Iran Looks to Upend Talented Azerbaijani Squad at Freestyle World Cup
Thursday, April 9, 2015 - 22:18 By Tim Foley
Men’s Freestyle World Cup: Group B Preview
LOS ANGELES (April 9) –Defending champion Iran will be the heavy favorite in Group B when the 2015 United World Wrestling freestyle World Cup kicks off Saturday afternoon at the Forum in Los Angeles, California.
Iran defeated Russia 6-2 in last year’s gold-medal match and this year the Iranians will face Group B competition that includes World power Azerbaijan and the always-formidable nation of Belarus.
While Los Angeles remains thousands of miles from Tehran, the Iranians might feel at home as the American city is home to one of the largest Persian communities in North America. Iranian fans from across Southern California have already bought tickets in expectation of their team’s inclusion in the gold medal match on Sunday.
On the mat, the Iranian squad has a foursome of talented World and Olympic medalists leading their championships charge. Though missing a few key names, the Iranians will bring World No.2 2012 Olympic bronze medalist and 2014 World silver medalist Komeil GHASEMI (125kg) along with two-time World champion Reza YAZDANI (97kg), who ranks fourth in the world.
World No.8 Hassan RAHIMI (57kg) brings another title to the favored Iranian side, having won a 2013 World gold. World No.2 and 2014 world silver medalist Sayed Ahmad MOHAMMADI (65kg) rounds out the Iranian squad’s sterling lineup.
The Azerbaijan side will be led by 2012 Olympic gold medalist Togrul ASGAROV (70kg) and last year’s 61kg world champion Haji ALIEV, who ranks No.12 at 65kg. Two-time World bronze medalist and ninth-ranked Yabrail HASANOV (74kg) rounds out an formidable Azerbaijani lineup, one they hope can carry them past their Iranian rival.
Though not originally favored in the group, the team from Belarus brings a surprising and competitive lineup to Los Angeles. The team will be led by World No.7 and 2011 world champion Alexei SHEMAROV (125kg), 2013 and 2014 World bronze medalist Ali SHABANOV (74kg), who comes in ranked No.4, and 2014 World bronze medalist Vladislav ANDREEV (57kg), who currently sits at No.7.
World No.12 Ibragim SAIDOV (97kg), who won the respected Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in 2015, is also expected to bring a significant contribution to Belarus’ title hunt.
Turkey brings a limited side with only ten wrestlers on the roster and will without world No.1 and defending Taha AKGUL (125kg). The Turks will be led by two-time World medalist Sezer AKGUEL (57kg), who was a 2009 World silver medalist and a 2013 World bronze medalist. Joining Akguel will be 2012 World University champion Mustafa KAYA (70kg). Kaya was fifth in the 2014 World Championship, and was a silver medalist at the 2010 Junior European Championships and is currently ranked 13th in the world.
The Turkish side is rounded out by 2014 European bronze medalist Soener DEMIRTAS at 74kg.
Competition Schedule (All Times are PDT; GMT -7)
Saturday, April 11
3:00 p.m. – Mat A: USA vs. Cuba; Mat B: Iran vs. Belarus
4:30 p.m. – Mat A: Russia vs. Mongolia; Mat B: Azerbaijan vs. Turkey
6:15 p.m. – Opening Ceremonies
6:30 p.m. – Mat A: USA vs. Russia; Mat B: Iran vs. Turkey
8:00 p.m. – Mat A: Mongolia vs. Cuba; Mat B: Belarus vs. Azerbaijan
Sunday, April 12
11:00 a.m. – Mat A: USA vs. Mongolia; Mat B: Turkey vs. Belarus
12:30 p.m. – Mat A: Azerbaijan vs. Iran; Mat B: Cuba vs. Russia
2:00 p.m. – Mat A: Fifth Place Dual; Mat B: Seventh Place Dual
4:15 p.m. – Mat A: Third Place Dual
5:45 p.m. – Mat A: Championship Dual