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Olympic Games preview at 97 kg in Greco-Roman: Will the field be able to stop Evloev and Aleksanyan?

by Mike Willis, USA Wrestling

G'Angelo Hancock of the USA at the 2019 Pan American Games. Tony Rotundo photo.

Draw: August 1
Dates of competition: Monday, August 2 – Tuesday, August 3

U.S. representative: G’Angelo Hancock (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids)

The biggest storyline at 97 kg is Armenia’s Artur Aleksanyan trying to reclaim his spot on top of the podium from Russia’s Musa Evloev. These great champions are the top two seeds, with Evloev getting the No. 1 and Aleksanyan nailing down the No. 2, meaning they would not meet until the medal rounds.

Aleksanyan is a legend in the sport, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, a five-time World finalist and a three-time World champion, Aleksanyan is known as the “White Bear”.

Evloev is on his way to earning legend status in his own right. He is a 2018 and 2019 World champion and a 2017 World silver medalist. The pair wrestled in the 2017 World finals, with Aleksanyan getting the win and the gold. Evloev extracted revenge in the 2018 World semifinals, knocking Aleksanyan into the bronze medal match on his way to gold. In 2019, they both reached the World finals, only to have Aleksanyan withdraw due to injury. The duo were actually slated to meet in a pigtail round of the individual World Cup in December, but Aleksanyan once again pulled out. Evloev went on to win the tournament.

G’Angelo Hancock of the United States is one of the wrestlers trying to disrupt the potential story book showdown. Hancock has been one of the country’s most consistent performers, dominating domestic competition and making Senior World Teams in 2017, 2018 and 2019, as well as U23 World Teams in 2018 and 2019 and Junior World Teams in 2016, where he placed third, and 2017. Hancock qualified the weight class for the Olympics by making the finals of the Pan Am Qualifier. He is a three-time Pan Am Championships medalist, finishing with gold in 2020, silver in 2019 and bronze in 2018. He is also a 2019 Pan Am Games silver medalist. He has a past win over Aleksanyan on his resume.

The No. 3 seed in the bracket goes to Iran’s Mohammadhadi Saravi, the Asian Olympic Qualifier champion. Saravi represented Iran at the 2019 Senior World Championships finishing seventh. He is a 2018 Junior World champion and a 2019 U23 World bronze medalist. He has won Asian Championships at the Senior (2020), U23 (2019) and Junior (2018) level.

Tadeusz Michalik of Poland earned the No. 4 seed. He is a four-time Senior World Team member and a two-time World fifth place finisher (2014, 2019). Since the 2019 World Championships, his results have been less than stellar, finishing seventh at the 2020 European Championships, 12th at the 2021 European Championships, and fifth at the 2021 Poland Open.

The two bronze medalists from the 2019 World Championships, Turkey’s Cenk Ildem and Serbia’s Mihail Kajaia come into the tournament unseeded. Ildem is already a two-time Olympian, taking bronze at the 2016 Games. In addition to his 2019 World bronze, he also claimed bronze at the 2011 and 2014 World Championships. He is a 2014 European Championships silver medalist and a four-time bronze medalist, with his most recent placement coming in 2020. Additionally, Ilden took bronze at the 2015 European Games.

Kajaia, who also took bronze at the 2018 World Championships, is another wrestler who has been underwhelming in the past 18 months, failing to place at the World Cup or the 2020 and 2021 European Championships.

Hungary’s Alex Szoke is one of the two wrestlers who earned a berth from the World Olympic Qualifier. He is a 2016 Cadet World champion and made his Senior-level debut in 2020, finishing ninth at the European Championships. He followed it up with an impressive runner-up showing at the individual World Cup.

The other wrestler who earned his spot through the World Olympic Qualifier is Artur Omarov of Czechia. Omarov is a seven-time Senior World Team member but has yet to place at a World Championship. However, he did place at the Individual World Cup.

The wrestlers who claimed berths at the European Qualifier are Arvi Savolainen of Finland and Kiril Milov of Bulgaria. Savolainen is one of the top up-and-comers in the field, winning four age group medals including a U23 World title in 2019, a Junior World title in 2018, a Junior World bronze in 2017 and a Cadet World bronze in 2016. Milov is a 2018 World silver medalist and a 2019 European Championships silver medalist. He placed fifth at the individual World Cup. He also has a 2014 Youth Olympic Games silver medal under his belt.

Another up-and-comer to look for is Georgia’s Georgi Melia, who finished fifth at the 2019 World Championships. Melia is a two-time U23 World Championships place winner, finishing with silver in 2019 and bronze in 2018.

The second wrestler to come out of the Asian Qualifier is Uzur Dzhuzupbekov of Kyrgyzstan. Dzhuzupbekov also placed fifth at the Individual World Cup. He is a 2018 Asian Games bronze medalist and a 2019 Asian Championships gold medalist.

Gabriel Rosillo Kindelan of Cuba was the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier champion. He is the 2019 Pan Am Games champion and a 2019 Junior World champion. He won the 2019 Pan Am Championships and finished runner-up to Hancock at the tournament in 2020.

African qualifiers Adem Boudjemline of Algeria and Haikel Achouri of Tunisia round out the field. Boudjemline is a two-time African Games champion and a three-time African Championships gold medalist. Achouri is a two-time Olympian (2008, 2018). He resumed competition in 2020 after a five-year hiatus from the sport beginning in 2015. He is a seven-time African Championships gold medalist.

Greco-Roman 97 kg/213.75 lbs.

NO. 1 SEED – 2019 World champion - Russia (Musa Evloev)

NO. 2 SEED – 2019 World silver medalist - Armenia (Artur Aleksanyan)

NO. 3 SEED – 2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier champion – Iran (Mohammadhadi Saravi)

NO. 4 SEED 2019 World fifth place - Poland (Tadeusz Michalik)

2019 World bronze medalist - Serbia (Mihail Kajaia)

2019 World bronze medalist - Turkey (Cenk Ildem)

2019 World fifth place - Georgia (Giorgi Melia)

2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier champion – Cuba (Gabriel Rosillo Kindelan)

2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier runner-up – United States (G’Angelo Hancock)

2021 European Olympic Qualifier champion – Finland (Arvi Savolainen (Finland)

2021 European Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Bulgaria (Kiril Milov)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier champion – Algeria (Adem Boudjemline)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Tunisia (Haikel Achouri)

2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Kyrgyzstan (Uzur Dzhuzupbekov)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier champion – Hungary (Alex Szoke)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier runner-up – Czechia (Artur Omarov)


2019 World Championships
97 kg/213.75 lbs. – Gold – Musa Evloev (Russia); Silver – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Bronze – Mihail Kajaia (Serbia); Bronze – Cenk Ildem (Turkey); 5th – Giorgi Melia (Georgia); 5th – Tadeusz Michalik (Poland); 7th – (Mohammadhadi Saravi); 8th – Artur Omarov (Czechia); 9th – Gabriel Rosillo Kindelan (Cuba); 10th – Melonin Noumonvi

2018 World Championships

97 kg/213.5 lbs. – Gold – Musa Evloev (Russia); Silver – Kiril Milenov Milov (Bulgaria); Bronze – Mihail Kajala (Serbia); Bronze – Mahdi Abbas Aliyarfeizabadi (Serbia); 5th – Balazs Kiss (Hungary); 5th - Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); 7th – Revazi Nadareishvili (Georgia); 8th –Luillys Jose Perez Mora (Venezuela); 9th – Laokratis Kesidis (Greece); 10th – Melonin Noumonvi (France)

2017 World Championships

98 kg/215 lbs. - Gold - Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Silver - Musa Evloev (Russia); Bronze - Revazi Nadareishvili (Georgia); Bronze - Balazs Kiss (Hungary); 5th - Rustam Assakalov (Uzbekistan); 5th - Dimitriy Timchenko (Ukraine); 7th - Mélonin Noumonvi (France); 8th - Vilius Laurinaitis (Lithuania); 9th - Mikheil Kajaia (Serbia); 10th - Laokratis Kesidis (Greece)

2016 Olympic Games

98 kg/216 lbs. – Gold – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Silver – Yasmany Lugo Cabrera (Cuba); Bronze – Cenk Ildem (Turkey); Bronze – Ghasem Rezaei (Iran); Fifth – Alin Alexuc Ciurariu (Romania); Fifth – Carl Schoen (Sweden); Seventh – Elis Guri (Bulgaria); Eighth – Islam Magomedov (Russia); Ninth – Balazs Kiss (Hungary); Tenth – Hamdy Abdelwahab (Egypt); Tenth – Revazi Nadareishvili (Georgia)

2015 World Championships

98 kg/216 lbs. – Gold – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Silver – Ghasem Rezaei (Iran); Bronze – Islam Magomedov (Russia); Bronze – Dimitriy Timchenko (Ukraine); 5th – Elis Guri (Bulgaria); 5th – Alin Alexuc-Ciurariu (Romania); 7th – Di Xiao (China); 8th – Marthin Hamlet Nielsen (Norway); 9th – Peter Oehler (Germany); 10th – Vilius Laurinaitis (Lithuania)

2014 World Championships

98 kg/216 lbs. – Gold – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Silver –Oliver Hassler (Germany); Bronze – Ghasem Rezaei (Iran); Bronze – Cenk Ildem (Turkey); 5th – Aliaksandr Hrabovik (Belarus); 5th – Alin Alexuc-Ciurariu (Romania); 7th – Miroslav Metoviev (Bulgaria); 8th – Ardo Arusaar (Estonia); 9th – Marthin Nielsen (Finland); 10th – Adam Varga (Hungary)

2013 World Championships

96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Gold – Nikita Melnikov (Russia); Silver – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Bronze – Balazs Kiss (Hungary); Bronze – Shalva Gadabadze (Azerbaijan); 5th – Mahdi Aliyarifeizagadi (Iran); 5th – Norikatsu Saikawa (Japan); 7th – Yerulan Iskakov (Kazakhstan); 8th – Timo Antero Kallio (Finland); 9th – Mélonin Noumonvi (France); 10th – Cenk Ildem (Turkey)

2012 Olympic Games

96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Gold – Ghasem Rezaei (Iran); Silver – Rustam Totrov (Russia); Bronze – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Bronze – Jimmy Lidberg (Sweden); 5th – Yunior Estrada Falcon (Cuba); 5th – Timofej Dzeynichenko (Belarus); 7th – Elis Guri (Bulgaria); 8th – Ardo Arusaar (Estonia); 9th – Hassine Ayari (Tunisia); 10th – Shalva Gadabadze (Azerbaijan)