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


Sidakov Completes Dream Run to 2nd Straight 74kg Title; Petriashvili 3-peats at 125kg

By Ken Marantz

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (Sept. 21) --- There will be no need for Zaurbek SIDAKOV (RUS) to pinch himself. This world title is as a real as last year’s, even with its haunting similarities. 

Sidakov successfully defended his world title in the freestyle 74kg class by defeating Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) 5-2 in the final, one of two titles won by Russia on Day 8 of the World Championships in Nur-Sultan.

“I can't say it's the same because last year was my first title,” Sidakov said. “After I became a world champion [last year in Budapest], I went to sleep and suddenly woke up at 4 a.m. Is it true that I became a world champion? I started looking for the belt.”

When a Russian journalist suggested now he will need to look for two belts, Sidakov laughed and replied, “Yes, but I have already forgot about this result because I have to prepare for the next competition.”

It will be hard to forget how Sidakov defeated both Chamizo and Jordan BURROUGHS (USA), who between them have accumulated six world titles and two Olympic medals, en route to the gold medal for the second straight year.

“Yesterday, my thoughts were there's only one match left, I have to be ready for it,” Sidakov said, referring to his last-second win over Burroughs in Friday’s semifinals at Barys Arena. “[Chamizo] is a very strong athlete and I respect him. The score [between us] is now 3-1.”

In the final, the 23-year-old Sidakov gained a point with Chamizo on the activity clock for the only score of the first period. Early in the second, Chamizo went ahead with a single-leg takedown.

“I never worried at any time during this match,” Sidakov said. “I just kept working.”

Sidakov scored with a single-leg takedown of his own to go ahead, then added a second in the final seconds to put the match away. 

“I didn't have a strategy for this final,” Sidakov said. “Actually, I don't prepare a plan for any match. I just go in and do what I can do. I don't pay attention to my breathing. I just switch on my brain and try to win.”

Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) won his third consecutive world title with a 6-6 win over rival Taha AKGAL (TUR). (Photo: Gabor Martin)

In the latest clash of the titans at 125kg, Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) completed a three-peat of world titles when he scored a single-leg takedown with :08 left to edge nemesis Taha AKGAL (TUR) 6-6 on last-point criteria.

Akgal, who won every world and Olympic titles from 2014 to 2016, scored the only points in the first period with a takedown, then doubled the lead with a takedown early in the second.

Midway through the period, Petriashvili got on the scoreboard with a takedown. The two then found themselves with mutual leg holds, then levered each other over in succession, Petriashvili momentarily holding the lead before quickly surrendering it with :39 left. 

With the clock ticking down, the Georgian gave it one last shot and came up golden with the winning takedown.  

“I didn’t plan anything,” said Petriashvili, who avenged a 7-0 loss to Akgal from the final at the European Championships in April. “The only thing I know is I have to wrestle until the last second.” 

J’den COX (USA) defeated Alireza KARAMIMACHIANI (IRI), 4-0, and won his second consecutive world title. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

J’den COX (USA) repeated as 92kg champion when he scored two takedowns in the first period, then put up a wall of defense that Alireza KARAMIMACHIANI (IRI) had no means of penetrating for a 4-0 victory.

“I don’t know why, but it feels better,” Cox said of winning a second gold. “It’s a rare thing when people get to go back-to-back. I knew that coming into this, so to be able to do it, I knew the hard work I put in, the sacrifices I made. 

“I wanted to do it better. I came here and didn’t get scored on. Great.”

Cox indicated that he would have liked Karamimachiani, this year’s Asian champion who won a world bronze last year, to have been more aggressive and put up more of a challenge.

“No disrespect to Karami, but the whole match, he didn’t want to come get it,” said Cox, a Rio 2016 bronze medalist at 86kg. “He wanted to keep it close and wanted to play the game. 

“I think that’s a testament to both my offense and my defense, and a testament of my abilities that some of the best in the world aren’t willing to try to do their best out on the mat against me, as far as their techniques and stuff. I’m excited and I’m ready to move forward.”  

David BAEV (RUS) blew through Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ), 13-2 in the 70kg finals.  (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

At 70kg, David BAEV (RUS), two years removed from winning a world junior gold, picked up a senior gold in dominating fashion, overwhelming Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ) by 14-2 technical fall in 3:46. 

Baev was also a world cadet champion in 2014. Only a loss in the 2018 world U23 final to Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) has prevented him from completing the Grand Slam of age-group titles. At 21, he is still eligible to add that gold to his collection.

In the bronze-medal matches, Burroughs assured he would end a World Championships on a winning note for the seventh time when he outclassed unheralded Mao OKUI (JPN) by 10-0 technical fall at 3:30.

The victory gave Burroughs, the London 2012 gold medalist, his third career bronze to go with his four golds in seven appearances at the worlds. 

Host Kazakhstan had two chances for medals but was denied in close matches for both. Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) fell to Zelimkhan KHADJIEV (FRA) 4-3 in the other third-place match at 74kg, while Irakli MTSITURI (GEO) beat Nurgali NURGAIPULY (KAZ) 2-1 at 92kg.

Two wrestlers born elsewhere came up short in their bids to give their new homelands---Britain and Syria---their first-ever world medals.

Romanian-born Nicolae COJOCARU (GBR) lost by fall to Yones EMAMICHOGHAEI (IRI) at 70kg, and Oleksandr KHOTSIANIVSKYI (UKR) was a 5-1 winner over Russian-born Badzha KHUTABA (SYR) at 125kg.

Magomedmurad GADZHIEV (POL) edged Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO) at 70kg in a reversal of the 65kg final in Paris in 2017.

The other bronze medalists were Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (RUS) at 92kg and Khasanboy RAKHIMOV (UZB), who denied 2018 silver medalist DENG Zhiwei (CHN) a second straight medal. 

Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE) won the battle of Olympic champions -- taking down Kyle SNYDER (USA), 5-3, in the semifinals. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Sharifov spoils Sadulaev-Snyder party, beats American in 97kg semis
In the semifinals in four weight classes that started earlier in the day, Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE) played the role of spoiler at 97kg, knocking off former world champion Kyle SNYDER (USA) to prevent a highly anticipated rematch between the American and Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS).

Sharifov, a two-time Olympic medalist in his own right who moved up from 92kg to the Olympic weight, scored with a single-leg takedown and a counter exposure in the second period to forge out a 5-2 victory. 

In the final, he will face champion Sadulaev, who, like Snyder, was a gold medalist at the Rio 2016 Olympics. The Russian advanced to the final with an 8-1 win over Alisher YERGALI (KAZ).

Snyder had won the world and Olympic golds at 97kg from 2015 to 2017 before yielding the world crown to Sadulaev in last year’s final in Budapest. Sadulaev had previously won the 2015 world and 2o16 Olympic golds at 86kg.

“Of course, they are the leaders in the weight category,” Sharifov said of the hype of a Sadulaev-Snyder clash leading up to the tournament. “The last years they have kept the top spot. I prepared myself to meet either of them.”

Sharifov said he studied Snyder’s matches to devise a winning plan. “My strategy was to protect myself against his leg attack and against his counter-attacks. I stuck to this plan.”

Ironically, Sharifov said he had planned to stay at 92kg, “but at the last training camp, the wrestler at 97kg got injured, so the coach said I will wrestle at 97kg.”

Sadulaev and Sharifov have met twice recently in major competitions, with the Russian winning both---8-1 in the semifinals at the Rio 2016 Olympics and 2-1 in the 92kg final at the 2018 European Championships. 

Hassan YAZDANI (IRI) will look to win his second world title when he wrestles Deepak PUNIA (IND) on Sunday night. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

At 86kg, Rio 2016 champion Hassan YAZDANI (IRI), looking to regain the world title he last won in 2017, won within the distance for the fourth straight match, putting away Myles AMINE (SMR) by technical fall in 1:55.

Yazdani will face Deepak PUNIA (IND), an 8-2 winner in the other semifinal over Stefan REICHMUTH (SUI), who still has a chance to become Switzerland’s first-ever freestyle medalist.

A month after winning the world junior title, Punia headed off any hope of a comeback from Reichmuth by scoring a takedown and tilt in the last minute.

Punia got a taste of the strength of Iran at the Asian Championships in April, when he lost by technical fall in the semifinals to eventual champion Kamran GHASENPOUR (IRI) as Yazdani sat out the tournament.

In the non-Olympic weight of 79kg, Kyle DAKE (USA) and Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE) set up a rematch of their final in Budapest, which was won by Dake. Dake scored all of his points in the first period and rolled to a 6-1 win over Rashid KURBANOV (UZB), while Hasanov edged Salkazanov 4-3.

 Russia will get a chance to add another gold to its bulging tally in the 61kg final, a clash between Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS) and 2016 silver medalist Beka LOMTADZE (GEO).

The tournament will conclude Sunday with the repechage and medal matches at 61kg, 79kg, 86kg and 97kg. 

Day 8 Results


61kg (25 entries)
Semifinal – Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS) df. Behnam EHSANPOOR (IRI), 2-2 
Semifinal – Beka LOMTADZE (GEO) df. Rahul AWARE (IND), 10-6

70kg (30 entries)
Gold – David BAEV (RUS) df. Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ) by TF, 14-2, 3;46 
Bronze – Magomedmurad GADZHIEV (POL) df. Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO), 3-2
Bronze – Yones EMAMICHOGHAEI (IRI) df. Nicolae COJOCARU (GBR) by Fall, 1:12 (8-0) 

74kg (39 entries)
Gold – Zaurbek SIDAKOV (RUS) df. Frank CHAMIZO (ITA), 5-2 
Bronze – Zelimkhan KHADJIEV (FRA) df. Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ), 4-3 
Bronze – Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) df. Mao OKUI (JPN) by TF, 10-0, 3:30

79kg (23 entries)
Semifinal – Kyle DAKE (USA) df. Rashid KURBANOV (UZB), 6-1 
Semifinal – Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE) df. Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK), 4-3

86kg (43 entries)
Semifinal – Deepak PUNIA (IND) df. Stefan REICHMUTH (SUI), 8-2 
Semifinal – Hassan YAZDANI (IRI) df. Myles AMINE (SMR) by TF, 11-0, 1:55

92kg (18 entries)
Gold – J’den COX (USA) df. Alireza KARAMIMACHIANI (IRI), 4-0  
Bronze – Irakli MTSITURI (GEO) df. Nurgali NURGAIPULY (KAZ), 2-1 
Bronze – Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (RUS) df. Georgii RUBAEV (MDA), 3-2

97kg (26 entries)
Semifinal – Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE) df. Kyle SNYDER (USA), 5-2
Semifinal – Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) df. Alisher YERGALI (KAZ), 8-1

125kg (28 entries)
Gold – Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) df. Taha AKGAL (TUR), 6-6  
Bronze – Oleksandr KHOTSIANIVSKYI (UKR) df. Badzha KHUTABA (SYR), 5-1 
Bronze – Khasanboy RAKHIMOV (UZB) df. DENG Zhiwei (CHN), 6-1