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|2006 World Championships preview at 74 kg/163 lbs. in men's freestyle wrestling|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
Russia's Bouvaisa Saitiev is widely regarded as the best wrestler on the planet right now.
It's easy to see why. Saitiev has won two Olympic gold medals and six World titles. And he's still at the top of his game.
Saitiev continues to compete and continues to win. He tuned up for the Worlds by winning the European Championships earlier this year. He defeated Hungary's Arpad Ritter in the World finals last year. Ritter has been wrestling at 84 kg this year, and Gabor Hatos placed third for Hungary at the European Championships this year.
Nikolay Paslar of Bulgaria, a past World champion, was a bronze medalist at the 2005 World meet. The other bronze medalist, Joe Williams of the United States, will not return, as the U.S. spot was claimed by up-and-coming Donny Pritzlaff. A 1998 Junior World Champion, Pritzlaff will be competing at his first Senior World meet.
Ruslan Kokaev of Armenia was second behind Saitiev at the Europeans this year, and the other bronze medalist was veteran Krystian Brzozowski of Poland, who was fourth at the 2004 Olympics.
Gela Sagarishvili of Georgia won the gold at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals, beating Russian Arsen Gitinov in the finals. Mourad Gaidarov of Belarus, who was second in the 2003 World Championships, was fifth at the European meet this year.
Ivan Fundora of Cuba, a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, was seventh at the World Championships last year.
Iran's Hadi Habibi was the Asian Champion this year, and was fourth at the 2003 World Championships. Iran's other top choice is 2002 World champion Mehdi Hajazideh, who was fifth in 2005 World meet. Alexander Burcu of Moldovia, Soslan Tigiev of Uzbekistan and Si Rueleng of China are other contenders to watch.
Saitiev still is heavily favored to add yet another gold medal to his vast collection. His remarkable run of success looks to continue for a while.
Pritzlaff has done well internationally when he's had an opportunity. He just needs to gain experience after being stuck behind Williams for a number of years.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2005 World Championships results
74 kg/163 lbs. - Gold - Bouvaisa Saitiev (Russia); Silver - Arpad Ritter (Hungary); Bronze - Joe Williams (USA); Bronze - Nikolay Paslar (Bulgaria); 5th - Alexandru Burca (Moldova); 5th - Mehdi Hajizadeh (Iran); 7th - Ivan Fundora (Cuba); 8th - Soslan Tigiev (Uzbekistan); 9th - Talant Jekshenov (Krygyzstan); 10th - Salvatore Rinella (Italy)
2004 Olympic Games results
74 kg/163 lbs. - Gold - Bouvaisa Saitiev (Russia); Silver - Gennadiy Laliev (Kazakhstan); Bronze - Ivan Fundora (Cuba); 4th - Krystian Brzoziwki (Poland); 5th -Joe Williams (USA); 6th - Daniel Igali (Canada); 7th - Salvatore Rinella (Italy); 8th - Arayik Gevorgyan (Armenia); 9th - Yusup Adulsalomov (Tajikistan); 10th - Emzarios Betinidis (Greece)
2003 World Championships results
74 kg/163 lbs. - Gold - Bouvaisa Saitiev (Russia) won by ref. dec. over Murad Caidarov (Belarus), 2-2, ot, 9:00; Bronze - Gennadiy Laliyev (Kazakhstan) dec. Hadi Habibi (Iran), 5-1; 5th - Siharmir Osmanov (Macedonia); 6th - Talgat Ilyasov (Australia); 7th - Arpad Ritter (Hungary); 8th - Sujeet Mann (India); 9th - Aslanov Elnur Isquandar (Azerbaijan); 10th - Obata Kunihiko (Japan)
2002 World Championships results
74 kg/163 lbs. - Gold - Mehdi Hadjizadeh Joybari (Iran) dec. Magomed Isagadzhiev (Russia), 4-0; Bronze - Vladimir Sirotin (Ukraine); 4th - Gennadiy Laliyev (Kazakhstan); 5th - Daniel Igali (Canada); 6th - Xu Xuanchong (China); 7th - Georgi Mechedlidze (Georgia); 8th - Daniel Gonzales (Cuba); 9th - Elshad Allahverdiev (Azerbaijan); 10th - Alexander Leipold (Germany)
2001 World Championships results
76 kg/167.5 lbs. - Gold - Bouvaisa Saitiev (Russia) dec. Moon Eiu-Jae (Korea), 3-1; Bronze - Joe Williams (USA) won by tech. fall over Radion Kertanti (Slovakia), 10-0; 6th - Mehdi Hajizadeh Joybari (Iran); 7th - Rezo Mindorashvili (Georgia); 8th - Jari Olmana (Finland); 9th - Yavaser Gokhan (Turkey); 10th - Eugen Preda (Romania)