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Olympic Games preview at 97 kg in men’s freestyle: Olympic champions Snyder, Sadulaev, Sharifov headline rugged weight class

by Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling

Kyle Snyder celebrates his 2017 World title. Photo by Tony Rotundo.

Date of draw: Aug. 5
Dates of competition: Aug. 6-7

Team USA entry: Kyle Snyder (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC/Titan Mercury WC)

The 97 kg weight class has the potential for a clash of titans as 2016 Olympic champions Kyle Snyder of USA and Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia are situated on opposite sides of the bracket, with Sadulaev as the No. 1 seed and Snyder as the No. 2, which could set us up for an exciting finals match.

The two have gone head-to-head in two of the last three World Championships, splitting the wins. In 2017, Snyder defeated Sadulaev for gold with a tight 6-5 victory. A year later, it was Sadulaev who was crowned champ with a pin over Snyder. The Russian also claimed the 2019 World title, while Snyder finished with bronze. They did not get a chance to meet in the 2019 tournament. Overall, Snyder owns two World titles (2015, 2017) and an Olympic gold at 97 kg, and Sadulaev has an Olympic gold at 86 kg and two World titles at 86 kg (2014, 2015) in addition to his 2018 and 2019 golds at 97 kg.

The pair are joined by a third Olympic champion Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan, who won the 84 kg title at the 2012 London Olympics. Sharifov is entering his third-consecutive Olympics and seeking his third-straight medal. In 2016, he snagged bronze at 86 kg. Also a 2011 World champion at the weight class below, Sharifov moved up to the non-Olympic weight, 92 kg, in 2018 before bumping up once again in 2019 to 97 kg. Sharifov defeated Snyder in the semifinals in 2019, sending him to the finals, where he fell to Sadulaev for silver. His most recent result at the weight is a gold-medal finish at the 2021 Yasar Dogu in June.

Both 2016 Olympic bronze medalists at 97 kg return to the world’s biggest stage, including Albert Saritov of Romania and Magomed Ibragimov of Uzbekistan. Both athletes are originally from Russia. Saritov began competing for Romania in 2016. Prior to that, he was a 2011 Senior World bronze medalist for Russia. Saritov earned the Tokyo bid with a runner-up finish at the World Olympic Qualifier in May. Ibragimov began representing Uzbekistan in 2016. He earned a spot in Tokyo with a silver medal at the European Olympic Qualifier.

In addition to the big names already mentioned, there are multiple World medalists at the weight, including Magomed Nurov of Macedonia, who was the other 2019 World bronze winner. He will be the No. 4 seed in Tokyo.

Notable in the field is three-time World medalist Reineris Salas Perez, who has not competed at a World-level event since the 2017 World Championships. Salas Perez earned back-to-back silver medals at the 2013 and 2014 World Championships, which was the last time he made the podium. He also won bronze at the 2010 Worlds. This will be his second Olympics. In 2016, he took fifth in Rio.

Other medalists expected to compete are Elizbar Odikadze of Georgia, Abraham Conyedo Ruano of Italy and Mohammadhossein Mohammadian of Iran. Odikadze won bronze at the 2018 World Championships as did Conyedo Ruano. That is the only medal for both athletes. Mohammadian picked up a bronze medal at 86 kg in the 2014 World Championships.

Alisher Yergali of Kazakhstan holds the No. 4 seed at the weight. He finished fifth at the 2019 Worlds to qualify for Tokyo. Since then, he has picked up podium finishes at the 2021 and 2021 Asian Championships, bronze and silver, respectively.

Others expected to compete are 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier runner-up Jordan Steen of Canada; 2021 European Olympic Qualifier champion and runner up Aliaksandr Hushtyn of Belarus and Suleyman Karadeniz of Turkey; and 2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier champion and runner-up Mohamed Saadaoui of Tunisia and Mohammed Fardj of Algeria.

The 97 kg competition will close out the wrestling portion of the Games on Aug. 6-7. Fans can watch the action on Olympic Channel and follow along on USA Wrestling’s social media @USAWrestling.

97 kg/213 lbs. men’s freestyle entries

NO. 1 SEED - 2019 World champion – Russia (Abdulrashid Sadulaev)

NO. 2 SEED - 2019 World bronze medalist – United States (Kyle Snyder)

NO. 3 SEED - 2019 World fifth place –Kazakhstan (Alisher Yergali)

NO. 4 SEED - 2019 World bronze medalist –Macedonia (Magomedgadji Nurov)

2019 World silver medalist – Azerbaijan (Sharif Sharifov)

2019 World fifth place – Georgia (Elizbar Odikadze)

2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier champion – Cuba (Reineris Salas Perez)

2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Canada (Jordan Steen)

2021 European Olympic Qualifier champion –Belarus (Aliaksandr Hushtyn)

2021 European Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Turkey (Suleyman Karadeniz)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier champion – Tunisia (Mohamed Saadaoui)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Algeria (Mohammed Fardj)

2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier champion – Iran (Mohammadhossein Mohammadian)

2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Uzbekistan (Magomed Ibragimov)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier champion – Italy (Abraham de Jesus Conyedo Ruano)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier runner-up – Romania (Albert Saritov)


2019 World Championships

97 kg/213 lbs. – Gold – Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia); Silver - Sharif Sharifov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Kyle Snyder (United States); Bronze – Magomedgadji Nurov (Macedonia); Fifth – Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia); Fifth – Alisher Yergali (Kazakhstan); Seventh – Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan); Eighth – Nicolai Ceban (Moldova); Ninth – Magomed Musaev (Kyrgyzstan); 10th – Ali Shabanibengar (Iran)

2018 World Championships

97 kg/213 lbs. – Gold – Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia); Silver – Kyle Snyder (United States); Bronze – Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia); Bronze – Abraham Conyedo Ruano (Italy); Fifth – Pavlo Oliinyk (Hungary); Fifth – Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan); Seventh – Aslanbek Alborov (Azerbaijan); Eighth – Batzul Ulziisaikhan (Mongolia); Ninth – Takeshi Yamaguchi (Japan); 10th – Mamed Ibragimov (Kazakhstan)

2017 World Championships

97 kg/213 lbs. - Gold - Kyle Snyder (United States); Silver - Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia); Bronze – Aslanbek Alborov (Azerbaijan) ; Bronze – Georgi Ketoev (Armenia); 5th - Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia); 5th - Mamed Ibragimov (Kazakhstan); 7th - Nicolai Ceban (Moldova); 8th - Jaegang Kim (Korea); 9th - Satywart Kadian (India); 10th - Magomedgadji Nurov (FYR Macedonia)

2016 Olympic Games

97 kg/213 lbs. – Gold – Kyle Snyder (United States); Silver – Khetag Goziumov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Albert Saritov (Romania); Bronze – Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan); 5th – Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia); 5th – Valerii Andriitsev (Ukraine); 7th – Reza Yazdani (Iran); 8th – Mamed Ibragimov (Kazakhstan); 9th – Magomed Musaev (Kyrgyzstan); 10th – Javier Cortina (Cuba)

2015 World Championships

97 kg/213 lbs. – Gold – Kyle Snyder (United States); Silver – Abdusalam Gadisov (Russia); Bronze – Khetag Gazumov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Pavlo Oliynik (Ukraine); 5th – Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia); 5th – Abbas Tahan (Iran); 7th – Stefan Kehrer (Germany); 8th – Ibrahim Boulukbasi (Turkey); 9th – Magomed Musaev (Kyrgyzstan); 10th – Jaegang Kim (Korea)

2014 World Championships

97 kg/213 lbs. – Gold – Abdulsalam Gadisov (Russia); Silver – Khetag Gazumov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Javier Cortina (Cuba); Bronze – Valerii Andriitsev (Ukraine); 5th – Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia); 7th – Egzon Shala (Albania); 8th – Khderbulga Dorjkhand (Mongolia); 10th – Zueyi Zhang (China).

2013 World Championships

96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Gold – Reza Yazdani (Iran); Silver – Khetag Gazumov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Anzor Boltukaev (Russia); Bronze – Pavlo Oliynik (Ukraine); 5th – Aleksey Krupnyakov (Kyrgyzstan); 5th – Dato Kerashvili (Georgia); 7th – Kamil Skaskiewicz (Poland); 8th – Takeshi Yamaguchi (Japan); 9th – Nicolai Ceban (Moldova); 10th – Egzon Shala (Albania)

2012 Olympics

96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Gold – Jake Varner (United States); Silver – Valerii Andriitsev (Ukraine); Bronze – George Gogeshelidze (Georgia); Bronze – Khetag Gazyumov (Azerbaijan); 5th – Kurban Kurbanov (Kazakhstan); 5th – Reza Yazdani (Iran); 7th – Magomed Musaev (Kyrgyzstan); 8th – Rustam Isokawa (Japan); 9th – Abdusalam Gadisov (Russia); 10th – Khetag Pliev (Canada)