Burroughs and Chamizo, Snyder and Sadulaev Headline Biggest Rivalries of the Year

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (December 19) -- United World Wrestling has named four of the Biggest Rivalries of the Year. There were two in freestyle, and one in Greco-Roman and women's wrestling.

The freestyle season saw more than one top-level rivalry, so a pair were selected for this category. The first freestyle rivalry selected was the 74kg showdown between Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) and Frank CHAMIZO (ITA), and the second was Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) and Kyle SNYDER (USA).

The 74kg rivalry was kickstarted on social media when Burroughs, the five-time world and Olympic champion, posted an Instagram photo that was captioned, “If you want to be the king, you have to beat the king.” The message was of course directed at two-time world champion, Chamzio, who was coming up to 74kg after winning the 2017 world title at 70kg.

After trading social media blows, May’s Beat the Streets in New York City was the stage selected to host the first match between the pair of superstars. Chamizo commanded the early 4-0 lead in that Beat the Streets match but was outscored 6-1 in the final four minutes of the bout, losing the match, 6-5. Chamizo scored his revenge in the second match, outlasting the London Olympic champion in front of a sold out Bağcılar Olympic Sports Hall at the Yasar Dogu in Istanbul, Turkey, evening the series at one match apiece. 

The rubber match took place in the bronze-medal bout of the World Championships and not in the gold-medal bout as everyone expected heading into Budapest. In that match, Burroughs edged Chamizo, 4-4 on criteria and took the 2-1 series lead.

The second biggest freestyle rivalry of the year was between Russia’s four-time world and Olympic champion, Abdulrashid Sadulaev and Kyle Snyder, the three-time world and Olympic champion. Snyder scored the 6-5 come-from-behind win when the pair battled for the 97kg individual world title in Pairs in 2017. More importantly, Snyder's win gave the Americans their first team title in 22 years. 

Sadualev got his revenge in the finals of the 2018 World Championships by pinning the returning world champion and put the icing on the cake for the Russian Federation to win the freestyle team title. 

Perhaps no weight category was more competitive in 2018 than women’s wrestling’s 76kg. Lead by reigning world champion, Yasmin ADAR (TUR), four-time world champion, Adeline GRAY (USA), and Rio Olympic champion, Erica WIEBE (CAN). It was the American Adeline Gray who prevailed and won her fourth world title. 

In Greco-Roman, Kyrgyzstan’s Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) was looking for redemption coming into the Junior World Championships the American Kamal Ameer BEY (USA) was victorious in the 2017 junior world finals. Makhmudov dominated the bronze-medal bout at the Junior World Championships and picked up the 8-1 win. 

We had to wait an entire year to see some of the rivalries, but that may not be the case heading into 2019. Snyder wasted no time in letting the wrestling world know when a potential #SnyderLaev3 could happen, announcing that he'll head to Krasnoyarsk, Russia, in January to compete at the 2019 Ivan Yarygin - a tournament in which Sadulaev is expected to be entered. 

The next award to be released will be the Comeback Athletes of the Year which will come out on Saturday. 


Gray and Adar, Otoguro and Punia Among Match of the Year Award Winners

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (December 27) -- United World Wrestling designated a freestyle, Greco-Roman, and women’s wrestling match for the 2018 Matches of the Year.

The 25-point shootout in the 65kg gold-medal bout at the World Championships between Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) and Bajrang PUNIA (IND) was voted the Freestyle Match of the Year. 

The two wrestlers went back-and-forth in a high-scoring affair that was filled with tons of action. 

The first period saw several wild exchanges, which resulted in four takedowns, a four-point throw, and a step out, giving Otoguro the 7-6 lead heading into the second and final period.

The pair of rising stars remained offensive after their 13 point opening period and tacked on 12 addition points in the second period for a match total of 25 points. 

Otoguro, at just 19 years old, was not going to be denied a gold medal and pulled away for a 16-9 victory, becoming Japan’s youngest freestyle world champion ever. 

The Greco-Roman Match of the Year was the 72kg Asian Championship finals between Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) and Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ). 

Makhmudov, a two-time junior world medalist, introduced himself to the senior level by forging an 8-6 win over 2017 world runner-up Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) in the 72kg finals of Greco-Roman Asian finals in his home country of Kyrgyzstan. 

"The biggest help for me was that the Kyrgyz people screamed for me to be strong and also to do better," Makhmudov told the Kyrgyz media of the thunderous roar from the crowd. "When I heard it, I thought, 'I can die here on the floor but I will still win. This win will be for them.'"

The women’s wrestling Match of the Year was the 2018 Klippan Lady Open 76kg finals between four-time world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) and then-reigning world champion Yasmin ADAR (TUR). 

Gray struck early with a head outside single and grabbed the 2-0 advantage after the first 20 seconds of the bout. Adar rebounded with her patented arm spin and took the 4-2 lead into the closing period. 

The American came out firing in the final period and scored her second takedown of the match, but still trailed 4-4 on criteria. Adar regained the 6-5 outright lead with 90 seconds remaining, stepping over a Gray gut wrench attempt for the two-point exposure. 

Gray closed out the Klippan Lady Open finals with a takedown with less than a minute remaining to steal the match, 7-6. More importantly, Gray regained supremacy of the 76kg weight class after sitting out the entire 2017 season.