BELGRADE, Serbia (September 19) -- Having slayed the Snyderlaev beast, Akhmed TAZHUDINOV (BRN) completed his historic and mind-boggling run to a world title with one final display of domination.

The 20-year-old Tazhudinov overwhelmed Magomedkhan MAGOMEDOV (AZE) in the freestyle 97kg final at the World Championships on Tuesday, giving Bahrain its first-ever world gold and just its second medal overall.

"On my way to Belgrade, I knew I could become the world champion," Tazhudinov said. "If I didn’t believe in myself, I wouldn’t have even come here."

It was also a historic day for Hungary, as Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) became the Greco-loving nation's first freestyle world champion since 1979 with a victory at 65kg while denying Puerto Rico its first-ever gold medalist.

The United States, with three champions, won the freestyle team title for the second year in a row with 133 points, followed by Iran with 104 and Georgia, with 80 points, was third. Kazakhstan, which got its first-ever freestyle world champion, was fourth with 74 points and Azerbaijan was fifth with 66 points.

Meanwhile, Haruna OKUNO (JPN) started what is expected to be a Japanese women's gold rush by claiming the 55kg title for her third career gold and first since 2018, while China's Qi ZHANG (CHN) captured the other women's crown at stake at 59kg.

The 20-year-old Tazhudinov followed up his stunning victories on Monday over titans Kyle SNYDER (USA) and Abdulrashid SADULAEV (AIN) by defeating Magomedov by fall before a shocked and appreciative crowd at Belgrade's Stark Arena.

Tazhudinov started off with a single-leg takedown, then added a 4-point takedown. Magomedov, a bronze medalist last year, showed some life with a stepout, but Tazhudinov responded by securing a cradle and finishing off the Azeri with 11 seconds left in the first period.

Tazhudinov's triumph marked the first time since 2015 that neither Snyder nor Sadulaev made the top of the podium at 97kg at a World Championships or Olympics. Their head-to-head showdowns, dubbed Snyderlaev, became among the sport's most anticipated matches.

The way that Tazhudinov manhandled both may indicate a changing of the guard and definitely puts a target on his back in Paris. Against Snyder, Tazhudinov had a pair of 4-point counter lifts, while he built a 9-2 lead when Sadulaev was forced to default their semifinal with a neck injury.

"I was sure I would win [against Snyder], I’ve been watching his matches almost every day, I’ve studied all his techniques," Tazhudinov said. "We prepared the right technique and I won.

"It was very difficult to prepare for the match [against Sadulaev]. He had a neck injury, I didn’t even wrestle my best, because of that injury. I wish him a quick recovery and I hope we will wrestle each other again when he is ready."

Tazhudinov was born in the wrestling hotbed of Dagestan, and ironically is a product of Sadulaev's wrestling club. He began wrestling for Bahrain last year, and this year won gold at the Asian Championships and the Bishkek Ranking Series tournament.

He joins Adam BATIROV (BRN), who won the freestyle 70kg silver in 2018, as the lone world medalist representing Bahrain.

"Definitely, I feel great, I don’t even know how to explain what I feel, thanks a lot to my coaches and my parents for bringing me up," Tazhudinov said. "If they weren’t there for me, I wouldn’t have been here today."

Tazhudinov credited his coach Shamil Omarov, who is also personal coach of Sadulaev, in particular for his success. "He’s been training with me every day, he’s been going to every single training camp with me. He spent more time with me than with his own kids."

Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN)Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) captured the 65kg gold medal over Sebastian RIVERA (PUR). (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Muszukajev also took his share of big scalps before crushing Sebastian RIVERA (PUR) by a 10-0 technical fall in the 65kg final to capture an elusive gold after finishing third in both 2019 and 2022.

"I’ve been going for this gold for so long," Muszukajev said. "I was the third at two World Championships and finally, I’ve won this belt. I’ve been dreaming to try it on for so long. It’s been very difficult. My side of the bracket was really tough."

En route to the final, Muszukajev defeated Olympic champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN), albeit the Japanese was hampered by a foot injury, and defending world champion Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) in a semifinal thriller.

Otoguro later forfeited his repechage bout due to the foot injury.

Muszukajev said he knew he was in for a challenge when he saw the brackets. "What can I do, I came here to win," he said. "I was ready to wrestle anyone.

 "One of the most emotional matches was against the Iranian wrestler. I took a last-second win, and I felt that weight off my shoulders."

Against the American-raised Rivera, who became the second world medalist in Puerto Rican history, the lightning-quick Muszukajev started out with a takedown and stepout in the first period. In the second, the Hungarian blasted Rivera for a pair of 4-point takedowns, the second of which ended the match at 4:27.

Haruna OKUNO (JPN)Haruna OKUNO (JPN) won her third world title in Belgrade. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Okuno, who failed to displace star Akari FUJINAMI (JPN) for a spot on the Japanese team at the Olympic weight of 53kg, scored two takedowns in the first period and made that hold up in a 4-2 victory over 2019 world champion Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA).

She acknowledged that she would have preferred to compete in an Olympic weight class, but was glad to get the ball rolling for the Japanese women's team by becoming its first champion of the tournament. Earlier, Japan put wrestlers into all four of Wednesday's finals.

"I wanted to get a solid win and get the momentum going for those who will be wrestling [in the finals] tomorrow," Okuno said. "I'm glad I was able to do that."

Okuno, one of only a handful of wrestlers who have won the "Grand Slam" of world titles in all four age groups, won her first senior gold at 55kg in 2017 before moving down to 53kg and triumphing again the following year.

"Five years has passed," she said. "I've realized again how difficult it is to get to the World Championships and how big a thing it is. I will never forget that."

Qi ZHANG (CHN)Qi ZHANG (CHN) won China's first gold medal at the World Championships since 2019. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

In the women's 59kg final, Zhang, a silver medalist on the world junior (U20) and U23 levels, picked up her first senior gold with a 4-1 victory over veteran Yuliia TKACH (UKR).

Zhang, who had three third-place finishes in international tournaments this season, was trailing 1-1 on criteria when she scored the winning takedown with an arm drag with 1:15 left. Tkach got in on a single in the dying seconds, but Zhang kept her from turning it into points. An unsuccessful challenge added the final point.

Tkach, the European silver medalist this year, had been aiming to win her second world gold, nine years after winning the first in 2014 at 63kg. Instead, she can be proud knowing she will be taking home her fifth world medal and first since 2018.

Kyle SNYDER (USA)Kyle SNYDER (USA) defeated Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB) in the repechage to reach the bronze-medal bout at 97kg. (Photo: UWW / Amirreza Aliasgari)

Snyder gains bronze by default

In the bronze-medal matches, Snyder claimed his seventh world medal and second bronze without a fight when Sadulaev defaulted their bronze-medal match. Sadulaev had reportedly already flown back to Moscow.

The forfeit also means that the United States gained another quota for the Paris Olympics.

European champion Givi MATCHARASHVILI (GEO) will leave Belgrade with a bronze medal for the second straight year after topping Ibrahim CIFTCI (TUR) 6-2 in the other third-place match at 97kg.

Shamil MAMEDOV (AIN) made sure Amouzad would leave Belgrade without a medal after notching an 8-6 win at 57kg in an entertaining bout between two young wrestlers.

After Mamedov went ahead 2-0 with a stepout and a fleeing point tacked on, Amouzad came back with his silky smooth duck-under takedown. But Mamedov came up with the big move, a counter whizzer to the back for 4 to go up 6-2 going into the second period.

Amouzad came back with a stepout, then charged ahead with his underhook for a takedown to cut the lead to 6-5. Mamedov, the 2021 world U20 champion, never wavered and clinched the win and the bronze medal with a takedown with 43 seconds left.

The other 65kg bronze went to European champion Vazgen TEVANYAN (ARM), who scored two stepouts and a late takedown in the second period to top Maxim SACULTAN (MDA) 5-1.

Both Mamedov and Tevanyan grabbed Paris Olympic quotas with the former winning it as an Individual Neutral Athlete and Tevanyan for Armenia.

Othelie HOEIE (NOR)Othelie HOEIE (NOR) won Norway's second world medal since 2005. (Photo: UWW / Amirreza Aliasgari)

It was a red-letter day for the Norwegian women's team and its Japanese coach Yurie YONEOKA when young Othelie HOEIE (NOR) defeated Elena BRUGGER (GER) 5-1 for a women's 59kg bronze -- just the Nordic nation's second world medal since 2005.

Othelie, a European bronze medalist, was on the activity clock and about to go behind on criteria in the second period when she nailed Brugger with a pancake to go ahead 3-1. She then added a snapdown takedown to seal the deal.

Yoneoka, who wrestled and coached collegiately in the U.S., was hired by the Norwegian federation to turn around a program that won 11 gold medals in the late 1980s and early 90s -- including three by Hoeie's mother Gudrun -- but has had none since and only one finalist.

Jennifer PAGE (USA) assured she will be taking home a momento of her senior world debut at the ripe age of 30, pancaking Alyona KOLESNIK (AZE) to her back and securing a fall in 1:41 to win the other 59kg bronze medal.

At 55kg, Mariana DRAGUTAN (MDA) avenged a loss to Karla GODINEZ (CAN) in last year's bronze-medal match, securing the winning takedown at the edge with 35 seconds left for a 3-2 victory that put her on a world podium for the first time on any age level.

Godinez had received an activity point in each period but was unable to keep her knee from hitting the mat and make the takedown a stepout instead. The Canadian side made a specious challenge after the buzzer, which added the final point as Dragutan became the fourth Moldovan woman in history to win a world medal.

Anastasia BLAYVAS (GER) added senior world bronze to the U23 one she won last year, scoring a stepout with 22 seconds left to edge teenager Neha SHARMA (UWW) on last-point criteria 2-2 for the other 55kg bronze.

Amouzad gains Paris ticket

In the fifth-place playoff for an Olympic berth held later, Amouzad shrugged off the acrobatic antics of Sacultan and charged to a 10-0 victory in 4:27 at 65kg.

After gaining an activity point, Amouzad got Sacultan's leg in the air and managed to not only hold on when the Moldovan twice executed a spinning back flip, but he finished off the takedown. In the second period, Amouzad scored a 4-point takedown and ended the match with a powerful double-leg takedown.

At 97kg, Turkey received the berth when Ciftci was awarded an injury default over Sadulaev.


Day 4 Results


65kg (45 entries)
GOLD: Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) df. Sebastian RIVERA (PUR) by TF, 11-0, 4:27

BRONZE: Shamil MAMEDOV (AIN) df. Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI), 8-6

5th-Place Playoff: Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) df. Maxim SACULTAN (MDA) by TF, 10-0, 4:27

97kg (35 entries)
GOLD: Akhmed TAZHUDINOV (BRN) df. Magomedkhan MAGOMEDOV (AZE) by Fall, 2:49 (8-1)

BRONZE: Kyle SNYDER (USA) df. Abdulrashid SADULAEV (AIN) by Inj. Def.

5th-Place Playoff: Ibrahim CIFTCI (TUR) df. Abdulrashid SADULAEV (AIN) by Inj. Def.

Women's Wrestling

50kg (28 entries)
GOLD: Yui SUSAKI (JPN) vs. Otgonjargal DOLGORJAV (MGL)

Semifinal: Yui SUSAKI (JPN) df. Ziqi FENG (CHN), 8-2
Semifinal: Otgonjargal DOLGORJAV (MGL) df. Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA), 7-5

55kg (19 entries)
GOLD: Haruna OKUNO (JPN) df. Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA), 4-2

BRONZE: Mariana DRAGUTAN (MDA) df. Karla GODINEZ (CAN), 3-2
BRONZE: Anastasia BLAYVAS (GER) df. Neha SHARMA (UWW), 2-2

57kg (36 entries)
GOLD: Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) vs. Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN)

Semifinal: Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) df. Elvira KAMALOGLU (TUR) by TF 10-0, 4:14
Semifinal: Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN) df. Helen MAROULIS (USA), 6-0

59kg (22 entries)
GOLD: Qi ZHANG (CHN) df. Yuliia TKACH (UKR), 4-1

BRONZE: Jennifer PAGE (USA) df. Alyona KOLESNIK (AZE) by Fall, 1:40 (4-0)
BRONZE: Othelie HOEIE (NOR) df. Elena BRUGGER (GER), 5-1

65kg (17 entries)
GOLD: Macey KILTY (USA) vs. Nonoka OZAKI (JPN)

Semifinal: Macey KILTY (USA) df. Tatsiana PAULAVA (AIN) by TF, 10-0, 2:29
Semifinal: Nonoka OZAKI (JPN) df. Lili LILI (CHN) by TF, 10-0, 1:01

76kg (29 entries)

Semifinal: Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) df. Tatiana RENTERIA (COL) by Fall, 2:32 (4-2)
Semifinal: Yuka KAGAMI (JPN) df. Milaimys MARIN (CUB), 5-2