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Olympic Games preview at 130 kg in Greco-Roman: Will Mijian Lopez Nunez win his fourth Olympic gold?

by Mike Willis, USA Wrestling

Three-time Olympic champion Mijian Lopez of Cuba. Photo by Tony Rotundo.

Draw: July 31
Dates of competition: Sunday, August 1 and Monday, August 2

U.S. representative: None

No one besides Cuba’s Mijian Lopez Nunez has won an Olympic title in a decade at 130 kg in Greco-Roman. He is already known as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and now he will have the opportunity to make history by becoming the first Greco-Roman wrestler to win four Olympic titles. The great Aleksandr Karelin came close, famously being stopped on his fourth attempt by America’s own Rulon Gardner. It was apparent that age played a factor in Karelin’s decline. Will the same hold true for Lopez Nunez?

The Cuban has competed sporadically over the last quad, only entering two tournaments, the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games and the 2019 Pan Am Games. He won both without being challenged. It is apparent that the Cuban coaches believe he still has what it takes, as they elected to go with Lopez Nunez over 2019 World silver medalist Oscar Pino Hinds, who originally qualified the weight class. Regardless of his performance at the Olympics, Lopez Nunez’s legacy is already established as a three-time Olympic champion, an eight-time World finalist and a five-time World champion. No male wrestler, Greco-Roman or freestyle, has won four Olympic titles.

The biggest threat to Lopez Nunez is one of the only wrestlers who has ever defeated him, Riza Kayaalp of Turkey. Kayaalp is an eight-time World medalist, a six-time World finalist and a four-time World champion. He defeated Lopez Nunez in the 2011 and 2015 World finals. However, Lopez Nunez bested Kayaalp in the 2009 World semifinals, the 2014 World finals, and in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. In 2012, Lopez Nunez took Kayaalp in the semifinals, forcing him to battle back for bronze. In 2016, Kayaalp made the finals, losing the gold medal bout to Lopez Nunez in the closing seconds of the match.

Kayaalp comes in as the No. 1 seed in the bracket. However, Lopez Nunez is unseeded, and the pair could clash at any point in the bracket, even in the opening round, which surely would be the preference of their opponents.

Russia’s Sergey Semenov claimed gold at the European Qualifier. He is probably the biggest threat in the field to upend Lopez Nunez or Kayaalp. Semenov is a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and a 2018 World champion. He also won gold at the individual World Cup and the 2017 U23 World Championships. He is a three-time Junior World finalist, claiming titles in 2013 and 2014 while finishing runner-up in 2015. He finished runner-up at the 2019 European Games to Iakobi Kajaia. Just like Lopez, he is not seeded and could be a bracket-buster based upon the blind draw.

Egypt’s Abdellatif Mohamed earned the No. 2 seed. This will be his second Olympic appearance after competing at the Rio Games. He is a 2018 U23 World bronze medalist, a 2020 Matteo Pellicone champion, a 2021 Matteo Pellicone runner-up, a 2015 All-African Games champion and a three-time African Championships gold medalist. He earned his Olympic berth by winning the African Qualifier.

Muminjon Abdullaev of Uzbekistan is competing at his third-straight Olympic Games, entering the tournament as the third seed. Surprisingly, Abdullaev has only competed at three Senior World Championships in his career and has yet to medal. He is a 2018 Asian Games champion and punched his ticket to the Olympic Games with an Asian Qualifier title.

Amir Ghasemi Monjazi qualified the weight class for Iran with a fifth place finish at the 2019 World Championships. However, they elected to send Amin Mohmmadzaman Mirzazadeh in lieu of the two-time Asian Championships gold medalist. Mirzazadeh, who comes in as the No. 4 seed, won the 2021 Poland Open outplacing two other Iranians including Monjazi to earn the spot. He is a 2018 Junior World champion, a 2019 World Military Games bronze medalist and a 2020 Asian Championships gold medalist.

Estonia is another country that elected to go with a different wrestler than the one who initially qualified the weight class. They will be represented by Artur Vititin. The move is head scratching as Vititin, whose best credential is a fifth-place finish at the 2019 U23 European Championships, replaces Heiki Nabi, a two-time Olympian who won silver in 2012 and finished fifth in 2016. He qualified the weight class with a bronze medal finish at the 2019 Worlds. Nabi is a two-time World champion (2006, 2013), a 2017 World silver medalist and also won bronze at the 2014 World Championships.

The other two qualifiers from the 2019 World Championships are fifth-place finisher Eduard Popp of Germany and bronze medalist Iakobi Kajaia of Georgia. Popp has made it a habit of finishing fifth at major tournaments, doing so at the 2016 Olympics as well as the 2014 and 2018 World Championships. More recently, he took third at the European Championships.

Kajaia placed seventh at the 2016 Olympics. He is the 2019 European Games champion and is a 2019 and 2021 European Championships runner-up.

Romania’s Alin Alexuc Ciurariu will compete in his third-straight Olympics after winning the World Qualifier. He has competed in seven Senior World Championships without a podium finish. Although, he has taken fifth twice (2014, 2015). He is the 2020 European Championships gold medalist.

The other wrestler to come out of the World Qualifier is Elias Kuosmanen of Finland. Kuosmanen has found success on the World level, winning the 2018 World Military Championships, finishing with silver at the 2017 U23 World Championships and the 2019 World Military Games as well as claiming gold at the 2011 Cadet World Championships. He is also a two-time European Championships bronze medalist (2018, 2019).

The second berth out of the European Qualifier went to Lithuania’s Mantas Knystautas, a 2017 U23 World bronze medalist and 2014 Junior World silver medalist. Knystautas earned gold at the 2017 World Military Championships as well.

The Pan Am Qualifier champion is Chile’s Yasmani Acosta Fernandez. Originally from Cuba, Acosta Fernandez is a 2017 World bronze medalist and a 2019 Pan Am Games bronze medalist. The second qualifier from the Pan Am tournament is 2016 Olympian Eduard Soghomonyan of Brazil. He previously competed for Armenia before moving to Brazil in 2015.

2018 World bronze medalist Minseok Kim was the Asian Qualifier runner-up. He also took bronze at the 2018 Asian Games and the 2013 Junior World Championships.

The last qualifier in the field is Amine Guennichi of Tunisia, who earned his berth with a runner-up finish at the African Qualifier. He is a 2019 All-African Games silver medalist.

Greco-Roman 130 kg/286 lbs.
NO. 1 SEED – 2019 World champion - Turkey (Riza Kayaalp)
NO. 2 SEED – African Olympic Qualifier champion –Egypt (Abdellatif Mohamed)
NO. 3 SEED – 2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier champion – Uzbekistan (Muminjon Abdullaev)
NO. 4 SEED – 2019 World fifth place - Iran (Amin Mohmmadzaman Mirzazadeh)**
2019 World silver medalist - Cuba (Mijian Lopez Nunez)**
2019 World bronze medalist - Estonia (Artur Vititin)**
2019 World bronze medalist - Georgia (Iakobi Kajaia)
2019 World fifth place - Germany (Eduard Popp)
2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier champion – Chile (Yasmani Acosta Fernandez)
)2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Brazil (Eduard Soghomonyan)
2021 European Olympic Qualifier champion – Russia (Sergey Semenov)
2021 European Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Lithuania (Mantas Knystautas)
2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier runner-up –Tunisia (Amine Guennichi)
2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Korea (Minseok Kim)
2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier champion – Romania (Alin Alexuc Ciurariu)
2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier runner-up – Finland (Elias Kuosmanen)


2019 World Championships
130 kg/286 lbs. Gold – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Silver Oscar Pino Hinds (Cuba); Bronze – Iakobi Kajaia (Georgia); Bronze – Heiki Nabi (Estonia); 5th – Amir Mohammadali Ghasemimonjezi (Iran); 5th – Eduard Popp (Germany); 7th – Murat Ramonov (Kyrgyzstan); 8th – Abdellatif Mohamed (Egypt); 9th –Muminjon Abdullaev (Uzbekistan); 10th – Beka Kandelaki (Azerbaijan)

2018 World Championships
130 kg/286 lbs. – Gold – Sergey Semenov (Russia); Silver – Adam Coon (United States); Bronze – Oscar Pino Hinds (Cuba); Bronze - Minseok Kim (South Korea); 5th – Heiki Nabi (Estonia); 5th – Eduard Popp (Germany); 7th - Lingzhe Meng (China); 8th - Yasmani Acosta Fernandez (Chile); 9th - Oleksandr Chernetskyy (Ukraine); 10th - Oskar Marvik (Norway)

2017 World Championships
130 kg/286 lbs. - Gold – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Silver - Heiki Nabi (Estonia); Bronze – Oscar Pino Hinds (Cuba); Bronze – Yasmani Acosta Fernandez (Chile); 5th - Kiril Grishchenko (Belarus); 5th - Nikolai Kuchmiy (Ukraine); 7th - Levan Arabuli (Georgia); 8th - Shahab Morteza Ghourehjili (Iran); 9th - Eduard Popp (Germany); 10th - Robby Smith (USA)

2016 Olympic Games
130 kg/286 lbs. – Gold – Mijain Lopez Nunez (Cuba); Silver – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Bronze – Sabah Shariati (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Sergey Semenov (Russia); Fifth – Eduard Popp (Germany); Fifth – Heiki Nabi (Estonia); Seventh – Iakobi Kajaia (Geogia); Eighth – Jahan Euren (Sweden); Ninth – Oleksandr Chernetskyy (Ukraine); Tenth – Bashir Babajanzadeh Darzi (Iran)

2015 World Championships
130 kg/286 lbs. – Gold – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Silver – Mijain Lopez (Cuba); Bronze – Oleksandr Chernetski (Ukraine); Bronze – Bilyal Makhov (Russia); 5th – Sabahi Shariati (Azerbaijan); 5th – Robby Smith (United States); 7th – Murat Ramonov (Kyrgyzstan); 8th – Heiki Nabi (Estonia); 9th – Erwin Caraballo Cabrera (Venezuela); 10th – Yongmin Kim (Korea)

2014 World Championships
130 kg/286 lbs. – Gold – Mijian Lopez (Cuba); Silver – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Bronze – Bilyal Makhov (Russia); Bronze – Heiki Nabi (Estonia); 5th – Eduard Popp (Germany); 5th – Lyubomir Dimitrov (Bulgaria); 7th – Johan Euren (Sweden); 8th – Behram Mehdizadeh (Iran); 9th – Nurmakhan Tinaliyev (Kazakhstan); 10th – Iakovi Kajaia (Georgia)

2013 World Championships
120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Gold - Heiki Nabi (Estonia); Silver - Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Bronze – Nurmakhan Tinalyev (Kazakhstan); Bronze - Johan Euren (Sweden); 5th - Mihaly Deak-Bardos (Hungary); 5th - Robby Smith (USA); 7th - Eduard Popp (Germany); 8th - Radhouane Chebbi (Tunisia); 9th – Ramon Garcia (Dominican Republic); 10th - Sergei Andrusik (Russia)

2012 Olympic Games
120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Gold - Mijian Lopez (Cuba); Silver - Heiki Nabi (Estonia); Bronze - Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Bronze - Johan Euren (Sweden); 5th - Guram Pherselidze (Georgia); 5th - Iosif Chugoshvili (Belarus); 7th - Darzi Babanjanzadeh (Iran); 8th - Yuri Patrikeev (Armenia); 9th - Dremiel Byers (USA); 10th - Lukasz Banak (Poland)

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