Weekly FIVE! March, 3, 2020
Tuesday, March 3, 2020 - 13:17 By Eric Olanowski
Discussing Olympic champion Asgarov's comeback at 74kg, Pino Hinds moving to freestyle and former Russian great Gatsalov set to compete under the Armenian flag. Also looking at USA's new-look Pan-Am OG Qualifier team and the cancellation of the Asain OG Qualifier.
1. Azerbaijan Turning to Asgarov for European Olympic Games Qualifier
Toghrul ASGAROV (AZE) replaced Khadzimurad GADZHIEV (AZE) in Azerbaijan's lineup for this month's European OG Qualifier in Budapest, Hungary.
Azerbaijan inserted Asgarov, a two-time Olympic finalist and London Olympic champion, over Gadzhiev at 74kg after the youngster failed to qualify his nation for the Tokyo Games with a seventh-place finish in Nur-Sultan. Gadzhiev was also Azerbaijan's representative at the 2018 and '19 European Championships, where he finished fifth and tenth, respectively.
Asgarov's return marks the third time he's stepped foot on a mat since dropping the 65kg Rio Olympic finals to Soslan RAMONOV (RUS). He's been plagued by injuries and has competed sparsely since 2016. Asgarov wrestled in the Indian Pro League in 2017 and the Beat the Streets charity event in 2018. In 2019, he fell to a disappointing tenth-place finish in his lone individual competition, which was at August's Tbilisi Grand Prix. The Azeri dropped his first-round match, 9-5, to Columbia's Nestor TAFFFUR, and finished outside the top-ten for only the fifth time in his long career.
Yabrail HASANOV (AZE), Azerbaijan's 74kg Rio bronze medalist and two-time defending 79kg world runner-up, was rumored to be heading down to 74kg, but his Yasar Dogu entry at 86kg indicates otherwise.
Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB), a Greco-Roman world runner-up, is on a quest to qualify Cuba for the Olympics in both styles. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)
2. World Silver Pino Hinds Transitioning from Greco-Roman to Freestyle
Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB) is on a quest to become the second wrestler since 2015 to qualify his nation for the Olympic Games in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. He'd join Bilyal MAKHOV (RUS) as the only wrestlers to master the feat in the past five years if he finishes inside the top-two at the Pan-American OG Qualifiers.
Pino Hinds qualified Cuba for the Tokyo Olympic Games with his 130kg Greco-Roman silver-medal finish in Nur-Sultan. He's moving to freestyle after the reemergence of Mijain LOPEZ (CUB), who is looking to become the first male wrestler ever to win four Olympic titles.
Pino Hinds is wrestling freestyle at 125kg at the Pan-American Championships and the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. His toughest competition at the Pan-American OG Qualifier is the two-time world bronze medalist, Nicholas Edward GWIAZDOWSKI (USA). The pair met twice last year, with Gwiazdowski scoring a pair of technical superiority victories.
Pino Hinds led 1-1 on criteria in the second period but gave up two takedowns and four leg laces before ultimately finishing the tournament with a bronze medal. He also fell 10-0 in the Pan-American Games finals.
Olympic champion Khadzhimurat GATSALOV (ARM) will return to the mat for the first time since 2016. (Gabor Martin)
3. Gatsalov to Compete under Armenian Flag at European OG Qualifier
Khadzhimurat GATSALOV (ARM) is returning to the mat for the first time since 2016, but it won't be under the Russian flag where he won five world titles and an Athens Olympic gold medal.
The former Russian great will compete under the Armenian flag for the first time in his storied career at the European Olympic Qualifier on March 19-22, where he'll have to finish top-two to qualifier Armenia for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The 38-year-old's return comes after a four-year lay-off when he finished in fifth place at the 2016 Poland Open. Before that, he fell to Anzor BOLTUKAEV (RUS) in the 2016 Russian National finals.
Gatsalov's insertion into the weight brings the total of Olympic champions to four, joining Rio Olympic champions Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS) and Kyle SNYDER (USA), and London Olympic gold medalist, Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE).
Olympic Champions at 97kg
Khadzhimurat GATSALOV (ARM)
Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RUS)
Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE)
Kyle SNYDER (USA)
Helen MAROULIS (USA) is returning to the mat with hopes of defending her Rio Olympic gold medal. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)
4. New-Look USA Team Entered into Pan-Am OG Qualifier
The United States entered a new-look squad into the Pan-American Olympic Games Qualifier with hopes of adding to their pair of Olympic qualified weights (68kg and 76kg). Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) and Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA) are dropping from their Nur-Sultan world championship weights of 53kg and 55kg, respectively, while Olympic champion Helen MAROULIS (USA) is returning to international competition for the first time since the 2018 World Championships.
Hildebrandt moved down to 50kg from her Budapest world silver medal-winning weight of 53kg. She gained control of the spot with two straight wins over Whitney CONDER (USA) in their special wrestle-off.
The Pan-American Olympic Games Qualifier is Hildebrant's second international competition down at the new weight. In her first showing at 50kg, Hildebrandt defeated second-ranked Alina VUC (ROU) with a last-second takedown to win the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series title.
Winchester dropped to 53kg from the non-Olympic weight of 55kg, where she's the reigning world champion. She earned her shot to be USA's 53kg representative by downing Katherine SHAI (USA) in two straight matches in the pair's special wrestle-off last month.
Rio Olympic champion Helen Maroulis is returning to USA's lineup for the first time since falling to a 21st-place finish at the 2018 World Championships. She's faced difficulties with concussions over the last two seasons but locked up her spot on the Pan-American Qualifer team with two straight pins against Nur-Sultan world team member, Jenna BURKERT (USA).
USA'S Pan-American OG Qualifier Team
50kg - Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA)
53kg - Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA)
57kg - Helen MAROULIS (USA)
62kg - Kayla MIRACLE (USA)
Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) tosses Khorlan ZHAKANSHA (KAZ) at the 2018 Asian Championships in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. (Photo: Max Rose-Fyne)
5. Kyrgyzstan Cancels Asian Olympic Qualifier
The State Agency for Youth, Physical Culture and Sports under the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic has informed United World Wrestling that Kyrgyzstan will no longer host the 2020 Asian Olympic Qualifier due to the spread of the coronavirus. The event was slated for March 27-29 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
United World Wrestling is now considering other solutions, and discussions with the International Olympic Committee which will be continued next week.
Weekly FIVE! In Social Media
1. Big Move Monday -- Ismael BORRERO @borreromolina (CUB)
2. Happy Friday, wrestling fans.
3. Who are the wrestlers to watch at the #WrestleOttawa Pan-American Championships (March 6-9)?
4. #WrestleNewDelhi Top Performer: Kumar RAVI (IND)
5. Big Move Monday -- Winchester J. @jacarra016(USA)