Stage set for thrilling Greco-Roman World Cup in Baku

By Vinay Siwach

BAKU, Azerbaijan (November 2) -- For the first time, the top teams from the World Championships will get a chance to challenge a team comprising of stars from around the world.

As the teams arrive from Baku for the Greco-Roman World Cup after a gap of three years, a new dimension will see the tournament include the All-World team comprising four silver and three bronze medalists from the Belgrade World Championships.

Not only this team will be the favorite to win the top spot at the World Cup, but it also offers match-ups that fans miss out on during other tournaments. The All-World team is clubbed with Azerbaijan and Serbia in Group B.

Serbia, however, will miss the tournament after a number of COVID-19 infections in the team. Azerbaijan and the All-World team will receive automatic wins and the winner of the Azerbaijan-All-Star clash will wrestle in the final.

Group B has Turkey, Iran and Kyrgyzstan and will see a tough battle for the top spot in the group. The second-placed teams from each group will wrestle for the third place on the podium.

Led by two-time silver medalists Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) and Leri ABULADZE (GEO), the All-World team has three Georgian wrestlers with Joni KHETSURIANI (GEO) also making the cut.

Bronze medalists Aidos SULTANGALI (KAZ), Andrii KULYK (UKR) and Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) will also give tough competition to the host wrestler.

Zoltan LEVAI (HUN), who had a breakout tournament with a silver medal at 77kg, would like to continue his form at the World Cup. Another silver medalist is Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB) who almost collected the gold at 82kg in Belgrade.

Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) at 87kg and Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA) at 97kg were late additions to the team but would like to make the most of the opportunity.

For the hosts, two young stars -- Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) and Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) -- will share the responsibility of the team. Beka KANDELAKI (AZE) will provide the experience for Azerbaijan.

Mammadli, who lost in the U23 World Championships final at 60kg, will try to announce his name in the big league by beating Sultangali while Abuladze can face a stiff challenge from Ziya BABASHOV (AZE).

With the dual running close, the 67kg bout between Namaz RUSTAMOV (AZE) and Khetsuriani will hold extra significance before Kulyk takes on Eljan MAMMADOV (AZE) at 72kg.

A top battle between Gurbanov and Levai will be crucial to decide the winner of the match-up as Levai will look to beat Gurbanov to remove some pressure off Berdimuratov who takes on Nasir HASANOV (AZE).

At 87kg, Kessidis has Murad AHMADIYEV (AZE) and Kakhelashvili faces Zamir MAGOMEDOV (AZE) at 97kg. The epic clash between Kandelaki and Knystautas will be the last of the dual.

Even if Azerbaijan lose the early bouts, it won't be surprising to see it cover the lead in the latter half of the dual and secure a spot in the final.

Group B

A blockbuster clash will open the World Cup when Turkey and Iran collide for the opening match in Baku.

Iran team is a mix of youth and experience and will be a tough test for Turkey. With wrestlers who were at the U23 World Championships two weeks ago, Iran will be hoping to outplace Turkey.

At 55kg, U23 world champ Poya DAD MARZ (IRI) will look to win his bouts against Ekrem OZTURK (TUR) and give an early lead to his team.

The 60kg battle will be a high-stake bout as Mehdi MOHSEN NEJAD (IRI) looks to avenge his heartbreaking loss against Kerem KAMAL (TUR) from Belgrade. Mohsen Nejad was leading the bout when Kamal pinned him. Kamal went on to win the U23 world title in Pontevedra. Spain after mission out on the senior world medal.

A former U23 world silver medalist Ahmet UYAR (TUR) has U20 world champion Iman Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI) and a win here will be crucial for both teams before moving to 67kg where Murat FIRAT (TUR) takes on U20 and U23 world champion Seyed SOHRABI (IRI).

Experienced wrestler and world bronze medalist Selcuk CAN (TUR) will be the favorite against Amir ABDI (IRI) at 72kg.

At 77kg, Asian champion Mohammad Reza MOKHTARI (TUR) and world bronze medalist Yunus BASAR (TUR) clash and could well change the momentum of the dual for their team.

World champion Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) can carry the momentum for Turkey as he clashes against Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) at 82kg and will be the favorite. His win becomes more important since the next weight class will see Abolfazl CHOUBANI (IRI) take on Ali CENGIZ (TUR), a bout that can tilt in any direction.

At 97kg, two-time world champion Metehan BASAR (TUR) continues his journey in a new weight class and will be tested by either Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI) or Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI) before the dual moves to 130kg in which former world champion Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI) will prepare for upcoming star Osman YILDIRIM (TUR).

Kyrgyzstan is the third team of the group and will take on Iran in the evening session on Saturday. While its world champions Zholoman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) and Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) are missing, Kyrgyzstan can well be the party spoiler for the other teams.

Most of the team is compromised of young blood but U23 Asian champions Adilkhan NURLANBEKOV (KGZ) at 77kg and Akylbek TALANTBEKOV (KGZ) at 82kg will fancy their chances to get wins for Kyrgyzstan. The team also has Olympian Atabek AZISBEKOV (KGZ) wrestling at 97kg.


Iran beats Azerbaijan to win Greco-Roman World Cup

By Vinay Siwach

BAKU, Azerbaijan (November 6) -- What a Greco-Roman World Cup that was. Iran and Azerbaijan were neck-to-neck with both winning five bouts. But the classification points gave Iran the win. Iran claims the World Cup it last won in 2016. Azerbaijan finishes second for the second time in a row.

The All-World team finishes third.


21:10: Iran wins the Greco-Roman World Cup! Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI) with a barrage of stepouts to beat Beka KANDELAKI (AZE) 6-3 and win the title for Iran on classification points. Kandelaki led 3-1 at the break but Yousofi broke Kandelaki and scored four stepouts in the second period along the fleeing point. Iran finishes with 21 classification points to 19 of Azerbaijan.

21:00: It all comes down to this bout. Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI) vs Beka KANDELAKI (AZE) at 130kg for the World Cup title. Both teams are tied for classification points with 18 each. The winner takes it all. Kandelaki begins with a turn from par terre to lead 3-0. Yousofi gets a stepout just before the break. He begins the second period with a stepout. Kandelaki's lead is cut to 3-2. A tiring Kandelaki can't stop the stepouts. He trails 5-3 with two minutes remaining. Another stepout and the win for Yousofi.

20:45: Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI) beats Arif NIFTULLAYEV (AZE) and Iran has cut it down to 5-4. Balihamzehdeh was trailing 2-1 but a takedown and turn to lead 5-2 and the win. The title comes down to the final bout at 130kg. A win is all that is needed.

20:33: Abolfazl CHOUBANI (IRI) the hero for Iran! He keeps Iran in the match with a 2-1 win over Murad AHMADIYEV (AZE). Azerbaijan still leads 5-3 but Iran will hope to win the final two bouts and make it 5-5 to stand a chance.

20:20: Now at 82kg, Mohammadhossein MAHMOODI (IRI) will look to bring back Iran in this. But Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) with exposure when he was put in par terre to lead 2-1. He locked Mahmoodi's elbow to get the points. A par terre position for Huseynov in the second period. Mahmoodi is cautioned for two points but no more damage was done. Huseynov wins 5-1. Azerbaijan leads 5-2.

20:10: This is now turning out to be a difficult one for Iran. Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) with a controlled 7-1 win over Aref HABIBOLLAHI (IRI) at 77kg. The win has propelled Azerbaijan to a 4-2 lead. Two more wins out of four bouts will seal it for Azerbaijan.

19:50: A challenge that Iran will regret if the final result doesn't go in its favor. Mohammadreza ROSTAMI (IRI) was leading Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE) 3-3 with over a minute remaining. A challenge for negative wrestling but it was clean. Ganizade got the 4-3 lead and the win. Azerbaijan is now in the lead 3-2.

19:35: Two young stars. Two of the best at 67kg. Two wrestlers who will be dominant for a long time. Seyed SOHRABI (IRI) and Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) on the mat now. Sohrabi gets the early call for passivity. But he doesn't get any turn from par terre. Relentless from both wrestlers. Sohrabi will go at the break leading 1-0. Sohrabi with a body lock and tries to throw Jafarov but, are you kidding me, Jafarov with a one-handed counter for four! Iran challenges the call but it is a clear four. Jafarov leads 5-1. A victory for Jafarov at 67kg over Sohrabi. The crowd is electric.

19:25: World bronze medalist Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) now wrestling Iman Hossein Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI) at 63kg. He is cautioned for two points for negative wrestling. 2-0 lead for Khoon Mohammadi who scores a takedown as well to lead 4-0 at the break. The second passivity against Mammadov and Khoon Mohammadi asks for standing. Mammadov is cautioned again and Khoon Mohammadi leads 7-0. A stepout to complete an 8-0 win for Iran which leads 2-1 now.

19:15: Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) replaces an injured Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) at 60kg. He is facing Mehdi MOHSEN NEJAD (IRI). A passivity call against Mammadli but Mohsen Nejad doesn't get the turn. A stepout for Mohsen Nejad as he leads 2-0 at the break. In the second period, Mohsen Nejad gets the advantage again. This time he turns Mammadli but gets stuck on the second attempt. Mammadli with a turn as well to make it 5-4. But Mohsen Nejad hangs on for the win. It's tied 1-1.

19:05: The first match is at 55kg. Two-time world champion Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) takes on U23 world champion Poya DAD MARZ (IRI). Azizli wins 4-1 and puts Azerbaijan in the lead.

Now it is time for the big match! Iran is taking on Azerbaijan in Baku for the World Cup. 

18:55: U23 world champion Fatih BOZKURT (TUR) beats Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (UWW) 3-1 but it doesn't matter as the All-World team wins the bronze medal via classification points. Both teams have five wins but the All-World team has 22 points to Turkiye's 19. What a performance from the All-World team.

18:40: What a win for Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (UWW)! He beats two-time world champion Metehan BASAR (TUR) 1-1 at 97kg. The win all but confirms the third place for the All-World team. Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (UWW) has to avoid getting pinned at 130kg.

18:30: Ali CENGIZ (TUR) ties with for Turkiye! He beats Alex KESSIDIS (UWW) 4-2 at 87kg and it has become a thriller. The All-World team was looking very close to winning this but it has turned around.

18:20: A rematch of the World Championships final coming up at 82kg between Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) and Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UWW). The first passivity is against Akbudak and Berdimuratov scores a turn to lead 3-0. He starts the second period with a stepout. Akbudak then goes behind and scores a four before two turns make it 8-4. A point against Akbudak for being passive but that doesn't change the final result of the bout as Akbudak wins 8-5. The All-World team still leads Turkiye 4-3.

18:10: A long bout between world silver medalist Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) and Yunus BASAR (TUR) and it is the Turkiye wrestler who comes out on top 7-6. Basar first got the turn from par terre before a surprise arm throw for a 7-3 lead. Levai did score a takedown but Basar held on top a 7-6 win. Turkiye now has two wins from six bouts.

17:55: A battle between the two world bronze medalists and Selcuk CAN (TUR) looked like winning the bout after he got the turn from par terre against Andrii KULYK (UWW). But Kulyk jumped over and pinned Can for the win. The All-World team now leads 4-1.

17:40: Murat FIRAT (TUR) brings Turkiye back into this match. He beats Joni KHETSURIANI (UWW) 1-1 as the two exchanges passivity points in this 67kg bout. The All-World team still leads 3-1 but Turkiye is crawling back.

17:32: World silver medalist Leri ABULADZE (GEO) makes it 3-0 for the All-World team. He beats Ahmet UYAR (TUR) 3-1 after getting a turn in par terre.

17:20: At 60kg, Mukremin AKTAS (TUR) and Aidos SULTANGALI (UWW) going up against each other. Aktas gets the 1-0 lead for the passivity. But he fails to get any action. Sultangali goes behind and scores a throw for four. He continues the action for a gut wrench to lead 6-1 at the break. Aktas is called passive in the second period and Sultangali was happy to get the 7-1 win. A 2-0 lead for the All-World team.

17:05: The first bout of the Turkiye vs All-Star team is at 55kg between Muhammet CAKIR (TUR) and world silver medalist Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO). Early action in the bout as Tsurtsumia takes a 4-0 lead. But he tries an arm throw which Cakir defends and scores a takedown. He then goes for an arm throw and gets four to lead 6-4. A stepout makes it 7-4. Just before the break, Tsurtsumia gets a takedown on the edge. Turkiye challenges the call but loses. Cakir leads 7-7 on criteria at the break. Tsurtsumia is on the attack in the second period and scores a stepout. Cakir struggling with his conditioning now. A takedown for Tsurtsumia as he builds a 10-7 lead. No more scoring action in the bout and Tsurtsumia gives All-World team the lead.

17:00: Welcome to the medal bouts of the Greco-Roman World Cup in Baku. Turkiye will take on the All-World team for third place.