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Olympic Games preview at 125 kg in men’s freestyle: Petriashvili, Akgul are gold medalists that young U.S. star Steveson may battle

by Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling

Gable Steveson at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Photo by Richard Immel.

Date of draw: Aug. 4
Dates of competition: Aug. 5-6

Team USA entry: Gable Steveson (Minneapolis, Minn./Gopher WC RTC)

Since 2014, the heavyweight bracket has been won by either Geno Petriashvili of Georgia or Taha Akgul of Turkey. They will be on opposite sides of the bracket in Tokyo with Petriashvili holding the No. 1 seed and Akgul entering as the No. 3 seed.

Petriashvili is the three-time reigning World champion, winning gold in 2017, 2018 and 2019. He also picked up bronze medals at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships as well as a bronze in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Additionally, he was a 2017 U23 World champion and 2013 Junior World champion.

Entering his third Olympic Games, Akgul is the returning Olympic champion with a gold-medal performance in Rio. It was his third-straight gold after winning World titles in 2014 and 2015. Since then, he earned silver medals at the 2017 and 2019 Worlds, falling to Petriashvili in tight bouts, 10-8 and 6-6, respectively. Akgul’s resume also includes a bronze from the 2013 World Championships.

In a good position to make some waves at the weight is Gable Steveson of the United States, who will compete at his first Olympics at just 21 years old. To make the U.S. Olympic Team, he dominated two-time Senior World bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski with back-to-back technical falls. While he hasn’t competed much at the Senior-level internationally, Steveson has some major international credentials at younger age-groups, including 2015 and 2016 Cadet World titles as well as a 2017 Junior World gold. At the Pan American Championships earlier this year, Steveson sailed through the field to win the bracket. Currently, Steveson wrestles at the University of Minnesota, where he won the 2021 NCAA title at heavyweight. He will enter the tournament unseeded, which is a problem for the rest of the field.

Another youngster in the mix is 21-year-old Amir Hossein Zare from Iran, who, like Steveson, has an impressive resume at the younger age groups, including golds at the 2018 Cadet Worlds and 2019 U23 Worlds as well as a silver medal from the 2019 Junior Worlds. Most recently, he earned gold at the Poland Open.

Both 2019 World bronze medalists, Oleksandr Khotsianivskyi of Ukraine and Zhiwei Deng of China, are expected to compete in Tokyo.

Khotsianivskyi is entering his second Olympic Games with his first appearance at the 2012 London Games, where he finished 13th. Since then he has competed in only three World Championships, and his only medal came in 2019. Because of that performance, he will go into Tokyo as the No. 4 seed.

At the conclusion of the 2019 World Championships, Deng earned a fifth-place finish; however, Rakhimov Khasanboy of Uzbekistan, who claimed the bronze over Deng, tested positive for a banned substance and was stripped of his medal, which was handed over to Deng. It adds to Deng’s 2018 World silver medal. This will be his second Olympic Games after a 13th-place finish in Rio. Deng’s most recent competition was at the 2019 World Military Games, where he picked up a bronze medalist.

Coming in as the No. 2 seed is Yusup Batirmurzaev of Kazakhstan, who qualified for the Games with a championship performance at the 2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier in the Spring. This will be his first Senior world-level event. He has competed three times at the U23 World Championships, earning bronze in 2019. He This year he has collected three other international medals in addition to his Asian Qualifier gold, including silver at the Matteo Pellicone and bronzes at the Poland Open and Ali Aliev Tournament.

There will be another athlete with U.S. ties competing in Tokyo. Amarveer Dhesi, who competed for Oregon State, will represent his home country Canada at heavyweight. Ranked No. 8 in the world, Dhesi qualified Canada for the Olympics with a silver-medal performance at the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier. He has a solid international resume with a 2014 Junior World gold medal, and most recently, he won gold at the 2021 Matteo Pellicone International, a UWW Ranking Series event.

Bringing a lot of age-group success to the weight class is Dzinis Khramiankou of Belarus, who is a two-time U23 World medalist, claiming silver in 2017 and bronze in 2019, and a two-time Junior World medalist, earning silver and bronze in 2015 and 2016, respectively. To win those medals, he competed at 97 kg. For the Olympic year, Khramiankou bumped up to 125 kg, winning the European Olympic Qualifier and picking up a bronze medal at the 2020 Individual World Cup.

Others competing at the weight include World fifth-place finisher Egzon Shala of Kosovo, European Olympic Qualifier runner-up Gennadj Cudinovic of Germany, African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier champion and runner-up Diaaeldin Gouda Abdelmottaleb of Egypt and Djahid Berrahal of Algeria, Asian Olympic Qualifier runner-up Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur of Mongolia, and World Olympic Games Qualifier champion and runner-up Sergei Kozyrev of Russia and Aiaal Lazarev of Kyrgyzstan.

The 125 kg competition will take place Aug. 5-6 in Tokyo. Fans can watch on Olympic Channel or follow along on USA Wrestling’s social media @USAWrestling.

125 kg/275 lbs. men’s freestyle entries

NO. 1 SEED - 2019 World champion – Georgia (Geno Petriashvili)

NO. 2 SEED - 2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier champion – Kazakhstan (Yusup Batirmurzaev)

NO. 3 SEED - 2019 World silver medalist – Turkey (Taha Akgul)

NO. 4 SEED - 2019 World bronze medalist – Ukraine (Oleksandr Khotsianivskyi)

2019 World bronze medalist – China (Zhiwei Deng)

2019 World fifth place – Kosovo (Egzon Shala)

2019 World fifth place – Iran (Amir Hossein Zare)

2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier champion – United States (Gable Steveson)**

2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Canada (Amarveer Dhesi)

2021 European Olympic Qualifier champion – Belarus (Dzianis Khramiankou)

2021 European Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Germany (Gennadj Cudinovic)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier champion – Egypt (Diaaeldin Gouda Abdelmottaleb)

2021 African/Oceania Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Algeria (Djahid Berrahal)

2021 Asian Olympic Qualifier runner-up – Mongolia (Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier champion – Russia (Sergei Kozyrev)

2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier third place – Kyrgyzstan (Aiaal Lazarev)

** - Winner of U.S. Olympic Team Trials who did not qualify the weight


2019 World Championships

125 kg/275 lbs. – Gold – Geno Petriashvili (Georgia); Silver – Taha Akgul (Turkey); Bronze – Zhiwei Deng (China); Bronze – Oleksandr Khotsianivskyi (Ukraine); Fifth – Egzon Shala (Kosovo); Fifth – Yadollah Mohebi (Iran); Seventh – Jamaladdin Magomedov (Azerbaijan); Eighth – Alexandr Romanov (Moldova); Ninth – Alan Khugaev (Russia); 10th – Nick Matuhin (Germany)

2018 World Championships

125 kg/275 lbs. – Gold – Geno Petriashvili (Georgia); Silver – Zhiweng Deng (China); Bronze – Nick Gwiazdowski (United States); Bronze – Parviz Hadibasmanj (Iran); Fifth – Sumit Sumit (India); Fifth – Anzor Khizriev (Russia); Seventh – Taha Akgul (Turkey); Eighth – Catriel Muriel (Argentina); Ninth – Daniel Ligeti (Hungary); 10th – Yermukambet Inkar (Kazakhstan)

2017 World Championships

125 kg/275 lbs. - Gold - Geno Petriashvili (Georgia); Silver - Taha Akgul (Turkey); Bronze –Nick Gwiazdowski (United States) ; Bronze –Levan Berianidze (Armenia); 5th - Zolboo Natsagsuren (Mongolia); 5th - Anzor Khizriev (Russia); 7th - Korey Jarvis (Canada); 8th - Aiaal Lazarev (Kyrgyzstan); 9th - Yadollah Mohebi (Iran); 10th - Taiki Yamamoto (Japan)

2016 Olympic Games

125 kg/275 lbs. – Gold – Taha Akgul (Turkey); Silver – Komeil Ghasemi (Iran); Bronze – Ibrahim Saidau (Belarus); Bronze – Geno Petriashvili (Georgia); 5th – Levan Berianidze (Armenia); 5th – Tervel Dlagnev (United States); 7th – Daniel Ligeti (Hungary); 8th – Korey Jarvis (Canada); 9th – Diaaeldin Abdelmottaleb (Egypt); 10th – Alen Zasieiev (Ukraine)

2015 World Championships

125 kg/275 lbs. – Gold – Taha Akgul (Turkey); Silver – Jamaladdin Magomedov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Geno Petriashvili (Georgia); Bronze – Bilyal Makhov (Russia); 5th – Chuluunbat Jargalsaikhan (Mongolia); 5th – Levan Berianidze (Armenia); 7th – Daulet Shabanbay (Kazakhstan); 8th – Nobuyoshi Arakida (Japan); 9th – Parviz Hadi (Iran); 10th – Aiaal Lazarev (Kyrgyzstan)

2014 World Championships

125 kg/275 lbs. – Gold – Taha Akgul (Turkey); Silver – Komeil Ghasemi (Iran); Bronze – Tervel Dlagnev (USA); Bronze – Khadzhimurat Gatsalov (Russia); 5th – Alexei Shemarov (Belarus); 5th – Oleksandr Khotsianivskyi (Ukraine); 7th – Chuluunbat Jargalsaikhan (Mongolia); 8th – Aslan Dzebisov (Azerbaijan); 9th – Nick Matuhin (Germany); 10th – Zhiwei Deng (China)

2013 World Championships

120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Gold – Khadzhimurat Gatsalov (Russia); Silver – Alen Zasieiev (Ukraine); Bronze – Geno Petriashvili (Georgia); Bronze – Taha Akgul (Turkey); 5th – Zhiwei Deng (China); 5th – Tervel Dlagnev (USA); 7th – Rares Chintoan (Romania); 8th – Jamaladdin Magomedov (Azerbaijan); 9th – Daniel Ligeti (Hungary); 10th – Komeil Ghasemi (Iran)

2012 Olympics

120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Gold - Komeil Ghasemi (Iran); Silver– Bilyal Makhov (Russia); Bronze– Tervel Dlagnev (USA); Bronze – Daulet Shabanbay (Kazakhstan); 5th – Chuluunbat Jargalsaikhan (Mongolia); 6th – Alexei Shemarov (Belarus); 7th – Taha Akgul (Turkey); 8th – Rares Chintoan (Romania)