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Exciting battles expected at competitive Freestyle World Cup in Baltimore, Md. May 5-6



Special Coverage Section Much is unknown the first year after an Olympic Games in freestyle wrestling, and the 2001 World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling in Baltimore, Md. has its share of intriguing questions. Top international nations Russia, Iran, Turkey, Uzbekistan and host United States will participate in this annual world dual meet championship event, which is set for Saturday May 5 and Sunday May 6 at the Baltimore Arena. The host U.S. team is talented and experienced, and will seek to defend its team title. The USA always seems to compete well in this event, especially when hosted on U.S. soil. The U.S. athletes grow up competing in high school and college dual meets, and truly feel comfortable in this format. The event is a series of dual meets between the nations, with team standings determined based upon the dual meet results. In addition, individual medals are awarded, based upon the competition between the athletes in each weight class. Any fans who can still get to Baltimore this weekend should make sure not to miss this one. For group sales and all-session tickets, contact 1-877-407-8497. For individual tickets, contact Ticketmaster. Let's first take a look at the team race: UNITED STATES - The U.S. team features three members of the 2000 Olympic team: Cary Kolat at 138.75 pounds, Charles Burton at 187.25 pounds and Kerry McCoy at 286 pounds. All three should be extremely motivated after falling short of their goals of winning medals at the Sydney Games. All three are talented international stars, and are gold-medal hopefuls in the World Cup event. Joe Williams, fourth in the 1999 World Championships and a former World Cup champion, is a force at 167.5 pounds. Dominic Black, also a World Team member in 1999 and second in the Olympic Trials, is a veteran influence on the team. A pair of Olympic Team Trials runners-up, Kerry Boumans at 127.75 pounds and Chris Bono at 152 pounds, look to rebound from losses at the U.S. Nationals with a strong performance here. Teague Moore will have his first major international test at 119 pounds. This U.S. squad has the firepower to win the team title and claim a number of individual golds. However, as the first international test since Sydney, it will be a measuring stick as to whether the U.S. team depth will carry the team confidently into the new quadrennium. RUSSIA -This will be an intriguing team, as the Russians will bring a mix of known talents and some new faces. Russia dominated the 2000 Olympic Games and won the 2001 European Championships. Russia has tremendous depth in its freestyle program, and even the new-name athletes are often very tough when they compete at the World Cup. The big name on this Russian team is 1996 Olympic Champion Khajimourat Magomedov, who lost his spot on the "varsity" when Adam Saitiev moved up and won the 2000 Olympic gold. A pair of talented veterans, Murat Ramazanov at 127.75 pounds and Miron Dzadzaev at 138.75 pounds, provide stability in the lower weights. Both have placed at the World Championships or Olympics, but have not been medalists. Alexander Kontoev (119) and Ishhak Boziev (152) have been on the international circuit. The others will be making their first big international appearance, which makes them both dangerous and unreliable. IRAN - This is a talented and motivated team, which will have a strong following of Iranian-American fans in the stands. The team is led by Olympic and World Champion Ali Reza Dabier and World Champion Ali Reza Heidari. Dabier is moving up from 127.75 pounds to 138.75 pounds, and will test himself against the bigger boys. Heidari fell short of a medal in Sydney, but is truly a world-class star. The lightweights are strong, with World medalist Gholam Reza Mohammadi (119) and Goodwill Games champion Bayman Tayebi (127.75) among the top talents. Another veteran is Ebrahim Mehraban (286), who lost his No. 1 spot to Abbas Jadidi two years ago but is a seasoned international wrestler. This Iranian team has strong individuals in most weight classes and some truly outstanding stars, and will be fun to follow in Baltimore. TURKEY - A proud freestyle wrestling nation, Turkey has slipped a bit in recent years, but maintains a strong system with a stready stream of young talent. The Turks were fifth in the 2001 European Championships, led by European champion Ahmet Gulhan (152), who is on the initial World Cup roster. Olympian Aydin Polatci (286) and veterans Melvana Kulac (119) and Kasim Sakiroglu (213.75) provide the World Cup team with some experience. Tevfik Odabasi (127.75) competed in the 2001 European Championships. This team could surprise people, especially if it gets to a good start in the early rounds. UZBEKISTAN - One of the top teams in Asia, the Uzbekistan team has a strong connection to the Russian program, as many of their athletes and coaches were once in the Russian competition pipeline. It is not uncommon for wrestlers to switch nations within the former Soviet Republics. The Uzbeks will open with some strong lightweights, led by Damir Zakhartdinov (127.75), who was fourth in the Sydney Games, and Adkham Achilov (119), who was eighth in the 2000 Olympics. A veteran warhorse on the team is Rasul Katinovossov, a former Russian star at 187.25 pounds who has jumped up to 213.75 pounds. The rest of the lineup is relatively new to U.S. fans, but will have that Soviet toughness regardless of experience levels. TEAM OUTLOOK - This could be a true toss-up, with the United States and Iran looking strongest on paper. This event could resemble the 1998 World Cup in Stillwater, Okla., where three teams finished with one loss (USA, Iran, Russia), and Russia won the team title on tie-breakers. With only eight weight classes, one or two individual upsets in a dual meet could totally change the team picture. The key dual may be the Iran vs. Russia match. Iran, which has had trouble beating the USA in the dual format, has shown great spirit in its matches against Russia, and should have the emotional advantage due to its loyal fans. When the USA faces Russia, anything can happen. In 1997, everything went right when the USA swept all eight matches from Russia in the final dual meet. In 1998, Russia edged the USA by one point, and caused the tiebreaker procedure. The USA has been strong during the last two World Cup events, and has the power to control its own destiny this year. The other two teams, Turkey and Uzbekistan, offer an interesting mix to the puzzle, especially if their young talents are ready to compete at this level. A quick review of the individual weight class races follows: 119 pounds - There is no compelling favorite here, as each team sends a strong entry. Based on his many World medals, Gholam Reza Mohammadi of Iran is the most experienced veteran of the mix. Turkey's Melvana Kulac and Uzbekistan's Adkham Achilov have been tested on the world level, and can compete with anybody. Alexander Kontoev of Russia is also talented, and should be ready to make his mark here. Teague Moore of the USA makes his first Senior-level international appearance, and has been impressive over the last year. It will be hard for any athlete to go unbeaten in this mix. 127.75 pounds - This weight will also be very competitive, with Damir Zakhartdinov of Uzbekistan, fourth at the Sydney Olympics, as the initial favorite. Russia's Murat Ramazanov, should he get hot, could run the table. Kerry Boumans of the USA, second in the Olympic Trials and a past national champion, has skill and intensity. Bayman Tayebi of Iran, a Goodwill Games champion at 119 pounds, moves up in weight and has tremendous technical skill. Turkey's entries, Tevlik Odabasi or Arif Kama, will have a tough time staying with the others. This one could also go to the tie-breaking procedures if no athlete can sweep four wins. 138.75 pounds - Everyone is anticipating the matchup with 2000 Olympic Champion Ali Reza Dabier of Iran and two-time World medalist Cary Kolat of the United States. Dabier is moving up in weight to battle Kol
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