Nemes stuns Geraei for 67kg world title amid Serbian gold rush

By Ken Marantz

BELGRADE, Serbia (September 12) -- Another time, another place, and the outcome would likely have been different. But riding the high energy from a home crowd that has been pushing its wrestlers to extraordinary heights, Mate NEMES (SRB) pulled off an upset for the ages.

Nemes continued host Serbia's incredible gold rush when he rallied to a thrilling 5-4 victory over the reigning world and Olympic champion Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) in the Greco-Roman 67kg final on Monday, the third day of the World Championships in Belgrade.

"This fight was exceptionally hard," Nemes said. "In the first period, the opponent was two times stronger than me, or maybe it was all in my head. I managed to defend myself from his toughest grip, which helped him win all of his matches in this World Championships."

Geraei looked to be in a good position to repeat as world champion when he took a 4-0 lead in the first period, scoring a 2-point defensive takedown and getting two for a leg foul when he attempted a lift and throw.

In the second period, Geraei tried to execute a roll while in on a takedown attempt, but Nemes halted the move and caught the Iranian on his back for his first two points of the match. That fired up the Stark Arena crowd and seemed to turn the tide, and Nemes picked up on the energy.

Nemes, put on top in par terre, managed to muscle Geraei over with a gut wrench to go ahead 5-4 with 1:25, then held off everything the Iranian threw at him to secure the biggest victory of his career and add to the world bronze he won in 2019.

Mate NEMES (SRB)Mate NEMES (SRB) defended everything Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) threw at him in the 67kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

"Those who are one percent psychologically more ready, will win," Nemes said. "In this fight, I was psychologically stronger in the second period. The opponent was last year’s world and Olympic champion, and I think he felt more pressure on him. The crowd helped a lot. In the second period, I didn’t give 100%, but 130%, 140%."

Serbia, which had won only a total of three world Greco golds in its young history coming into the competition, suddenly has four in this event alone. That has put the host on top of the team standings, although it will certainly be overtaken by Azerbaijan and possibly Turkey on the final day Monday.

Geraei had not lost at 67kg since falling to Renat ILIAZ UULU (KGZ) in the round-robin at the Asian U23 Championships in March 2019; since then, he had won six straight tournaments, including last year's Olympics and World Championships and the 2019 senior Asian title.

Nemes, who finished third at a pre-worlds international tournament in Warsaw, lost in the first round at the Tokyo Olympics to Frank STAEBLER (GER), who proceeded to lose to Geraei. His victory gives him the confidence to go further next time.

"I only need to win an Olympic gold, and then I’ll have won all the medals," Nemes said.

Sebastian NAD (SRB)Sebastian NAD (SRB) won the gold medal at 63kg. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Sebastian NAD (SRB) preceded his compatriot Nemes onto the top of the medal podium when he edged Leri ABULADZE (GEO) for the 63kg gold with a hard-fought 3-1 victory in the final.

"Abdulaze is a great wrestler," Nad said. "We had wrestled in February, so we both knew each other from before. In the end, it was again 3-1 for me. For me, he’s one of the best, and I wish him all the success."

Nad was put on top in par terre in the first period and he took advantage, completing a gut wrench to lead 3-0. The positions were reversed in the second, and Nad held his ground to preserve the lead and add to Serbia's gold tally.

"Today I was ready to die, I was ready to do everything to win," Nad said. "I won this fight without mistakes and I am very happy."

Not surprisingly, winning in front of the home crowd made the victory that much more special. And it will take some time for it all to sink in.

"This is my first big senior competition here in Belgrade, so I feel great," he said. "My first medal was in Novi Sad four years ago, I won second place then, and now I won first place in Belgrade. Everything is still new to me, so I’m still not aware of it."

Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM)Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) won his fourth world title and first since 2017. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Superstar Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) added another chapter to his growing legend when he captured a fourth gold medal in his sixth world final, notching a solid 5-1 victory over Kiril MILOV (BUL) at 97kg.

Aleksanyan, who won his third Olympic medal with a silver in Tokyo last year, got the chance in par terre in the first period and executed a back-and-forth pair of rolls to account for all of his points. He was at the bottom in the second period, but could not be budged by reigning European champion Milov.

"That’s my fourth world gold," said Aleksanyan, whose most recent world title came in 2017 after having to default in the final of the 2019 worlds. "For two years I couldn’t make it because of injuries. Thank God after the Olympic Games I took a year break and treated them all."

The 30-year-old Aleksanyan, who suffered a hamstring injury at the Tokyo Olympics and competed in Belgrade with his right shoulder strapped, hopes his injury worries are behind him.

"I am now in a good shape, but still not perfect because I’ve just recovered after the injury," he said. "I hope in the future I’ll get in better shape."

Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR)Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) gets the turn against Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB) in the 82kg final. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

At 82kg, 2021 silver medalist Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) made the big step up to the top of the podium when he rallied to a 7-6 victory over 2019 bronze medalist Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB).

Berdimuratov, looking to become just the second-ever Greco champion from Uzbekistan, looked well on his way when he opened the match with a 4-point arm throw. Akbudak came back with a pair of stepouts to cut the gap to 4-2, but on a third attempt, Berdimuratov shrugged him by and scored a takedown for a 6-2 lead at the break.

In the second period, Akbudak got his chance when he received a passivity point and was put on top in par terre. From there, he ripped off consecutive gut wrenches to take the lead for the first time with 1:16 left, and he held on for the gold.

Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ)Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) won the bronze at 67kg after a 25-point thriller. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

25-point thriller highlights bronze bouts

The day's bronze-medal matches featured the wildest encounter of the tournament, as Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) cut loose with 17 points in the second period to defeat Joni KHETSURIANI (GEO) in a 25-point thriller at 67kg.

Ismailov, the Asian silver medalist, went into the second period trailing 5-0. A stepout put him six points behind, but, having been put on top in par terre, he got a 2-point exposure and another two points for a foul. Then he really got in gear, launching a succession of crowd-pleasing throws for two, two and four points, before ending the match at 5:33 with a 4-point headlock throw for a 17-8 win.

Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE), the 2021 world U23 and junior champion, followed with a comparatively staid 8-2 victory over Murat FIRAT (TUR) for the other 67kg bronze, which he capped with a 4-point throw following a reversal from the bottom of par terre.

Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE)Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) executed a five-point move in his bronze medal bout. (Photo: UWW / Kostandin Andonov)

At 63kg, Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) won his first world medal at age 33, and he did it in impressive fashion by beating Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM) 10-4.

Mammadov, the European silver medalist the past two years, had just been rolled in par terre when he twisted to face Poghosyan and slammed him backward for four points. A short time later, he lifted Poghosyan up and after a dramatic pause, sent him flying for a 5-pointer.

The other 63kg bronze went to Erbatu TUO (CHN), who got the gut wrench from par terre and defeated Ali Reza NEJATI (IRI) 4-1.

At 82kg, Tamas LEVAI (HUN) joined his brother as a medalist by posting a 3-1 win over Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE), the 2021 champion who will leave Belgrade empty-handed.

Put on the bottom of par terre for the second time, Levai stopped a roll attempt and put Huseynov on his back for the 2 points that gave him the bronze. His brother Zoltan won the silver at 77kg on Sunday.

The other 82kg bronze went to Yaroslav FILCHAKOV (UKR), who got the roll in par terre to defeat European silver medalist Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO) 3-1 and earn his first-ever major senior-level medal.

Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI)World champion Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI), right, won the bronze medal at 97kg. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

At 97kg, defending champion and Olympic bronze medalist Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) bounced back from his heartbreaking semifinal loss to Aleksanyan by outclassing Metehan BASAR (TUR) 6-1 for the bronze.

A roll from par terre and two stepouts were more than enough for Saravi, who denied Basar his first world medal since the Turk won back-to-back golds in 2017-18.

Arif NIFTULLAYEV (AZE) defended twice from the bottom of par terre, and was ahead on criteria when a lost challenge gave him a final point and the other 97kg bronze medal with a 2-1 victory over two-time European medalist Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA).

Nonoka OZAKI (JPN)Nonoka OZAKI (JPN) reached 62kg final after beating world champion Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) 11-5 in the semifinals. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Ozaki gets best of Tynybekova again

In the semifinals held earlier in the session, recently crowned world U20 champion Nonoka OZAKI (JPN) showed she could defeat a healthy Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ), knocking off the defending world champion 11-5 in women's 62kg.

Taking a 3-2 lead into the second period, the 19-year-old Ozaki scored a 4-point takedown and then stretched the gap to 9-2. A whizzer sent Tynybekova to her back for two more, but the Kyrgyz managed to reverse the situation and put Ozaki precariously on her back for a moment. But the two-time world cadet champion held on for the victory. 

Last year in Oslo, Tynybekova knocked off Ozaki in the first round en route to her second world title, while Ozaki came back to take home the bronze. They met again last April in the final at the Asian Championships in Mongolia, a match that Ozaki won by injury default while leading 9-1 when Tynybekova suffered a foot injury as Ozaki was reeling off her trademark lace lock.

Ozaki, who had to beat Olympic champion Yukako KAWAI (JPN) to make the Japanese team, will face last year's silver medalist, Kayla MIRACLE (USA), in Tuesday's final.

The American was in a 3-point hole against Ana GODINEZ (CAN) when she put her directly onto her back with a slick barrel roll and secured a fall at 1:38.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Olympic 53kg champion Mayu SHIDOCHI (JPN), who has moved up to 55kg in the non-Olympic year, stormed into the final by routing 2019 world champion Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA) by 12-0 technical fall.

Shidochi, a two-time world champion at 55kg, capped the victory with a 4-point tackle that ended the match in 2:10.

Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL)Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL) defeated Olympic silver medalist Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) in the 60kg semifinals. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

In the two remaining Greco weight classes, young Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL) pulled a shocker when he scraped out a 5-5 victory on criteria over Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) at 60kg.

Nazaryan, the 2021 European U20 champion at 63kg, scored a 4-point move when he bulled an off-balance Fumita to his back at the edge at the end of the first period, then gained an all-important fifth point when the Japanese side unsuccessfully challenged.

In the final, Nazaryan will face another tough Asian in 2021 world silver medalist Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ), who scored two takedowns and a throw in defeating Aidos SULTANGALI (KAZ) 7-0.

Riza KAYAALP (TUR)Riza KAYAALP (TUR) went past Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) 5-3 in the 130kg semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

At 130kg, Riza KAYAALP (TUR) earned a shot at a fifth world gold when he forged a 5-3 victory over four-time Asian medalist Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB).

The Uzbekistan wrestler took a 3-0 lead from par terre, but after being rolled, Kayaalp moved to the front and got two points back with a front lift to make it 3-2 after the first period. In the second, Kayaalp earned a passivity point and a stepout to clinch the win.

His opponent will be the dangerous 2021 world U23 champion Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI), who defeated Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) 2-1, with a first-period stepout proving to be the decider.


Day 3 Results


60kg (29 entries)
Semifinal - Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL) df. Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN), 5-5
Semifinal - Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) df. Aidos SULTANGALI (KAZ), 7-0

63kg (30 entries)
Gold - Sebastian NAD (SRB) df. Leri ABULADZE (GEO), 3-1

Bronze - Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) df. Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM), 10-4
Bronze - Erbatu TUO (CHN) df. Ali Reza NEJATI (IRI), 4-1

67kg (30 entries)
Gold - Mate NEMES (SRB) df. Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI), 5-4

Bronze - Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) df. Murat FIRAT (TUR), 8-2
Bronze - Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) df. Joni KHETSURIANI (GEO) by TF, 17-8, 5:33

82kg (25 entries)
Gold - Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) df. Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB), 7-6

Bronze - Tamas LEVAI (HUN) df. Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE), 3-1
Bronze - Yaroslav FILCHAKOV (UKR) df. Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO), 3-1

97kg (29 entries)
Gold - Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) df. Kiril MILOV (BUL), 5-1

Bronze - Arif NIFTULLAYEV (AZE) df. Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA), 2-1
Bronze - Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) df. Metehan BASAR (TUR), 6-1

130kg (25 entries)
Semifinal - Riza KAYAALP (TUR) df. Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB), 5-3
Semifinal - Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) df. Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU), 2-1

Women's Wrestling

55kg (17 entries)
Semifinal - Oleksandra KHOMENETS (UKR) df. Karla GODINEZ (CAN), 5-3
Semifinal - Mayu SHIDOCHI (JPN) df. Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA) by TF, 12-0, 2:10

62kg (24 entries)
Semifinal - Kayla MIRACLE (USA) df. Ana GODINEZ (CAN) by Fall, 1:38 (2-3)
Semifinal - Nonoka OZAKI (JPN) df. Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ), 11-5


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