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|2005 World Championships preview at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. in menís freestyle wrestling|
By John Fuller USA Wrestling
Usually, most feel that 66 kg/145.5 lbs. is the deepest weight internationally in men's freestyle wrestling. This year may offer no exception to that, as numerous Olympic and World medalists are expected to return this year.
Olympic champion Elbrus Tedeev of Ukraine has not wrestled since he won gold in Athens. He has also won three World gold medals. Tedeev for years has been among the best. However, 23 year-old Andrey Stadnik wrestled at the European Championships, winning a bronze medal.
Stadnik won a gold medal at this year's World Cup, and his youth may be enough to at least let Tedeev sit out a year. Stadnik's only loss at the European Championships was to veteran Elman Asgarov of Azerbaijan in the semifinals. Asgarov has competed in five World Championships and last year's Olympic Games.
Over the last three years, Russia has won three medals at this weight class - all by different competitors. Last year, Makhach Murtazaliev won an Olympic bronze medal. In 2003, Irbek Farniev won gold and in 2002, Zaur Botaev won a bronze medal. All three are under 26 years old, with Murtazaliev being the youngest at 21.
Farniev placed ninth at the European Championships, and in the Russian Nationals this year, Murtazaliev defeated Farniev in the finals, which means that barring something unusual, Murtazaliev will be on the mats for Russia this year as well.
Olympic silver medalist Jamill Kelly of the United States has not competed since Athens. Veteran Chris Bono, who competed in the 2001 World Championships and won a gold medal at the 2003 World Cup, earned the U.S. spot this year. Bono has defeated many past World medalists and has proven he can win a medal at this level.
Two-time World champion Serafim Barzakov of Bulgaria (1998, 2001 gold) won another European title this year. Over the past eight years, Barzakov has been one of the most consistent wrestlers in the world, winning four World-level medals and placing fifth three other times. He was eighth in the 2004 Olympic Games, losing only to Leonid Spiridonov of Kazakhstan in an overtime match.
Spiridonov placed fourth in the Olympics last year, his highest finish ever in a World-level competition. He has not competed since the Olympics, but he is only 24 years old.
Ali Reza Dabir of Iran also has not competed since the Olympic Games, when he was ousted in his pool. Dabir won Olympic gold in 2000 and a World gold medal in 1998. He also won silver medals at the 1999, 2001 and 2002 World Championships. Dabir will turn 28 years old on Sept. 16, but his last two World-level finishes may have left him frustrated.
At the Asian Championships, Iran placed Mohammad Nejad into the lineup. Nejad won a silver medal at that event.
One wrestler missing from the European Championships was Otar Tushishvili of Georgia, who has consistently placed in the top 10 at World-level events over the last few years, including a fifth-place finish in 2003. His replacement, Shalva Muziashvili, placed seventh at this year's European Championships, leading to speculation that Tushishvili will step on the mats in Budapest.
Kazuhiko Ikematsu of Japan placed fifth at the Olympic Games last year and a bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships. The 26 year-old has continued to improve with every year, though he was defeated by up-and-coming star Jin-Kuk Baek of Korea in the semifinals of the Asian Championships this year.
Serguey Rondon of Cuba placed ninth in the Olympic Games last year and fourth in the 2003 World Championships. His only loss last year in the Olympics was to eventual gold-medalist Tedeev in pool competition. Under this year's rules, Rondon would have had the opportunity to wrestle back for a bronze medal. He is a young star that is vital to this Cuban lineup, which many are predicting is the best team in the freestyle World Championships this year.
The continental championships this year had a lot of veterans facing off against one another in the medal rounds.
At the European Championships, Barzakov defeated Asgarov for the gold medal. 23 year-old Albert Batyrov of Belarus and Stadnik won bronze medals.
In the Asian Championships, Baek won a gold medal over Nejad. Polao Vrazimbetov of Uzbekistan and Ikematsu won bronze medals.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2004 Olympic Games results
66 kg/ 145.5 lbs. - Gold - Elbrus Tedeyev (Ukraine) dec. Jamill Kelly (United States), 5-1; Bronze - Makhach Murtazaliev (Russia) dec. Leonid Spirdonov (Kazakhstan), 2-1, ot, 9:00; 5th - Kazuhiko Ikematu (Japan) dec. Apostolos Taskoudis (Greece), 6-4; 7th - Omer Cubucki (Turkey); 8th - Serafim Barzakov (Bulgaria); 9th - Serguei Rondon (Cuba); 10th - Kumar Na Ramesh (India)
2003 World Championships results
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Gold - Irbek Farniev (Russia) dec. Serafim Barzakov (Bulgaria), 3-1, ot, 7:57; Bronze - Ikematsu Kazuhiko (Japan) dec. Serguei Rondon (Cuba), 6-5; 5th - Otari Tushishvili (Georgia); 6th - Elbrus Tedeev (Ukraine); 7th - Nikolaos Loizidis (Greece); 8th - Evan MacDonald (Canada); 9th - Gergo Szabo (Hungary); 10th - Stefan Fernyak (Slovakia)
2002 World Championships
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Gold - Elbrus Tedeev (Ukraine) dec. Ali Reza Dabir (Iran), 5-4, ot, 6:24; Bronze - Zaur Botaev (Russia) dec. Ergun Urun (Germany), 3-0; 5th - Serafim Barzakov (Bulgaria); 6th - Lucian Gralak (Poland); 7th - Sung Jang-Jae (Korea); 8th - Neil Ewers (Canada); 9th - Otar Tushishvili (Georgia); 10th - Norjin Bayramagnai (Mongolia)
2001 World Championships results
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Gold - Serafim Barzakov (Bulgaria) dec. Ali Reza Dabir (Iran), 3-1; Bronze - Elbrus Tedeev (Ukraine) dec. Mehmet Yozgat (Turkey), 4-0; 5th - Elman Asgarov (Azerbaidjan); 6th - Lucjan Gralak (Poland); 7th - Bill Zadick (USA); 8th - Otar Tushishvili (Georgia); 9th - Bae Jin-Kuk (Korea); 10th - Ar. Alexandridis (Greece)