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2006 World Championships preview at 55 kg/121 lbs. in menís freestyle wrestling

Two-time World champion Dilshod Mansurov of Uzbekistan is the favorite, winning the gold medal here two of the last three years. He has had a strong winter season and will look to defend in China.

Returning World silver medalist Radoslav Velikov of Bulgaria remains a threat. Mansurov beat Velikov in the finals of the FILA Golden Grand Prix in June.

The Asian nations have some strong competitors, including World bronze medalists Hyon Guk Jon of North Korea and Bayaraa Naranbataar of Mongolia. Iran's Mohammed Rezai beat Hyon in the Asian Championship finals this year. Japan features Tomohiro Matsunaga, fifth in the World last year, or another young talent Hideki Taoka, who won the Beloglazov Cup in Russia recently.

The 2006 European champion is veteran Alexander Zakharuk of Ukraine, who defeated 2000 Olympic champion Namik Abdullayev of Azerbaijan in the finals. Russia has a number of young stars, but is expected to bring 2005 Junior World champion Besik Kudukhov to China.

1998 World champion Sammie Henson of the United States is still seeking an Olympic title, after placing second at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. He defeated talented young Henry Cejudo, who won a silver medal Sunday at the Junior World Championships, to make the U.S. team. Henson was third at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals.

The 35-year-old Henson has looked strong this season. He proved he is ready to contend for a World medal this year after he won the Uzbekistan Golden Grand Prix in March. Henson beat Mansurov in the finals after earlier downing Abdullaev in the first round of the event. Henson was upset early in the 2005 World Championships and is hungry to atone for that performance.

2004 Olympic silver medalist Stephen Abas of the United States remains sidelined with an injury. Abas likely will bump up a class to 60 kg/132 lbs. when he plans to return to competition next season.

There are numerous veterans who remain dangerous. 2002 World champion Rene Montero of Cuba remains a medal contender. Amiran Karanov of Greece, the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist, was third at the European Championships this year.

Ghenadie Tulbea of Moldova, a 2003 World silver medalist, was fifth at the Europeans this year and 10th in the World in 2005.

This weight is loaded with veteran performers who have excelled on the World and Olympic stage. Don't be surprised to see a veteran like Henson or Abdullaev make a run at the title. Abdullaev was fifth in the World last year.

Mansurov is still considered the favorite, but watch out for a hungry and gifted young star like Kudukhov to be a factor as well.


2005 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Dilshod Mansurov (Uzbekistan); Silver - Radoslav Velikov (Bulgaria); Bronze - Hyon Guk Jon (North Korea); Bronze - Bayaraa Naranbaatar (Mongolia); 5th - Namig Abdullayev (Azerbaijan); 5th - Tomohiro Matsunaga (Japan); 7th - Jae-Hoon Jan (Korea); 8th - Gevork Markaryan (Ukraine); 9th - Zalimkhan Kutseev (Russia); 10th - Ghenadie Tulbea (Moldova)

2004 Olympic Games
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Mavlet Batirov (Russia); Silver - Stephen Abas (USA); Bronze - Chikara Tanabe (Japan); 4th - Amiran Karntanov (Greece); 5th - Li Zhengu (China); 6th - Kim Hyo Sub (Korea); 7th - Oleksandr Zakharuk (Ukraine); 8th - O Song Nam (P.R. of Korea); 9th - Velikov Radislav (Bulgaria); 10th - Dilshod Mansurov (Uzbekistan)

2003 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Dilshod Mansurov (Uzbekistan) dec. Ghenadie Tulbea (Moldova), 7-4; Bronze - Oleksandr Zakharuk (Ukraine) dec. Mohammed Aslani (Iran), 5-2, ot, 6:22; 5th - Stephen Abas (United States); 6th - Amiran Kartanov (Greece); 7th - Tanabe Chickara (Japan); 8th - Ramazan Demir (Turkey); 9th - Bauyrzhan Orazgaliyev (Kazakhstan); 10th - Bayaraa Barabbaatar (Mongolia)

2002 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Roberto Montero (Cuba) dec. Namik Abduallayev (Azerbaijan), 4-1; Bronze - Oleksander Zakharuk (Ukraine) dec. Adcham Achilov (Uzbekistan), 3-1; 5th - Martin Berberyan (Armenia); 6th - Chikara Tanabe (Japan); 7th - Oularbek Tuganbay (Kyrgyzstan); 8th - Zunbayan Tumendemberel (Mongolia); 9th - K. Kumar (India); 10th - Ercan Cetin (Turkey)

2001 World Championships
54 kg/119 lbs. - Gold - Herman Kantoyev (Belarus) dec. Babak Nourzad (Iran), 5-1; Bronze - Alexander Kantoyev (Russia) dec. Maulen Mamyrov (Kazakhstan), 4-1; 5th - Tumendemberel Zuunbayan (Mongolia); 6th - Goha Kirkitadze (Georgia); 7th - Dilshod Mansurov (Uzbekistan); 8th - Arif Farmanov (Azerbaidjan); 9th - Mevlana Kulac (Turkey); 10th - Amiran Kardanov (Greece)
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