Greco-Roman seeds released for Belgrade World Championships

By Vinay Siwach

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (August 26) -- Greco-Roman wrapped up the World Championships in Oslo last year. But in Belgrade, Greco-Roman will kick off the competition on September 10. With just two weeks remaining for the first whistles at the '22 World Championships, United World Wrestling released the tentative top eight Greco-Roman seeds.

The point-based seeds were determined by a wrestler's participation and placement at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, 2021 World Championships, 2022 Continental Championships, 2022 Ranking Series events, and selected Regional Games.

While the seeds may or may not hold in the 10 weight classes, here's how the bracket will look leading up to the gold-medal match according to the top-eight seeded system:

No. 1 vs. No. 8 (top side)
No. 4 vs. No. 5 (top side)
No. 2 vs. No. 7 (bottom side)
No. 3 vs. No. 6 (bottom side)

No. 1 vs. No. 4 (top side)
No. 2 vs. No. 3 (bottom side)

No. 1 vs. No. 2 

*National Federations were required to submit their world entries by last week but can still update them until 24 hours before the draws. This means these seeds and entries are subject to change.


No. 1 Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE)
No. 2 Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO)
No. 3 Ekrem OZTURK (TUR)
No. 4 Max NOWRY (USA)
No. 5 Fabian SCHMITT (GER)
No. 6 Amangali BEKBOLATOV (KAZ)
No. 7 Jasurbek ORTIKBOEV (UZB)
No. 8 Koriun SAHRADIAN (UKR)

If seeds hold at 55kg:

No. 1 Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) vs. No. 8 Koriun SAHRADIAN (UKR) (top side)
No. 4 Max NOWRY (USA) vs. No. 5 Fabian SCHMITT (GER) (top side)
No. 3 Ekrem OZTURK (TUR) vs. No. 6 Amangali BEKBOLATOV (KAZ) (bottom side)
No. 2 Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) vs. No. 7 Jasurbek ORTIKBOEV (UZB) (bottom side)

No. 1 Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) vs. No. 4 Max NOWRY (USA) (top side)
No. 2 Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) vs. No. 3 Ekrem OZTURK (TUR) (bottom side)

No. 1 Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) vs. No. 2 Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO)

Azizli, Tsutsumia best
2021 World Championships bronze medalists Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) and Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) are the top two seeds at 55kg. Azizli went on to win the European Championships in Budapest while Tsurtsumia was second to him.

Three other seeded wrestlers on Azizli's side of the bracket are Koriun Fabian SCHMITT (GER), Max NOWRY (USA) and Koriun SAHRADIAN (UKR). The first clash of the seeded wrestlers will be a quarterfinal between Azizli and Sahradian. The other quarterfinal will be Schmitt taking on Nowry.

Azizli will then proceed to a semifinal against Nowry with a win taking him to the gold medal bout.

The lower side has Tsurtsumia along with Ekrem OZTURK (TUR), Amangali BEKBOLATOV (KAZ) and Jasurbek ORTIKBOEV (UZB). Tsurtsumia will face Asian bronze medalist Ortikboev in the quarterfinals and will face the winner of Ozturk and Bekbolatov in the semifinals.

A rematch of the European final between Azizli and Tsurtsumia is on the cards in Belgrade as well.


No. 2 Murad MAMMADOV (AZE)
No. 3 Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN)
No. 4 Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM)
No. 6 Kerem KAMAL (TUR)
No. 7 Haithem MAHMOUD (EGY)
No. 8 Helary MAEGISALU (EST)

If the seeds hold at 60kg:

No. 1 Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) vs. No. 8 Helary MAEGISALU (EST) (top side)
No. 4 Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM) vs. No. 5 GYANENDER (IND) (top side)
No. 3 Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) vs. No. 6 Kerem KAMAL (TUR) (bottom side)
No. 2 Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) vs. No. 7 Haithem MAHMOUD (EGY) (bottom side)

No. 1 Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) vs. No. 4 Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM) (top side)
No. 2 Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) vs. No. 3 Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) (bottom side)

No. 1 Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) vs. No. 2 Murad MAMMADOV (AZE)

Sharshenbekov poised to reach third Worlds final
Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) has reached the gold medal bout at World Championships twice but finished with silver on both occasions. He has a chance to change that record as he is seeded number one in the 60kg bracket. To reach another world final, he will have to go through Helary MAEGISALU (EST) in the quarterfinal and one of Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM) and GYANENDER (IND) in the semifinal as these are the seeded wrestlers on the top side of the bracket.

The Asian champion finished seventh at the Olympics before winning the silver in Oslo. He won the gold at Asian Championships in Mongolia.

On the bottom side, Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) is seeded number two and will face Haithem MAHMOUD (EGY) in the quarterfinal. Barring upsets, the other quarterfinal will be a clash of Olympic silver medalist Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) and European champion Kerem KAMAL (TUR) as they are seeded number three and six respectively. The winner will then get Mammadov in the semifinal.


No. 2 Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE)
No. 3 Erik TORBA (HUN)
No. 4 Victor CIOBANU (MDA)
No. 5 Ahmet UYAR (TUR)
No. 6 Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM)

If the seeds hold at 63kg:

No. 1 Leri ABULADZE (GEO) vs. No. 8 Tynar SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) (top side)
No. 4 Victor CIOBANU (MDA) vs. No. 5 Ahmet UYAR (TUR) (top side)
No. 3 Erik TORBA (HUN) vs. No. 6 Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM) (bottom side)
No. 2 Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) vs. No. 7 NEERAJ (IND) (bottom side)

No. 1 Leri ABULADZE (GEO) vs. No. 4 Victor CIOBANU (MDA) (top side)
No. 2 Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) vs. No. 3 Erik TORBA (HUN) (bottom side)

No. 1 Leri ABULADZE (GEO) vs. No. 2 Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE)

Abuladze locks up top seed
He fell agonizingly short of the gold in Oslo but Leri ABULADZE (GEO) will hope to win the gold this time at 63kg. He locked up the top seed with his silver in Oslo and a gold medal at the European Championships. Abuladze's quarterfinal will be against Asian champion Tynar SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) who is seeded number eight.

The other quarterfinal on the top side will feature 60kg world champion Victor CIOBANU (MDA) and Ahmet UYAR (TUR), who are seeded number four and five respectively.

Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE), who was fifth at the World Championships, is seeded number two and will feature on the bottom side of the bracket with a potential quarterfinal against NEERAJ (IND). His semifinal will be against one of Erik TORBA (HUN) or Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM).

An Abuladze-Mammadov final will be a repeat of the European Championships final which the Georgian won.


No. 1 Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI)
No. 2 Murat FIRAT (TUR)
No. 3 Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE)
No. 4 Mohamed ELSAYED (EGY)
No. 5 Morten THORESEN (NOR)
No. 6 Mateusz BERNATEK (POL)
No. 7 Hansu RYU (KOR)
No. 8 Witalis LAZOVSKI (GER)

If the seeds hold at 67kg:

No. 1 Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) vs. No. 8 Witalis LAZOVSKI (GER) (top side)
No. 4 Mohamed ELSAYED (EGY) vs. No. 5 Morten THORESEN (NOR) (top side)
No. 3 Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) vs. No. 6 Mateusz BERNATEK (POL) (bottom side)
No. 2 Murat FIRAT (TUR) vs. No. 7 Hansu RYU (KOR) (bottom side)

No. 1 Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) vs. No. 4 Mohamed ELSAYED (EGY) (top side)
No. 2 Murat FIRAT (TUR) vs. No. 3 Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) (bottom side)

No. 1 Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) vs. No. 2 Murat FIRAT (TUR)

Geraei primed for gold
To reach back-to-back World finals, Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) will need to go through an Olympic bronze medalist in the final. Olympic champion Geraei will face Witalis LAZOVSKI (GER) in the quarterfinals before facing Mohamed ELSAYED (EGY) in the semifinal if the Egypt wrestler can beat Morten THORESEN (NOR) in the other quarterfinal in the top half.

The bottom half of the bracket has number two seed Murat FIRAT (TUR) facing former world champion Hansu RYU (KOR) in the quarterfinals. Firat finished fifth in Oslo before winning the European Championships and the Mediterranean Games to clinch the second seed.

If he wins against Ryu, U23 world champion and fellow fifth at Worlds Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) awaits Firat. Jafarov has to beat Mateusz BERNATEK (POL) in the quarterfinals to set up a match against Firat.

Geraei will have the winner of the Firat-Jafarov semifinal if he manages to get past Elsayed as both have a similar style.


No. 1 Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU)
No. 3 Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL)
No. 4 Mohammad Reza MOKHTARI (IRI)
No. 5 Valentin PETIC (MDA)
No. 6 Selcuk CAN (TUR)
No. 7 Deyvid DIMITROV (BUL)
No. 8 Robert FRITSCH (HUN)

If the seeds hold at 72kg:

No. 1 Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU) vs. No. 8 Robert FRITSCH (HUN) (top side)
No. 4 Mohammad Reza MOKHTARI (IRI) vs. No. 5 Valentin PETIC (MDA) (top side)
No. 3 Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL) vs. No. 6 Selcuk CAN (TUR) (bottom side)
No. 2 Ulvu GANIZADE (AZE) vs. No. 7 Deyvid DIMITROV (BUL) (bottom side)

No. 1 Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU) vs. No. 4 Mohammad Reza MOKHTARI (IRI) (top side)
No. 2 Ulvu GANIZADE (AZE) vs. No. 3 Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL) (bottom side)

No. 1 Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU) vs. No. 2 Ulvu GANIZADE (AZE)

Sleiva eyes history
With both the finalists from Oslo not registered, top seed Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU) will hope to improve on his bronze medal from Oslo. Lithuania has never won the gold medal at World Championships but can pin hopes on Sleiva who locked the top seed with bronze in Oslo, fifth place at European Championships, gold at Matteo Pellicone and silver in Istanbul at the start of the season.

But a big quarterfinal against European champion Robert FRITSCH (HUN) will test Sleiva. If he manages to win that, he will have Mohammad Reza MOKHTARI (IRI) in the semifinal. Sleiva defeated Mokhtari for the bronze in Oslo.

Ulvu GANIZADE (AZE) is seeded second and will be in the bottom half with third seed Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL), number six Selcuk CAN (TUR) and number seven Deyvid DIMITROV (BUL). Ganizade finished eighth in Oslo but won bronze at Euros and silver at Matteo Pellicone. He also has a 10th-place finish in Istanbul.

He will face Dimitrov in the quarterfinals before getting one of Sahakyan or Can in the semifinal. A final against Sleiva will be a rematch from the European bronze medal bout in which Ganizade won. But Sleiva won the gold in Rome over Ganizade.


No. 2 Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI)
No. 3 Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ)
No. 4 Viktor NEMES (SRB)
No. 5 Shohei YABIKU (JPN)
No. 6 Yunus BASAR (TUR)
No. 7 Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB)

If the seeds hold at 77kg:

No. 1 Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) vs. No. 8 Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL) (top side)
No. 4 Viktor NEMES (SRB) vs. No. 5 Shohei YABIKU (JPN) (top side)
No. 3 Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) vs. No. 6 Yunus BASAR (TUR) (bottom side)
No. 2 Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) vs. No. 7 Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) (bottom side)

No. 1 Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) vs. No. 4 Viktor NEMES (SRB) (top side)
No. 2 Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) vs. No. 3 Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) (bottom side)

No. 1 Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) vs. No. 2 Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI)

Suleymanov top at 77kg
Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) will that the top seeding helps him end the misery of missing out on the gold last year. The silver medalist from Oslo finished with a bronze at European Championships and silver in Istanbul to lock up the top seed.

Given the seeds hold, Suleymanov will face Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL) in the quarterfinal before moving to the semifinals against Viktor NEMES (SRB) who is seeded fourth. But Nemes will have to beat Olympic bronze medalist Shohei YABIKU (JPN) in the quarterfinals.

The stacked bottoms side has World bronze and Olympic fifth Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) as second seed along with Olympic silver Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) as third, European champion Yunus BASAR (TUR) as sixth and Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) as the seventh seed.

Geraei will face Flores in the quarterfinal while Makhmudov will take on Basar. According to the seeds, Geraei and Makhmudov will advance to the semifinal, a mouth-watering match-up. The winner will face Suleymanov in the final.


No. 1 Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE)
No. 2 Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR)
No. 3 Pejman POSHTAM (IRI)
No. 4 Mihail BRADU (MDA)
No. 5 Ranet KALJOLA (EST)
No. 6 Harpreet SINGH (IND)
No. 8 Dias KALEN (KAZ)

If the seeds hold at 82kg:

No. 1 Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) vs. No. 8 Dias KALEN (KAZ) (top side)
No. 4 Mihail BRADU (MDA) vs. No. 5 Ranet KALJOLA (EST) (top side)
No. 3 Pejman POSHTAM (IRI) vs. No. 6 Harpreet SINGH (IND) (bottom side)
No. 2 Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) vs. No. 7 Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO) (bottom side)

No. 1 Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) vs. No. 4 Mihail BRADU (MDA) (top side)
No. 2 Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) vs. No. 3 Pejman POSHTAM (IRI) (bottom side)

No. 1 Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) vs. No. 2 Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR)

Huseynov, Akbudak rematch on cards
For long, Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) and Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) have held the top two seeds at 82kg. Heading into the World Championships, the two will remain one and two respectively.

Huseynov won the gold in Oslo and Budapest to add to his bronze in Tokyo and Istanbul to claim the top seed. He faces Dias KALEN (KAZ) in the quarterfinals. A win will take Huseynov to the semifinals against Mihail BRADU (MDA) who is seeded number four. Bradu will have to beat Ranet KALJOLA (EST) in the quarterfinal to wrestle Huseynov.

On the bottom side, Akbudak faces European silver medalist Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO) in the quarterfinals. World bronze medalist Pejman POSHTAM (IRI) has Harpreet SINGH (IND) in the other quarterfinal.

Akbudak and Poshtam will clash in the semifinals if they win according to the seeds before a rematch from 2021 Worlds between Huseynov and Akbudak occurs.


No. 3 Bachir SID AZARA (ALG)
No. 4 Islam ABBASOV (AZE)
No. 5 Nursultan TURSYNOV (KAZ)
No. 6 Mohamed METWALLY (EGY)
No. 7 Sunil KUMAR (IND)
No. 8 Atabek AZISBEKOV (KGZ)

If the seeds hold at 87kg:

No. 1 Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) vs. No. 8 Atabek AZISBEKOV (KGZ) (top side)
No. 4 Islam ABBASOV (AZE) vs. No. 5 Nursultan TURSYNOV (KAZ) (top side)
No. 3 Bachir SID AZARA (ALG) vs. No. 6 Mohamed METWALLY (EGY) (bottom side)
No. 2 Turpal BISULTANOV (DEN) vs. No. 7 Sunil KUMAR (IND) (bottom side)

No. 1 Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) vs. No. 4 Islam ABBASOV (AZE) (top side)
No. 2 Turpal BISULTANOV (DEN) vs. No. 3 Bachir SID AZARA (ALG) (bottom side)

No. 1 Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) vs. No. 2 Turpal BISULTANOV (DEN)

Datunashvili top-seeded at home
Serbia will have its own top seed as Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) hopes to defend his title at 87kg. Olympic bronze and gold in Oslo helped him to be in the top three before silver in Istanbul and eight-place at European Championships pushed him to the top.

To win gold in front of his home crowd, Datunashvili will have to navigate through eighth seed Atabek AZISBEKOV (KGZ) in the quarterfinal, fourth seed Islam ABBASOV (AZE) in the semifinals and second seed Turpal BISULTANOV (DEN) in the final. Abassov in the semifinals is a massive match-up as he has defeated Datunashvili in the previous two meetings.

European champion Bisultanov, who finished fifth in Oslo, is on the bottom side and faces Sunil KUMAR (IND) in the quarterfinals before Bachir SID AZARA (ALG) in the semifinals.


No. 1 Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI)
No. 2 Alex SZOKE (HUN)
No. 3 Kiril MILOV (BUL)
No. 5 Tadeusz MICHALIK (POL)
No. 8 Mihail KAJAIA (SRB)

If the seeds hold at 97kg:

No. 1 Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) vs. No. 8 Mihail KAJAIA (SRB) (top side)
No. 4 Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) vs. No. 5 Tadeusz MICHALIK (POL) (top side)
No. 3 Kiril MILOV (BUL) vs. No. 6 Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA) (bottom side)
No. 2 Alex SZOKE (HUN) vs. No. 7 Vilius LAURINAITIS (LTU) (bottom side)

No. 1 Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) vs. No. 4 Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) (top side)
No. 2 Alex SZOKE (HUN) vs. No. 3 Kiril MILOV (BUL) (bottom side)

No. 1 Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) vs. No. 2 Alex SZOKE (HUN)

Saravi, Szoke rematch at 97kg
Another World Championships final rematch can happen in Belgrade if Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) and Alex SZOKE (HUN) can hold their seeds.

Olympic bronze and world champion Saravi locked up the top seed with those two medals and will face Mihail KAJAIA (SRB) in the quarterfinals. Second seed Szoke, a silver medalist from Oslo, has Vilius LAURINAITIS (LTU) in his quarterfinal on the bottom side.

The other quarterfinal on the top side will see two Olympic medalists from the Tokyo clash. Silver medalist Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) will return to the competition and will have bronze medalist Tadeusz MICHALIK (POL) in the quarterfinals. The bottom side will see Oslo fifth Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA), seeded sixth, face European champion and fifth seed Kiril MILOV (BUL) in the quarterfinals.

Saravi will get a chance to avenge his loss from Olympics as he faces Aleksanyan in the semifinal. In the other semifinal, Olympic fifth Szoke will have Milov.

Szoke lost the final in Oslo 3-1 against Saravi but if the two meet again for the gold, he will hope to turn the result in his favor. 


No. 1 Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO)
No. 2 Riza KAYAALP (TUR)
No. 3 Yasmani ACOSTA (CHI)
No. 5 Oskar MARVIK (NOR)
No. 6 Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB)

If the seeds hold at 130kg:

No. 1 Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO) vs. No. 8 Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) (top side)
No. 4 Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) vs. No. 5 Oskar MARVIK (NOR) (top side)
No. 3 Yasmani ACOSTA (CHI) vs. No. 6 Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) (bottom side)
No. 2 Riza KAYAALP (TUR) vs. No. 7 Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU) (bottom side)

No. 1 Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO) vs. No. 4 Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) (top side)
No. 2 Riza KAYAALP (TUR) vs. No. 3 Yasmani ACOSTA (CHI) (bottom side)

No. 1 Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO) vs. No. 2 Riza KAYAALP (TUR)

Kajaia locks top seed at 130kg
Olympic silver medalist Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO) will be seeded number one for the World Championships he won a bronze in Oslo and has ranking points from European Championships and Bolat Turlykhanov Cup.

The top seed puts him on the opposite side of Riza KAYAALP (TUR) who is looking for his fifth world title and first since 2019.

Kajaia will face U23 world champion Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) in the quarterfinals as he is seeded eighth. Kayaalp on the bottom side will have seventh seed Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU).

The two other quarterfinals will have Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) wrestling Oskar MARVIK (NOR) on the top side and third seed Yasmani ACOSTA (CHI) wrestling Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) on the bottom side.

The semifinals will feature Kajaia and Knystautas from the top side and Kayaalp and Acosta from the bottom with both Kajaia and Kayaalp primed to win according to their seeds.

Kajaia will try to Kayaalp from winning the title one more team and instead win his first.


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