Seven Olympic Medalists Set to Kick off Freestyle World Cup

By Eric Olanowski

Iowa, United States (April 6) - The United States who is hosting their fourth World Cup in five years is paced by a pair of Olympic champions who boast a combined six world gold medals. Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) and Kyle SNYDER (USA) will be looking to assist the American's in hoisting their fourteenth overall World Cup title and first since 2003.

Burroughs, the keeper of four world gold medals will be making his sixth world cup appearance, and Snyder who owns two world golds will be making his third world cup appearance. Along with Burroughs and Snyder, a third American Olympic medalist in J'den Cox is entered on USA's roster. 

Azerbaijan, who's the favorite to come out of Group B won their last title in 2009 will rely on the direction of their first three-time world champion, Haji ALIYEV (AZE) and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, Jabrayil HASANOV (AZE) to secure their third overall World Cup Title title.

Aliyev, who is competing in his fourth World Cup is up at 65kg, which is four kilos different than his world championship weight of 61kg. This will be the fourth competition that Aliyev has wrestled at 65kg. He also competed at the World Clubs Cup for Setaregan Sari, India’s Pro Wrestling League for the Delhi Sultans and the International Ukrainian Tournament.  

Along with the United States, Georgia, Japan and India round out the four Group A teams.

Japan, who has placed third five times will put the weight of its team on the back of 2017 Breakout Wrestler of the Year and world champion, Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN).

Takahashi will kick-start the second session of action with a rematch of the finals from the 2017 World Championships where he handled Thomas GILMAN (USA), 6-1. When asked about the match, Takashi said, "It was a great match last year. But for him, this is a going to be a home match, and for us, this is an away match. I'm very excited, but also nervous about the match." 

For Georgia to improve on their best showing of fourth-place (2016) they’ll have to rely on 2012 Olympic bronze medalists Dato MARSAGISHVILI (GEO), multiple time age-level European Champion, Givi MATCHARASHVILI (GEO) and junior world bronze medalist, Tariel GAPRINDASHVILI (GEO).

India, who entered the tournament late brought a squad of ten wrestlers that are patrolled by the pair of Olympians in Amit KUMAR (IND) and Sandeep TOMAR (IND).  

Joining Azerbaijan in Group B will be Cuba, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia.

Cuba is coming off a Central American and Caribbean Championships where they swept the finals, going six-for-six in the gold-medal bouts. Each of the six Cubans who won Central American and Caribbean Championships titles last weekend have made the trip to Iowa to compete in the 2018 World Cup.

Mongolia, who is looking to snap their three-year streak of sixth-place brings the trio of current world No. 1’s in GANZORIG Mandakhnaran (MGL), LUVSANDORJ Turtogtokh (MGL) and NATSAGSUREN Zolboo (MGL).

The duo of Olympian’s in Meirzhan ASHIROV (KAZ) and Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) will be in charge of a Kazakhstan team who is making their first World Cup appearance since 2013.

Freestyle World Cup Schedule
Saturday, April 7 (All Times, CST)
10:00 am: United States v. India (Mat A) // Mongolia v. Kazakhstan (Mat B)
11:15 am: Japan v. Georgia (Mat A) // Azerbaijan v. Cuba (Mat B)
2:00 pm: Opening Ceremonies
2:30 pm: United States v. Japan (Mat A)
4:30 pm: Mongolia v. Cuba (Mat B)
5:45 pm: India v. Georgia (Mat A) // Azerbaijan v. Kazakhstan (Mat B)

Sunday, April 8 (All Times, CST)
10:00 am: United States v. Georgia (Mat A) // Mongolia v. Azerbaijan (Mat B)
11:15am: India v. Japan (Mat A) // Kazakhstan v. Cuba (Mat B)
12:30pm: Fifth Place Match (Mat A) // Seventh Place Match (Mat B)
2:15 pm: Bronze Medal Match (Mat A)
4:00 pm: Gold Medal Match (Mat A)

TV Schedule
Saturday, April 7 (All Times, CST)

10:00 am: USA v. India — Olympic Channel
2:30 pm: USA v. Japan — NBCSN

Sunday, April 8 ((All Times, CST)
11:00 am: United States v. Georgia — Olympic Channel
4:00 pm: Gold Medal Match — NBCSN


Five Must-Watch Matches From the #WorldCupIowaCity


1.Tariel GAPHRINDASHVILI (GEO) df. Iderkhuu GANTULGA (MGL), 22-17.
This 39-point match took place during the fifth and sixth place dual between Georgia and Mongolia. After six lead changes, Gaphrindashvili erased a 16-10 deficit and ended the match on a 12-1 run. 

2. Taiki YAMAMOTO (JPN) df. Yudenny ALPAJON ESTEVEZ (CUB), 6-5. 
This was arguably the most important match of the entire tournament. After Cuba stormed back to win four of the last six bouts, Japan’s hopes of winning a bronze for the first time since 1985 were placed on the back of their final wrestler, Taiki Yamamoto (JPN). 

Yamamoto trailed 5-4 heading into the final 30 seconds of the match. He got to a high crotch on the right side and ended up taking the lead on criteria after driving Alpajon Este out of bounds to pick up the step out point. After Cuba’s failed challenge and a late flurry from Alpajon Este, Yamamoto hung on to win the match, 6-5. 

3. Dato MARSAGISHVILI (GEO) df. J'Den Michael COX (USA), 5-0. 
This was a battle of London Olympic bronze medalist v. Rio Olympic bronze medalist. Marsagishvili's shutout of Cox gave Georgia one of only two wins during the entire USA dual. 

Marsagishvili, Georgia's only undefeated wrestler on the weekend also defeated world No. 1 Turtogtokh LUVSANDORJ (MGL) and finished the World Cup without surrendering an offensive point while outscoring his opponents 30-0. 

4. Logan Jeffery STIEBER (USA) df. Haji ALIYEV (AZE), 6-2. 
A battle of former 61kg worlds champions who recently made the move up to 65kg. Logan Stieber the 2016 61kg world champion took on Haji Aliyev, the three-time world champion, and Olympic bronze medalist.

After this weekend, Aliyev admitted to the struggles that he's faced at 65kg, saying “I changed weight categories and moved up to 65kg. It’s different, it’s difficult. I need to focus, but I think I’ll be fine…I changed to 65kg three months ago and just need to train more."

5. Daichi TAKATANI (JPN) df. Alejandro Enrique VALDES TOBIER (CUB), 10-8. 
It took Takatani all he had to stop a gut wrench that would have given Valdes Tobier's the 10-0 technical superiority victory in period number one. 

When asked about falling behind 8-0, Takatani said: "I knew I was down 8-0, but I also knew that it was time for my Japanese pride to kick it." That Japanese pride kicked in to the tune of a Takatani 10-8 run to end the match and gave Japan the 3-0 lead heading into the fourth bout of the dual.