Ghasempour repeats at 92kg to give Iran first gold

By Ken Marantz

BELGRADE, Serbia (Sept. 17)--The gash over the right eye of Kamran GHASEMPOUR (IRI) attested to the intensity of the battle. The gold medal around his neck will be a lifetime reminder of the outcome of a fearless performance.

Ghasempour provided some cheer for an underachieving Iranian team in Belgrade when he repeated as 92kg champion with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Jden COX (USA) in one of three freestyle finals on Saturday, the eighth day of the World Championships.

The United States, which had already clinched the team title heading into the night session, split the two other finals, adding a third gold when Kyle DAKE (USA) defended his 74kg title but seeing Thomas GILMAN (USA) dethroned at 57kg when Russian-born Zelimkhan ABAKAROV (ALB) gave Albania its first-ever world champion.

Kamran GHASEMPOUR (IRI)Kamran GHASEMPOUR (IRI) and J'den COX (USA) embraced each other after the 92kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

After the Iranian Greco team went gold-less, Ghasempour watched as two compatriots lost to American wrestlers in the freestyle finals on Friday night.

Looking to restore his nation's pride, he scored a first-period takedown while on the activity clock, then made that lead hold up in a repeat of his victory over Cox in the world semifinals a year ago in Oslo.

"I hope this has lifted the spirits of the Iranian people who have been waiting for a gold medal for a few days since the championships began," said Ghasempour, a two-time Asian and world U23 champion who won his first senior world title in 2021.

While the second period lacked points, there was no scarcity of action, with a number of exciting scrambles and the gash suffered by Ghasempour providing testament to the fervor of the two combatants.

"My opponent is a very technical and tricky opponent," Ghasempour said. "I did not give up a single point against him which could have put me in danger of losing the gold. I am happy that my preparations for this match ensured I win the gold medal."

In the final minute, Ghasempour, his head now taped, found himself on his stomach clinging to Cox's leg after a deep single attempt. Cox kneeled over the Iranian and reached back for one of his legs, pulling up for a counter lift. But the referee stopped the action as dangerous, and Cox showed his frustration by throwing down the leg and storming back to the middle of the mat.

"I just wanted to put a lot of attacks together," Cox said. "I was pushing it to try to get something. It's probably the most I have done without getting any points, which is testimony to him and his wrestling ability, his IQ."

After the intense match ended, there was no bad blood between the two and they showed their respect for each other. Cox even shared a hug with the Iranian coach when he went over for the traditional handshake.

"Six-minute battle and we both enjoyed it, pushed to get what we wanted, which was the gold medal, and today he came out on top," Cox said. "There is a lot of mutual respect."

For Cox, it was the first time he ended a World Championships on a losing note. He won world titles in 2018 and 2019 along with bronzes in 2017 and 2021. He also has an Olympic bronze from 2016 at 86kg.

"It's a first for everything and it is my first silver medal," he said. "Losing to get silver sucks. But to get here and do this, I worked my butt off for this. I regret nothing. Tough bout."

Will there be a third clash of the titans? The 27-year-old Cox is tempted, but for now, that would have to come at the Olympic weight of 97kg, which he says is his next destination.

"Ninety-seven kilograms starts today," Cox said. "There is an itch in me that keeps telling me to come back for Ghasempour. One more year. One more year. As far as the years go, I think it's smarter for me to move to 97kg."

Kyle DAKE (USA)Kyle DAKE (USA) won the 74kg final 3-1 to win the world title for the fourth time. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Dake, the bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, captured the fourth gold of his career and second straight at 74kg in a similar fashion, scoring a first-period takedown and making that hold up for a 3-1 victory over Tajmuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) in a rematch of the 2021 world final.

There are those who might contend that Dake went too much into defensive mode in the second period, an argument that has a rare caution that awarded 1-point to Salkazanov as evidence.

That said, Salkazanov, who was looking to become Slovakia's first-ever world champion, did not appear overly aggressive until the waning moments of the match.

"Salkazanov is a great opponent, he's very dangerous," said Dake, who won his first two world golds, in 2018 and 2019 at 79kg before dropping down to the Olympic weight and displacing Jordan BURROUGHS (USA). "I just had to keep him off balance.

"That was the biggest thing for me, just stay strong. Obviously, all my opponents are tough. Kudos to them for pushing me to get here and appreciate it."

After all of the disruptions from the pandemic, Dake hopes the situation remains smooth heading to the Paris Olympics.

"I can't control what happens in the outside world," he said. "You just got to go out and play the cards [you're dealt]. Last year was an 'interesting' year, this year is more normal. Hopefully, they continue to be this way leading to the Paris Olympics."

Zelimkhan ABAKAROV (ALB)Zelimkhan ABAKAROV (ALB) defeated defending world champion Thomas GILMAN (USA) to win the gold at 57kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 57kg, Abakarov made history for his adopted home of Albania with a solid 7-2 victory over Gilman in his first career appearance at a World Championships and his first tournament since 2017 in the lowest weight class.

"Of course, I believed that I could win," said Abakarov. "If I hadn’t believed in myself, I wouldn’t have won the gold. I worked hard for it. I knew he was the reigning world champion, he is a worthy opponent. I was sure that I was able to win."

Abakarov took the fight to Gilman from the outset, starting off with an arm throw for 2. He added a go-behind takedown and received a penalty point for finger-grabbing before Gilman finally got the board with a stepout to make it 5-1 at the break.

In the second period, Abakarov scored with a double-leg takedown, and Gilman added a second stepout. Gilman had a chance to cut the gap and get within striking distance when he got in on a single and lifted Abakarov's leg into the air, but the Albanian squirmed out of the predicament.

Abakarov began competing for Albania this year, after years of being stuck in the Russian system and never breaking into the national team for major tournaments.

"It’s my first year wrestling for Albania," he said. "Before that, I was wrestling in Russia, but I couldn’t make it to qualify for the top tournaments, because the competition there is tough.

"My coaches are here [in Albania], here is my father, from early childhood he was coaching me, since I was 6 or 7. I had many coaches, I can’t even remember all of their names. But I want to say thank you to all those who ever taught me."

Abakarov made a drastic drop down to 57kg for Belgrade, having won the Mediterranean Games and finishing second at the Islamic Solidarity Games at 65kg earlier this summer. He said it doesn't make his job any easier as he aims for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"The competition in 57kg is really tough," he said. "We will be getting ready for the next year for the world championships to qualify for the Olympics."

Stevan MICIC (SRB)Stevan MICIC (SRB) won Serbia's first-ever World Championships medal in freestyle. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Micic gives host Serbia freestyle medal

In the bronze-medal matches, host Serbia, which saw four of its Greco-Roman wrestlers crowned as champions, avoided a podium shutout in freestyle when two-time European bronze medalist Stevan MICIC (SRB) came through with a solid win at 57kg.

Micic scored two with a counter lift in the first period and added two takedowns in the second to defeat two-time world U23 medalist Reineri ANDREU (CUB) 7-1.

Micic, who was born in the U.S and raised in a Serbian enclave in the state of Indiana, competed for the U.S. up to 2016, winning a world junior bronze in 2015. He was a three-time All-American at Michigan University.

The other bronze at 57kg went to Zanabazar ZANDANBUD (MGL), who nailed Wanhao ZOU (CHN) with a standing pancake and secured a fall in 4:33 for his first major medal since winning an Asian silver in 2017. Each wrestler had one point from an activity point at the time.

Frank CHAMIZO (ITA)Frank CHAMIZO (ITA), blue, defeated Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR) 5-3 to win the 74kg bronze. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

In a battle of bronze medalists from the 2016 Rio Olympics, two-time former world champion Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) eked out a 5-3 victory over Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR) at 74kg to take home his fifth world medal.

An activity point each left Chamizo ahead on criteria when Demirtas launched a takedown attempt in the second period. In the scramble that followed, both were awarded two points, but Chamizo's came second to maintain the criteria advantage at 3-3. A last-second takedown added the final points.

At 74kg, Asian champion Yones EMAMI (IRI) picked up his second world bronze when he combined three stepouts and a takedown in a comprehensive 6-0 victory over 18-year-old Sagar JAGLAN (IND), who was fighting for a senior medal a month after winning world U20 bronze.

Miriani MAISURADZE (GEO)Miriani MAISURADZE (GEO) scored a stepout in the final second to win the 92kg bronze. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

In a wild one at 92kg, European bronze medalist Miriani MAISURADZE (GEO) squandered an eight-point lead, only to score a stepout at the buzzer to snatch a 12-10 victory over European silver medalist Ahmed BATAEV (BUL) to medal in his senior world debut.

After Bataev got an opening takedown, Maisuradze secured a lace lock while scoring a takedown, then reeled off four rolls to go up 10-2. In the second period, Bataev chipped away at the lead until he tied it with a fourth straight takedown with :13 left.

Maisuradze came to life after that and managed to shuffle Bataev out at the buzzer. The challenge replay showed there was 0.3 seconds on the clock when Bateav's foot stepped down out of bounds. The unsuccessful challenge added the final point.

In the second match at 92kg, Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE) earned his second consecutive world bronze when he overwhelmed Radoslaw MARCINKIEWICZ (POL) by 11-0 technical fall, beating the clock in the first period by scoring a takedown and completing three gut wrenches with eight seconds left.

Kyle SNYDER (USA)Kyle SNYDER (USA) defeated Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) in the 97kg semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Snyder makes 6th world final; Higuchi through

In the final set of semifinals earlier in the night session, Olympic silver medalist Kyle SNYDER (USA) advanced to the 97kg gold-medal match and, while he won't be facing the arch-rival in a bid for a third world title and first since 2017, he will be taking on Batyrbek TSAKULOV (SVK).

Snyder shot for and completed a takedown right off the opening whistle, and then fended off the attacks of Asian champion Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) for a 4-1 victory. Snyder also received an activity point in the first period, while the two traded stepouts in the second.

In Sunday's final, which will close the curtain on the nine-day competition, Snyder will face European silver medalist Batyrbek TSAKULOV (SVK), who roared to eight second-period points to complete a 10-0 technical fall over Givi MATCHARASHVILI (GEO).

The Russian-born Tsakulov, who began competing for Slovakia last year, will aim to become that country's first world champion in freestyle.

For the first time since 2017, the final will not be between Snyder and longtime nemesis Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF).

Snyder, the gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Olympics, lost to Sadulaev in the finals of 2018, 2019 and 2021 World Championships as well as last year's Tokyo Olympics. Whichever color, the world medal in Belgrade will be the sixth of his career.

Rei HIGUCHI (JPN)Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) reached the 61kg final after beating Seth GROSS (USA) 14-7. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

In other action, 2016 Olympic silver medalist Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) advanced to the 61kg final in his first senior World Championships, while preventing the U.S. from having six of six finalists over the final two days.

Higuchi rallied to a 14-7 win over Seth GROSS (USA) by firing a barrage of low singles that the American spent all match reaching over and trying to counter lift, to some success but eventually not enough.

"It was tough," said Higuchi, who prepped for the worlds by winning his first senior Asian title in April. "I took it too lightly at times in trying to finish up [takedowns], but I'll fix that and make sure I'll be able to win in the final."

Higuchi took a 4-1 lead into the second period, only for Gross to go ahead 5-4 with a counter roll and a defensive takedown. After an exchange, Higuchi managed to gain exposure points three times by leveraging Gross over while in on singles.

"I'm confident that no one beats me in terms of the amount of training, so I put my stamina to use up to the end and was able to pull away," said Higuchi, for whom a gold will be some redemption for missing out on the Tokyo Olympics, mainly because he failed to make weight at 57kg at the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament.

In the final, Higuchi will face 2019 Asian champion Reza ATRI (IRI), who scored two takedowns in the final 40 seconds to knock off Narankhuu NARMANDAKH (MGL) 5-3.

Iran and the U.S. both have two other finalists, and they will clash for the 65kg crown.

Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) went on a takedown spree in the second period to pull away from Olympic silver medalist Haji ALIYEV (AZE) for a 9-2 win, while Yianni DIAKOMIHALIS (USA) needed just :53 to overpower Sebastian RIVERA (PUR) in a 10-0 technical fall.


Day 8 Freestyle Results

57kg (31 entries)
Gold - Zelimkhan ABAKAROV (ALB) df. Thomas GILMAN (USA), 7-2

Bronze - Zanabazar ZANDANBUD (MGL) df. Wanhao ZOU (CHN) by Fall, 4:33 (3-1)
Bronze - Stevan MICIC (SRB) df. Reineri ANDREU (CUB), 7-1

61kg (24 entries)
Semifinal - Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) df. Seth GROSS (USA), 14-7
Semifinal - Reza ATRI (IRI) df. Narankhuu NARMANDAKH (MGL), 5-3

65kg (27 entries)
Semifinal - Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) df. Haji ALIYEV (AZE), 9-2
Semifinal - Yianni DIAKOMIHALIS (USA) df. Sebastian RIVERA (PUR) by TF, 10-0, :53

74kg (34 entries)
Gold - Kyle DAKE (USA) df. Tajmuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK), 3-1

Bronze - Yones EMAMI (IRI) df. Sagar JAGLAN (IND), 6-0
Bronze - Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) df. Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), 5-3

92kg (23 entries)
Gold - Kamran GHASEMPOUR (IRI) df. Jden COX (USA), 2-0

Bronze - Miriani MAISURADZE (GEO) df. Ahmed BATAEV (BUL), 12-10
Bronze - Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE) df. Radoslaw MARCINKIEWICZ (POL) by TF, 11-0, 2:52

97kg (23 entries)
Semifinal - Kyle SNYDER (USA) df. Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI), 4-1
Semifinal - Batyrbek TSAKULOV (SVK) df. Givi MATCHARASHVILI (GEO) by TF, 10-0


Higuchi claims 61kg title in first senior world foray

By Ken Marantz

BELGRADE, Serbia (Sept. 18) -- After quixotic attempts to make Japan's team to the Tokyo Olympics at both 57kg and 65kg ultimately failed, 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalist Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) settled in at 61kg for now.

He now has his first senior world title, although it had never really mattered to him before. Higuchi put on one final, dazzling performance in sweeping past Reza ATRI (IRI) by 10-0 technical fall to win the 61kg gold as the World Championships concluded with the final three freestyle finals on Sunday in Belgrade.

"I was finally able to show my actual strength, and I'm glad I could have a solid win in the final without any incident," Higuchi said.

In other finals, Asian champion Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) signaled a possible changing of the guard at 65kg when the 20-year-old won the gold in a 21-point thriller, while Kyle SNYDER (USA) was hardly troubled in securing his third career world gold and first since 2017 at 97kg.

Higuchi, who won his first senior Asian title in April, had Atri on his heels from the get-go, working his slick tackles to perfection and transitioning well into exposure situations.

The 26-year-old Japanese opened with a double-leg takedown to a lace-lock roll. He then got 2 with a single-leg tackle, secured an inside-leg hook, and forced Atri over for two exposures to end the match at 2:42.

"Yesterday the Iranian looked very strong, so I closely watched all of the videos of him, like the Poland tournament before the Olympics and various others," Higuchi said. "I watched them all. I think analyzing him was a reason for my victory."

With Higuchi's victory, Japan finished a surprising third in the team standings with 70 points, two ahead of Mongolia and Georgia. The United States, which had clinched the team title after the morning session on Saturday, finished on top with 198 points, followed by Iran with 150.

The bulk of Japan's points came on gold-medal runs by Higuchi and Taishi NARIKUNI (JPN), the champion at 70kg on Friday. It marked the first time that Japan had two gold medalists at the same World Championships since 1979, when Yuji TAKADA (JPN) and Hideaki TOMIYAMA (JPN), the latter currently the president of the Japan federation, won in San Diego.

Such trivia doesn't really interest Higuchi. He was more excited about surpassing his coach Kenichi YUMOTO (JPN), who won Olympic silver in 2008 and world bronze in 2011.

"I don't really think about records," Higuchi said. "I have always aimed at being fundamentally sound like coach Yumoto, and I'm so happy to have been able to top him in one way. From when I was little, I studied videos of him and tried to imitate everything he did, the way he grabs arms, gets a high crotch, his single-leg tackles."

Higuchi's run to the world gold caps the roller coaster ride his career had been on since he took the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics when he was dealt a close 3-3 loss in the final by Vladimir KHINCHEGASHILI (GEO) on a late activity point that still stings for Higuchi.

His obsession with making up for that loss and winning an Olympic gold has been the driving force over the past six years, and it was only until recently that he even regarded winning a world or Asian title as worthwhile.

"The Olympics had always been the only thing that concerned me, but eventually I changed my pessimistic thinking of not entering the World Championships or not entering the Asian Championships," he said. "I've always been thinking of how I can win an Olympic gold medal, so I'm not satisfied with this victory. There are still many issues of things I need to work on and fix."

Higuchi's attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics was marked by perseverance and, ultimately, disappointment.

First, he moved up to 65kg, a tough division for someone standing just 1.63 meters, where he would challenge world champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN). He actually defeated Otoguro once and won the 2018 world U23 gold at that weight, but eventually lost out to the eventual Olympic gold medalist.

In 2019, he made the drastic decision to drop back down to 57kg, which he had not competed in since Rio. His weight had ballooned up to 68kg, and he had only a few months before the All-Japan Championships, which would determine who would go to the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in 2020.

Limited exclusively to a vegetable diet, he made the weight, then defeated 2017 world champion Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN) to earn the spot. But then the Olympics and the qualifying tournaments were postponed for a year, meaning he had to maintain his weight at the height of the pandemic for another year.

When the Asian qualifier was finally held in April 2021 in Almaty, the unthinkable happened. Higuchi failed to make weight.

Takahashi was dispatched to the final World Olympic qualifier, earned Japan a spot at 57kg, then defeated Higuchi in a playoff to fill it himself. At a crossroads, Higuchi looked deep into himself to determine what path he would take.

He decided he would spend this year at 61kg, enter the major tournaments that he had previously shunned, and make preparations for a run at the 2024 Paris Olympics, which he said will be at 57kg.

For the Japanese wrestlers, the qualifying path for Paris begins with the All-Japan Championships this December, the first of two domestic qualifiers for next year's World Championships.

His sojourn at 61kg was a positive experience. "Not once did I feel I was inferior to the 61kg wrestlers in terms of attacking," Higuchi said. "I was able to get in on all of my attacks. In terms of defense, I gained a lot in regard to scrambles and keeping the opponent from scoring off attacks."

Higuchi said that he was motivated on Sunday by a visit from Narikuni, who brought his championship belt back to the room and playfully flaunted it in front of Higuchi.

"He won the gold on the first day [of freestyle] and brought the belt back to the room. I hadn't even had a match yet, and he purposely showed it to me...I thought, damn him. But it fired me up, and as there were times we had practiced together since we were little. Honestly, I was happy. I went into my matches thinking that I, too, will not lose. I'm glad I wasn't beaten by Narikuni."

At 65kg, Amouzad scored seven unanswered points to prevail 13-8 in a wild encounter with first-time finalist Yianni DIAKOMIHALIS (USA), in which an opening scramble produced 14 points that were determined once the dust cleared and the video analyzed.

"Thank god I was able to win the gold medal," Amouzad said. "My opponent was very tough. I hope this gold medal will put a smile on the faces of the people of Iran."

Diakomihalis shot for a double leg and, with Amouzad reaching over to counter, the two got tangled up and rolled this way and that as the mat referee tried to keep up. In the end, they both got credit for three exposures, although one of Diakomihalis' was judged to be a 4-pointer because he took Amouzad off his feet, giving the American an 8-6 lead.

Amouzad, the 2021 world U20 champion at 61kg, decided he was better off going on the attack, and got a single-leg takedown to tie it up at the end of the first period, although he remained behind on criteria.

In the second period, Amouzad remained the aggressor, getting a stepout and two takedowns off his single to win 13-8 and give Iran its second gold medal of the championships.

For now, his victory puts Amouzad at the head of a crowded race for gold in Paris.

"The 65kg is a weight class full of extremely tough opponents," he said. "But I am feeling great that I was able to beat my opponents through training in Iran, including with former European and world champions. My goal is to defend the title next year, but the ultimate goal is to win the gold in Paris."

Snyder, not having to contend with nemesis Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF) in the 97kg final, was simply too powerful for Russian-born Batyrbek TSAKULOV (SVK), scoring a takedown and three stepouts in notching a 6-0 victory.

"It was good, [I'm] thankful, good opponent," Snyder said. "I haven't won since 2017, and that's a long time for me. It hurts to lose, but I'm very thankful to get on top of the podium again."

Snyder came out with a high-crotch takedown and received an activity clock point for a 3-0 first-period lead against European bronze medalist Tsakulov, who never came close to piercing Snyder's defense the entire match.

In the second period, Snyder powered ahead for three stepouts to add the world title to the ones he won in 2015 and 2017, along with a 2016 Olympic gold. He also has silver medals from 2018 and 2021 and the Tokyo Olympics -- courtesy of Sadulaev -- and a bronze medal from 2019.

"The matches are always good, opponents are good, they wrestle me hard," he said. "I've got a good team, a good coaching staff. They know what I need to focus on."

Snyder's gold was the fourth of the tournament in freestyle for the U.S., tying the 1993 and 1995 teams for the country's most ever. The team in Belgrade medaled in eight of the 10 weight classes.

Snyder's encounters with Sadulaev have been epic, perhaps none more so than his victory at the 2017 worlds as it also clinched the team title for the United States in the last match of the tournament.

"The match in 2017 was super-exciting and the team title on the line and stuff, and that's a lot of fun," he said. "But it's just cool still being able to wrestle for as long as I've been able to. To be back on top, and thankful for all the coaches and all my training partners. So many people have helped me."

While his teammates in Belgrade saved the coaches from some anxious moments with the early clinching, Snyder said he wouldn't have minded if the team race had been closer.

"It's nice having the team title locked up before I go in the finals, but honestly, I'd like to be the one that decides it," he said. "That's the most fun when everything's on you. But it's all good."

Veteran Punia rallies to 65kg bronze

Olympic bronze medalist Bajrang PUNIA (IND) captured his fourth career world medal, putting on the latest comeback of his storied career to slip past Sebastian RIVERA (PUR) with a late takedown for an 11-9 victory at 65kg.

Punia found himself in a 6-point hole right off the bat, as Rivera scored a pair of takedowns, adding an ankle roll after the second one. An inside trip for 4 by Punia and a takedown tied the score and put him ahead on criteria, but Rivera scored with a low shot with :03 left in the first period for an 8-6 lead.

Rivera, who attended Rutgers University in the U.S. and was looking to become just the second world medalist in Puerto Rican history, returned to the ankle pick that he has used to great effect to score a stepout.

But Punia, who has made a career out of rallying to victory, came back with a takedown, then scored the match-winner by going out the back door and gaining control with :31 left for a 10-9 lead. An unsuccessful challenge added the final point as Punia kept India from a podium shutout in freestyle.

"I gave away six points at the start," Punia said. "And the leg defense that I thought would work, just didn’t come off. I need to sit and analyze why it’s not working. It didn’t work in the match I lost, and it didn’t work today when I won as well."

Punia said he has been having trouble defending against leg attacks since injuring his knee at the Tokyo Olympics.

"It doesn’t eat into my confidence, because otherwise I wouldn’t have recovered points," Punia said. "I always fight till the last second because we work hard as wrestlers. I’ll have to figure out if I need more hard work or smart work on the leg defense.”

In the other match at 65kg, Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) repeated his victory in the final at this year's European Championships over Olympic silver medalist Haji ALIYEV (AZE), scoring a takedown in each period and hanging on for a 4-2 win for his second career world bronze.

The Russian-born Muszukajev, who began competing for Hungary in 2019, scored a takedown in the first period while on the activity clock, then used an arm drag for a second one to open the second period.

The 31-year-old Aliyev, whose last trip to the medal podium came when he won a third world title in 2017, went into overdrive trying to get back in the match, but all he could manage was a penalty point and a very late stepout.

At 61kg, European champion Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) cruised to his second straight world bronze with a 12-0 technical fall over Seth GROSS (USA), who had no answer for the barrage of attacks launched by the Armenian.

Harutyunyan piled up three takedowns and three stepouts, all off tackle attempts, before putting the match away at 3:57 with an exposure.

Narankhuu NARMANDAKH (MGL) was equally dominant in taking the other 61kg bronze with a 9-0 rout of European bronze medalist Georgi VANGELOV (BUL), finishing it off with an impressive 4-point body lock to the back.

Narmandakh, a world u23 bronze medalist last year, opened the match with a takedown straight to a lace lock roll for a 4-0 lead. In the second period, the Mongolian received an activity point before slamming down Vangelov to put an exclamation point on his victory.

At 97kg, Russian-born European champion Magomedkhan MAGOMEDOV (AZE) was trailing on criteria when he secured a fall off a counter to defeat Asian champion Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) for his first senior world medal.

Mohammadian, aiming for a second world bronze, scored a 2-point exposure off a tackle attempt, after which Magomedov got a reversal. The Iranian then limped-arm out of a whizzer for a takedown to go up 4-1 at the break.

Magomedov, a 2018 world U20 champion, secured a takedown, and a lost Iranian challenge made it 4-4, although Mohammadian led on criteria. But when Mohammadian got in on a tackle, Magomedov reached back and used a chin whip and stepover to put the Iranian onto his back, securing the fall at 4:27.

Givi MATCHARASHVILI (GEO) also became a first-time senior world medalist when he won the other 97kg bronze, riding a 4-point counter lift in the second period to a 5-3 victory over European silver medalist Vladislav BAITSAEV (HUN).

Day 9 Results

61kg (24 entries)
Gold - Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) df. Reza ATRI (IRI) by TF, 10-0, 2:42

Bronze - Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) df. Seth GROSS (USA) by TF, 12-0, 3:58
Bronze - Narankhuu NARMANDAKH (MGL) df. Georgi VANGELOV (BUL), 9-0

65kg (27 entries)
Gold - Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) df. Yianni DIAKOMIHALIS (USA), 13-8

Bronze - Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) df. Haji ALIYEV (AZE), 4-2
Bronze - Bajrang PUNIA (IND) df. Sebastian RIVERA (PUR), 11-9

97kg (23 entries)
Gold - Kyle SNYDER (USA) df. Batyrbek TSAKULOV (SVK), 6-0

Bronze - Magomedkhan MAGOMEDOV (AZE) df. Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) by Fall, 4:27 (6-4)
Bronze - Givi MATCHARASHVILI (GEO) df. Vladislav BAITSAEV (HUN), 5-3