In World Championships of upsets, Cuba's Rosillo stuns Aleksanyan
Sunday, September 24, 2023 - 00:02 By Ken Marantz
BELGRADE, Serbia (September 23) -- One night after seeing one of the sport's living legends suffer a shocking last-second defeat, it was deja vu all over again as unheralded Gabriel ROSILLO (CUB) took down the titan Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM).
Rosillo stunned Aleksanyan and the wrestling world by scoring a takedown with 21 seconds left to deny the Armenian superstar a fifth world title, beating him 3-3 on last-point criteria in the 97kg final of Greco-Roman at the World Championships in Belgrade on Saturday.
"I trained well for these World Championships," Rosillo said. "I was thinking of winning the gold medal and trained so hard to get it."
The crowd at Stark Arena was earlier treated to a freewheeling display of big-throw wrestling in the 60kg final, in which Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) defended his title with a wild 11-6 win over Tokyo Olympic silver medalist and two-time former champion Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN).
Meanwhile, Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA) won the gold in the non-Olympic weight class of 72kg, making him the fourth Greco world champion in French history and the first since 2014.
All medalists and the winners of a special fifth-place playoff in the Olympic weight classes secured qualifying spots at the 2024 Paris Olympics. The remaining quotas will be filled at the continental qualifiers and last-chance world qualifiers.
Gabriel ROSILLO (CUB) scores the match-winning arm drag against Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM). (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)
There could hardly have been more of a contrast between the competitors in the 97kg final. The 24-year-old Rosillo came into Belgrade with a 2019 world U20 title at the top of his resume, while Aleksanyan could boast an Olympic medal of every color to go with seven world medals.
The Cuban had lost in the first round of the Tokyo Olympics, where Aleksanyan had taken the silver medal, and in his only other appearance at a World Championships in 2019, he lost in the second round. Aleksanyan finished second in that tournament, too.
And Rosillo missed a year and a half in 2020 when he contracted both COVID and dengue fever and was burned in a fire at his home in Santiago.
"I had to make up for lost time," he said."I could do it with the help of the Cuban people and my coaches."
On Saturday night, Rosillo ignored the past and beat the odds, just as Amir MIRZAZADEH (IRI) did the night before. The Iranian scored a late stepout to stun the great Riza KAYAALP (TUR) for the 130kg gold.
But at least Mirzazadeh had been a past world champion himself; Rosillo had to punch well above his weight to pull this miracle off.
Rosillo received the first passivity point but could hardly budge Aleksanyan in par terre, and the outcome appeared inevitable when Aleksanyan scored a gut wrench from the top position in the second period to go ahead 3-1.
In his previous three matches, the 31-year-old Aleksanyan had immediately finished off a technical fall from par terre with four straight rolls. By only getting one off Rosillo, it kept the match going. Few would have ever foreseen what transpired.
With a half-minute to go, the two were jostling for wrist control when Rosillo suddenly hit an arm drag and took Aleksanyan to the mat for a takedown. When the whistle stopped the action with :08 on the clock, the stunned Aleksanyan was slow to get up, and Rosillo held on as time ran out on his historic victory.
Rosillo said his defeat in Tokyo provided a wake-up call. "I understood that I have to have a stronger heart and get better in each phase of the battle, and to never give up even when I feel tired," he said.
Regarding the ticket to Paris that comes with his remarkable run to the gold, he said, "My coach is expecting a lot from me. I know I still have to work hard on my stamina."
Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ), blue, won his second world title and denied Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) his third. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
In the 60kg final, Sharshenbekov chalked up two 4-point moves in fending off the energetic Fumita in a match that saw 15 points put on the board in the first 90 seconds.
Fumita, who had to settle for a bronze medal in Belgrade last year after winning world titles in 2017 and 2019, had told the Japanese press after the semifinals that he was content with a "boring" style of wrestling.
But he reverted back to his big-throw ways when he attempted an arm throw in the opening seconds, only to see Sharshenbekov stuff it for 4. Fumita responded with a stepout, then connected on a 2-point throw.
Sharshenbekov, who won his second straight Asian title in April, got the picture and when the two locked up, he slammed Fumita to the mat for another 4-pointer, adding a gut wrench for 2. Fumita reversed to the back for 2, leaving him down 10-5. The two each had a stepout to make it 11-6 as the first period ended.
The fireworks of the first period were never reignited in the second as the two parried each other in a never-ending flurry of action. Fumita hit a couple of sweet arm throws, but Sharshenbekov was able to land on his feet to avoid giving up points.
"In recent years, my opponents have tightened their defense and been on their guard against me," Fumita said. "He was really like that. I made the attacks and he absorbed the blows. I thought that I had to keep attacking, even if it was all-or-nothing or not a very good attack. It made me realize that I have to have confidence in my style."
Sharshenbekov increased his stash of world medals to four, having finished second in both 2018 and 2021 before striking gold last year.
"It is wrong to say that I won the gold medal only by myself," he said. "The whole team worked hard for me to win this. I was ready. I saw the draw but didn’t care about my opponents. I was ready for everyone."
A year ago, Fumita was dealt a heartbreaking 5-5 loss in the semifinals by Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL), who Sharshenbekov then proceeded to beat 11-2 to take the gold.
The two had met once previously, with the Japanese coming out on top 4-0 in the final of the 2020 Asian Championships. In that match, Fumita had scored off a counter for the decisive points.
Five months later they both advanced to the gold-medal match at the Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Cup in Warsaw, but the rematch never happened as Sharshenbekov defaulted due to injury.
"I wrestled Fumita in New Delhi and lost," Sharshenbekov said. "But three years have passed since then and I prepared for this. I have worked hard for this and I was able to win because of that."
Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA) became the first world champion from France in nine years. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
At 72kg, Ghanem finished second in Europe this year but now is on top of the world after posting a solid 3-0 victory in the final over 2022 European champion Robert FRITSCH (HUN).
Ghanem, who lost in a bronze-medal match last year, moved straight to the top of the podium by gaining a passivity point in the first period and adding a snap-down-go-behind takedown in the second.
Fritsch tried to come back by securing a front headlock several times, but Ghanem squirmed out of the predicament and held on to become France's first Greco champion since Melonin NOUMONVI (FRA) triumphed at 85kg in 2014 in Tashkent.
Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) took the bronze medal and a Paris Olympic quota for Iran at 97kg. (Photo: UWW / Amirreza Aliasgari)
Saravi takes 2nd straight bronze
In the bronze-medal matches, Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) found a place on the third-highest step of the podium for the second straight year by defeating teenager Abubakar KHASLAKHANAU (AIN) 4-2 at 97kg.
Saravi, the 2021 world champion, scored a roll-off par terre to take a 3-0 lead in the first period, then added a stepout in the second to clinch a Paris quota for Iran.
Artur OMAROV (CZE) continued a run of third-place finishes this year, getting a gut wrench from par terre in the second period of a 3-1 victory over Mindaugas VENCKAITIS (LTU) in the other 97kg bronze-medal match.
Omarov came to Belgrade have placed third at the European Championships, the Ranking Series events in Bishkek and Alexandria, and at the Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Cup. It was the Czech Republic's first Greco-Roman medal at a World Championships since 2007.
Liguo CAO (CHN) defeated Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM) 5-3 to earn a bronze medal and Paris 2024 quota for China at 60kg. (Photo: UWW / Amirreza Aliasgari)
At 60kg, Liguo CAO (CHN) finished off the winning takedown with two seconds left on the clock to stun Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM) 5-3 at 60kg and add the world bronze to the Asian one he won earlier this year, plus an Olympic berth for China.
Gharibyan, the 2020 European champion, matched Cao with a passivity point and a roll from par terre to lead 3-3 on criteria. With time running out, Cao used an underhook to slip behind, then battled to get Gharibyan to the mat. The knee came down at the :02 mark.
Former Asian champion Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB) won the other 60kg bronze with a hard-fought 3-3 victory over Mehdi MOHSEN NEJAD (IRI).
The result and score were an exact repeat of the outcome of their semifinal encounter at the Bishkek Ranking Series event in June, in which Bakhramov went on to win the gold.
At 72kg, dethroned defending champion Ali ARSALAN (SRB) came out charging from the opening whistle and young Shingo HARADA (JPN) never knew what hit him, falling to a 9-0 technical fall in just 32 seconds.
Arsalan, looking a lot more energetic than he did at the end of his exhausting semifinal loss to Fritsch, blasted to a stepout just 10 seconds into the match, then on the restart, pancaked Harada onto his back for 4.
Scrambling onto the top, Arsalan never took his foot off the gas, reeling off two quick gut wrenches to end the match to the thrill of the home crowd and give the host nation its first Greco medal of the tournament and third overall. Arsalan competed for his native Iran up to 2021 before moving to Serbia.
Harada made his mark in his senior world debut, having rallied to beat 2022 silver medalist Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE) in the quarterfinals.
Selcuk CAN (TUR) picked up his second straight bronze medal at 72kg, getting the second passivity point in a 1-1 victory over Stoyan KUBATOV (BUL) on last-point criteria.
Mehdi MOHSEN NEJAD (IRI) grapped the Paris Olympic quota for Iran at 60kg by winning the playoff. (Photo: UWW / Amirreza Aliasgari)
Mohsen Nejad grabs Paris spot for Iran
Mohsen Nejad returned to the mat to give Iran its third berth in Paris of the four Olympic weight classes competed so far, defeating Gharibyan 7-0 in the fifth-place match at 60kg.
Mohsen Nejad, with the right shoulder that appeared to bother him during the bronze-medal match heavily taped, scored all of his points in the first period, gaining a stepout off a whizzer, shrugging Gharibyan by for takedown and adding a pair of gut wrenches.
There was little action from the exhausted pair in the second period and Gharibyan all but gave up the fight with plenty of time still on the clock.
Khaslakhanau claimed the other Paris quota up for grabs, uncorking a mighty 4-point throw in the second period that knocked the fight out of Venckaitis, who conceded the fall at 97kg.
60kg (40 entries)
GOLD: Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) df. Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN), 11-6
BRONZE: Liguo CAO (CHN) df. Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM), 5-3
BRONZE: Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB) df. Mehdi MOHSEN NEJAD (IRI), 3-3
5th-Place Playoff: Mehdi MOHSEN NEJAD (IRI) df. Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM), 7-0
63kg (24 entries)
GOLD: Leri ABULADZE (GEO) vs. Murad MAMMADOV (AZE)
Semifinal: Leri ABULADZE (GEO) df. Stefan CLEMENT (FRA), 3-1
Semifinal: Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) df. Georgij TIBILOV (SRB), 4-1
67kg (41 entries)
GOLD: Luis ORTA (CUB) vs. Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE)
Semifinal: Luis ORTA (CUB) df. Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) by TF, 9-1, 3:19
Semifinal: Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) df. Slavik GALSTYAN (ARM), 4-3
72kg (24 entries)
GOLD: Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA) df. Robert FRITSCH (HUN), 3-0
BRONZE: Selcuk CAN (TUR) df. Stoyan KUBATOV (BUL), 1-1
BRONZE: Ali ARSALAN (SRB) df. Shingo HARADA (JPN) by TF, 9-0, :32
87kg (42 entries)
GOLD: Ali CENGIZ (TUR) vs. David LOSONCZI (HUN)
Semifinal: Ali CENGIZ (TUR) df. Nursultan TURSYNOV (KAZ) by Fall, 2:18 (5-3)
Semifinal: David LOSONCZI (HUN) df. Semen NOVIKOV (BUL) by TF, 10-0, 2:13
97kg (37 entries)
GOLD: Gabriel ROSILLO (CUB) df. Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM), 3-1
BRONZE: Artur OMAROV (CZE) df. Mindaugas VENCKAITIS (LTU), 3-1
BRONZE: Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) df. Abubakar KHASLAKHANAU (AIN), 4-1
5th-Place Playoff: Abubakar KHASLAKHANAU (AIN) df. Mindaugas VENCKAITIS (LTU) by