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Olympic Games 87 kg preview in Greco-Roman: Rio Olympic medalists Beleniuk and Kudla seek return to the podium in Tokyo

by Mike Willis, USA Wrestling

John Stefanowicz at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors

Draw: August 2
Dates of competition: Tuesday, August 3 and Wednesday, August 4

U.S. representative: John Stefanowicz (Camp Lejuene, N.C./U.S. Marine Corps)

Two medalists from the Rio Olympics will once again contend for the podium in Tokyo. Ukraine’s Zhan Beleniuk and Germany’s Denis Kudla will both be favorites to bring home medals in a loaded 87 kg weight class.

Beleniuk, who won Olympic silver in 2016, is a two-time World champion (2015, 2019), a 2018 World silver medalist and a 2014 World bronze medalist. He comes into the tournament as the No. 2 seed.

Kudla will enter the tournament unseeded. He took bronze at the 2016 Olympics and is a two-time Senior World medalist, taking bronze in 2019 and silver in 2017. Kudla and Beleniuk wrestled in the bronze medal match at the 2021 European Championships in April with Beleniuk earning a 1-1 win on criteria.

Hungary’s Viktor Lorincz is the No. 1 seed at 87 kg. Lorincz is the 2019 World runner-up to Beleniuk, a two-time World bronze medalist (2013, 2014), a 2019 World Military Games champion and a 2019 European Games bronze medalist. Lorincz also competed at the 2016 Olympics, making a medal match and ultimately finishing fifth.

The No. 3 seed is the other 2019 World bronze medalist Rustam Assakalov of Uzbekistan. Assakalov is a 2016 Olympian, a two-time Asian Games finalist, taking gold in 2014 and finishing with silver in 2018. He also won silver at the 2015 World Championships.

Daniel Gregorich Hechevarria of Cuba earned the No. 4 seed. He claimed his Olympic berth with a runner-up finish at the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier. In 2018 and 2019, Gregorich Hechvarria competed in both the U23 and Senior World Championships. He finished with bronze and silver at U23 Worlds and did not medal at Senior Worlds. He is a 2019 Pan Am Games bronze medalist and a 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games champion.

2019 World Championships fifth-place finisher Atabek Azisbekov will represent Kyrgyzstan. Azisbekov also logged a fifth-place finish at the 2018 World Championships. He is a three-time Asian Championships silver medalist (2015, 2018, 2021).

Belarus’s Nikolai Stadup also finished fifth at the 2019 World Championships. However, Kiril Maskevich was selected to be the Olympic representative. Maskevich won the Individual World Cup in December and followed it up with a silver medal at the European Championships, where he knocked off Viktor Lorincz in the opening round by technical fall, 9-0.

The only man to defeat Maskevich at the European Championships was Serbia’s Zurabi Datunashvili, who bested him in the gold medal match, 2-1. During the tournament Datunashvili also knocked off Zhan Beleniuk and Denis Kudla in consecutive matches. The following month, Datubashvili punched his ticket to the Olympics by making the finals of the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier. This is Datunashvili’s third Olympic Games. He is a two-time World Championships fifth-place finisher (2014, 2017) and a three-time European Championships gold medalist (2016, 2017, 2021).

The other wrestler to earn their birth through the World Olympic Qualifier was Croatia’s Ivan Huklek. He is a two-time Senior World Team member and a 2017 U23 World silver medalist. He also placed fifth at the 2019 European Games.

Azerbaijan’s Islam Abbasov won the European Qualifier. He is a six-time age-group World medalist, claiming two Cadet World titles (2012, 2013), a Junior World title (2014), a Junior World silver (2015), and two U23 World bronzes (2017, 2018). He has competed in three Senior World Championships, finishing fifth in 2017 and 2018. He is also a 2019 European Games silver medalist.

Lasha Gobadze of Georgia claimed the other Olympic berth from the European Qualifier. Gobadze was the 2019 World champion at 82 kg, a non-Olympic weight class. He is also a 2015 World bronze medalist and a 2017 U23 World silver medalist.

Kazakhstan’s Nursultan Tursynov was one of two wrestlers to earn a bid at the Asian Qualifier. He is a 2014 Asian Championships gold medalist, a 2015 Asian Championships silver medalist and a 2021 Asian Championships fifth-place finisher. He represented Kazakhstan at the Senior Worlds in 2013 and 2015. China’s Fei Peng also earned a berth at the Asian Qualifier. Peng represented China at the 2016 Olympics and is a two-time Senior Worlds representative (2013, 2015) Peng took bronze at the 2014 Asian Games as well as the 2017 and 2018 Asian Championships.

The United States is represented at the weight class by John Stefanowicz, the first Marine to make an Olympic Team in wrestling since 1992. Stefanowicz was the 2019 World Team representative at 82 kg, bumping up to 87 kg for the Olympic year. To earn the spot, Stefanowicz defeated Joe Rau in two matches in the Olympic Team Trials finals. Rau earned the weight class berth by winning the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier. Stefanowicz is a two-time Pan Am Championships gold medalist (2020, 2021).

The final two entrees in the bracket are Egypt’s Mohamed Metwally and Algeria’s Bachir Sid Azara, who earned berths through the African Qualifier. Metwally is a two-time African Championships gold medalist (2017, 2019) and a 2019 All African Games bronze medalist. He placed fifth at the 2018 U23 World Championships. Sid Azara is a six-time African Championships finalist and a three-time gold medalist. He is the 2019 African Games champion and finished runner-up at the 2015 All African Games. Sid Azara earned bronze at the 2016 Junior Worlds and represented Algeria at the Senior World Championships in 2017 and 2019.

Greco-Roman 87 kg/191.5 lbs

NO. 1 SEED – 2019 World silver medalist - Hungary (Viktor Lorincz)

NO. 2 SEED – 2019 World champion - Ukraine (Zhan Beleniuk)

NO. 3 SEED – 2019 World bronze medalist - Uzbekistan (Rustam Assakalov)

NO. 4 SEED – 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Daniel Gregorich Hechevarria (Cuba)

2019 World bronze medalist - Germany (Denis Kudla)

2019 World fifth place - Belarus (Kiril Maskevich)**

2019 World fifth place - Kyrgyzstan (Atabek Azisbekov)

2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier champion – United States (John Stefanowicz)**

2021 European Olympic Qualifier champion – Azerbaijan (Islam Abbasov)

2021 European Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Georgia (Lasha Gobadze)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier champion – Egypt (Mohamed Metwally)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier runner-up –Algeria (Bachir Sid Azara)

2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier champion – Kazakhstan (Nursultan Tursynov)

2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier runner-up – China (Fei Peng)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier champion – Croatia (Ivan Huklek)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier runner-up – Serbia (Zurabi Datunashvili)


2019 World Championships

87 kg/191.5 lbs – Gold – Zhan Beleniuk (Ukraine); Silver – Viktor Lorincz (Hungary); Bronze – Denis Kudla (Germany); Bronze – Rustam Assakalov (Uzbekistan); 5th – Atabek Azisbekov (Kyrgyzstan); 5th – Mikalai Stadub (Belarus); 7th – Daniel Gregorich Hechavarria (Cuba); 8th – Ivan Huklek (Croatia); 9th – Azamat Kustubayev (Kazakhstan); 10th – Junjie Na (China)

2018 World Championships

87 kg/191.5 lbs. – Gold – Metehan Basar (Turkey); Silver – Zhan Beleniuk (Ukraine); Bronze – Roberti Kobliashvili (Georgia); Bronze – Artur Shahinyan (Armenia); 5th - Islam Abbasov (Azerbaijan); 5th - Bekhan Ozdoev (Russia); 7th – Radzik Kuliyeu (Belarus); 8th – Adem Boudjemline (Alegeria); 9th – Hossein Ahmad Nouri (Iran);

2017 World Championships

85 kg/187.5 lbs. - Gold - Metehan Basar (Turkey); Silver - Denis Kudla (Germany); Bronze - Hossein Ahmad Nouri (Iran) ; Bronze - Roberti Kobliashvili (Georgia); 5th - Islam Abbasov (Azerbaijan), 4-0; 5th - Davit Chakvetadze (Russia); 7th - Daniel Hechevarria (Cuba); 8th - Viktor Lorincz (Hungary); 9th - Nikolay Bayryakov (Bulgaria) ; 10th - Azamat Kustabayev (Kazakhstan)

2016 Olympic Games

85 kg/187 lbs. – Gold – David Chakvetadze (Russia); Silver – Zhan Beleniuk (Ukraine); Bronze – Javid Gamzatov (Belarus); Bronze – Denis Kudla (Germany); Fifth – Nikolay Bayryakov (Bulgaria); Fifth – Viktor Lorincz (Hungary); Seventh – Habibollah Akhlaghi (Iran); Eighth – Rustam Assakalov (Uzbekistan); Ninth – Roberti Kobliashvili (Georgia); Tenth – Amer Hrustanovic (Austria)

2015 World Championships

85 kg/187 lbs. – Gold – Zhan Beleniuk (Ukraine); Silver – Rustam Assakalov (Uzbekistan); Bronze – Habibollah Akhlaghi (Iran); Bronze – Saman Tahmasebi (Azerbaijan); 5th – Rami Hietaniemi (Finland); 5th – Viktor Loerincz (Hungary); 7th – Damian Janikowski (Poland); 8th – Nenad Zugaj (Croatia); 9th – Ramsin Azizsir (Germany); 10th – David Chakvetadze (Russia)

2014 World Championships

85 kg/187 lbs. – Gold – Melonin Noumonvi (France); Silver – Saman Tahmasebi (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Viktor Loerincz (Hungary); Bronze – Zhan Beleniuk (Ukraine); 5th – Kristofer Johansson (Sweden); 5th – Ramsin Azizsir (Germany); 7th – Javid Gamzatov (Belarus); 8th – Masayuki Amano (Japan); 9th – Ahmed Ibrahim (Egypt); 10th – Vladimer Gegeshidze (Georgia)

2013 World Championships

84 kg/185 lbs. – Gold - Taleb Nematpour (Iran); Silver - Saman Tahmasebi (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Javid Gamzatov (Belarus); Bronze - Viktor Loerincz (Hungary); 5th - Damian Janikowski (Poland); 5th - Rami Hietaniemi (Finland); 7th - Nenad Zugaj (Croatia); 8th - Maksim Manukyan (Armenia); 9th – Rustam Assakalov (Uzbekistan); 10th - Nursultan Tursynov (Kazakhstan)

2012 Olympic Games

84 kg/185 lbs. – Gold - Alan Khugaev (Russia); Silver - Karam Gaber (Egypt); Bronze - Danjel Gajiyev (Kazakhstan); Bronze - Damian Janikowski (Poland); 5th - Vladimer Gegeshidze (Georgia); 5th - Melonin Noumonvi (France); 7th - Pablo Shorey (Cuba); 8th - Vasil Rachyba (Ukraine); 9th - Chas Betts (USA); 10th - Amer Hrustanovic (Austria)