#WrestleOslo Day Two Preview: Freestyle 57kg, 65kg, 79kg and 92kg

By Vinay Siwach

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (September 17) -- The last time a senior World Championships took place, Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) and J'den COX (USA) were primed to be at the Tokyo Olympics and even win their second medal at the big event. The former is a London Olympic champion while Cox won a bronze at the Rio Games. But both saw their dreams shattered in April earlier this year after losing at the USA Olympic Team Trials.

Six months later, both Burroughs and Cox have shifted their focus to winning the world titles. They'll take the mat on the second day of the senior World Championships in Oslo, Norway, as four more freestyle weight classes will be in action on October 3.

Burroughs, who has been a permanent fixture at 74kg for close to a decade now, will be wrestling at 79kg for the first time in his career after he won the World Team Trials in the best-of-three series against Alex DIERINGER (USA) last month. Kyle DAKE (USA) has confirmed that he will be wrestling at 74kg in Oslo after he won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in August.

But at 79kg, Burroughs will face new challenges.

Most of the seasoned campaigners have decided to skip the Oslo event. The USA wrestler will have to deal with former U23 world champion Nika KENTCHADZE (GEO), U23 world runner-up Mohammad NOKHODILARIMI (IRI) and winner of Russian Wrestling Federation trials Radik VALIEV (RWF), who is a two-time U23 European champion.

Burroughs, 33 and with his fourth child on the way, has won four golds and three bronzes at the World Championships apart from winning the 2012 Olympic title all at 74kg. His two bronze medals at the 2018 and 2019 World Championships, followed by missing the Olympics, had raised doubts that the USA wrestler was in the twilight of his illustrious career. But Burroughs said that was not the case.

"I feel confident in my ability no matter what," Burroughs told the media after winning the trials. "What I was able to do this weekend was really not a surprise to me or anyone who watches me train. [It was] a solid performance. I know I was supposed to win and I feel good at this weight class as I am at a natural weight and not cut, wrestling is much more fun."

Some of the moves were vintage Burroughs as he blasted doubles at will throughout the two-day tournament, which was also a warning to his opponents that he is still a formidable opponent.

"The double has always been there. It's just harder to recreate when down a weight," he said. "I am a phenomenal wrestler, I am a great athlete. At this point, it's kind of a reassurance not only to me but to the world that I am still here, I am still a formidable opponent for anyone in the world."

But will the U23 stars will be a threat to Burroughs winning a fifth world title? It looks unlikely that anyone would be able to stop the USA wrestler from creating history.

J'Den COXJ'den COX (USA) will be eyeing his third world title at 92kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

In another non-Olympic weight class, Cox will try to defend his world title at 92kg. He had decided to move up to the 97kg category for the Tokyo Olympics but failed to participate in the trials after missing the weigh-in deadline. Kyle SNYDER (USA) won a silver medal in Tokyo and locked up the 97kg category. Cox will now be challenged in Oslo.

The 26-year-old Cox has never failed to medal at the World or Olympics he has entered and he will be eyeing a hat-trick of gold medals at 92kg. But two-time U23 world and senior Asian champion Kamran GHASEMPOUR (IRI) and Magomed KURBANOV (RWF) are likely to be the biggest threat to his quest.

Since missing the Olympics trials in April, Cox has participated in the Poland Open Ranking Series, where he suffered a surprise loss to Illia ARCHAIA (UKR) 2-1 in the semifinals. He did not wrestle the bronze medal owing to the injury.

But last month it seemed the old Cox was back as he handled Kollin MOORE (USA)  in the best of three finals.

It will be interesting to see how the experienced wrestler moves against the senior Russian Wrestling Federation Nationals and European champion at 92kg Kurbanov. While he doesn't have the experience of wins of Cox's level, Kurbanov can be a threat as he has been in some form since the beginning of this year.

Add to that, Ghasempour, who is yet to lose internationally since his loss at the 2013 Cadet World Championships final. He has since won the U23 Worlds twice at 86kg along with the Asian title at the same weight. Earlier this year in Almaty, he made his debut at 92kg, capturing the gold medal at the Asian Championships.

A number of wrestlers with success at age-group level are also entered for the Worlds but no one can claim to have the pedigree like Cox.

Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE) is a former junior world champion while Irakli MTSITURI (GEO) has a senior world medal but has not continued his success recently. Pruthviraj PATIL (IND) won a bronze medal at the recently concluded Junior World Championships in Ufa, Russia.

Suleyman Atli Thomas GilmanSuleyman ATLI (TUR) has a win over Thomas GILMAN (USA) at the World Championships. (Photo: UWW / Max Rose-Fyne)

Two Olympic weight classes will also be in action on Sunday as 57kg and 65kg wrestlers will be on the mats. But only one Tokyo Olympic medalist from the eight is wrestling in Oslo. Thomas GILMAN (USA) will look to win his first world title, two months after winning the bronze at 57kg in Tokyo.

Gilman, who won a silver medal at the 2017 Worlds, reminded wrestling fans of his abilities with a strong performance in Tokyo. In the first bout, he faced world champion Zaur UGUEV (RWF) and almost snatched a win but the Uguev, who became the champion in Tokyo, scored a takedown in the final 12 seconds to win. Gilman came back to win the bronze medal.

Fellow Olympian and world silver medalist Suleyman ATLI (TUR) will also be eyeing his first world title. Atli suffered a surprising loss to Reza ATRI (IRI) in the opening round in Tokyo. Atli was one of the favorites to reach the final at the Games. But now Gilman and Atli are likely to be the top contenders for gold in Oslo.

Another Tokyo Olympian and former world medalist, Bekhbayar ERDENEBAT (MGL), is also entered and will try to spoil the party. Oslo could well be the place where the Mongolian finally enters his first-ever World Championships final.

Former junior world champion Toshiya ABE (JPN) and Russian Wrestling Federation Nationals bronze medalist Abubakr MUTALIEV (RWF) are two others to keep an eye on. Both will be wrestling at their first senior World Championships and the Japanese will like to continue his country's good result at the lowest weight class while Mutaliev will be under pressure to keep the title in Russia as Uguev has done since 2018.

Vazgen TEVANYANVazgen TEVANYAN (ARM) will be one of the favorites to win the 65kg title. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 65kg, a host of young stars will be wrestling to be world champion and the category may see a surprise winner. Leading the pack is 2020 Individual World Cup winner Vazgen TEVANYAN (ARM) and senior European champion Zagir SHAKIEV (RWF). The former was at the Tokyo Olympics but failed to win a medal.

His hot run at the World Cup made the world take notice and he will be eyeing his first World Championships title in Oslo. But Shakiev will be the top contender as well. After running 2019 world champion Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RWF) close in the Russian Nationals, Shakiev won the Euros and has finally got a chance to come out of Rashidov's shadow.

At the trials on Tuesday, Shakiev gave no chance to former world bronze medalist Akhmed CHAKAEV (RWF) in the final bout. He won 10-3 after developing a lead early in the bout and Chakaev could only play catch up after that.

While he may be making his senior World Championships debut, Yianni DIAKOMIHALIS (USA) will be another exciting prospect to watch out for. Many have been waiting eagerly for the senior world debut of the two-time cadet world champion, which will finally happen in Oslo.

At the WTT, Diakomihalis defeated Joseph McKENNA (USA) 2-1 in the best-of-three finals to book the spot for Oslo. He will now be looking to make the category his own for the next three years.

USA failed to qualify any wrestler at 65kg, extending their struggles at this weight class. But with the emergence of Diakomihalis, a change of fortunes is expected by the USA wrestling fans. His quirky style and continuous wrestling makes him a threat for his opponents and the Cornell University student knows that.

"I had decided before that I had blown it a lot, and if I didn't mess it up all those times, I wouldn't be as good as I am now. It's about time I got it right," Diakomihalis said after winning the WTT.

Tokyo Olympian Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (MGL) will also be in fray to upset a few and win his first-ever World Championships medal. 

Another junior world champion from Japan Kaiki YAMAGUCHI (JPN) is entered at 65kg. He won the world title at 61kg in 2019 with Abe. Now the pair will look to return with medals from Oslo as well.

Amirmohammad YAZDANI (IRI) will be Iran's big hope to return with a medal from Oslo as they struggle to find a successful wrestler at this weight. Yazdani, however, will look to change that.


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."