#WrestleOslo: Vlasov Makes Up for Tokyo Snub with 1st World Title Since 2015
Friday, October 8, 2021 - 19:49 By Ken Marantz
OSLO, Norway (October 8) -- Denied a chance to go for a third Olympic gold earlier this year, Roman VLASOV (RWF) made sure he would not miss out on a third world title and first in six years.
Vlasov chalked up a meticulous and hard-fought 2-1 victory over 2020 European champion Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) to take the 77kg gold in one of four Greco-Roman finals on the seventh day of the World Championships in Oslo on Friday night.
"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."
Olympic bronze medalist Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) made a successful return to his natural weight of 82kg to take an elusive first world gold, while Armenia ended a four-year gold drought with a victory at 82kg and a Japanese took the lightest 55kg title.
Vlasov, a gold medalist at the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics, was left devastated when he was passed over for a place on the Russian Olympic Committee team at the Tokyo Olympics after losing in the semifinals of the Poland Open in June.
Roman VLASOV (RWF) won his third world title in Oslo. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
He had 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 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 2021 European bronze medalist and the 2019 world U23 silver medalist.
Vlasov, a four-time European champion who turned 31 on Wednesday, 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."
Rafiq HUSEYNOV (AZE) is now a three-time World medalist. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
Huseynov had dropped down to 77kg to take a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, but returned to 82kg and improved on his silver medal at the 2019 World Championships in Nursultan.
In an intense defensive struggle, Huseynov held on for 2-1 victory over 2017 world U23 champion Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) in which an unsuccessful challenge provided the margin of victory.
"Finally, I am world champion," said Huseynov, the 2020 European champion. "I [said] two months ago that I wanted to create history, become world champion and I did it. Now I can wrestle to enjoy, like a hobby."
Both wrestlers received passivity points, Akbudak in the first period and Huseynov in the second. But Akbudak made a tactical error in the par terre position when he had Huseynov in the air at the edge, but failed to throw him before the two tumbled out of bounds.
The Turkish side made a challenge of the call, but it stood and Huseynov was awarded a point that would prove costly to Akbudak.
It was third straight one-point victory of the tournament for Huseynov, who also had a 2-1 in the semifinals the previous day over Adlan AKIEV (RWF).
"My semifinal was much harder than this because the Russian guy is the European champion," Huseynov said. "I think that the final was not as hard for me as the semifinal. It was easy for me. I won and I am very happy."
The multilingual Huseynov, who was born in Tashkent, said he had considered making a farewell to the sport at the Oslo worlds, but was told by his father to give it more time before making a decision.
"Before this match, I spoke to my father yesterday and I told him that I want to finish and get out the wrestling shoes," said Huseynov, referring to the tradition of a wrestler leaving their shoes on the mat after their last match. "But he says, hey man you will rest for five or six months, but after that you may want to wrestle.
"I understand that he doesn't want me to finish and that's why he said that. I don't know. I want to be the coach of the Azerbaijan team, but if the federation wants me to wrestle until the Olympic Games, I will wrestle. I love wrestling. It's not my job but my lifestyle."
Ken MATSUI (JPN) won the 55kg world title in Oslo. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
At 55kg, Ken MATSUI (JPN) won the gold in his senior world debut with a masterful 7-1 victory over European champion Emin SEFERSHAEV (RWF) that left no one more surprised than the Japanese collegian himself.
"I never thought I could win the title, I'm the most surprised," Matsui said. Asked why, he replied, "I watched YouTube video of my opponent, and he was someone I looked up to, but I was still able to compete with him."
Given, however, Japan's recent history in the lightweights and the tradition of his university to produce them, his triumph might not be so shocking after all.
Matsui is a student at Nippon Sports Science University, which counts among its alumni Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) and Shinobu OTA (JPN), both 2019 world champions and both Olympic silver medalists.
"NSSU provides a great environment for training," Matsui said. "The people around me are great, my teammates and coaches, and I am taught well. That's why I believe I was able to win."
Fumita won his silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics (Ota's came in Rio), but like all of the Japanese Olympians, he did not enter the two domestic qualifying tournaments used for the Oslo worlds, the Meiji Cup and Emperor's Cup. That opened the door for younger wrestlers to gain valuable experience.
Ken MATSUI (JPN) defeated 2020 Individual World Cup winner Emin SEFERSHAEV (RWF). (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
The 20-year-old Matsui made the team by default after he won the Meiji Cup, and three-time national champion Hiromu KATAGIRI (JPN), the winner of the Emperor's, decided to retire after graduating from college and entering a company without a wrestling connection.
But Matsui was not a complete international novice, having won the 2017 world cadet title and finishing third at the 2019 world juniors.
"I know that the lightweight class is one that a Japanese can win," Matsui said of his thoughts before the final. "It's rare, but I thought I could become the one who won."
Matsui got a break when Sefershaev twice threw him from the par terre, but in both instances the points were waived off because his grip had slipped below the waist.
"In the ground position, [his throws] got called for legs, so that was lucky," Matsui said. "To keep him to no points on the ground was the key to the victory."
Down by a point in the second period, Matsui took advantage of the par terre and scored with a reverse lift for a 3-1 lead.
After Sefershaev had his second throw annulled, he tried a desperation over-the-top leap with a minute left, but Matsui reacted well and dumped him to the mat for another 2. A spin behind in the final seconds finished the scoring.
Asked if he felt pressure appearing in the final of his senior world debut, Matsui replied, "I thought just keep it simple and enjoy it, but it actually wasn't much fun. But it was good."
Following in Fumita's footsteps as a world champion only adds to the thrill. He has already surpassed the star in one aspect -- at 20 years 8 months, he becomes Japan's youngest-ever world Greco champion, exactly one year younger than Fumita was when he won the first of his two world titles in 2017.
"I've always thought he's so amazing, and to think I might be a little closer to him, I'm happy," Matsui said.
Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) claimed the 72kg after beating Sergei KUTUZOV (RWF). (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)
At 72kg, European U23 champion Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) scored all of his points in the first period in the par terre position and made that lead stand up in a 3-0 victory over Sergei KUTUZOV (RWF).
"Honestly speaking, I don’t feel anything yet," said Amoyan, a 2018 world junior champion. "I’ve done it for my family, for my coaches, for my friends, for all those people who support me."
The victory, a repeat of Amoyan's 4-1 win over Kutuzov in the semifinals at the Euro U23 in May, gave Armenia its first world title since the legendary Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) won the last of his four straight at 98kg in 2017.
"The Russian wrestler is really strong," Amoyan said. "I wrestled him at the European U23 championship, I know his wrestling style. I talked to the coaches before the final match, they told me to be ready to wrestle for six minutes for my dream. I have done so and won."
Amoyan, a self-professed fan of Vlasov, credited losses in the finals at this year's European Championships and last year's Individual World Cup as providing the motivation to get him over the top.
"I lost 2 tournaments, the finals of the European championships and World Cup. If I hadn’t lost those finals, I wouldn’t win today’s final."
Amoyan said he plans to move up to the Olympic weight of 77kg. "My dream is to become an Olympic champion," he said.
In the bronze-medal matches, 2019 world champion Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) shook off his first-round loss to Sefershaev by taking home his third world medal at 55kg with a 9-0 technical fall over Norayr HAKHOYAN (ARM).
Tsurtsumia led 3-0 off the par terre before scoring an arm drag takedown, which he followed with a 4-point lift and dump to end the match at 2:21 and relegate Hakhoyan to a second world fifth-place finish.
The 24-year-old Tsurtsumia, the 2018 world U23 champion, also took a bronze at the 2018 senior worlds, and is a two-time European bronze medalist.
Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE), left, won a bronze medal at 55kg. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)
In the other 55kg match, 2018 world champion Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) scored a roll off the par terre in the first period and added a spin-behind takedown in the second to defeat European silver medalist Ekrem OZTURK (TUR) 5-2.
Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU) gave Lithuania its fourth world Greco medal in history and first since 2014 with an amazing array of throws in a 10-1 technical fall of Mohammad MOKHTARI (IRI) at 72kg.
Sleiva, a 2020 European 67kg bronze medalist, opened with an arm throw for 2, then added a front headlock lift for 2 more. Then, with the Iranian pressing forward, he launched a 4-point lateral drop before finishing off the match in 1:40 with a takedown off a flurry.
The other 72kg match was a much more staid affair, with Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL) winning 1-1 on last-point criteria against Cengiz ARSLAN (TUR) after each scored a passivity point.
At 77kg, Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) took a page from the playbook that Shohei YABIKU (JPN) used to beat him for the bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, flipping Tamas LEVAI (HUN) over for the first of two 4-point moves in quick 9-0 technical fall.
Geraei picked up his third world bronze, adding to the ones he took home in 2017 and 2019, by overwhelming Levai, the 2019 European champion and two-time European U23 silver medalist.
The other 77kg bronze went to 2019 European silver medalist Roland SCHWARZ (GER), who battled back from an 0-5 deficit to defeat Tsimur BERDYIEU (BLR) 10-5.
Schwarz scored six points with a pair of throws from the par terre in the second period to deny Berdyieu, who also finished fifth at the 2015 worlds.
The strangest ending to a match came at 82kg, when Adlan AKIEV (RWF) finished off an 8-0 technical fall when 2019 world silver medalist Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) was assessed a 2-point penalty for improper arm positioning on the bottom of par terre.
Akiev, this year's European champion, scored half of his points on penalties, as Kessidis was flagged for using the legs as he tried to defend against a throw by Akiev.
In the other 82kg match, Pejman POSHTAM (IRI) gave Iran a second bronze of the night when the Asian 77kg champion scored an early arm drag takedown, then received a pair of passivity points to down 2016 world bronze medalist Laszlo SZABO (HUN) 4-0.
The four medalists at the 82kg weight class in Oslo. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
Day 7 Results
55kg (16 entries)
GOLD: Ken MATSUI (JPN) df. Emin SEFERSHAEV (RWF), 7-1
BRONZE: Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) df. Norayr HAKHOYAN (ARM), by TF 9-0, 2:21
BRONZE: Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) df. Ekrem OZTURK (TUR), 5-2
60kg (19 entries)
Semifinal: Victor CIOBANU (MDA) df. Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM), 9-7
Semifinal: Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) df. Mehrdad MAMMADOV (AZE), 4-2
72kg (27 entries)
GOLD: Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) df. Sergei KUTUZOV (RWF), 3-1
BRONZE: Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL) df. Cengiz ARSLAN (TUR), 1-1
BRONZE: Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU) df. Mohammad MOKHTARI (IRI) by TF, 10-1, 1:40
77kg (31 entries)
GOLD: Roman VLASOV (RWF) df. Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE), 2-1
BRONZE: Roland SCHWARZ (GER) df. Tsimur BERDYIEU (BLR), 10-5
BRONZE: Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) df. Tamas LEVAI (HUN) by TF, 9-0, 1:58
82kg (27 entries)
GOLD: Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) df. Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR), 2-1
BRONZE: Adlan AKIEV (RWF) df. Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) by TF, 8-0, 2:11
BRONZE: Pejman POSHTAM (IRI) df. Laszlo SZABO (HUN), 4-0
97kg (27 entries)
Semifinal: Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) df. Nikoloz KAKHESLASHVILI (GEO), 5-0
Semifinal: Alex SZOKE (HUN) df. Gangelo HANCOCK (USA), 4-4
130kg (22 entries)
Semifinal: Zurabi GEDEKHAURI (RWF) df. Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO), 2-1
Semifinal: Aliakbar YOUSOFIAHMADCHALI (IRI) df. Yasmani ACOSTA (CHI), 2-1