Lopez, Kayaalp Set for #WrestleTokyo Semifinal Collision Course

By United World Wrestling Press

TOKYO, Japan (July 31) --- A blockbuster day awaits wrestling fans on the opening day at the Tokyo Olympics as three-time defending champion Mijain LOPEZ (CUB) is set for a collision with Rio Olympics silver medalist Riza KAYAALP (TUR).

The two were drawn on the upper side of the bracket at 130kg weight class and are on path to meet in the semifinal at the Makuhari Messe, Chiba on Sunday.

The first set of draws was completed in Tokyo for two weight classes, 60kg and 130kg, in Greco Roman and one in women's wrestling – 76kg.

Lopez will take on Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU) in the first round while Kayaalp will be up against Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU).

Fourth seed Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) will have to overcome Lopez in the quarterfinal if he wants to reach the semifinal.

At 60kg, home favorite and world champion Kenchiro FUMITA (JPN) has drawn Abdelkarim FERGAT (ALG) and fourth seed Ali Reza NEJATI (IRI) is up against Armen MELIKYAN (ARM) in the first round.

The other side can see two young stars U23 world champion Kerem KAMAL (TUR) and Individual World Cup champion Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KAZ) meet in the quarterfinals. The winner can possibly wrestle second seed and former world champion Sergey EMELIN (ROC) in the semifinal.

Wrestlers at 76kg in women's wrestling also received their draws and five-time world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) will be wrestling Zaineb SGHAIER (TUN) in her first bout while defending champion Erica WIEBE (CAN) will wrestle European champion Epp MAEE (EST) in her first round.

Former world champion Yasemin ADAR (TUR) can wrestle Gray in the second round. The semifinal can see former Olympic champion Natalia VOROBEVA (ROC) wrestle one of them. But she has to go through Samar HAMZA (EGY), Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ) and Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ).

In another top first-round bout, Aline ROTTER FOCKEN (GER) will take on Rio Olympic fifth-placer and former world silver medalist Vasilisa MARZALIUK (BLR).

World silver medalist and local hope Hiroe MINAGAWA (JPN) begins her campaign against veteran wrestler Burmaa OCHIRBAT (MGL). Ochirbat is wrestling in her third Olympics and was one of the wrestlers from Athens Olympics as well.


Snyder Takes Olympic Loss to Sadulaev in Stride

By Ken Marantz

CHIBA, Japan (August 7)---The competitor in Kyle SNYDER (USA) hated the defeat. The wrestler in him loved the battle.

Snyder took his loss to rival Abdurashid SADULAEV (ROC) in the final of the freestyle 97kg class on Saturday night at the Tokyo Olympics in stride, already looking forward to the next chance for the two titans to clash.

"It is still exciting," Snyder said. "I love competition, I love wrestling, and I'm thankful to be able to compete." About facing Sadulaev again, he said, "I'd love it."

In the third meeting between the two since they both won gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics in different weight classes, Sadulaev beat the American for the second time with a 6-3 victory at Makuhari Messe Hall A to add a second Olympic gold to his four world titles.

Sadulaev, who had an activity point and a stepout in the first period, built up a 6-0 lead with a pair of tilts in countering Snyder's single-leg takedown attempts. On the first one, the wrestler known as The Russian Tank at one point lifted a prone Snyder completely off the mat, but not enough for a throw and instead settled for angling him over.

"There are definitely some positions that I have got to get better in," Snyder said. "That is what I'm thinking about. I have got to finish those attacks, so that is what I'm going to do. We had an idea of what it would be like."

Snyder, a two-time world champion, never gave up the fight, and came back to score a takedown and stepout in the final minute before Sadulaev ran out the clock.

"I'm a competitor so I hate to lose," Snyder said. "It's the spirit of Jesus that is strong in me. I'm not that strong as a guy, but Jesus is really strong and his spirit keeps me moving forward."

In the series dubbed "Snyderlaev" that drew worldwide attention, Snyder came out on top in their first clash in the final at the 2017 World Championships in Paris, Sadulaev's first after moving up to 97kg. Sadulaev had won the gold in Rio at 86kg, while Snyder had triumphed at 97kg.

Sadulaev gained his revenge at "Snyderlaev II" at the World Championships the next year in Budapest. He has not tasted defeat on the mat since that loss in Paris.

While it is uncertain what Sadulaev's plans are at the moment, Snyder would welcome a "Snyderlaev IV" at this year's World Championships in Oslo in October. Anyway, he intends to be there.

"Lord willing, I will be at the world championships," he said.

Like all American wrestlers, Snyder needs to constantly earn his spot on the national team to major tournaments. Having set the record as the youngest-ever US champion at both the worlds and Olympics, he knows there are always new faces coming along ready to knock him off.

"Guys are getting better and better," he said of prospects for U.S. wrestling. "Everybody is doing the right stuff. We have great coaches, support staff and training environments.

"I'm really happy for all my teammates who did a great job here, and all the coaches because they work so hard. I think we're going to dominate and keep getting better."

With Snyder's silver, the United States finished the Olympic wrestling tournament with nine medals overall, the most of any nation, including three golds.