#WrestleOslo Day Eight Preview: GR 63kg, 67kg and 87kg

By Vinay Siwach

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (September 25) -- A day when two Olympic weight classes will be in action, a total of eight wrestlers who competed in Tokyo will take the mat in Oslo, Norway. Olympic champion Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) will be leading the field at 67kg with former world champion Hansu RYU (KOR). At 87kg, five Tokyo Olympians will be in action as bronze medalist Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) will be taking on Islam ABBASOV (AZE), Kiryl MASKEVICH (BLR), Lasha GOBADZE (GEO) and Nursultan TURSYNOV (KAZ).

The third will be 63kg, a non-Olympic weight, but a number of age-group world medalists are entered including U23 World champion Meysam DALKHANI (IRI). The host country Norway is going ahead with veteran Stig BERGE (NOR) who won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.

But the fireworks are sure to go off at 87kg as big-throwing and dark horse Maskevich tries to put the disappointment of Tokyo behind him. He was in serious form going into the Olympics but suffered a tame loss to Mohamed METWALLY (EGY) in the opening round. Maskevich won the gold at the Individual World Cup in 2020 and a silver at the 2021 European Championships after suffering a loss to Datunashvili in the final.

If Datunashvili can build on his success from Tokyo, it will hardly be a surprise that he reaches the final in Oslo. After winning the European Championships, he qualified for the Tokyo Games from Last Chance Qualifier in Bulgaria before winning the bronze in Tokyo. He lost to eventual champion Zhan BELENIUK (UKR) but rallied back to beat Bachir SID AZARA (ALG) and Ivan HUKLEK (CRO) in the repechage and bronze medal bout respectively.

Abbasov and Gobadze will also be big threats to the gold medal as the former is a European Championships and Games silver medalist and Gobadze will like to win the gold in the Olympic weight class after winning the 82kg at the 2019 World Championships. Both were in Tokyo but lost in the opening rounds. Unlike Datunashvili, they did not get a chance in repechage and had to return empty-handed from Japan.

Belenuik decided to take a break after winning the gold in Tokyo but Ukraine can still hope for a golden run in Oslo as the talented Semen NAVIKOV (UKR) looks to finally step up and take over the weight class. He won the U23 World Championships twice and even captured the gold at the senior European Championships in 2020.

Malid ALIRZAEV (ROC), another U23 world champion, will also try to fill the big shoes of Davit CHAKVETADZE (ROC) as he was selected for the Oslo tournament.

ROC named a young squad for the Oslo World Championships as Nazir ABDULLAEV (ROC) was included for the 67kg weight class. The Individual World Cup winner will be a big threat to Geraei's quest to become an Olympic and World champion in the same year.

Mohammadreza GERAEIMohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) won the gold in Tokyo. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)

Geraei's run in Tokyo was a big savior for Iran's otherwise disappointing performance. He defeated three-time world champion Frank STABLER (GER) in the quarterfinal and then Ramaz ZOIDZE (GEO) in the semifinal. In the final, Parviz NASIBOV (UKR) in the final. The U23 world champion is likely to face, who finished fifth in Tokyo, again in Oslo. Zoidze won a U23 world silver medal but has been one of the top performers at the continental level in Europe. He now has a chance to take things to the next level by winning a senior Worlds medal.

But a wrestler who will try to regain his lost form is two-time world champion Ryu. The two-time Asian Games winner was once again denied an Olympic medal after he lost in the opening round to young star and Tokyo bronze medalist Mohamed EL-SAYED (EGY).

An under-the-radar wrestler in Oslo could be Zaur KABALOEV (ITA). The former Russian Wrestling Federation national champion has made the switch to Italy after 2019 and will now be representing the European nation in Oslo. Along with Asian champion Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA (JPN) and Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ), a multiple-time world bronze medalist, Kabaloev can stun the field at 67kg.

Sultan ASSETULYSultan ASSETULY (KAZ) and Meysam DALKHANI (IRI) wrestled in the final of 2021 Asian Championships. (Photo: UWW / Sachiko HOTAKA)

Senior Asian champion Sultan ASSETULY (KAZ) and U23 world champion Dalkhani will be the top names at 63kg in Oslo. The two wrestled in the final of the Asian Championships in 2021 with the Kazakhstan wrestler winning the gold. Assetuly will now have a chance to win his first senior World Championships medal.

The same goes for Dalkhani who has shown great results at the age-group level but will be tested at this level for the first time.

Testing them will be local hope and veteran Berge who will look to excite the local fans who are allowed to attend the competition. Berge's performances have fallen a little in the last couple of years but his silver medals at European Championships and Matteo Pellicone in 2020 served as a reminder that he can still pull off big performances.

Apart from Berge, U23 European champion Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM) will also be in the mix in Oslo. The 22-year-old Armenian will be wrestling at his first senior Worlds and only the third international tournament at this level. He finished fifth at the senior European Championships last year.

Ibragim LABAZANOV (ROC), a silver medalist from the European Championships, will also be looking to win the gold medal for his country. The 2016 Rio Olympian has the experience of performing at the big stage and this could well be his chance to claim his spot back in the Russian Wrestling Federation team.

Former cadet world champion Leri ABULADZE (GEO) can also upset a few in Oslo as he transforms into a senior wrestler. His bronze medal at the senior Euros in 2020 can be seen as the first step and he will be keen on winning another medal on the final day of the World Championships as the finals for all three weight classes will be held on October 10, Tuesday.


What's the driving force behind Vlasov's attempt to win a third Olympic title?

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (December 9) -- Roman VLASOV (RWF) was denied a chance to go for a third Olympic gold earlier this year, but made sure he would not miss out on his shot at winning a third world title.

Vlasov chalked up a meticulous and hard-fought 2-1 victory over ‘20 European champion Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) to take the 77kg at October’s World Championships in Oslo.

"I was super tired, I couldn't even celebrate as I usually do," Vlasov said. "I left all my power and energy on the mat."

Prior to the Tokyo snub, Vlasov considered ending his career. But the desire to achieve his dream of matching the legendary Alexander KARELIN (RWF) with three Olympic golds inspired him to reset his sights for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Like his hero and son’s god father, Karelin, Vlasov is a native of Novosibirsk in southwestern Siberia and was mentored by the great coach Viktor KUZNETSOV.

Oslo would be the first stop on the long road to Paris, as it would provide confirmation that he could live up to his own expectations. A world champion in 2011 and 2015, he finished out of the medals in 2017 and 2019.

"The last time I won the World Championships was in 2015, before in 2011. It’s been a long time," Vlasov said. "I missed these emotions. To be the best in the world is the thing I’ve been dreaming about. It’s the thing I think about when I wake up in the morning before going to training."

After barreling through the rounds, winning each of his four matches by at least seven points, Vlasov found a formidable foe in Suleymanov, this year's European bronze medalist and the ‘19 U23 world silver medalist.

Vlasov, a four-time European champion who turned 31 in Oslo, had the first chance in par terre, but could only get a 1-point stepout after walking the airborne Suleymanov over the edge.

But Suleymanov had no answer when the roles were reversed in the second period, and Vlasov clinched the win when he deftly evaded a stepout attempt in the final 20 seconds.

"The final match did not go as planned," Vlasov said. "I had to wrestle super hard to keep that one point scored. Patience brought the gold."

Patience and appreciation of each victory along the way are what will look to get him to the Paris Games, a lesson he learned from the Tokyo debacle.

"The last Olympic cycle I made the mistake of counting down the days to the Olympics," Vlasov said. "This time I just enjoy every title. Today I am the happiest man on Earth, tomorrow we’ll be the new day, the new qualification for the new world championships. "The Olympics are the dream of every athlete. I’ve been there twice, and I want to become a three-time Olympic champion. But it’s better not to go ahead of time."