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2006 World Championships preview at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. in men's freestyle wrestling

The dominant force at this weight class is Khadjimurad Gatsalov of Russia, who won the 2004 Olympics and 2005 World Championships. Gatsalov also added a European title this year, making him an overwhelming favorite in China this year.

Eldar Kurtanidze of Georgia, second to Gatsalov last year and a two-time World champion, is now competing at 120 kg.

The top challengers for Gatsalov are mostly from the former Soviet republics, and some used to wrestle for Russia. Georgi Gogshelidze, a 2001 World champion for Russia, now wrestles for Georgia and was the champion at the FILA Golden Grand Prix and third in the Europeans.

Shamil Gitinov, also a former Russian, placed second at the European Championships for Armenia. The two 2005 World bronze medalists are Aleksei Krupnykov of Kyrgyzstan and Vasyl Tesmeynneckyy of Ukraine.

A veteran star returned to the mats this summer, 1998 World champion and 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Ali Reza Heidari of Iran. He placed second at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals.

Nurzhan Katayev of Kazakhstan won the 2006 Asian Championships, beating Krupnykov in the finals and was ninth in the World last year. Tae Hyn Koo of Korea, Siarhei Pernakau of Belarus and Bartolomej Bartnicki of Poland are among those in the top 10 at the Worlds last year.

Daniel Cormier of the United States, fourth at the 2000 Olympics and fifth at the 2003 World meet, did not place at the World Championships in Hungary last year. He returns again, seeking his first World medal.

Cormier has had trouble cutting down to 96 kg and has not competed overseas this year. If he gets his weight down and stays focused, he is a legitimate threat to bring home a medal. He is an explosive wrestler with the talent to do it.

Others to watch in this class include Eldar Atakiseiv of Azerbaijan and Gergely Kiss of Hungary.

Look for a battle between Gatsalov and Kurtanidze for the title, but don't be surprised if someone else emerges from a star-studded field in this division. This weight class should be fun to watch.


2005 World Championships results
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Gold - Khaszimurat Gatsalov (Russia); Silver - Luka Kurtanidze (Georgia); Bronze - Aleksei Krupnykov (Krygyzstan); Bronze - Vasyl Tesmeyneckyy (Ukraine); 5th - Tae-Hyun Koo (Korea); 5th - Siarhei Pernikau (Belarus); 7th - Amir Ganji (Iran); 8th - Bartolomie Bartnicki (Poland); 9th - Nurzhan Katayev (Kazakhstan); 10th - Gergely Kiss (Hungary)

2004 Olympic Games results
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Gold - Khajimurad Gatsalov (Russia); Silver - Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan); Bronze -Ali Reza Heidari (Iran); 4th - Daniel Cormier (USA); 5th -Rustem Aghayev (Azerbaijan); 6th -Wan Yuanyan (China); 7th - Aleksandr Shemarov (Belarus); 8th - Eldar Kurtanidze (Georgia); 9th - Fatih Cakiroglu (Turkey); 10th - Islam Bairamukov (Kazakhstan)

2003 World Championship results
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Gold - Eldar Kurtanidze (Georgia) dec. Ali Reza Heidari (Iran), 4-0; Bronze - Krassimir Kotchev (Bulgaria) dec. Tuvshintur Enkhtuya (Mongolia), 5-1; 5th - Daniel Cormier (United States); 6th - Nico Jacobs (Namibia); 7th - Bartolomiej Bartnicki (Poland); 8th - Vadym Tasoev (Ukraine); 9th - Radovan Valach (Austria); 10th - Alexandr Shemarov (Belarus)

2002 World Championships
96 kg/211.25 lbs. - Gold - Eldar Kurtanidze (Georgia) won by ref. dec. over Ali Reza Heidari (Iran), 2-1, ot, 9:00; Bronze - Vadim Tasoev (Ukraine) won by tech. fall over Alexandre Xanthopoulos (Greece), 10-0, 4:24; 5th - Alexander Shemarov (Belarus); 6th - Georgi Gogshelizhiev (Russia); 7th - Wilfredo Morales (Cuba); 8th - Rolf Scherrer (Switzerland); 9th - Dean Schmeichel (Canada); 10th - Zoltan Farkas (Hungary)

2001 World Championships results
97 kg/213.75 lbs. - Gold - Georgi Gogchelidze (Russia) dec. Krassimir Kotchev (Bulgaria), 3-0; Bronze - Vadim Tasoev (Ukraine) won by tech fall over Zoltan Farkas (Hungary), 10-0; 5th - Ezdar Kurtanidze (Georgia); 6th - George Torchinava (Netherlands); 7th - Ozkale Taskin (Turkey); 8th - Johannes Rossouw (Great Britain); 9th - Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan); 10th - Wilfredo Morales (Cuba)
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