World Championships day four semis set

By Ken Marantz & Vinay Siwach

BELGRADE, Serbia (September 13) -- The host country is still riding high on the four Greco-Roman gold medals. But the focus on Tuesday will be the women's weight classes with unbeaten wrestler Yui SUSAKI (JPN) returning to action after her Olympic triumph.


The semifinals for the evening session are set

Miesinnei GENESIS (NGR) vs. Yui SUSAKI (JPN)


Koumba LARROQUE (FRA) vs. Jia LONG (CHN)

Epp MAE (EST) vs. Samar HAMZA (EGY)
Genesis REASCO (ECU) vs. Yasemin ADAR (TUR) 

13:23: 2021 world medalists Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) and Otgonjargal DOLGORJAV (MGL) set up a semifinal clash at 50kg with near-identical dominant victories. Hildebrandt chalked up an 11-0 technical fall over Oksana LIVACH (UKR), while moments earlier, Dolgorjav secured a fall over Emilia VUC (ROU) while holding an 11-0 lead. Dolgorjav's win was a repeat of the bronze-medal match last year in Oslo.

13:20: In a battle of Commonwealth Games finalists, Miesinnei GENESIS (NGR) proving that her win over Madison PARKS (CAN) in Birmingham was no luck. She leads 6-0 at the break. Parks mounts a comeback in the second period with four points and she cuts the lead to 6-4. A takedown for Parks with just 6 seconds remaining. Nigeria challenges the call. It's only a pushout and one point. A last-second exposure from Parks. It's confirmed but Nigeria challenge again. The time expired before Parks exposed Genesis. She wins 6-5

13:17: This is just ridiculous from Yui SUSAKI (JPN). Just 31 seconds is what she takes to win 10-0 against Anna LUKASIAK (POL) using a leg lace.

13:15: Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE) leads 3-0 at the break using a takedown and point for passivity against Laura HERIN (CUB). But she gives up one takedown in the second period as Herin cuts the lead to 3-2. Prevolaraki shoots a double and gets the four; 7-2 lead for her now. A takedown for Herin and a stepout but a 7-5  win Prevolaraki.

13:12: 2021 world junior champion Emma MALGREN (SWE) was down 2-2 on criteria when she pancaked Zeynep YETGIL (TUR) to her back and secured the fall in 5:03 and a spot in the 53kg semifinals.

13:10: Asian silver medalist Khulan BATKHUYAG (MGL) advances to the 53kg semifinals by injury default when Leyla GURBANOVA (AZE) suffers a shoulder injury in the first period.

13:06: Domimique PARRISH (USA) gets a takedown and like most USA wrestlers she rolls to a 10-0 win using a leg lace. She is a World Championships semifinalist.

13:03: Olympic bronze medalist Yasemin ADAR (TUR) holds on for a nail-biting 4-2 victory over Yuka KAGAMI (JPN), 10 years her junior at age 20, to make the 76kg semifinals. Adar scored a takedown with :26 left to go ahead 3-2. In the final seconds, she desperately held onto a leg as Kagami came razor close to gaining control with a cradle. An unsuccessful challenge added the final point.

13:01: Ecuador has never had a world medalist, and Genesis REASCO VALDEZ (ECU) assured she will be wrestling for one at some point tomorrow night when she defeated Juan WANG (CHN) 5-3 to make the 76kg semifinals.

12:57: Returning bronze medalist Samar HAMZA (EGY) takes a quick 3-0 lead over Martina KUENZ (AUT). In the second period, Kuenz gets a point for Hamza's passivity. But that's all in the second period. Hamza wins 3-1.

12:53: Returning silver medalist at 76kg Epp MAE (EST) and Anastasiia SHUSTOVA (UKR) in the quarterfinals and Mae leads 1-0 at the break. Mae put on the clock in the second period but she gets the shot and takedown after the activity clock before adding a gut to lead 5-1. Shustova got a takedown in the second period but Mae hangs on for a 5-3 win.

12:49: On Mat D, Tokyo Olympian Jia LONG (CHN) wrestles another Tokyo Olympian Elis MANOLOVA (AZE). Long is called for passivity which gives Manolova a 1-0 lead at the break. A takedown for Manovola and she makes it 3-1. With just 10 seconds left, Long gets exposure and one roll to win 5-3 but a challenge from Manolova. But actions are valid and in time. Long wins 6-3.

12:48: 2021 world silver medalist Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN), who had a bye into the 65kg quarterfinals, gets a first-period takedown, and that was the extent of the scoring in a 2-0 victory over Mallory VELTE (USA) in the 65kg quarterfinals. Morikawa will face Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL), a winner over Tetiana RIZHKO (UKR), for a place in the final.

12:40: The 65kg quarterfinals have U23 world champion Koumba LARROQUE (FRA) up against Kriszta INCZE (ROU). Larroque up 1-0 for an activity point against Incze. Single leg shot from Larroque and she gets the takedown and 3-0 lead. Incze gets behind Larroque but it's only confirmed as a stepout. Challenge from Romania. Both wrestlers were out of bounds before the action. 4-1 lead for Larroque. Stepout comfirmed for Larroque. Incze gets one as well but a 5-2 win for Larroque.

12:31: Olympic and world champion Yui SUSAKI (JPN) is looking like she never was on a break. A quick 10-0 win over Thi NGUYEN (VIE) at 50kg.

12:27: Oksana LIVACH (UKR), a 2018 world bronze medalist who was fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, rolls to a 10-0 technical fall in 1:50 over Patricia BERMUDEZ (ARG) at 50kg. Her reward is a quarterfinal clash with Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA).

12:22: European silver medalist Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE) moves into the quarterfinals at 53kg with a fall over Marina RUEDA (ESP). She gets Laura HERIN (CUB) next.

12:20: Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Sarah HILDEBRANDT wastes little time grabbing her place in the 50kg quarterfinals, storming to a 10-0 technical fall in :39 over Kamila BARBOSA (BRA).

12:19: Lucia YEPEZ GUZMAN (ECU), still walking a bit gingerly, appears unaffected by her knee injury when the action gets hot, as she rallies from a 4-3 deficit with a 4-point takedown and 2-point gut wrench with :25 to go for a 9-4 victory over Katarzyna KRAWCZYK (POL) to make the 53kg quarterfinals.

12:16: Zenep YETGIL (TUR) puts her name in the mix of the favorites to win the gold at 53kg as she picks up an 8-0 win over Tatiana DEBIEN (FRA) and a spot in the quarterfinals. 

12:15: Two-time world silver medalist Emilia VUC (ROU) with a 10-0 technical superiority over Neelam SIROHI (IND) using a gut wrench to a great effect.

12:14: Laura HERIN (CUB) hands returning bronze medalist Samantha STEWART (CAN) a 10-0 loss at 53kg. An absolutely strong performance from the Cuban wrestler.

12:10: Martina KUENZ (AUT) did face a fight from Tatiana RENTERIA (COL) but nothing deterred her from controlling the bout. Kuenz picks up a big 10-0 win at 76kg.

12:09: If 2021 world silver medalist Iulia LEORDA (MDA) makes it back to the medal podium in Belgrade, it will have to be on a lower step after she was dealt a 5-1 defeat by Leyla GURBANOVA (AZE) at women's 53kg.

12:03: European champion Jonna MALMGREN (SWE) takes no time in picking up a fall in her first bout at 53kg. Malmgren will be one of the favorites to win the world title.

12:00: Three-time world bronze medalist Epp MAE (EST) trails 3-1 against Ariunjargal GANBAT (MGL) when she turns the tide and puts the Mongolian onto her back and secures the fall and gains a place in the 76kg quarterfinals.

12:00: Returning bronze medalist Samar HAMZA (EGY) knocks off former world champion Justina DI SATISO (CAN) 3-1 with a passivity point and takedown.

11:57: Yuka KAGAMI (JPN), a former world junior and cadet champion making her debut at the senior worlds, outlasts Francy RAEDELT (GER) 2-1 in a dull bout with all of the points scored on the activity clock to advance to the 76kg quarterfinals.

11:53: Juan WANG (CHN) declares China is indeed back when she knocks off 2021 world bronze medalist Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) 7-1 to advance to the 76kg quarterfinals. With the score knotted at 1-1, she scores two counter takedowns in the last 1:20, capping the second one with a lace lock.

11:50: Olympic bronze Yasemin ADAR (TUR) up against Gulmaral YERKEBAYEVA (KAZ) and she uses a leg lace to finish the bout in just 1:16 at 76kg.

11:35: Patricia BERMUDEZ (ARG) pulls off a fall over Zehra DEMIRHAN (TUR) in the opening round. The veteran still looks for a good run there.

11:29: Asian silver medalist Khulan BATKHUYAG (MGL) pulls off the first surprise of the session when she knocks off 2019 world bronze medalist Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) 7-0 at 53kg. Batkhuyag took a 3-0 in the first period, then slammed Phogat backward to the mat in the final seconds for 4.

11:18: Former world champion Justine DI STASIO (CAN) pancakes Thi Linh DANG (VIE) early in their 76kg bout, and when she can't secure a fall, switches to a lace lock. She grinds out four rolls to end the match 10-0 in 1:10.

11:12: Juan WANG (CHN), who returned from a two-year layoff from international to win a tournament in Bucharest in July, defeated Kamile GAUCAITE (LTU) 9-1 at women's 76kg to set up a round-of-16 clash with 2021 world bronze medalist Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ).

11:01: Veteran Yelena SHALYGINA (KAZ), a three-time world medalist from 2007 to 2010 and a 2008 (!) Olympic bronze medalist, falls at women's 65kg to 2020 European champion Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL), who scores a takedown and four exposures in the second period for an 11-1 technical fall.

10:55: Yuka KAGAMI (JPN) continues her unbeaten record against Dymond GUILFORD (USA). She had two wins against her at the Klippan Open and now she wins at 76kg in Belgrade.

10:50: Koumba LARROQUE (FRA), still with a highly strapped knee, begins with a technical superiority win over SHAFALI (IND) at 65kg.

10:29: Greetings from Belgrade to wrestling fans around the world. In today's morning session, save for a handful of repechage matches, the women will command the mats with competition through the quarterfinals at 50kg, 53kg, 65kg and 76kg.


Higuchi claims 61kg title in first senior world foray

By Ken Marantz

BELGRADE, Serbia (Sept. 18) -- After quixotic attempts to make Japan's team to the Tokyo Olympics at both 57kg and 65kg ultimately failed, 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalist Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) settled in at 61kg for now.

He now has his first senior world title, although it had never really mattered to him before. Higuchi put on one final, dazzling performance in sweeping past Reza ATRI (IRI) by 10-0 technical fall to win the 61kg gold as the World Championships concluded with the final three freestyle finals on Sunday in Belgrade.

"I was finally able to show my actual strength, and I'm glad I could have a solid win in the final without any incident," Higuchi said.

In other finals, Asian champion Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) signaled a possible changing of the guard at 65kg when the 20-year-old won the gold in a 21-point thriller, while Kyle SNYDER (USA) was hardly troubled in securing his third career world gold and first since 2017 at 97kg.

Higuchi, who won his first senior Asian title in April, had Atri on his heels from the get-go, working his slick tackles to perfection and transitioning well into exposure situations.

The 26-year-old Japanese opened with a double-leg takedown to a lace-lock roll. He then got 2 with a single-leg tackle, secured an inside-leg hook, and forced Atri over for two exposures to end the match at 2:42.

"Yesterday the Iranian looked very strong, so I closely watched all of the videos of him, like the Poland tournament before the Olympics and various others," Higuchi said. "I watched them all. I think analyzing him was a reason for my victory."

With Higuchi's victory, Japan finished a surprising third in the team standings with 70 points, two ahead of Mongolia and Georgia. The United States, which had clinched the team title after the morning session on Saturday, finished on top with 198 points, followed by Iran with 150.

The bulk of Japan's points came on gold-medal runs by Higuchi and Taishi NARIKUNI (JPN), the champion at 70kg on Friday. It marked the first time that Japan had two gold medalists at the same World Championships since 1979, when Yuji TAKADA (JPN) and Hideaki TOMIYAMA (JPN), the latter currently the president of the Japan federation, won in San Diego.

Such trivia doesn't really interest Higuchi. He was more excited about surpassing his coach Kenichi YUMOTO (JPN), who won Olympic silver in 2008 and world bronze in 2011.

"I don't really think about records," Higuchi said. "I have always aimed at being fundamentally sound like coach Yumoto, and I'm so happy to have been able to top him in one way. From when I was little, I studied videos of him and tried to imitate everything he did, the way he grabs arms, gets a high crotch, his single-leg tackles."

Higuchi's run to the world gold caps the roller coaster ride his career had been on since he took the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics when he was dealt a close 3-3 loss in the final by Vladimir KHINCHEGASHILI (GEO) on a late activity point that still stings for Higuchi.

His obsession with making up for that loss and winning an Olympic gold has been the driving force over the past six years, and it was only until recently that he even regarded winning a world or Asian title as worthwhile.

"The Olympics had always been the only thing that concerned me, but eventually I changed my pessimistic thinking of not entering the World Championships or not entering the Asian Championships," he said. "I've always been thinking of how I can win an Olympic gold medal, so I'm not satisfied with this victory. There are still many issues of things I need to work on and fix."

Higuchi's attempt to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics was marked by perseverance and, ultimately, disappointment.

First, he moved up to 65kg, a tough division for someone standing just 1.63 meters, where he would challenge world champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN). He actually defeated Otoguro once and won the 2018 world U23 gold at that weight, but eventually lost out to the eventual Olympic gold medalist.

In 2019, he made the drastic decision to drop back down to 57kg, which he had not competed in since Rio. His weight had ballooned up to 68kg, and he had only a few months before the All-Japan Championships, which would determine who would go to the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in 2020.

Limited exclusively to a vegetable diet, he made the weight, then defeated 2017 world champion Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN) to earn the spot. But then the Olympics and the qualifying tournaments were postponed for a year, meaning he had to maintain his weight at the height of the pandemic for another year.

When the Asian qualifier was finally held in April 2021 in Almaty, the unthinkable happened. Higuchi failed to make weight.

Takahashi was dispatched to the final World Olympic qualifier, earned Japan a spot at 57kg, then defeated Higuchi in a playoff to fill it himself. At a crossroads, Higuchi looked deep into himself to determine what path he would take.

He decided he would spend this year at 61kg, enter the major tournaments that he had previously shunned, and make preparations for a run at the 2024 Paris Olympics, which he said will be at 57kg.

For the Japanese wrestlers, the qualifying path for Paris begins with the All-Japan Championships this December, the first of two domestic qualifiers for next year's World Championships.

His sojourn at 61kg was a positive experience. "Not once did I feel I was inferior to the 61kg wrestlers in terms of attacking," Higuchi said. "I was able to get in on all of my attacks. In terms of defense, I gained a lot in regard to scrambles and keeping the opponent from scoring off attacks."

Higuchi said that he was motivated on Sunday by a visit from Narikuni, who brought his championship belt back to the room and playfully flaunted it in front of Higuchi.

"He won the gold on the first day [of freestyle] and brought the belt back to the room. I hadn't even had a match yet, and he purposely showed it to me...I thought, damn him. But it fired me up, and as there were times we had practiced together since we were little. Honestly, I was happy. I went into my matches thinking that I, too, will not lose. I'm glad I wasn't beaten by Narikuni."

At 65kg, Amouzad scored seven unanswered points to prevail 13-8 in a wild encounter with first-time finalist Yianni DIAKOMIHALIS (USA), in which an opening scramble produced 14 points that were determined once the dust cleared and the video analyzed.

"Thank god I was able to win the gold medal," Amouzad said. "My opponent was very tough. I hope this gold medal will put a smile on the faces of the people of Iran."

Diakomihalis shot for a double leg and, with Amouzad reaching over to counter, the two got tangled up and rolled this way and that as the mat referee tried to keep up. In the end, they both got credit for three exposures, although one of Diakomihalis' was judged to be a 4-pointer because he took Amouzad off his feet, giving the American an 8-6 lead.

Amouzad, the 2021 world U20 champion at 61kg, decided he was better off going on the attack, and got a single-leg takedown to tie it up at the end of the first period, although he remained behind on criteria.

In the second period, Amouzad remained the aggressor, getting a stepout and two takedowns off his single to win 13-8 and give Iran its second gold medal of the championships.

For now, his victory puts Amouzad at the head of a crowded race for gold in Paris.

"The 65kg is a weight class full of extremely tough opponents," he said. "But I am feeling great that I was able to beat my opponents through training in Iran, including with former European and world champions. My goal is to defend the title next year, but the ultimate goal is to win the gold in Paris."

Snyder, not having to contend with nemesis Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF) in the 97kg final, was simply too powerful for Russian-born Batyrbek TSAKULOV (SVK), scoring a takedown and three stepouts in notching a 6-0 victory.

"It was good, [I'm] thankful, good opponent," Snyder said. "I haven't won since 2017, and that's a long time for me. It hurts to lose, but I'm very thankful to get on top of the podium again."

Snyder came out with a high-crotch takedown and received an activity clock point for a 3-0 first-period lead against European bronze medalist Tsakulov, who never came close to piercing Snyder's defense the entire match.

In the second period, Snyder powered ahead for three stepouts to add the world title to the ones he won in 2015 and 2017, along with a 2016 Olympic gold. He also has silver medals from 2018 and 2021 and the Tokyo Olympics -- courtesy of Sadulaev -- and a bronze medal from 2019.

"The matches are always good, opponents are good, they wrestle me hard," he said. "I've got a good team, a good coaching staff. They know what I need to focus on."

Snyder's gold was the fourth of the tournament in freestyle for the U.S., tying the 1993 and 1995 teams for the country's most ever. The team in Belgrade medaled in eight of the 10 weight classes.

Snyder's encounters with Sadulaev have been epic, perhaps none more so than his victory at the 2017 worlds as it also clinched the team title for the United States in the last match of the tournament.

"The match in 2017 was super-exciting and the team title on the line and stuff, and that's a lot of fun," he said. "But it's just cool still being able to wrestle for as long as I've been able to. To be back on top, and thankful for all the coaches and all my training partners. So many people have helped me."

While his teammates in Belgrade saved the coaches from some anxious moments with the early clinching, Snyder said he wouldn't have minded if the team race had been closer.

"It's nice having the team title locked up before I go in the finals, but honestly, I'd like to be the one that decides it," he said. "That's the most fun when everything's on you. But it's all good."

Veteran Punia rallies to 65kg bronze

Olympic bronze medalist Bajrang PUNIA (IND) captured his fourth career world medal, putting on the latest comeback of his storied career to slip past Sebastian RIVERA (PUR) with a late takedown for an 11-9 victory at 65kg.

Punia found himself in a 6-point hole right off the bat, as Rivera scored a pair of takedowns, adding an ankle roll after the second one. An inside trip for 4 by Punia and a takedown tied the score and put him ahead on criteria, but Rivera scored with a low shot with :03 left in the first period for an 8-6 lead.

Rivera, who attended Rutgers University in the U.S. and was looking to become just the second world medalist in Puerto Rican history, returned to the ankle pick that he has used to great effect to score a stepout.

But Punia, who has made a career out of rallying to victory, came back with a takedown, then scored the match-winner by going out the back door and gaining control with :31 left for a 10-9 lead. An unsuccessful challenge added the final point as Punia kept India from a podium shutout in freestyle.

"I gave away six points at the start," Punia said. "And the leg defense that I thought would work, just didn’t come off. I need to sit and analyze why it’s not working. It didn’t work in the match I lost, and it didn’t work today when I won as well."

Punia said he has been having trouble defending against leg attacks since injuring his knee at the Tokyo Olympics.

"It doesn’t eat into my confidence, because otherwise I wouldn’t have recovered points," Punia said. "I always fight till the last second because we work hard as wrestlers. I’ll have to figure out if I need more hard work or smart work on the leg defense.”

In the other match at 65kg, Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) repeated his victory in the final at this year's European Championships over Olympic silver medalist Haji ALIYEV (AZE), scoring a takedown in each period and hanging on for a 4-2 win for his second career world bronze.

The Russian-born Muszukajev, who began competing for Hungary in 2019, scored a takedown in the first period while on the activity clock, then used an arm drag for a second one to open the second period.

The 31-year-old Aliyev, whose last trip to the medal podium came when he won a third world title in 2017, went into overdrive trying to get back in the match, but all he could manage was a penalty point and a very late stepout.

At 61kg, European champion Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) cruised to his second straight world bronze with a 12-0 technical fall over Seth GROSS (USA), who had no answer for the barrage of attacks launched by the Armenian.

Harutyunyan piled up three takedowns and three stepouts, all off tackle attempts, before putting the match away at 3:57 with an exposure.

Narankhuu NARMANDAKH (MGL) was equally dominant in taking the other 61kg bronze with a 9-0 rout of European bronze medalist Georgi VANGELOV (BUL), finishing it off with an impressive 4-point body lock to the back.

Narmandakh, a world u23 bronze medalist last year, opened the match with a takedown straight to a lace lock roll for a 4-0 lead. In the second period, the Mongolian received an activity point before slamming down Vangelov to put an exclamation point on his victory.

At 97kg, Russian-born European champion Magomedkhan MAGOMEDOV (AZE) was trailing on criteria when he secured a fall off a counter to defeat Asian champion Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) for his first senior world medal.

Mohammadian, aiming for a second world bronze, scored a 2-point exposure off a tackle attempt, after which Magomedov got a reversal. The Iranian then limped-arm out of a whizzer for a takedown to go up 4-1 at the break.

Magomedov, a 2018 world U20 champion, secured a takedown, and a lost Iranian challenge made it 4-4, although Mohammadian led on criteria. But when Mohammadian got in on a tackle, Magomedov reached back and used a chin whip and stepover to put the Iranian onto his back, securing the fall at 4:27.

Givi MATCHARASHVILI (GEO) also became a first-time senior world medalist when he won the other 97kg bronze, riding a 4-point counter lift in the second period to a 5-3 victory over European silver medalist Vladislav BAITSAEV (HUN).

Day 9 Results

61kg (24 entries)
Gold - Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) df. Reza ATRI (IRI) by TF, 10-0, 2:42

Bronze - Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) df. Seth GROSS (USA) by TF, 12-0, 3:58
Bronze - Narankhuu NARMANDAKH (MGL) df. Georgi VANGELOV (BUL), 9-0

65kg (27 entries)
Gold - Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) df. Yianni DIAKOMIHALIS (USA), 13-8

Bronze - Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) df. Haji ALIYEV (AZE), 4-2
Bronze - Bajrang PUNIA (IND) df. Sebastian RIVERA (PUR), 11-9

97kg (23 entries)
Gold - Kyle SNYDER (USA) df. Batyrbek TSAKULOV (SVK), 6-0

Bronze - Magomedkhan MAGOMEDOV (AZE) df. Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) by Fall, 4:27 (6-4)
Bronze - Givi MATCHARASHVILI (GEO) df. Vladislav BAITSAEV (HUN), 5-3