Live Blog: World Championships, Day 2

By Ken Marantz & Vinay Siwach

BELGRADE, Serbia (September 11) -- After the finals of the four Greco-Roman weight classes were set on Saturday, the World Championships enter day two in Belgrade with four more Greco weights.


Here are the semifinals for the evening session

Sebastian NAD (SRB) vs. Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE)
Leri ABULADZE (GEO) vs. Ali Reza Ayat Ollah NEJATI (IRI) 

Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) vs. Mate NEMES (SRB) 
Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) vs. Joni KHETSURIANI (GEO) 

Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB) vs. Tamas LEVAI (HUN)
|Yaroslav FILCHAKOV (UKR) vs. Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) 

Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) vs. Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) 

15:15: Pejman POSHTAM (IRI) will not advance to the semifinal as Yaroslav FILCHAKOV (UKR) wins 5-3 and another huge hit to Iran's team title hopes here.

15:11: Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) was knocked off the 82kg throne in dramatic fashion. 2019 world bronze medalist Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZ) drops the Olympic bronze medalist with a bear hug for 4, with another 2 tacked on as Huseynov is penalized for fleeing. Brought back to the mat in par terre, Berdimuratov gets a 4-point throw for an 11-0 win.

15:10: Tamas LEVAI (HUN) is close to joining his brother as a finalist. He beats Roland SCHWARZ (GER) via fall at 82kg.

15:05: Kiril MILOV (BUL) got the rare two par terre positions in his quarterfinal against (ITA). Though he failed to get any rolls, he wins 2-0 to move into the semifinals at 97kg.

15:03: Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) proves too much for aging Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB), advancing to the 97kg semifinals with a one-sided 7-0 win.

14:56: Arif NIFTULLAYEV (AZE) needs just 1:12 to roll to a 10-2 technical fall over Alex SZOKE (HUN) and into the 97kg semifinals.

14:58: Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) is moving into the semifinals for the first time in his career as he beats HUSIYUETU (CHN) 7-0. 

14:51: Olympic champion Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) slams former world champion Hansu RYU (KOR) down onto his neck during their 67kg quarterfinal. The move is judged as 'brutality' and the points taken away. But Ryu is unable to continue due to the impact on his ribs, and Geraei advances with a 5-1 win by injury default.

14:49: On Mat C, Olympic silver medalist Parviz NASIBOV (UKR) has no answers to Joni KHETSURIANI (GEO) and falls in the quarterfinals 7-0.

14:47: Mate NEMES (SR) scores a gut wrench from par terre and books a place in the 67kg semifinals with a 2-1 win over Mateusz BERNATEK (POL), much to the delight of the partisan crowd.

14:36: Olympic champion Luis ORTA SANCHEZ (CUB) won't be taking home a world gold after losing a razor-close 2-1 decision to Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) at 63kg. Mammadov gets a late stepout to go ahead 2-1, and in the final seconds, manages to keep from touching down as the Cuban scrambles to get behind for a takedown.

14:31: Leri ABULADZE (GEO) takes a 5-2 lead off an early scramble, then holds on for a 7-2 victory over Tynar SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) in their 63kg quarterfinal.

14:20: Ali Reza NEJATI (IRI) takes out world champion Victor CIOBANU (MDA). Both wrestlers got a chance in par terre but it was Nejati who got two rolls to win 5-3 in the quarterfinal.

14:15: Serbia has another semifinalist at the World Championships. Sebastian NAD (SRB) gave no openings to Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM) and scored a 4-0 win

14:09: After a long wait, defending 82kg champion Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) finally takes the mat. The Olympic bronze medalist scores a cross-body roll from par terre against Yuya OKAJIMA (JPN) and easily advances to the quarterfinals with a 7-1 win.

14:00: European champion Kiril MILOV (BUL), a world silver medalist in 2018, rips off four gut wrenches from par terre to put away Deepanshu AHLAWAT (IND) 9-1 and gain a spot in the 97kg quarterfinals.

13:37: Defending 97kg champion and Olympic bronze medalist Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) gets a pair of gut wrenches from par terre against Felix BALDAUF (NOR). A takedown and a stepout in the second period to finish the 8-0 technical fall. 

13:30: Mihai MIHUT (ROU) has pulled off an upset. He led 1-1 on criteria and defended the par terre position against Hansu RYU (KOR) when the Korean got the second passivity. Mihut was warned for fleeing and with 4 seconds remaining, he is penalized with two points. Challenge from Mihut but the negative wrestling is confirmed. Ryu wins 4-1.

13:19: Reigning Olympic and world champion Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) gets a 4-point lift from par terre, then finishes off a 9-0 technical fall over Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) with a takedown just before the end of the first period to advance to the 67kg quarterfinals. 

13:19: In a classic battle between former world champions, Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM)--looking for his sixth world medal---scores a 3-1 victory at 97kg over Metehan BASAR (TUR).

13:13: Sebastian NAD (SRB) continues to feed off the energy from the home crowd, scoring a pair of gut wrenches from par terre and advancing to the 63kg quarterfinals with a 5-1 win over Razvan ARNAUT (ROU). 

13:06: Asian champion Tynar SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) with a winning start. He beats  Nikolay VICHEV (BUL) 6-1 at 63kg.

13:03: 2021 world silver medalist Leri ABULADZE (GEO) gets a pair of stepouts in the final 30 seconds to secure a 4-1 win over 2019 Asian champion Erbatu TUO (CHN) and gain a place in the 63kg quarterfinals. 

12:41: The refugee wrestler, Aker AL OBAIDI (UWW), looked fearless in facing 2021 world champion Victor CIOBANU (MDA). But put on the bottom of par terre, courage can only get you so far, as Ciobanu lifts and rolls his way to a 9-0 technical fall to advance to the 63kg quarterfinals. 

12:39: Olympic champion Luis ORTA (CUB) up against Neeraj CHHIKARA (IND) at 63kg. He gets the par terre and out comes the chest wrap. Strong grip from Orta and he wins 9-0 with four exposures

12:31: Roland SCHWARZ (GER), a 2021 world bronze medalist at 77kg, has moved up to 82kg. He got a takedown and roll combination just before the end of the first period and rode that to a 5-1 victory over David ZHYTOMYRSKY (ISR).

12:20: Ali Reza NEJATI (IRI) is up against Abdolmohammad PAPI (GER) at 63kg. He was included in the team after world champion Meysam DALKHANI (IRI) failed to recover from an injury. He opens the account with an exposure for two. 

12:02: At 38, two-time world medalist Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB) is showing more grey in his facial hair, but he still knows how to win. A headlock for 4, and a later takedown-gut wrench combination gives him an 8-0 technical fall at 97kg over Islam UMAYEV (KAZ). 

11:56: More success for the home team, as two-time world bronze medalist Mihail KAJAIA (SRB) foils a bear-hug attempt by Mathias BAK (DEN) late in the match, stepping over for 2 to finish off a 5-1 victory at 97kg. 

11:52: The indomitable Hansu RYU (KOR), still going strong at 34, advanced at 67kg when his opponent Nestor ALMANZA (CHI) defaulted due to injury in the second period. Ryu, the world champion in 2013 and 2017, had just taken a 7-1 lead.

11:45: U20 world bronze medalist Braxton AMOS (USA) with two big arm throws in his 12-6 win over Vladen KOZLIUK (UKR) at 97kg. 

11:22: In a barn-burner on Mat B at 67kg, Parviz NASIBOV (UKR), the Tokyo Olympic silver medalist at 63kg, took a 5-point lead, only to fall behind to Slavik GALSTYAN (ARM). But he got the points he needed to pull out a 7-7 victory. Galstyan was a 2019 world bronze medalist at 63kg.

11:20: A bout that should be a thriller. Olympic bronze Mohamed ELSAYED (EGY) is taking on upcoming star Abror ATABAEV (UZB). Elsayed with a stepout and a caution for fleeing to lead 2-0. Atabaev has slowly crawled back into this bout with two stepouts. But El Sayed still has 2-2 criteria lead due to the caution for fleeing. El Sayed is warned for fleeing the hold. With 8 seconds remaining, El Sayed is penalized for second fleeing. Atabaev gets the 3-2 lead. A lost challenge from El Sayed as Atabaev wins 4-2.  

11:10: 2021 European champion Mate NEMES (SRB), whose twin brother Viktor will wrestle for a bronze medal at 77kg tonight, made it to the next round at 67kg with a 9-0 technical fall over ASHU (IND).

11:08: 60kg Victor CIOBANU (MDA) is competing at 63kg this year and has begun well as he got two rolls from par terre against one from Jinseub SONG (KOR) to win 5-3

11:05: Luis ORTA SANCHEZ (CUB), the Tokyo Olympic champion at 60kg, made a successful start in moving up to 63kg, powering to a 10-0 technical fall over European bronze medalist Oleksandr HRUSHYN (UKR). 

10:56: Sebastian NAD (SRB) gets the home crowd fired up, scoring all his points in the first period and cruising to a 7-1 victory at 63kg over Abdeldjebar DJEBBARI (ALG).

10:51: Representing the UWW team, refugee wrestler Aker AL OBAIDI (UWW) begins his campaign at 63kg with an 8-0 win over Emerson FELIPE (GUA).

10:45: After Iran failed to get into any of the four finals yesterday, Ali Reza NEJATI (IRI), a 2019 world bronze medalist, gets his campaign at Greco 63kg started with a solid 5-0 win over European bronze medalist Ahmet Uyar (TUR). 

10:27: Hello again from Belgrade! If Day 2 is anything like yesterday's opening day, we're in for plenty of fast-paced action and high-level drama. Today's morning session will see wrestlers at Greco 63kg, 67kg, 82kg and 97kg try to battle their way into the semifinals. Buckle up!


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