Local Hero Zhakansha Uses New Addition to Arsenal to Top Defending Champion, Make Greco 55kg Final

By Ken Marantz

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (Sept. 14) --- Khorlan ZHAKANSHA (KAZ) figured he needed to add something new to his arsenal. What he came up with worked not only once, but twice against the defending champion, propelling him into the final of the World Championships in his home country.

Zhakansha nailed Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) with a pair of 4-point headlock throws to end his reign as the Greco-Roman 55kg champion by scoring an 11-5 victory in the semifinals before a roaring Barys Arena crowd.

“I can’t explain this feeling because I’ve been working so hard for a long time, for many years,” said Zhakansha, a two-time bronze medalist at the Asian Championships.

The medal matches in the four Greco-Roman weight classes that opened the tournament on Saturday will be held Sunday night. 

In the final, Zhakansha will face world U23 champion Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO), who overwhelmed Shota OGAWA (JPN) by 8-0 technical fall in 2:57.

Against Azizli, Zhakansha went ahead 3-0 with a gut wrench off the par terre position, but the Turk scored a takedown to make it 3-2 going into the second period.

Zhakansha then stuck Azizli with his first headlock throw for 4 points. Azizli managed to gain a reversal and a roll to cut the lead to 7-5, but then Zhakansha repeated his awesome throw to clinch the victory.

“I didn’t prepare this, I didn’t think I would do this,” he said of the effective throw. “Before, I would use a back drop, but all of my opponents know that I will do it. So I tried something new.”

Zhakansha credited the partisan crowd for propelling him into the final.

“You can see that so many fans come to support us. It was almost impossible to lose. I felt like I had to win.”

Stepan MARYANYAN (RUS) will look to win back-to-back world title when he takes on Rio Olympic silver medalist Shinobu OTA (JPN)   in the 63kg finals on Sunday night. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Russia, which captured six Greco golds at last year’s World Championships in Budapest, earned a shot at two right off the bat when defending champion Stepan MARYANYAN (RUS) made the final at 63kg and Abulazid MANTSIGOV (RUS) followed suit at 72kg.

Georgia is the only other country with two finalists, with Lasha GOBADZE (GEO) at 82kg joining Tsurtsumia. Kazakhstan, Japan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have one finalist each.

Maryanyan survived a tough test in assuring himself of at least a silver medal, scoring all of his points in the second period to slip past Slavik GALSTYAN (ARM), 4-2.

The lanky Galstyan scored a takedown in the first period. But Maryanyan took advantage of the par terre position to go ahead 3-2 in the second period. 

The remainder of the bout consisted mainly of locking arms, which frustrated Galstyan so much he made a challenge after time ran out, looking for a passivity penalty against Maryanyan. The challenge was denied, giving the Russian his final point.

In the gold-medal match, Maryanyan will face Rio 2016 Olympic silver medalist Shinobu OTA (JPN) in a rematch of the final at the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov tournament in February. In that match, Ota took a 3-0 lead in the par terre position, only to see Maryanyan score a reversal, then rip off five straight gut wrenches for a 12-3 technical fall.

Ota said he will be better prepared after denying Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ) a place in the final with his third technical fall of the day. 

“If I can defend from the ground position like I did in the semifinal today, I don’t think it will be problem,” Ota said. “I want to go into the final tomorrow with the same feeling that led me to win all of my matches by technical fall.”

In the semifinal, Ota was put in the par terre position in the first period, but fought off Kebispayev’s attempts to turn him, leaving the score 1-0 going into the second period. Ota scored an early takedown, then used a duck under to a bear hug for 4 points. He finished off the match with a similar 4-point move for a 10-1 technical fall in 5:06. 

Abulazid MANTSIGOV (RUS) manhandled returning world runner-up Balint KORPASI (HUN) , 8-0 and moved into the 72kg finals.(Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

At 72kg, Mantsigov was similarly dominant in denying veteran Balint KORPASI (HUN) a second straight trip to the final, posting an 8-0 technical fall at 3:32. The big move was a 4-point counter of a back drop late in the first period.

Korpasi, the 2016 world champion and runner-up last year, had beaten Mantsigov in the only previous meeting between the two, in the semifinals at the 2017 European Championships.

Next up for Mantsigov---the only top seed among the four weight classes to make the final---will be Aram VARDANYAN (UZB), who scored a solid 4-1 win over 2019 world bronze medalist Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL). 

Lasha GOBADZE (GEO) defeated Nurbek KHASHIMBEKOV (UZB), 3-1 in the semifinals and will meet Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) in the 82kg gold-medal bout. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

The 82kg final will be a showdown between European silver medalist Gobadze and 31-year-old Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE), who assured himself of a first-ever medal in his eighth trip to the World Championships.

Gobadze scored a roll from the par terre position, then held on when he was put on the bottom to chalk up a 3-1 win over Nurbek KHASHIMBEKOV (UZB). 

Huseynov came out on top of a very physical struggle with Rio 2016 bronze medalist and 2019 Asian champion Saied ABDVALI (IRI), driving his opponent backward for a 4-point move with :28 left to clinch a 8-5 victory. 

The day session on Sunday will see the qualification rounds in the Greco-Roman weight classes of 67kg, 87kg and 97kg. 

Day 1 Results

Greco-Roman - Semifinals

55kg (20 entries)
Khorlan ZHAKANSHA (KAZ) df. Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE), 11-5 
Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) df. Shota OGAWA (JPN) by TF, 8-0, 2:57

63kg (18 entries)
Stepan MARYANYAN (RUS) df. Slavik GALSTYAN (ARM), 4-2
Shinobu OTA (JPN) df. Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ) by TF, 10-1, 5:06

72kg (25 entries)
Abulazid MANTSIGOV (RUS) df. Balint KORPASI (HUN) by TF, 8-0, 3:32

82kg (23 entries)
Lasha GOBADZE (GEO) df. Nurbek KHASHIMBEKOV (UZB), 3-1
Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) df. Saied ABDVALI (IRI), 8-5


Sadulaev Still Reigns Supreme at 97kg with Win over Sharifov; Yazdani Regains 86kg Crown

By Ken Marantz

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (Sept. 22) --- Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) wasn’t surprised that his opponent in the final wasn’t the one everyone expected. He just went out and showed again he could dominate whoever stood between him and another gold medal.

Sadulaev captured his second straight world title and fourth overall with a rock-solid 4-o victory over Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE) in the freestyle 97kg final to bring the curtain down on the Nur-Sultan World Championships.

The victory establishes Sadulaev as the one to beat at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where he will look to add to the 86kg gold he won at Rio 2016.

This year’s World Championships served as the first qualifier for Tokyo 2020, with the top six finishers in each of the Olympic weight classes securing berths for their country.

The pretournament hype at 97kg revolved around a potential rematch between Sadulaev and Kyle SNYDER (USA) of the 2018 final in Budapest, which the Russian won to avenge a loss to the American the previous year in Paris.

Asked if he regretted not facing Snyder this time, Sadulaev replied, “No, because the most important final is still waiting for us, the Olympic Games.”

Sharifov, a former Olympic champion in his own right, spoiled the party in Nur-Sultan by beating Snyder in the semifinals.

Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) shutout fellow Olympic champion Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE), 4-0, in the 97kg finals. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

“In our weight category, there are so many wrestlers with many titles,” Sadulaev said. “Even in the final, I met with an Olympic champion. His technique is very good. I wasn’t surprised that Sharifov reached the final because all wrestlers have equal chances.”

In the final---a battle between natives of the wrestling hotbed of Dagestan, a Russian republic situated on the Caspian Sea---Sadulaev gained a point with Sharifov on the activity clock, then added a single-leg takedown just before the first period ended.

In the second period, a stepout for Sadulaev was the lone point as the powerful Russian kept his Azeri opponent at bay.

Sadulaev said he never imagined himself winning the title before stepping on the mat. 

“I never think like that,” he said. “I know situations when sportsman becomes a champion in their mind, then they don’t have good result.”

Sadulaev said this gold will be special because of the warm reception he received in the former Soviet republic from the crowd at Barys Arena.

“I will keep this championship in my memory for a long time because the organization was of the highest degree and I was surprised that I have so many fans in Kazakhstan,” he said. 

“Even when I met with the Kazakh wrestler, I saw that many Kazakh people supported me.”

Sadulaev’s victory topped off a dominant tournament by Russia, which ran away with the team title with 190 points after medaling in all but one weight class  (125kg) and coming away with five of the 10 golds. 

Host Kazakhstan had no champions, but enough wrestlers in the medal matches to finish second with 103 points, while the United States edged Iran by 1 point for third place with 94 after each added a gold and a bronze on the final day. 

Hassan YAZDANI (IRI) won his second world title after Deepak PUNIA (IND) was forced to withdraw from the gold-medal match due to injury (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Iran’s title on Sunday came without a match, although Deepak PUNIA (IND) would have been hard-pressed to prevent Hassan YAZDANI (IRI) in the 86kg final from regaining the world title he won in 2017 after finishing third last year.

Yazdani was declared the winner when Punia defaulted due to a left ankle injury suffered in his opening match. While Yazdani would have preferred having to work for the victory, it capped a dominant run through the field in which he won three matches by fall or technical fall. 

“The level of this competition is high,” Yazdani said. “But I trained very hard and I was given the opportunity and the chance to win.”Yazdani, the Rio 2016 gold medalist at 74kg, minced no words in stating his determination to earn a second Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.

“After a few days rest, I will start to become more prepared and get the best medal in the Olympics,” he said. “This medal was to raise the flag of my country and I want to raise the flag at the next Olympics and make the Iranian people happy.”  

Kyle DAKE (USA) defeated Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE) for the second year in a row in the 79kg finals. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

In the non-Olympic weight of 79kg, Kyle DAKE (USA) repeated his victory from the Budapest 2018 final over Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE), this time coming away with a 4-1 victory for his second world title.

“I did a lot better job this time,” said Dake, who won 2-0 a year ago. “I moved my feet, which has been a really big focus of mine this past eight months. I’m glad to see it’s coming together.”

Dake went on the offensive from the outset and picked up a pair of stepout points in the first period. He padded the lead in the second period with a single-leg takedown before Hasanov, with his back to wall, finally began launching attacks.

“There were some positions where he got in on my leg at the end, and he would never shoot if it was 0-0,” Dake said. 

“I knew I could not leave it in the hands of the refs. I couldn’t leave it up to cautions, I needed to go out and execute. I got the first pushout, second pushout, takedown and that was the difference.”

In the final minute, Hasanov’s efforts only resulted in a pair of stepouts as Dake forced stalemates from the Azeri’s takedown attempts to come up golden. 

“I was hoping they would have let those scrambles go a little bit longer,” Dake said. “I feel I was ready to score a couple of times, but it is what it is.” 

It was the latest major accomplishment for the 28-year-old father of two, who became the first wrestler in U.S. collegiate history to win four titles in four different weight classes, when he did it while at the Ivy League’s Cornell University.

“It’s a testament to the way I live, the way my wife and family support me, my friends, coaches, teammates, sponsors---I couldn’t do it without them,” he said. “It’s been a crazy road this past year to say the least, and I’m just really excited I was able to get it done again.

Beka LOMTADZE (GEO) scored a trio of takedowns and defeated Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS), 6-1, in the 61kg finals. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

In the final at 61kg, also a non-Olympic weight, European silver medalist Beka LOMTADZE (GEO) relegated 2018 world U23 champion Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS) to second place by scoring three takedowns in the second period for a 6-1 win.

In the bronze-medal matches, Stefan REICHMUTH (SUI) became the first-ever world freestyle medalist from Switzerland when he chalked up three stepouts to defeat Carlos IZQUIERDO (COL) 3-1 at 86kg. 

History was going to be made regardless of the outcome as Colombia also has never had a freestyle medalist. Switzerland had previously won one world bronze each in the other styles---Kurt RUSTERHOLZ (SUI) in Greco-Roman 87kg in 1953, and Inge KRASSER (SUI) at women’s 57kg in 1989. 

Artur NAIFANOV (RUS) won the other bronze at 86kg with a 6-0 victory over Myles AMINE (SMR), the U.S.-born wrestler who clinched the first-ever Olympic berth for tiny San Marino, the birthplace of his grandfather.

At 97kg, Snyder gained some consolation from his semifinal loss to Sharifov when he grinded out a 5-0 win over Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO) at 97kg to add a world bronze to his collection of two golds and a silver. 

Magomedgadji NUROV (MKD) captured a bronze medal with an 8-5 win over Alisher YERGALI (KAZ). (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Magomedgadji NUROV (MKD) became the first wrestler to win a world medal while competing for the newly named nation of North Macedonia when he rallied to defeat Alisher YERGALI (KAZ) 8-5.

Host Kazakhstan came up short in its other shot for a medal before the home crowd when Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) edged Galymzhan USSERBAYEV (KAZ) 3-2 at 79kg.

Gadzhi NABIEV (RUS) built up an 8-point lead against Rashid KURBANOV (UZB) and held on for a 8-3 victory for the other 79kg bronze.

Asian bronze medalist Rahul AWARE (IND) became the 10th wrestler in Indian history to win a world freestyle medal when he defeated Tyler GRAFF (USA) 11-4 at 61kg.

Aware, nursing a 4-2 lead, scored a takedown with a slick duck under, then padded his lead with a pair of 2-point exposures. 

Two days earlier, Kumar RAVI (IND) became the eighth Indian medalist when he won a bronze at 57kg, and Punia become No. 9 when he was assured of at least a silver by making the 86kg final.

The other 61kg bronze went to Behnam EHSANPOOR (IRI), an 8-0 winner over Abbos RAKHMONOV (UZB).

Day 9 Results


61kg (25 entries)
Gold – Beka LOMTADZE (GEO) df. Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS), 6-1
Bronze – Behnam EHSANPOOR (IRI) df. Abbos RAKHMONOV (UZB), 8-0 
Bronze – Rahul AWARE (IND) df. Tyler GRAFF (USA), 11-4

79kg (23 entries)
Gold – Kyle DAKE (USA) df. Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE), 4-1
Bronze – Gadzhi NABIEV (RUS) df. Rashid KURBANOV (UZB), 8-3
Bronze – Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) df. Galymzhan USSERBAYEV (KAZ), 3-2

86kg (43 entries)
Gold – Hassan YAZDANI (IRI) df. Deepak PUNIA (IND) by Inj. Def. 
Bronze – Stefan REICHMUTH (SUI) df. Carlos IZQUIERDO (COL), 3-0 
Bronze – Artur NAIFANOV (RUS) df. Myles AMINE (SMR), 6-0

97kg (26 entries)
Gold – Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) df. Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE), 4-0 
Bronze – Kyle SNYDER (USA) df. Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO), 5-0 
Bronze – Magomedgadji NUROV (MKD) df. Alisher YERGALI (KAZ), 8-5