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2005 World Championships preview at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. in menís Greco-Roman wrestling
Emerging as the star at this division is 2004 Olympic champion and 2003 World champion Khassan Baroev of Russia, who had a strong performance at the Athens Olympics. Baroev was not expected to be the big star after Alexander Kareline of Russia retired, but Yuri Patrikeev never lived up to his hype, winning just one World medal in the years to follow. It was Patrikeev who wrestled at the European Championships this year, missing the medal rounds. With heavyweight such an important division to Russian wrestling, expect to see Baroev for many more years.
Baroev defeated 2003 World bronze medalist Georgi Tsurtsumia of Kazakhstan in the gold-medal finals. It was Tsurtsumia who beat 2000 Olympic champion Rulon Gardner in the Olympics in Athens, showing that he has the ability to be the best at this division some day. He continues to be impressive, winning a gold medal at the Asian Championships this year.
Taking over for the USA is 2002 World champion Dremiel Byers, who automatically becomes a gold-medal hopeful based upon his past success. Byers wona gold medal at the CISM World Military Championships over the summer, and has the kind of style that should fit very well with the new rules of the sport that allows more opportunity for throws from the mat.
A veteran star still in the hunt is three-time World silver medalist Mihaly Deak-Bardos of Hungary, who was 10th in Athens and did not medal at the European Championships this year. Expect Deak-Bardos to be in top form to wrestle on his home mats in Budapest. He was a bronze medalist at the Pytlasinski Tournament in Poland this summer, a key tuneup event for the World Championships. If Bardos gets into the World finals again, this could be the year he is able to close it out with a gold.
Placing fourth in the Athens Games was newcomer Sajad Barzi of Iran, who won a bronze at the Asian Championships this spring. Barzi is very large and strong, but still has a ways to go in developing his technique.
The exciting Mijian Lopez of Cuba, the 2005 Pan American champion, placed fifth in the Olympic Games. Lopez made a name by beating American Rulon Gardner a number of times, but has yet to win his first World Championships medal. Lopez was able to win a major event this summer, capturing the title at the World University Games, and beating a talented Turkish athlete in the finals, Yilmaz Gul, in spite of the home field advantage. Gul is also a medal contender in Budapest after taking a silver medal at the European Championships this year.
Greece has a star in Xenofon Koutsioubas, who was third, fourth and fifth in the three World Championships leading up to the Olympics (2001-03). He fell a bit short of his goals by placing seventh at the Olympic Games on his home mats in Athens.
Sergey Mourieko of Bulgaria was an Olympic medalist in 1996 and won a number of World Championship medals during his career. Juri Yevseychyc of Israel is also a top challenger each year, placing sixth at the 2002 World Championships. Taking sixth at the 2004 Olympics in Athens was Yannick Szczepaniak of France.
The Pytlasinski Tournament in Poland is often a strong indicator of which athletes will be in the medal hunt at the World Championships. Iran's Ali Reza Ghariby won the gold medal there this summer, with veteran Juah Ahokas of Finland taking the silver medal. Ahokas has been in the medal rounds in past World events. Sweden boasts a strong young talent in 2005 Junior World champion Jalmar Sjoeberg
Winning the 2005 European title was Sergey Artyukhin of Belarus, a newcomer at the highest levels. Krassimir Kotchev of Bulgaria and Miriani Giorgadze of Georgia were European bronze medallists this year. Among the other top challengers coming from Europe are Mindaugas Mizgaitis of Lithuania, Haykaz Galstyan of Armenia, Nico Schmidt of Germany and Marek Mikulski of Poland. Mikulski lost to Byers in the finals of the CISM Military World meet this year. Liu Deli of China is another athlete to watch, after taking second in the Asian Championships this year.
The athlete to beat at heavyweight this year is Khassan Baroev of Russia. This could be the celebration party for three-time World silver medalist Mihaly Deak-Bardos of host Hungary, who could finally reach the top of the podium competing in front of the home fans. 2002 World champion Dremiel Byers of the USA has a chance to continue the American dominance at this weight division. Georgiy Tsurtsumia of Kazakhstan is a legitimate gold-medal hopeful. This could be a wide weight class this year, one that will get tons of attention worldwide.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2004 Olympic Games results
120 kg/264.5 lbs.- Gold - Khassan Baroev (Russia); Silver - Gerogiy Tsurtsumia (Kazakhstan); Bronze - Rulon Gardner (USA); 4th - Sajad Barzi (Iran); 5th -Mijail Lopez (Cuba); 6th - Yannick Szcepaniak (France); 7th - Xenofan Koutsioumpas (Greece); 8th - Serguey Moreyko (Bulgaria); 9th - Haykaz Galstyan (Armenia); 10th - Mihaly Bardos-Deak (Hungary)
2003 World Championships results
120 kg/264.5 lbs. - Gold - Khassan Baroev (Russia) dec. Mihaly Deak-Bardos (Hungary), 3-1; Bronze - Georgiy Tsurtsumia (Kazakhstan) dec. Mindaugas Mizgaitis (Lithuania), 4-0; 5th - Xenofon Koutsioubas (Greece); 6th - Serguey Moreyko (Bulgaria); 7th - Juha Ahokas (Finland) ; 8th - Yannick Szcezepaniak (France); 9th - Haykaz Ghalstyan (Armenia); 10th - Rulon Gardner (USA)
2002 World Championships results
120 kg/264.5 lbs. - Gold - Dremiel Byers (United States) dec. Mihaly Deak-Bardos (Hungary), 3-0; Bronze - Yuri Patrikeev (Russia) dec. Xenofon Koutsioubas (Greece), 9-4; 5th - Helger Hallik (Estonia); 6th -Yuriy Yevseychek (Israel); 7th - Giuseppe Giunta (Italy); 8th - Georgiy Tsurtsumia (Kazakhstan); 9th - Roe Kleive (Norway); 10th - Nico Schmidt (Germany)
2001 World Championships results
130 kg/286 lbs. - Gold - Rulon Gardner (United States) won by ref. dec. over Mihaly Deak-Bardos (Hungary), 2-0, ot; Bronze - Xenofon Koutsoubas (Greece) dec. Sergei Mourieko (Bulgaria), 8-0; 5th - George Tsurtsumia (Georgia); 6th - Mijain Lopez (Cuba); 7th - Eddy Bengtsson (Sweden); 8th - Yuri Patrikeev (Russia); 9th - Alireza Gharibi (Iran); 10th - David Vala (Czech Republic)