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|2006 World Championships preview at 66 kg/145.5 lbs. in men's freestyle wrestling|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
The reigning World champion, Makhach Murtazaliev of Russia, remains at the top of his game, winning the European Championships this year. He defeated two-time World champion Serafim Barzakov of Bulgaria in the World finals last year.
Barzakov was third at the Europeans in 2006, meaning both athletes are top medal hopefuls again this year.
The returning World bronze medalists are Otar Tushishvili of Georgia and Geandry Garzon of Cuba. Tushishvili was fifth at the European Championships this year. Albert Batyrov of Belarus was the European runner-up in 2006 and Vadim Guigolaev of France was also a European bronze medalist.
Leonid Spiridonov of Kazakhstan, who was fifth in the World last year, won the Asian Championships, defeating Buyunjav Batzorig of Mongolia in the finals. Spiridonov was fourth at the 2004 Olympic Games.
Batzorig was seventh in last year's World meet. Competing for the United States is veteran Bill Zadick, who was seventh in the World back in 2001. Coaches say that Zadick is wrestling as well as ever and is a serious medal hopeful.
Zadick appears reenergized this year and having his brother Mike on the team at 60 kg/132 lbs. also has given the 33-year-old a boost. The Zadick brothers seem to feed off each other and that could be a big factor in this tournament.
Iran's Masoud Mostafa Jokar, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist at 60 kg, has moved up to 66 kg and should be in the mix.
Elman Askarov of Azerbaijan remains a threat. Korea's Baek Jin Kuk was third in the Asian Championships this year, but won the 2005 Asian Championships. Other top contenders include Viktor Bilokopytyy of Ukraine, Anisim Tambulat of Moldova, Evan McDonald of Canada and Omer Cubuki of Turkey.
This weight class has produced its share of surprises in recent years. Case in point was the 2004 Olympics when Jamill Kelly came out of nowhere to win a silver medal. Don't be surprised if a guy like Zadick gets on a roll in China.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2005 World Championships results
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Gold - Makhach Murtazaliev (Russia); Silver - Serafim Barzakov (Bulgaria); Bronze - Otar Tushishvili (Georgia); Bronze - Geandry Garzon (Cuba); 5th - Leonid Spirodonov (Kazakhstan); 5th - Viktor Bilokopytyy (Ukraine); 7th - Bayunjav Batzorig (Mongolia); 8th - Evan MacDonald (Canada); 9th - Omer Cubukci (Turkey); 10th - Masoud Vahedi (Iran)
2004 Olympic Games results
66 kg/ 145.5 lbs. - Gold - Elbrus Tedeyev (Ukraine); Silver - Jamill Kelly (USA); Bronze - Makhach Murtazaliev (Russia); 4th - Leonid Spirdonov (Kazakhstan); 5th - Kazuhiko Ikematu (Japan); 6th - Apostolos Taskoudis (Greece); 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)