U.S. receives Greco-Roman draws for World Championships in Belgrade
by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling
The World Wrestling Championships in Belgrade, Serbia concludes with Greco-Roman competition, held September 21-24. The United States, which brings an experienced team looking to have a breakthrough at the World level, received its draws for the competition.
The U.S. team 2020 U.S. Olympians, Ildar Hafizov (60 kg) and Alejandro Sancho (67 kg). Hafizov is a two-time Olympian, having competed in the 2008 Olympics for Uzbekistan before emigrating to the United States.
Hafizov opens against 2022 Asian silver medalist Mehdi Mohsen Nejad of Iran, who is the No. 6 seed. Hafizov has landed in the bottom half bracket, which also has No. 2 seed Zholaman Sharshenbekov of Kyrgyzstan, the 2022 World champion, and No. 3 seed Kerim Kamal of Turkey.
Sancho has a bye, then will face the winner of 2019 U23 World bronze medalist Valentin Petic of Moldova and Switzerland World Team member Andreas Vetsch. He has landed in the bottom half bracket, which features No. 2 seed Husiyuetu of China, a 2022 World bronze medalist, and No. 3 seed Hasrat Jafarov of Azerbaijan. Olympic champion Mohammadreza Geraei of Iran is also on his side.
Joining Hafizov and Sancho as past Senior World Team members are Patrick Smith (72 kg), Kamal Bey (77 kg), Spencer Woods (82 kg), Josef Rau (97 kg) and Cohlton Schultz (130 kg).
Smith will battle 2023 European bronze medalist Kamil Czarnecki of Poland in his first match. Smith is in the top half-bracket, which features No. 1 seed Celcuk Can of Turkey, a 2022 World bronze medalist, and No. 4 seed Ibrahim Ghanem of France.
Bey, whose best finish at a World Championships was seventh, looks to start strong against Swiss World Team member Fabio Dietsche. Bey is in the top half-bracket, led by No. 1 seed Levai of Hungary, a 2022 World silver medalist, and No. 4 seed Malkhas Amoyan of Armenia, a World bronze medalist. Also on this side is 2019 World champion Viktor Nemes of Serbia.
Woods faces Individual Neutral Athlete Stanislaw Shafarenko, who was fifth in the 2020 European Championships. Woods is in the top half-bracket, where the No. 1 seed is 2022 World champion Burhab Akbudak of Turkey and the No. 4 seed is Rafig Huseynov of Azerbaijan, an Olympic bronze medalist. Bozo Starcevic of Croatia, fifth in the 2016 Olympics, is among the other veterans on his side of the bracket.
Rau opens with Filip Smetko of Croatia, who was eighth in 2022 World Championships. He may face No. 1 seed and 2022 World champion and 2016 Olympic champion Artur Aleksanyan of Armenia, in the second round. The No. 4 seed in his half-bracket is 2022 World bronze medalist Arif Niftullayev of Azerbaijan.
Schultz has Marcel Albini of Czechia, who was fifth in the 2023 U23 Europeans, in his first match. He has drawn into the bottom half bracket, including No. 2 seed Alin Alexuc Ciurariu of Romania, a 2022 World bronze medalist and No. 3 seed Amin Mirzazadeh of Iran, a 2022 World silver medalist. Also on his side is multiple World medalist Oscar Pino Hinds of Cuba.
The three first-time Senior World Team members are Brady Koontz (55 kg), Xavier Johnson (63 kg) and Zachary Braunagel (87 kg).
Koontz opens against Hyeokjin Jeon of Korea, who was fifth in the Asian Championships twice. Koontz is in the bottom bracket, with No. 2 seed Tsurtsumia of Georgia and No. 3 seed Ortikboev of Uzbekistan.
Johnson has drawn 2016 Commonweath Championships runner-up Vikram Krushnath Kurade of UWW, who hails from India in his first match. He is in the bottom half-bracket and could face 2021 World bronze medalist Murad Mammadov of Azerbaijan in the second round. No. 2 seed Hracha Poghosyan of Armenia, a 2023 European bronze medalist, could be a third round.opponent.
Braunagel will wrestle Azym Annamagomedov of Turkmenistan, who was fourth in the 2023 Asian Championships, in his first match. Should he win his opening bout, he would draw Olympic and World champion Zhan Beleniuk of Ukraine in the second round. His quarter bracket also includes No. 1 seed Cengiz of Turkey.
The Olympic weight classes in Greco-Roman (with the days of their finals) are: 60 kg (finals Sept 23), 67 kg (finals Sept. 24), 77 kg (finals Sept. 22), 87 kg (finals Sept. 24), 97 kg (finals Sept. 23) and 130 kg (finals Sept. 22).
Group One, which starts on Thursday, includes 55 kg (Koontz), 77 kg (Bey), 82 kg (Woods) and 130 kg (Schultz). Group Two, which begins on Friday, includes 60 kg (Hafizov), 72 kg (Smith) and 97 kg (Rau). Group Three, which opens action on Saturday, features 63 kg (Johnson), 67 kg (Sancho) and 87 kg (Braunagel).
The entire event will be broadcast live on FloWrestling at the following link:
WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Belgrade, Serbia, September 16-24
2023 U.S. Senior Greco-Roman World Team
55 kg – Brady Koontz (Titan Mercury WC/Dubuque RTC)
Hyeokjin Jeon (Korea), 5th in 2019 and 2022 Asian Championships, 2013 Asian Junior champion
60 kg –Ildar Hafizov (U.S. Army WCAP)
Mehdi Mohsen Nejad (Iran), 2nd in 2022 Asian Championships, 2nd in 2021 U23 Worlds, 3rd in 2018 and 2019 U23 Worlds
63 kg –Xavier Johnson (U.S. Army WCAP)
Vikram Krushnath Kurade (UWW), 5th in 2018 Asian Championships, 2nd in 2016 Commonwealth Championships
67 kg –Alejandro Sancho (U.S. Army WCAP)
Winner of Valentin Petic (Moldova) and Andreas Vetsch (Switzerland)
Petic – 3rd in 2019 U23 Worlds, 7th in 2021 Senior Worlds, 3rd in 2019 Junior Worlds, 2016 Cadet World champion
Vetsch – Four-time Senior World Team member, 7th in 2019 European Championships
72 kg –Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm)
Kamil Czarnecki (Poland), 3rd in 2023 Europeans, 5th in 2019 Junior Worlds
77 kg – Kamal Bey (U.S. Army WCAP)
Fabio Dietsche (Switzerland), 2022 Senior World Team, 2nd in 2023 Herman Kare (Finland)
82 kg – Spencer Woods (U.S. Army WCAP)
Stanislaw Shafarenko (Individual Neutral Athlete), 5th in 2020 European Championships, 3rd in 2019 U23 Europeans, 5th in 2017 U23 Worlds
87 kg –Zachary Braunagel (Illini WC/Illinois RTC)
Azym Annamagomedov (Turkmenistan), 4th in 2023 Asian Championships, 7th in 2019 Asian U17 Championships
97 kg – Josef Rau (Titan Mercury WC/Wildcat WC)
Filip Smetko (Croatia), 8th in 2022 World Championships, 5th in 2022 Zagreb Open (Croatia)
130 kg – Cohlton Schultz (Sunkist Kids)
Marcel Albini (Czechia), 5th in 2023 U23 Europeans, 9th in 2022 U23 Worlds, 5th in 2018 U17 Worlds