#WrestleTokyo Olympic Games Preview: 130kg

By Andrew Hipps

TOKYO, Japan (July 22) – Mijain LOPEZ NUNEZ (CUB) will look to make history at the Tokyo Olympics. The Cuban wrestling legend, who enters unseeded, has a chance to become the first four-time Olympic champion in Greco-Roman and the second wrestler in any style to accomplish the feat. (At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Japan's Kaori ICHO became the first four-time Olympic champion wrestler in any style.) The 38-year-old Lopez is not only unbeaten at the Olympic Games since 2008, but he has won five world titles and three world silver medals. Two of his three losses in world championship competition have come to Riza KAYAALP (TUR), who enters the Tokyo Olympics as the top seed at 130kg.

The 31-year-old Kayaalp has compiled an international wrestling resume that puts him among the greatest Greco-Roman heavyweights ever. He is a four-time world champion and a three-time Olympic medalist. The only accomplishment that has eluded him is an Olympic gold medal. His only losses at the Olympic Games have come to Lopez. At the 2012 London Olympics, Lopez defeated Kayaalp in the semifinals. Four years later, the two met for the gold medal at the Rio Olympics, with Lopez earning a 6-0 victory. He has defeated Lopez in two world championship finals, 2011 and 2015. In April, Kayaalp won his 10th senior European Championships title in Warsaw, Poland.

World champion Sergey SEMENOV (RUS) will be after his second Olympic medal. He won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, with his only loss coming to Lopez in the semifinals. Two years later, Semenov won a gold medal at the 2018 World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary. In December, Semenov won gold at the Individual World Cup in Belgrade.

Second-seeded Abdellatif MOHAMED (EGY) won a silver medal at the Matteo Pellicone Tournament in March. He won gold at the African and Oceania Olympic Games Qualifier in early April.

Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB), seeded No.3, is competing in his third straight Olympics. He has won multiple medals at the Asian Championships and a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games.

Fourth-seeded Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI), a past junior world champion, won gold at the 2020 Asian Championships. In June, Mirzazadeh won gold at the Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Cup.

World bronze medalist Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO) is a medal contender in the weight category. He reached the finals of the European Championships this year before falling to Kayaalp. Kajaia was a gold medalist at the 2019 European Games.

Yasmani ACOSTA FERNANDEZ (CHI) won a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships. He was a gold medalist at the Grand Prix de France Henri Deglane in January.

Eduard POPP (GER) reached the semifinals of the 2016 Olympics in Rio before placing fifth.

Another past world medalist to watch is Minseok KIM (KOR). He was a bronze medalist at the 2018 World Championships.

Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU) and Elias KUOSMANEN (FIN) have won multiple medals at the European Championships. Alexuc Ciurariu, a 2020 European champion, will be competing in his third Olympics.

No. 1 Riza KAYAALP (TUR)
No. 2 Abdellatif Mohamed Ahmed MOHAMED (EGY)
No. 3 Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB)
No. 4 Amin Mohammadzaman MIRZAZADEH (IRI)
Eduard POPP (GER)
Minseok KIM (KOR)


Snyder Takes Olympic Loss to Sadulaev in Stride

By Ken Marantz

CHIBA, Japan (August 7)---The competitor in Kyle SNYDER (USA) hated the defeat. The wrestler in him loved the battle.

Snyder took his loss to rival Abdurashid SADULAEV (ROC) in the final of the freestyle 97kg class on Saturday night at the Tokyo Olympics in stride, already looking forward to the next chance for the two titans to clash.

"It is still exciting," Snyder said. "I love competition, I love wrestling, and I'm thankful to be able to compete." About facing Sadulaev again, he said, "I'd love it."

In the third meeting between the two since they both won gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics in different weight classes, Sadulaev beat the American for the second time with a 6-3 victory at Makuhari Messe Hall A to add a second Olympic gold to his four world titles.

Sadulaev, who had an activity point and a stepout in the first period, built up a 6-0 lead with a pair of tilts in countering Snyder's single-leg takedown attempts. On the first one, the wrestler known as The Russian Tank at one point lifted a prone Snyder completely off the mat, but not enough for a throw and instead settled for angling him over.

"There are definitely some positions that I have got to get better in," Snyder said. "That is what I'm thinking about. I have got to finish those attacks, so that is what I'm going to do. We had an idea of what it would be like."

Snyder, a two-time world champion, never gave up the fight, and came back to score a takedown and stepout in the final minute before Sadulaev ran out the clock.

"I'm a competitor so I hate to lose," Snyder said. "It's the spirit of Jesus that is strong in me. I'm not that strong as a guy, but Jesus is really strong and his spirit keeps me moving forward."

In the series dubbed "Snyderlaev" that drew worldwide attention, Snyder came out on top in their first clash in the final at the 2017 World Championships in Paris, Sadulaev's first after moving up to 97kg. Sadulaev had won the gold in Rio at 86kg, while Snyder had triumphed at 97kg.

Sadulaev gained his revenge at "Snyderlaev II" at the World Championships the next year in Budapest. He has not tasted defeat on the mat since that loss in Paris.

While it is uncertain what Sadulaev's plans are at the moment, Snyder would welcome a "Snyderlaev IV" at this year's World Championships in Oslo in October. Anyway, he intends to be there.

"Lord willing, I will be at the world championships," he said.

Like all American wrestlers, Snyder needs to constantly earn his spot on the national team to major tournaments. Having set the record as the youngest-ever US champion at both the worlds and Olympics, he knows there are always new faces coming along ready to knock him off.

"Guys are getting better and better," he said of prospects for U.S. wrestling. "Everybody is doing the right stuff. We have great coaches, support staff and training environments.

"I'm really happy for all my teammates who did a great job here, and all the coaches because they work so hard. I think we're going to dominate and keep getting better."

With Snyder's silver, the United States finished the Olympic wrestling tournament with nine medals overall, the most of any nation, including three golds.