with GOMEZ and took the bronze with a one-sided win against Malkhaz ZARKUA (GEO). He was also a bronze medallist at the 2010 Asian Games.
ESMAILPOORJOUYBARI is making his senior world-level debut for Iran after winning the 2011 Asian championships and finishing second in the continental meet in February. He was the junior world champion in 2008 but will have some big shoes to fill following 2006 world champion and Beijing bronze medallist Seyed Morad MOHAMMADI PAHNAKALEI (IRI).
FEDORISHYN, wrestling in his third Olympic Games, won the silver medal in Beijing after losing the bronze medal match in Athens. FEDORISHYN earned his ticket to London at the final qualification tournament in May. Despite finishing 15th at the world championships last year, he has remained a regular fixture on the medals podiums these past four years.
GUIDEA, at 35, is making his Olympic Games debut. GUIDEA had qualified for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games but injured an achilles tendon playing basketball one day before he was scheduled to leave for China. GUIDEA was second in the European championships in March and third in 2011.
Tough draw for main contenders in men's 84kg freestyle wrestling
LONDON, 10 August - World champion Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE) and Russian challenger Anzor URISHEV (RUS) will find the going tough en route to the semifinals of the 84kg bracket in men's freestyle wrestling 84kg after Friday's draw at ExCeL produced a bottom-heavy bracket.
Along with SHARIFOV and URISHEV, Beijing 2008 silver medallist Yusup ABDUSALOMOV (TJK), world No.2 Ibragim ALDATOV (UKR) and 2009 world champion Zaurbek SOKHIEV (UZB), will all have to overcome some worthy opponents in the bottom bracket to make it to the finals on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Dato MARSAGISHVILI (GEO) stands out among the eight wrestlers in the upper half of the bracket. World No.5 Armands ZVIRBULIS (LAT) can also break through to claim Latvia's first Olympic Games medal in wrestling since Berlin 1936.
SHARIFOV won the world title in 2011 and was third in 2009, defeating Abdulsalam GADISOV (RUS) in the bronze medal final. He also has silver and bronze medals from the 2010 and 2011 European championships, where he finished behind URISHEV twice.
URISHEV is a two-time European champion from 2010 and 2011, but has yet to be given a chance on the world stage at the senior level. He also finished with the bronze medal at the 2012 European championships won by MARSAGISHVILI.
MARSAGISHIVILI won the junior world title in July 2011 and two months later claimed a bronze medal at the senior world competition in Istanbul. He lost to URISHEV in the finals of the 2011 European championships in three periods, but claimed the 2012 European crown in March this year ahead of former world champion Michail GANEV (BUL), who did not qualify for London, and URISHEV.
World silver medallist ALDATOV can usually be found hanging around the medals podium at major international competitions, but the only time he has won gold was at the 2006 world championships in the 74kg class. ALDATOV is taking his second shot at reaching the Olympic Games podium after finishing 14th in Beijing.
Jake HERBERT (USA) was world championship runner-up in 2009 and steps in for Athens 2004 gold medallist Cael SANDERSON (USA) who qualified the weight for the USA at the world championships with a fifth place finish.
SOKHIEV won the world championship in 2009 and was second in 2010, but tumbled all the way to 21st in 2011 when he lost a tight second round bout and did not qualify for repechage.
ABDUSALOMOV won a silver medal for Tajikistan at Beijing 2008. He first competed for Azerbaijan before switching to Tajikistan.
ZVIRBULIS will try to win Latvia's second ever Olympic wrestling medal, and first since Edwins BIETAGS (LAT) won a silver medal in the discontinued Greco-Roman 90kg category at Berlin 1936.
Men's freestyle wrestling 120kg: TAYMAZOV (UZB) eyeing third Olympic gold
LONDON, 10 August - Artur TAYMAZOV (UZB) kicks off his bid for a third Olympic Games gold medal from the middle of the 120kg men's freestyle bracket on Saturday, the second day of men's freestyle wrestling at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
In the weigh-in and draw held at ExCeL on Friday, TAYMAZOV drew No. 6 in the 18-wrestler bracket and appears set to challenge for his third gold medal, or at least his fourth Olympic Games medal overall. TAYMAZOV also won a silver medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Also in the upper half of the bracket with TAYMAZOV are world champion Aleksei SHEMAROV (BLR), 2009 world bronze medallist Tervel DLAGNEV (USA) and Asia No.2 Komeil GHASEMI (IRI)
In the lower half of the bracket, three-time world champion Biylal MAKHOV (RUS) and world No.3 Jamaladdin MAGOMEDOV (AZE) square off in a preliminary bout with the winner likely to meet European champion Taha AKGUL (TUR) in the round of 16. Meanwhile, Davit MODZMANASHVILI (GEO) sits on top of the lower half ready to slide into the semifinals.
Bilyal MAKHOV (RUS) won his first world title in 2007 but missed the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with a number of health issues. The man-mountain returned to world-level competition with world titles in 2009 and 2010. He also won the European championship in 2011, but slipped to second in the world championships behind Aleksey SHEMAROV (BLR). One of the problems apparently troubling MAKHOV is making the 120kg weight limit on heavyweights in wrestling, but he reportedly has been strict about his diet this year.
At 33, Artur TAYMAZOV (UZB) perhaps does not belong among the favourites. But, for a wrestler who has two Olympic gold medals (Athens 2000 and Beijing 2008) and is seeking a third to accompany his silver medal (Sydney), he cannot be discounted. TAYMAZOV won the 2010 Asian Games and 2011 Asian championships, defeating young challengers who finished ahead of him at the world championships. He also won the Black Sea tourney in May, defeating Beijing silver medallist and London qualifier at 96kg Taimuraz TIGIYEV (KAZ) in the final.
Aleksei SHEMAROV (BLR) won the world title in 2011, but was only 10th and 11th in the previous editions. He also has a silver medal and a bronze medal from previous European championships, but finished third at the Spanish grand prix event, which was won by Komeil GHASEMI (IRI).
David MODZMANASHVILI (GEO) won bronze medals at the 2011 world championships and the 2012 world championships. He appears ready to challenge for an Olympic Games medal after sitting out two years for a doping violation in 2008.
The United States have not won a medal in this category since 1996 and the close of the Bruce BAUGARTNER (USA) era. USA wrestling fans are hoping that Tervel DLAGNEV (USA) can change that after a bronze medal in the 2009 world championships and a fifth-place finish in 2011. DLAGNEV finished second to Beijing silver medalist Bakhtiar AKHMEDOV (RUS) at the Yarygin international in January and defeated European champion Taha AKGUL (TUR) in Poland in June.
Jamalladin MOGOMEDOV (AZE) won a bronze medal at the 2001 world meeting and Taha AKGUL (TUR) won the European championships in early March. Both are among a group of medal winners from junior world over the last four years who are making their Olympic Games debut in London.
MAGOMEDOV was a junior world silver medallist in 2009 while AKGUL was in 2010. Komeil GHASEMI (IRI) was third in 2008 and Daniel LIGETI (HUN) was fifth in 2009.