Weekly FIVE!

Weekly FIVE! March, 3, 2020

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) 

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.

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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)

Weekly FIVE!

Weekly FIVE! March 17, 2020

By Eric Olanowski

Discussing Valencia Escoto and Destribats' historic performances at the Pan-Am Olympic Qualifiers. Also looking at Cuba's GR team qualifying every weight for #Tokyo2020 and Olympic champs Maroulis and Wiebe qualifying their nation's for the Tokyo Games.

1. Valencia Escoto First Mexican Woman to Qualify for Olympic Games
Alma Jane VALENCIA ESCOTO (MEX) became the first-ever Mexican women's wrestler to qualify for the Olympic Games after winning the 57kg gold medal at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. She won all four of her bouts in Ottawa – including a win by fall over world champion Linda MORAIS (CAN) and a victory via forfeit over Helen MAROULIS (USA).

Valencia Escoto opened her day up with a pair of decisive wins over Betzabeth SARCO COLMENAREZ (VEN) and Nes RODRIGUEZ TIRADO (PUR), which inserted her into the semifinals against Canada's reigning world champion, Linda Morais. 

In her semifinals meeting with the current 59kg world-title holder, Valencia Escoto stopped an early open double-leg attempt with a counter-offensive throw. She snuck in an underhook on the Canadian's right side during her shot attempt and tossed her to her back for the early 4-0 lead. 

Valencia Escoto's opponenet fought off her back and nearly scored a takedown of a slide by attempt. Still, somehow, the newly-minted Olympian had the world champion fighting off her back for the second time in the opening period. 

The tides turned quickly, and Valencia Escoto was the one fighting off her back. She got saved by the period-ending whistle and carried the 6-2 lead into the closing period.

In the final period, Valencia Escoto halted a left side high crotch attempt and flattened Morais for the fall – becoming the first-ever Mexican women to wrestle at the Olympic Games.

Agustin DESTRIBATS (ARG) finished in second place at 65kg at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier and qualified Argentina for the Olympic Games. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

2. Destribats Ends 24-year Argentinean Freestyle Olympic Drought
Agustin DESTRIBATS (ARG) ended a 24-year Argentinean freestyle Olympic drought and qualified his nation for the Tokyo Olympics after he pinned American Zain RETHERFORD (USA) in the 65kg semifinals. With his semifinal victory via fall, Destribats became the first Argentinean freestyle wrestler to qualify for the Olympic Games since Paulo IBIRE (ARG) did so at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

In his meeting with the Retherford, Destribats conceded an open double leg and nearly gave up an ankle lace but was able to fend off the turn and catch the American on his back. He held Retherford on his back for 25 seconds before picking up the opening period fall to secure his spot at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Helen MAROULIS (USA) qualified the United States for the Olympic Games at 57kg with her silver-medal finish at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

3. Olympic Champs Maroulis and Wiebe Qualify Nation's for Olympic Games 
Olympic champions Helen MAROULIS (USA) and Erica WIEBE (CAN) qualified their nations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games after finishing in the top-two of their respective weights at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. The pair remained on course to defend their gold medals from the Rio Olympic Games. 

Maroulis, who was wrestling in her first international competition since the 2018 World Championships, won four matches before injury defaulting out of the finals after locking up the United States' spot at 57kg for the Olympics.

In her first match, Maroulis easily handled Canada's Linda Morias, 10-2, in the battle of Olympic champion and world champion. 

Maroulis defeated Giullia RODRIGUES (BRA) and Lissette ANTES (ECU) in the next two rounds and was one win away from earning a second berth to the Olympic Games for the United States. 

In the semifinals, Maroulis crushed Nes RODRIGUEZ (PUR), 10-0, and qualified the Stars and Stripes for the Olympic Games at 57kg. 

She'll now have to win the Olympic Trials to become the United States' Olympic representative at 57kg.

Canada's Erica Wiebe was the second Olympic champion who qualified for the Olympic Games over the weekend. Wiebe, who was wrestling in her hometown of Ottawa, won the 76kg bracket and locked up her shot at repeating as Olympic champion. 

She opened up her day with a narrow 2-1 win over Aline DA SILVA FERREIRA (BRA). She tacked on dominant wins over Milaimys de la Caridad MARIN POTRILLE (CUB) and Andrimar LAZARO (VEN), setting up a semifinals match with Genesis REASCO (ECU).

Wiebe shutout Reasco Valdez, 6-0, in their semifinals meeting and earned her berth to the Olympic Games. She injury defaulted out of the gold-medal match against Aline Da Silva Ferreira and finished with a silver medal.

Wiebe won the Canadian Wrestling Trails in December and will represent Canada at 76kg at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) is one of six Cuban Greco-Roman wrestlers who will wrestle at the Tokyo Olympic Games. (Photo: Tony Rotundo) 

4. Cuba Sending All Six GR Wrestlers to Olympics 
Cuba’s Greco-Roman team came into the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier searching for four qualification spots after earning two Olympic berths from the Nur-Sultan World Championships from Ismael BORRERO MOLINA (CUB) Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB). Over the weekend, they had three wrestlers win gold medals and one individual finish in second place at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier – which took their qualification total to all six weight categories. 

Their three champions were Luis Alberto ORTA SANCHEZ (CUB), Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) and Gabriel Alejandro ROSILLO KINDELAN (CUB), while Daniel GREGORICH HECHAVARRIA (CUB) finished in second place.

In addition to their Greco-Roman success, Cuba's women's wrestling team also shined in Ottawa. 

Coming into the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier, Katherine VIDIAUX (CUB) was the lone Cuban woman who ever wrestled at the Olympic Games. She'll now be joined in the history books by Lianna MONTERO (CUB) and Yusneylis GUZMAN (CUB), who won gold medals at 50kg and 53kg, respectively, and qualified for the Olympic Games. 

Greco-Roman Qualifying Weights/Athletes
60kg - Luis Alberto ORTA SANCHEZ (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier gold 
67kg - Ismael BORRERO MOLINA (CUB) – World Championships gold 
77kg - Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier gold
87kg - Daniel GREGORICH HECHAVARRIA (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier silver
97kg - Gabriel Alejandro ROSILLO KINDELAN (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier gold
130kg - Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB) World Championships silver

5. European, World 'Last Chance' Olympic Qualifiers Postponed
The European Qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Games, scheduled for March 19-22 in Budapest, along with the World "Last Chance" Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria, scheduled for April 30-May 3, have been postponed.

The events will be rescheduled, with the European Qualifier expected to take place in mid-May and the World "Last Chance" Qualifier held at the beginning of June.

"We are closely monitoring the governmental response to COVID-19 and will continue to provide updates to our wrestlers, coaches, and fans with more information as it becomes available," said United World Wrestling president Nenad Lalovic.

"The process for determining our Olympic participants will happen on the field of play, but we need to remain patient and vigilant as the worldwide community battles this pandemic. The health and well-being of the athletes is an absolute priority."