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|2005 World Championships preview at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. in menís freestyle wrestling|
By John Fuller TheMat.com
The 120 kg/264.5 lbs. weight class in men's freestyle competition at this year's World Championships could see some new faces in medal contention. However, many of the top wrestlers will return this year to make a run at a World title.
Olympic and World champion Artur Taimazov of Uzbekistan has wrestled in only tournament since the Athens Olympics last year, but he is only 26 years old, so there is no reason not to expect him to compete. Uzbekistan did not have a representative at the European Championships and Mansur Mirzaev was not very competitive in the World Cup.
Taimazov also won silver medals at the 2000 Olympic Games and the 2001 World Championships. He has been perched atop for six years now, and until someone stops him on the World level, he will be a heavy favorite to win his third straight gold medal.
Alireza Rezaie of Iran took a long break after Athens, when he won a silver medal. Rezaie also won a bronze medal at the 2003 World Championships, but the 29 year-old came back this year to claim a silver medal at the Asian Championships, losing to Mazid Mutalimov of Kazakhstan in the gold-medal bout.
Mutalimov is only 25 years old, and is an up-and-coming star in this weight division. He placed fourth at last year's Olympic Games losing only to Rezaie in the semifinals and eventual bronze medalist Aydin Polatci of Turkey in overtime. And like Rezaie, he was defeated by American Kerry McCoy at the 2003 World Championships, leaving him in sixth place.
Many coaches feel that Mutalimov is strong on his feet, but has always lost matches in par terre. The new rules may be a benefit to his style of wrestling.
Polatci is a veteran of the sport at 28 years old. He has competed in two Olympic Games and four World Championships, only placing below fifth in one of those events. He won a bronze medal at last year's Olympic Games and at the 2002 World Championships. He generally has lost close matches to an eventual medalist. This will be one of the tougher draws of this tournament.
Alexis Rodriguez of Cuba lost to Polatci in the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games last year in an overtime match, spoiling Rodriguez's attempt at a second Olympic medal. He has also won four World-level medals, including a gold in 1998. Rodriguez is one of the most consistent performers in the world in major events.
Rodriguez did show some signs of slowing this year, though, losing to American college star Cole Konrad at the Pan American Championships. Konrad eventually placed third in the U.S. World Team Trials.
Russia's Kuramagomed Kuramagomedov has been competed on the World-level for years. Last year, he took over the top spot somewhat by default as some of Russia's other stars at this weight retired. Kuramagomedov won a World title in 1997 and followed that with a World bronze in 1998 while competing at 97 kg. Since moving up to heavyweight, he was Russia's backup until the 2003 World Championships, when he lost to Taimazov in a pool match.
Kuramagomedov proved this year that he is ready to come back and win a medal at the World Championships after he took gold at the European Championships. He also defeated Taimazov in a tournament earlier this year.
McCoy has not competed since Athens, and veteran Tolly Thompson will take the U.S. spot this year. Thompson won a bronze at the World Cup this year. He is a veteran that has competed against most of the top wrestlers in the world. He seems to be rejuvenated and U.S. coaches feel that he is wrestling as well right now as he has at any point in his career.
Efstathios Topalidis of Greece is expected to be back this year as well after he won a bronze medal at this year's European Championships. Topalidis placed fifth at the 2003 World Championships, but before that, had not competed in a major event since the 2000 Olympic Games. Last year, Greece placed Nestoras Batzelas into the lineup for the Olympics, but he barely last over one period against Rodriguez.
Ukraine could send either Vadim Tasoev, who won a silver medal at the European Championships, or Ivan Ishchenko, who won a silver medal at the World Cup. Tasoev is a veteran who has competed in multiple World Championships and two Olympic Games, but up until this year, had never wrestled at heavyweight.
At the European Championships, Kuramagomedov defeated Tasoev for the gold medal, and Topalidis and Otto Aubeli of Hungary won bronze medals.
At the Asian Championships, Mutalimov defeated Rezaie for the gold medal. Liang Lei of China and Olympian Palwinder Singh of India won bronze medals.
This is one weight class where if you go back through the past four or five years, you will see the same names winning medals, just in different orders sometimes. Many of those names are back this year, which should make for a fun and interesting tournament under the new rules system.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2004 Olympic Games results
120 kg/ 264.5 lbs. - Gold - Artur Taimazov (Uzbekistan) by fall over Alireza Rezaie (Iran), 4:33; Bronze - Aydin Polatci (Turkey) dec. Mazid Mutalimov (Kazakhstan), 3-1, ot, 6:12; 5th - Alexis Rodriguez (Cuba) by inj. def. over Kuramagomed Kuramagomedov (Russia); 7th - Kerry McCoy (United States); 8th - Bozhidar Boyadzhiev (Bulgaria); 9th - Sven Thiele (Germany); 10th - Francesco Miano-Petta (Italy)
2003 World Championships results
120 kg/264.5 - Gold - Artur Taimazov (Uzbekistan) dec. Kerry McCoy (United States), 4-1. ot, 6:12; Bronze - Alireza Rezaie (Iran) dec. Serhii Priadun (Ukraine), 3-0; 5th - Efsathios Topalidis (Greece); 6th - Mazid Mutalimov (Kazakhstan); 7th - Baris Hrinkevich (Belarus); 8th - Aleksi Modebadze (Georgia); 9th - Otto Aubeli (Hungary); 10th - Gelegjamts Usukhbayar (Mongolia)
2002 World Championships results
120 kg/264.5 lbs. - Gold - David Musulbes (Russia) dec. Alexis Rodriguez (Cuba), 5-0, ot, 6:04; Bronze - Aydin Polatci (Turkey) won by tech. fall over David Otiashvili (Georgia), 10-0, 1:25; 5th - Otto Aubeli (Hungary); 6th - Ruslan Shikhsafiyev (Kazakhstan); 7th - Markus Hamann (Germany); 8th - Artur Taimazov (Uzbekistan); 9th - Boris Boyadzhiev (Bulgaria); 10th - Boris Grinkevich (Belarus)
2001 World Championships results
130 kg/286 lbs. - Gold - David Musulbes (Russia) dec. Artur Taimazov (Uzbekistan), 4-3; Bronze - Alexis Rodriguez (Cuba) dec. Kerry McCoy (United States), 3-1; 5th - Arpad Ritter (Hungary); 5th - Aydin Polatci (Turkey); 6th - Boyadjiev Bojidar (Bulgaria); 7th - Abbass Jadidi (Iran); 8th - Palwinder Singh (India); 9th - Th. Abatzis (Greece); 10th - Barys Hrynkevich (Bulgaria)