#WrestleOslo Day Six Preview: GR 55kg, 72kg, 77kg and 82kg

By Eric Olanowski

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (September 23) – After a grueling weight cut down to 77kg for the Tokyo Games, newly-minted Olympic bronze medalist Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) has his eyes set on etching his name in the Azeri record books -- and an 82kg world title would do just that.
In addition to 82kg, the other three weight classes in action on October 7 will be the Olympic weight of 77kg and the non-Olympic weights of 55kg and 72kg.

Huseynov enters Oslo fresh off winning Olympic bronze at 77kg, but after the taxing weight cut in Tokyo, he'll make the ascent back up to 82kg and try to improve on his runner-up finish from the '19 Nur-Sultan World Championships.

"After the '19 World Championships, I started to think about the Olympic Games; I wanted to wrestle at 87kg in Tokyo, but the Federation suggested that I wrestle at 77kg," said the five-language speaking Azeri.

In preparation to make an Olympic run, Huseynov used the early part of '20 to get his weight under control. In early '20, he steadily stepped on the scale weighing just over 78kg. Then, COVID turned the world upside down, and after the Olympics got postponed, Huseynov started to pack on the kilos.

Huseynov's Weight in '20
Rafiq HUSEYNOV (AZE) weight nearly 91kg in '20, but dropped to 77kg and won an Olympic bronze medal. (Photo: Rafiq Huseynov)

"In September '20, I weighed 90.80kg and thought I'd compete at 87kg. Again, our Federation suggested that I wrestle at 77kg." So, thinking back to March '20 when he weighed one kilo over the Olympic weight, Huseynov told himself, "If I can lose it once, I can do it again." He enlisted the help of professional dietitians, dropped the weight the right way, and set his sights on qualifying Azerbaijan for the Olympic Games at 77kg. 

His opening test came in Bulgaria in May '21, where he competed below 80kg for the first time '14.

During that competition, he was arguably the brightest Greco-Roman wrestler of the competition. He was offensive and assertive on his way to punching Azerbaijan's ticket to the Tokyo Olympic Games. He picked up shutout wins over Gurpreet SINGH (IND) and Abd Elkrim OUAKALI (ALG) before locking up his Tokyo spot with a three-point victory over world champion Viktor NEMES (SRB).

Then, Huseynov's success continued into the Olympic Games. The 33-year-old's life forever changed with three victories that ultimately led to an Olympic bronze medal.

"After the Olympics, my life changed a lot. Before Tokyo, two out of ten people knew me, now five or six out of ten people know me. In addition, Mr. President Ilham Aliyev presented me with a large sum of money and awarded me a state medal."

Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) and Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) battle in the first round of the Tokyo Olympic Games. They'll both compete at 82kg at the World Championships. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

If Huseynov wins a world title in Oslo, he'll etch his name in his nation's history books. The list of Azerbaijani wrestlers who've won both world and European titles is extremely short – three wrestlers to be exact -- but Huseynov knows that upgrading his Nur-Sultan '19 world silver would put in him a rarified heir.

"If I become a world champion, I will be the fourth person in the history of Azerbaijan to be both a world and European champion," said Huseynov. "I always say that the silver and bronze medals are for myself, but the gold medal remains in history. This time, I want to go down in history."

But Huseyov knew to get that long-awaited world title, he'd have to cut the Olympic celebration short. He took ten days off before he readjusted his goals to winning a world title. "I know that Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) and Adlan AKIEV (RWF) prepare well, so I started training ten days after arriving home from the Olympics. But now, I have additional motivation -- an Olympic medal."

One of the two guys that Huseynov mentioned as a top threat to block his history-making hopes was Sweden's Alex Kessidis.

Kessidis is on a quest to one-up his Nur-Sultan run, where he scored wins over Daniel CATARAGA (MDA), Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) and Karapet CHALYAN (ARM), and reached the '19 world finals.

"I'm still young and very motivated to achieve my goals which are to become European, world and Olympic champ,' said Kessidis. "I have wrestled and dreamt about becoming a world champion my whole life, and it would be great for Sweden since we have not won a world title since 2003."

Coincidentally, Kessidis and Huseyov have a history against each other, and you only have to go back to the opening round of the Tokyo Olympic Games for the meeting.

Kessidis dropped that match, 1-1, but has his sights on getting revenge at the World Championships.

"Rafiq is, of course, a threat since I lost last time, but this won't happen again. Hopefully, I'm better prepared this time, and now I have the experience with me from the previous world championship final."

Also of note at 82kg, two-time Olympian Bozo STARCEVIC is moving up from 77kg to 82kg, and Daniel CARTARAGA (MDA), a two-time U23 world champion, was expected to compete in Oslo but was late-scratched due to a back injury.

At 77kg, Tokyo Olympians Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) and Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL) headline the long list of 36-entries. The two-time world bronze medalists are the favorites to get over the hump and compete for world supremacy.

Mnatsakanian won back-to-back world bronze medals in '18 and '19, while Geraei, known worldwide as 'The Falcon,' claimed his world bronze medalist in '17 and '19. Geraei was unable to be reached, but Mnatsakanian said, "I was dissatisfied with the results at the Olympic Games, but my goal in Oslo is to become a world champion."

As the entries sit now, the Russian Wrestling Federation entered Abuiazid MANTSIGOV (RWF) at 77kg. But don't be surprised to see a last-minute adjustment. Mantsigov, a Nur-Sultan world champion, dropped his early-September gold-medal match at the Ljubomir Ivanovic Gedza International against two-time Olympic champion Roman VLASOV (RWF), so their entry is still up in the air.

National Federations have until three days prior to the start of the Greco-Roman portion of the competition to make updates to their entries.

At 55kg, Russian Wrestling Federation youngster Emin SEFERSHAEV (RWF) is the front runner to win world gold. Earlier this year, he reached the top of the 55kg podium at the European Championships in a bracket that featured world champions Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) and Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO), and Ekrem OZTURK (TUR). 

All four guys will compete at 55kg for the World Championships.

Sefershaev won four matches in Warsaw – including wins over Azizli and Ozturk – en route to claiming his first European gold medal. The 23-year-old's win over Azizli was his second victory over the '18 world champion in a four-month span. He also thumped Azizli, 9-1, in the quarterfinals of December's Individual World Cup on his way to winning gold.

Turkey's '18 world bronze medalist Ozturk ended his European campaign with a silver medal, while Azizli won the battle against fellow world champ Tsurtsumia on his way to finishing in third place.

Shmagi BOLKVADZE (GEO) defeated Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM), 4-1, in the gold-medal match at the '21 European Championships. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

The last weight class that'll be contested on Day Six will be 72kg.

Continental finals foes Shmagi BOLKVADZE (GEO) and Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) top the entries, but two others to pay attention to are '14 world champion Chingiz LABAZANOV (RWF)  and Kyrgyzstan's six-time Asian medalist Ruslan TSAREV (KGZ).

The Day Six action in Oslo kicks off on October 7 at 10:30 (local time) and will be streamed live on www.uww.org. 


#WrestleOslo Top Historical Moments: Sadulaev, Geraei Double Up; Moldova Claims Firsts

By Vinay Siwach

OSLO, Norway (October 19) -- After the World Championships in Oslo, an uncharacteristic number of wrestlers etched their names in wrestling's history books. 

For the first time in wrestling's tradition-rich history, the World Championships and Olympics took place in the same year, which led few with the opportunity to become a champion at both events. Then, a few first-timers reached the pinnacle in Oslo. 

Here are the top moments from the annual event.

FS 97kg - Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF)


Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF) is chasing history and greatness. He became a two-time Olympic champion in Tokyo after winning the 97kg gold medal, adding to his 86kg gold from Rio.

In 2021, once the IOC announced the postponement of the Tokyo Games, it provided a unique opportunity for Sadulaev to win an Olympic and World Championships medal in the same year. A gold in both tournaments may well give the wrestlers extra motivation to wrestle at the highest level twice in two months.

Sadulaev did precisely that. After capturing the gold in Tokyo, he wrestled his arch-rival Kyle SNYDER (USA) in the 97kg final in Oslo, Norway and came home with a gold medal, making him the only freestyle wrestler to achieve the rare feat.

The Russian Wrestling Federation wrestler has seven World or Olympic gold medals. He's tied for fourth on the all-time list, which Alexander MEDVED leads with ten combined gold medals from Worlds or Olympics. Three former wrestlers have eight gold medals, while Buvaisar SAITIEV (RWF) sits number two with nine titles.

In a rematch of the Olympics final, Sadulaev won 6-3. He handed Snyder a 6-0 loss in Oslo and improved the head-to-head record to 3-1. His lone defeated came in 2017 at the Paris World Championships.

GR 67kg - Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI)


Like Sadulaev, Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) also wrote his name in history books after becoming an Olympic and world champion in the same year.

He won the top medal at the 67kg Greco-Roman weight class in Oslo, two months after Tokyo.

Geraei, the younger brother of world medalist at 77kg Mohammadali, was the only Olympic champion entered in the Greco-Roman. He proved why he's Iran's next superstar.

The U23 world champion burst into the scene when he won the senior Asian title in 2019 and followed that with the U23 world title. Earlier this year, he claimed the gold at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers and later the Olympics.

In Oslo, Geraei kept his fans on the edge of their seats. On multiple occasions, his bouts ended in a close affair. In the first bout against Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA (JPN), he trailed 6-1 in the second period before the Japan wrestler went for a big throw but got caught in the move and Geraei secured a pin. In the semifinal, Geraei defeated Ramaz ZOIDZE (GEO), 7-6, after the Georgian was cautioned twice for fleeing, giving up four points. He defeated Nazir ABDULLAEV (RWF) 5-2 in the final.

WW 65kg - Irina RINGACI (MDA)


For the 18 years Moldova participated in women's wrestling at the World Championships, they never won a medal. However, in Oslo, they had two. 

Irina RINGACI (MDA) won the country's first-ever world title in women's wrestling, while Iulia LEORDA (MDA) ended with a silver medal. Ringaci outperformed her 65kg rivals and claimed her second world title in less than two months.

Ringaci, who came to Oslo after winning the junior world title in August, defeated Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) 8-6 in the final. Earlier in the semifinal, she had a close call when she secured a fall over Tokyo Olympian Mimi HRITSOVA (BUL). Trailing 8-0, she completed a big throw for four and then kept the Bulgarian on her back to win.

Since winning the silver at the 2020 Individual World Cup in 2020, Rigaci has been on a stellar run which includes winning the senior and U23 European titles.

But the 20-year-old pioneer of Moldovan women's wrestling has already racked up wins at the senior level and will not be a pushover in the coming years.

GR 60kg - Victor CIOBANU (MDA)


It was a historical final and Victor CIOBANU (MDA) came out on top. The Moldovan wrestler won the gold medal at the 60kg weight class in Oslo, Norway, thus denying Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) and Kyrgzstan its first-ever Greco-Roman senior world title.

Ciobanu came close to winning the title in 2018 but reversed his luck this year and with his high-scoring throws, won 9-3 in the final. Sharshenbekov now has two silver medals from the World Championships as his country waits for the gold.

Earlier this year, the Moldova wrestler ended a 25-year-wait for his country to send a wrestler to the Olympics, and he came agonizingly close to winning a medal as well.

He wrestled Sharshenbekov in Tokyo as well and blanked him 9-0 in the quarterfinals.

Apart from the final, Ciobanu had a great run throughout the tournament. He began with a win over Zhora ABOVIAN (UKR), then defeated 2018 world champion Stepan MARYANYAN (RWF) and later won against Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM) in the semifinal. Barring the first match, his bouts were close-affairs as he beat Maryanyan, 7-6, and Gharibyan, 9-6.

With Ciobanu's win, Moldova now has atleast one senior world champion in each of the three wrestling styles.

FS 70kg - Mogomedmurad GADHIEV (POL)


The Russian Wrestling Federation dominated the freestyle competition, along with the USA and Iran. But among the three wrestling powerhouses, Poland had its first world champion in freestyle as Magomedmurad GADHIEV (POL) claimed the gold medal at the 70kg weight class.

Ever since his first senior World Championships in 2015, Gadzhiev had won two medals, including a silver in 2017 and a bronze medal at the 2019 edition.

But in a bid to qualify for the Olympics, the European champion dropped down to 65kg but failed to medal there. However, he came back to 70kg and claimed the gold medal in Oslo after beating Ernazar AKHMATALIEV (KGZ) in the final.

In the quarterfinal, he had to go past 2017 world champion Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO), 4-1, and the U23 world champion Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE), 4-2, in the semifinal.

In 2020, he claimed the gold medal at the Individual World Cup in Belgrade, Serbia at 70kg. The veteran was a former Russian Wrestling Federation wrestler till 2012 and also won a junior world title in 2008.

Before Gadzhiev, Pawel KURCZEWSKI (POL) in 1971, Wladyslaw STECYK (POL) in 1977, Marian SKUBAZ (POL) in 1981, Adam SANDURSKI (POL) in 1982 and 1983, and Marek GARMULEWICZ (POL) in 1998 had reached the final but fell short to claim the coveted gold.

WW 76kg - Samar HAMZA (EGY)


Samar HAMZA (EGY) could have retired after the Olympics (she did for a brief time), and yet she would have been the most successful women's wrestler from her country. But she decided to wrestle one more time at the Senior World Championships in Oslo.

The only female wrestler to compete at the Olympics for her country, Hamza improved her resume after she became Egypt's first-ever world medalist. She won a bronze medal in the 76kg weight-class

Hamza can be proud of herself as she reached the semifinal in Oslo and only lost to world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) in the tournament. Then, in the bronze-medal bout, she defeated Kiran GODARA (IND) to claim the historic medal.

FS 79kg - Jordan BURROUGHS (USA)


A familiar name was back on the top of the podium. Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) won his last world title in 2017 and after a gap of four years, he returned to the gold-medal position in Oslo, Norway, by winning the 79kg weight class.

With that, Burroughs became the first male wrestler from America to win the gold medal five times at the Worlds, surpassing John SMITH (USA) who has four of them. Combining World and Olympic titles, the two are tied with six each as Burroughs won the gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012.

In Oslo, Burroughs was wrestling at a new weight class for the first time internationally after giving up his position at 74kg to Kyle DAKE (USA). Burroughs failed to win the Olympic Team Trials as Dake claimed the best of three series. Dake later won a bronze medal at the Olympics to confirm his direct participation in Oslo.

But Burroughs was unchallenged in Oslo. He stormed to his fifth world title outscoring his opponents 30-6, including wins over Radik VALIEV (RWF) and junior world champion Mohammad NOKHODILARIMI (IRI).

The win gives him a shot at becoming the most successful male American wrestler if he can win another gold medal until the end of his career, which is likely to continue until the Paris Olympics in 2024.

Burroughs now has an Olympics gold, five gold and three bronze from the World Championships.

WW 57kg - Anshu MALIK (IND)


As a 20-year-old, Anshu MALIK (IND) did what no other Indian female wrestler ever could. The former cadet world champion reached the final of the Senior World Championships in Oslo and became the first wrestler to achieve the feat in women's wrestling. She won a silver medal in 57kg after losing to Helen MAROULIS (USA) in the final.

The Asian champion wrestled in Tokyo as well but lost in her first bout. After getting a chance in the repechage, she failed to get past Valeria KOBLOVA (RWF) and had to exit her first Olympics without a medal.

But in Oslo, she reached the final after beating junior world champion Nilufar RAIMOVA (KAZ) in the first bout, Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL), 5-1, in the quarterfinal, U23 European champion Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR) in the semifinal, but she suffered a fall in the final.

Before her, India had five bronze medalists at the World Championships dating back to 2006 when Alka TOMAR (IND) won a bronze. Geeta PHOGAT (IND) and Babita PHOGAT (IND) won in 2012, Pooja DHANDA (IND) won one in 2018 while Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) won the medal in 2019. In Oslo, Sarita MOR (IND) also won a bronze, making it the first time that Indian women's wrestlers had two medals at the same Championships.

WW 76kg - Epp MAEE (EST)


Epp MAEE (EST) has been the pioneer of women's wrestling for Estonia. She is the only wrestler to compete at the senior level be it the World Championships or Olympics. In 2015, she became the first female wrestler from the country to win a medal at the World Championships. She repeated the feat in 2019.

Two years later in Oslo, she became the first wrestler from Estonia to reach a World Championships final in women's wrestling. At 76kg, she made a spectacular run and reached another milestone for her country. However, she fell to six-time world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) in the final.

Back in 2014, Maee wrestled in her first-ever medal bout but ended up losing that in Tashkent. After winning the medal in 2015 which also gave her the qualification for Rio Olympics, she finished fifth in 2017 and 2018. But she was once again back on the podium in Nursultan.

At the 2021 Worlds, Maee won her first two bout via technical superiority and survived a scare against Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) in the semifinal, winning 3-3 on criteria. Trailing 1-3 with 20 seconds remaining, Maee hit a single-leg and continued the pressure to claim an exposure with five seconds remaining to enter the final.

GR 130kg - Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI)


Iran brought the best to Oslo and did not disappoint. After their freestyle team put on a show, the Greco-Roman team also mesmerized the fans with four gold medals. Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI) won the 130kg gold medal and became Iran's first-ever Greco-Roman heavyweight world champion.

Yousofi earned his shot in Iran's lineup after a lucky break. It was only after the original entry, Tokyo bronze medalist Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) tested positive for COVID-19 infection that Yousofi earned his berth to Oslo. 

And he returned home with the gold medal, defeating Zurabi GEDEKHAURI (RWF) in the final.

He began with a win over David OVASAPYAN (ARM) and later handed local boy Oskar MARVIK (NOR) in the quarterfinal. In the semifinal, he faced the tough task of beating Tokyo Olympic fifth-place finisher Yasmani ACOSTA FERNANDEZ (CHI). But a perfectly planned bout helped him go past the Chilean wrestler, 2-1. The final was also a story of passivity and stepout points as he won 6-1.