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2006 World Championships preview at 55 kg/121 lbs. in menís Greco-Roman wrestling



The 2005 World Championships featured a new star, Hamid Sayan Reinhanpour of Iran, a 2005 Junior World champion who also won the gold medal at the 2005 Senior World Championships, a rare feat. A great athlete who wrestles with flair, Reihanpour defeated Eun Chol Park of Korea in the World finals last year.

Iran is loaded at this weight class, with 2001 World champion Hassan Rangraz also in the division. For a few seasons, Rangraz, also a 2002 World bronze medalist, was considered one of the top stars in wrestling. There is no guarantee that Reinhanpour will represent Iran this year. He was third at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals this year, his top finish of the season.

World runner-up Park has not been very active so far this season. Prior to last year's medal at the Worlds, his best performance was a silver at the 2002 World University Championships. Korea has another talent in 2006 Asian champion Lee Jung-Baek, so it would not be a surprise if there was a different Korean entered at the World meet this year. Lee was seventh in the 2005 World Championships and a 2006 World Cup silver medalist. Korea has a long tradition of excellence in the lightest weight class in Greco-Roman.

2004 Olympic champion Istvan Majoros of Hungary won a World bronze medal last year. He has been wrestling up at 51 kg this season, placing fifth at the European Championships at the higher weight and won the 2006 World Cup there. If he chooses to drop back down, he becomes a prominent force. Majoros was a relative unknown prior to the Athens Olympics, but stormed through the field there. At the 2005 Worlds in his home Hungary, he showed true grit by bouncing back from a loss to win a bronze medal.

The other 2005 World bronze medalist, Yermek Kukutov of Kazakhstan, dropped to fifth at the Asian Championships this year. Kuketov was second at the 2004 World University Championships, his previous best finish.

The European champion this year was Roman Amoyan of Armenia, who placed ninth in the World last year. In the European championship finals, he defeated Venelin Venkov of Bulgaria, who is also emerging on the international scene this year. Venkov was fifth at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals this year.

Rovsan Bayramov of Azerbaijan won the gold medal at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals. Bayramov was seventh in the World last year and third in the Europeans this year. A Junior World champion in 2003, Bayramov is among the young athletes who seem to be making inroads at this division at this time.

Another veteran worth watching is Iraki Chochua of Georgia, who was second behind Bayramov at the Golden Grand Prix. Chochua has a number of World-level placements, his best being a sixth place finish at the 2004 Olympic Games. He was eighth in the World last year , and ninth in 2002.

Past World champions who might still be in the field include Dariusz Jablonski of Poland (2003), Gaidar Mamadaliev of Russia (2002) and Lazaro Rivas of Cuba (1999).

Of these past champions, Rivas remains the most intriguing and dangerous. Rivas was also a 2000 Olympic silver medalist and 2001 World bronze medalist, and received FILA's Wrestler of the Year award. At 31 years old, Rivas is getting a bit elderly for this weight class, which tends to reward speed and youth. He was fifth at the World Championships last year and was fifth at the 2004 Olympic Games, just missing a medal. So far this year, Rivas has won the Pan American Championships (his ninth Pan Am title if you also include Pan Am Games), as well as the Central American Games.

Mamadaliev is also somebody to recon with. An Olympic silver medalist in 2004, he dropped out of the medals at last year's World Championships. Russia has such depth in every weight class that it is not uncommon to see new faces at the World Championships. At this year's European Championships, Nazir Mankiev placed 12th in this weight for Russia. This year's Junior World champion is a Russian, Zaur Kuramagomedov.

Jablonski was 12th at the World Championships last year, and 15th at the Olympic Games and at 33 years old could be past his peak.

Bayram Ozdemir of Turkey has been very competitive in major events the last few seasons. He won the 2006 World Cup and was the European champion in 2004. His fifth place at the European Championships this year shows he remains capable of being in the medal hunt at any event.

Florin Gavrila of Romania was the other European bronze medalist in 2006. A 1999 Junior World champion, Gavrila still seeks his first World-level medal on the Senior level. Another tough European is Anders Nyblom of Denmark who was fifth in the World last year. It was his first medal at a major event on the Senior level, including continental championships.

The U.S. brings Lindsey Durlacher for the second straight year at this division. Durlacher paid his dues for many years behind successful U.S. competitors, and now has a chance for his own glory. His loss at last year's World Championships was to Olympic champion Majoros. Durlacher has beaten some difficult U.S. challengers, including Sam Hazewinkel and University World champion Spenser Mango. He continues to wrestle often on international tours, experience that could help him to break through into the medal rounds this year.

North Korea has a talented wrestler here, Cha Kwang-Su, who was 10th in the World last year. Cha was the 2005 Asian champion, but dropped to fourth at the Asian Championships this season. Uran Kalilov of Kyrgyzstani is another top competitor, taking a silver medal at the Asican Championships. Kalilov has wrestled in the last two Olympic Games, and his best effort on the World level was a fourth-place finish at the 2001 World meet.

Others to watch include Vugar Ragimov of Ukraine, Aliaksei Shaipak of Belarus, Artiom Kiouregian of Greece and Kristian Fris of Serbia and Montenegro. Kiouregian was the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist at this weight, having a superb performance competing on his home mats in Athens. Since then, he has not won any medals at a major event.

This weight class often has surprises, such as the performance last year by Reinhanpour of Iran. It will be interesting to see if this year another young athlete makes a big breakthrough, or if some of the talented veterans in the field keep control of the medals.

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS

2005 World Championships results
55 kg/121 lbs. -Gold - Hamid Sayan Reinhanpour (Iran); Silver - Eun-Chol Park (Korea); Bronze - Istvan Majoros (Hungary); Bronze - Yermek Kuketov (Kazakhstan); 5th - Anders Nyblom (Denmark); 5th - Lazaro Rivas (Cuba); 7th - Rovshan Bayramov (Azerbaijan); 8th - Irakli Chochua (Georgia); 9th - Roman Amoyan (Armenia); 10th - Kwang Su Cha (PeopleŪs Republic of Korea)

2004 Olympic Games results
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Ivan Majoros (Hungary); Silver - Geider Mamadaliev (Russia); Bronze - Artiom Kiorgegkian (Greece); 4th - Oleksiy Vakulenko (Ukraine); 5th- Lazaro Rivas (Cuba); 6th - Irakli Chachua (Georgia); 7th - Im Dae Wong (Korea); 8th - Hakkan Nyblom (Denmark); 9th -Hassan Rangraz (Iran); 10th - Masatoshi Toyoda (Japan)

2003 World Championships results
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Dariusz Jablonski (Poland) dec. Im Dae-Wong (Korea), 6-5; Bronze - Lazaro Rivas (Cuba) dec. Petr Svehla (Czech Rep.), 5-1; 5th - Marian Sandu (Romania); 6th - Uran Kalilov (Kyrgyzstan); 7th - Hasan Rangraz (Iran); 8th - Hakan Nyblom (Denmark); 9th - Svajunas Adomaitis (Lithuania); 10th - Oleksiy Vakulenko (Ukraine)

2002 World Championship results
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Geider Mamadaliyev (Russia) dec. Nepes Gukulov (Turkmenistan), 4-0; Bronze - Hassan Rangraz (Iran) won by tech. fall over Ashot Khachaturyan (Armenia), 10-0, 4:39; 5th (tie) Marian Sandu (Romania) and Ercan Yldiz (Turkey); 7th - Artiom Kiouregian (Greece); 8th - Brandon Paulson (United States); 9th - Irakli Tchotchua (Georgia); 10th - Oleksandr Vakulenko (Ukraine)

2001 World Championships results
54 kg/119 lbs. - Gold - Hassan Rangraz (Iran) dec. Brandon Paulson (USA), 8-4; Bronze - Lazaro Rivas (Cuba) dec. Uran Kalilov (Kyrgyzstan), 3-1; 5th - Khatri Mukesh (India); 6th - Barys Radkevich (Belarus); 7th - Rakymzhan Assembekov (Kazakhstan); 8th - Tenyo Tenev (Bulgaria); 9th - Tomoya Murata (Japan); 10th - Oleg Koucherenko (Germany)



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