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2006 World Championships preview at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. in menís Greco-Roman wrestling

Bulgaria's Nikolai Gergov won the World title last year, defeating Hussamadin Rajabov of Azerbaijan in the finals. This year, Gergov has had an up and down season, placing 10th at the European Championships this spring. He paid his dues for a number of years, competing in the 2004 Olympics and winning a European title in 2005.

Rajabov is no longer listed on the FILA website as the World silver medalist, and he has not competed since the Worlds at a major event. The international federation does not make formal announcements when an athlete has been stripped of his placement.

Moving up from a bronze medal to take the silver medal was Kim Min-Chol of Korea, who has limited international experience. Kim was eighth in the 2003 Junior World Championships. It is possible that Korea will be represented this year by 2004 Olympic champion Jung Ji Hyun, who moved up to this weight from 60 kg and won the Asian Championships. Jung was also an unknown until he won his Olympic title. His only other recent achievement was a silver medal at the 2005 World University Games, competing at 66 kg.

Alain Milan of Cuba, a World bronze-medalist in 2005, holds the No. 1 ranking worldwide. He was second at the 2006 World Cup, and boasts a Pan American Championships title from 2005. For many years, Cuba had a star at this division, 2000 Olympic silver medalist Juan Maren, but Milan has stepped in to cover this weight class the last two years.

The other World bronze medalist, after the final standing were adjusted was Kim Kum-Chol of North Korea, who was second at the Asian Championships this year. Like many of the North Korean athletes, Kim has had only limited competition on the world level, but their athletes are always very competitive when they enter a major event.

2004 Olympic champion Farid Mansurov of Azerbaijan has not been active in the last two years.

Tamas Lorincz of Hungary won the European title, defeating Sergei Kovalenko of Russia in the finals. Ironically, Lorincz was only a bronze medalist at the European Junior Championships this year. Lorincz has not yet entered a World Championship on the Senior level, but was a 2006 Junior World bronze medalist.

Kovalenko was also a World Cup champion this year for Russia, and like Lorincz, has yet to compete at a Senior World Championships. He has won two World University bronze medals, however. Russia has not won a World medal at this weight class since 2002, when Maxim Semenov captured a World bronze medal. Semenov was second at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals this year, and was ninth at the 2004 Olympic Games. The Russian entry at the World meet last year was Roman Gromov, who placed way down at 33rd in the final standings.

1997 World champion Seref Eroglu of Turkey was also second at the 2004 Olympic Games, and won a European bronze medal this year. Eroglu is one of the veterans in this weight class, having competed at the World level as a Senior athlete going all the way back to 1994. Eroglu has wrestled in three Olympic Games and remains a top challenger at the age of 30.

Olexandre Kvosch of Ukraine also was a European bronze medalist. A 2004 Olympian, Kvosch has yet to win a medal at the World Championships.

Jimmy Samuelsson of Sweden, a 2002 World champion, was fourth in the Athens Olympics and eighth at the 2005 Worlds. Armen Vardanyan of Ukraine, a 2003 World silver medalist, was fifth at both the 2004 Olympics and 2005 World Championships.

Hamid Reihani of Iran won the FILA Golden Grand Prix, and was second in the Asian Junior Championships this year. He has not yet represented Iran at the Senior World Championships. Iran's entry at the Asian Senior Championships this year was Mehdi Tavakoli, who placed fifth. Tavakoli was also the entry at the World Championships last year, and finished out of the top 10.

Among the other athletes in the top 10 last year in the world were Li Yanyan of China (who was seventh), Mukhran Matchutadze of Georgia (ninth) and Levente Furedy of Hungary (10th). Li was only sixth at the Asian Championships this year.

The U.S. entry is Harry Lester, a University World medalist a year ago, who is talented and looking to break in. Lester lost his only bout at the 2005 World Championships, but has gotten in a ton of international events since then and is looking for a breakthrough on the Senior level in China this year.

Among the placewinners from the 2006 European Championships were Sylvester Charsewski of Poland, Tomas Sobecky of the Czech Republic, Vitali Zhuk of Belarus and Elbrus Mammadov of Azerbaijan.

The World University champion this year was Cebi Selcuk of Turkey. The Junior World champion this year was also a Turk, Islambek Albiev. If Eroglu ever chooses to retire, he has some talented young athletes waiting for their chance.

This is one of the weight classes which is wide open for any of a number of talented athletes to win it all. Since this weight class was formed in 2002, there has been a different World or Olympic gold medalist for each season. If there is any division where a longshot might come through this year, the 66 kg division is a prime candidate for an unexpected champion.


Updated 2005 World Championships results
66 kg/145.5 lbs.- Gold - Nikolay Gergov (Bulgaria); Silver - Kim Min-Chul (Korea); Bronze - Alain Milan (Cuba); Bronze - Kim Kum-Chol (North Korea ); 5th - Armen Vardanyan (Ukraine); 7th - Li Yanyan (China); 8th - Jimmy Samuelsson (Sweden); 9th - Mukhran Matchutadze (Georgia); 10th - Levente Furedy (Hungary)

Note: Silver medalist Husamaddin Rajabov (Azerbaijan) is no longer listed as placing in this tournament. Kim from Korea moves up into the silver medal. Joining Milan of Cuba as a bronze medalist is Kim from North Korea.

2004 Olympic Games results
66 kg/145.5 lbs.- Gold - Farid Mansurov (Azerbaijan); Silver - Seref Eroglu (Turkey); Bronze -Mkkhitar Manukyan (Kazakhstan); 4th - Jimmy Samuelsson (Sweden); 5th - Armen Vardanyan (Ukraine) ; 6th - Konstantinos Arkoudeas (Greece); 7th - Jannis Zamanduridis (Germany); 8th - Vaghinak Galustyan (Armenia); 9th - Maxim Semenov (Russia); 10th - Luis Ferrnando Izquierdo (Colombia)

2003 World Championships results
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Gold - Manuchar Kvirkelia (Georgia) dec. Armen Vardanyan (Ukraine), 5-2; Bronze - Levente Furedi (Hungary) dec. Vaghinak Galvstyan (Armenia), 3-2; 5th - Seref Eroglu (Turkey); 6th - Kim In-Sub (Korea); 7th - Jannis Zamandouridis (Germany); 8th - Ferik Masurov (Azerbaijan); 9th - Luis Fernando Izquierdo (Colombia); 10th - Jimmy Samuelsson (Sweden)

2002 World Championships results
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Gold - Jimmy Samuelsson (Sweden) dec. Farid Mansurov (Azerbaijan), 3-0; Bronze - Manuchar Kvirkvelia (Georgia) dec. Maksim Semenov (Russia), 4-2; 5th - Bakhadyr Kurbanov (Uzbekistan); 6th - Mehdi Hodaei (Iran); 7th - Nikolay Gergov (Bulgaria); 8th - Juan Maren (Cuba); 9th - Vaghinak Galustyan (Armenia); 10th - Jerzy Szeibinger (Poland)

2001 World Championships
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Gold - Vagninak Galustyan (Armenia) dec. Kim In Sub (Korea), 8-3; Bronze - Michael Beilin (Israel) dec. Juan Maren (Cuba), 3-0, ot, 6:07; 5th - Eduard Aplevich (Belarus); 6th - Peng Ciu (China); 7th - Kevin Bracken (United States); 8th - Levente Furedy (Hungary); 9th - Beat Motzer (Switzerland); 10th - Akaki Chachua (Georgia)
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