Micic beats Olympic, world champs to set up Higuchi final; Dake takes on Sidakov
Sunday, September 17, 2023 - 15:55 By Vinay Siwach
BELGRADE, Serbia (September 17) -- All eyes were on the Olympic and world champions at 57kg with Zavur UGUEV (AIN), Zelimkhan ABAKAROV (ALB) and Rei HIGUCHI (JPN).
But Stevan MICIC (SRB) defeated two of the three, Uguev and Abakarov, in back-to-back matches and will face the third, Higuchi, for the gold medal at the World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.
Micic, a bronze medalist at 61kg from 2022, stunned Uguev 9-7 in the quarterfinals and then took out Abakarov 6-2 in the semifinals not only booking a place in the final but also earning a Paris Olympic quota for Serbia at 57kg.
Higuchi, the world champion at 61kg in 2022, returned to the World Championships final, this year at 57kg, an Olympic weight class as he continues his journey towards the Olympic gold medal he missed in 2016 after finishing second to Vladimir KHINCHEGASHVILI (GEO).
He will now have to return Monday to wrestle Micic, who will undoubtedly be backed by the fans present in the Stark Arena.
At 74kg, two-time defending world champion Kyle DAKE (USA) set up a dream final against Olympic champion Zaurbek SIDAKOV (AIN) and both wrestlers received a Paris Olympic spot.
However, both took the tough road to the gold-medal bout.
Dake opened his day against Magomet EVLOEV (TJK) and won 12-2 before Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ) tested him in the 9-4 win. Dake looked a little uncomfortable and Daichi TAKATANI (JPN) confirmed it as he pushed Dake, who won 6-4 but had to dig deep to avoid some tough attacks from the Japanese.
In the semifinals, Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE) chest-wrapped Dake on multiple occasions but failed to score. Dake came out on top 4-1 to reach the final.
Sidakov, returning to the World Championships for the first time since winning his second title in 2019, opened the day with a thrilling 8-7 win over Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO), a wrestler Sidakov beat to win his first world title in 2018.
Kentchadze hit a four-pointer but Sidakov managed to come back with two takedowns in the second period to win the bout. He then went on to beat Bekzod ABDURAKHAMANOV (UZB) 3-0 in the quarterfinals. Returning bronze medalist Yones EMAMI (IRI) was blanked 6-0 and Hetik CABOLOV (SRB) lost 6-4.
In the semifinals, Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) was no match for Sidakov as the AIN wrestler won 4-1 and booked his place against Dake.
A long-awaited bout between Dake and Sidakov has been looked at as the contender for the real dominant wrestler at 74kg.
The loss of Takatani means that Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) will have to earn a quota from other qualifiers while the loss of Kougioumtsidis meant that Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Magomedkhabib KADIMAGOMEDOV (AIN) and Tajmuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) will have to find another tournament to earn a quota for Paris.
Micic, however, will in all likelihood be Serbia's representative in Paris after booking the ticket.
He gave the first glimpse of how the day would look like with an 11-0 win over Gukhyeon KIM (KOR) and then a 7-2 win over Gulomjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) put him against Uguev in the quarterfinals. Both went back-and-forth with Uguev opening the scoring with a takedown. But Micic came back with a takedown. His 2-2 criteria live was short-lived as Uguev made it 5-2 and later 7-2.
Micic, however, did not give up, mounting an incredible comeback with two takedowns. The Serbian, trailing 7-6 with 40 seconds remaining, got Uguev for two points with seven seconds remaining to get the win.
If that was not enough, Abakarov was his next victim in the semifinal. Micic was trailing 2-1 and Abakarov was happy to hold the lead but Micic managed to hit a four-pointer and take a 5-2 lead. Abakarov challenged the call but the four points were upheld, giving Micic the win and Olympic quota.
To crown Serbia's first-ever Freestyle world champion, Micic will have to beat Higuchi who survived a barn burner against Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM).
The European champion at 61kg, Harutyunyan hit a four-pointer to start the match. But Higuchi used his arm-bar offense and leg lace to win 16-14 in the quarterfinals. He blanked Meirambek KARTBAY (KAZ) 11-0 in the semifinals.
Higuchi missed the Tokyo Olympics after his bid to return to 57kg was cut short, first by a missed weight at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers and later by Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN), who won a playoff against Higuchi to represent Japan at the home Olympics.
In the non-Olympic weight classes, In the non-Olympic weight classes, Akhmed USMANOV (AIN) defeated two-time returning silver medalist Mohamad NOKHODI (IRI) in the semifinal and will face U23 world champion Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO) for the gold at 79kg.
At 92kg, returning bronze medalist Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE) made short work of Asian champion and 19-year-old Arash YOSHIDA (JPN) by beating him 11-0 in the semifinal. Yoshida had earlier defeated Vladislav VALIEV (AIN) in the opening bout of his debut World Championships.
He will face another 19-year-old, Rizabek AITMUKHAN (KAZ), for the gold medal. Aitmukhan defeated returning bronze medalist Miriani MAISURADZE (GEO) to enter his first World Championships final. Aitmukhan was second to Yoshida in the Asian Championships final in April.