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Team USA Mens Freestyle Worlds Preview

Photo: Tony Rotundo

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With worlds rapidly approaching and there not being any announcement about Russia or Belarus being allowed to wrestle at the world championships we will just leave them out for now.

Men’s Freestyle Team-

57kg- Thomas Gilman

61kg- Seth Gross

65kg- Yianni Diakomihalis

70kg- Zain Retherford

74kg- Kyle Dake

79kg- Jordan Burroughs

86kg- David Taylor

92kg- J’den Cox

97kg- Kyle Snyder

125kg- Hayden Zillmer

Just quickly looking at that list a couple new names make their first world team with Seth Gross stunning world silver medalist Daton Fix at Final X. Hayden Zillmer finally gets his shot at the world championships knocking off 2x world medalist Nick Gwiazdowski at Final X.

57kg- Thomas Gilman

Gilman is the reigning world champion and will be looking to defend his title. With Zavur Uguev gone that looks like his only threats are Alireza Sarlak, Ravi Kumar, and Toshihiro Hasegawa.

Sarlak was the silver medalist to Gilman last year at the world championships, Kumar is the Olympic silver medalist falling to Uguev, and Hasegawa was a medalist last year at 61kg and will be dropping down.

Gilman has the ability to beat all these guys if we are looking straight across the field. He does tend to be a bit shaky with his consistency but winning this weight class again is not out of the question. The real matchup the world wants to see is Uguev vs Gilman but we will not get that, just yet.

61kg- Seth Gross

Gross is the biggest who knows in the bracket right now. With reigning champion Abasgadzhi Magomedov out due to the ban we are looking at honestly an open field if Gross can wrestle good. However Gross has had some sketchy matches which could very well get him caught.

If he can be consistent and wrestle good, smart matches he should be able to get a medal here. However there is always the chance that he wrestles out of his mind and grabs gold or he bombs early and doesn’t medal.

65kg- Yianni Diakomihalis

Yianni might have his time here to grab a medal. 65kg is consistently the deepest weight class and one small error may be the difference between grabbing gold and not getting a medal at all. We saw that with Musukaev who did not medal at the Tokyo Olymics but is now the number one guy in the world.

Olympic bronze medalist Gadzhimurad Rashidov is out due to the ban, Olympic Champion Takuto Otoguro is out due to an injury, and Ilyas Bekbulatov has been suspended due to failed tests.

This leaves Vazgen Tevanyan of Armenia who is the youngest true competitor in the field actually upending Diakomihalis last year. Haji Aliyev the 3x world champion can not be counted out even with his rough showing at Euros getting teched in the finals. If Ismael Musukaev wrestles the way he has been recently he will not be stopped. Amirmohhamad Yazdani should not be overlooked either.

Not sure if everyone knows this but Khinchegashvili of Georgia announced his retirement last year. I will leave this year just incase.

Yianni can get a medal here, but that is only if he wrestles a perfect tournament. He lost to Sujeet of India 8-2 who will most likely take over the 65kg spot soon. The odds are not in his favor to medal and the top 4 currently are looking like Musukaev, Aliyev, Tevanyan, and Amir Mohammad Yazdani. Yianni definitely has the potential to knock someone off so I would stay optimistic here.

70kg- Zain Retherford

After the news of James Green retiring Zain Retherford was able to claim his world team spot defeating Jordan Oliver in a best of 3. Retherford will most likely stay here till 2024 when he is forced to go back down to 65.

Retherford has won the world cup back in 2019 and competed at two world championships but has not been a medalist at them just yet. This seems like it might be his year with the lack off people at the weight.

When you dive in depth of his losses on the international scene they are not as bad as you would think looking at his placings. He has had close matches with Bajrang Punia, Gadzhimurad Rashidov, and Adam Batirov (yes brother of Mavlet). Those are 3 big names and all those matches were within two points.

I see Zain grabbing a medal if he can show up on point. His improvement these past couple of years went under the radar and it looks like now is his time to get it done.

74kg- Kyle Dake

There is not much to talk about here with the top 2 guys at the weight class gone. Zaurbek Sidakov will not be able to grab a 4th gold medal and Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov will not be able to compete either due to the ban.

The tournament looks like it will be between Kyle Dake and Frank Chamizo. Dake is 2-0 against him but counting out Chamizo is not a smart thing to do. He holds multiple wins over Jordan Burroughs, close matches with Sidakov and more.

Dake looks like he will repeat as world champ here and win his 4th gold medal but we know where his sights are and that is on Paris.

79kg- Jordan Burroughs

Burroughs dominated his way through the 79kg bracket last year in his first year at the weight class and looks to do it again. It is no secret that he is getting older and that he will not be competing for much longer.

He has had some close matches internationally where he might have been given a call to go in his favor but nonetheless it is Jordan Burroughs and his gas tank got him through a lot.

If Burroughs wins this year he will have gotten the most gold medals out of any American wrestler even passing John Smith (6). I think Burroughs takes gold here but even if he does not he is a lock to medal.

86kg- David Taylor

Taylor will be the two seed and something I want to touch on which may have went under the radar is the bracket. For the years past it has been Taylor, Yazdani, Naifonov, the everyone else.

Now things have changed with Taylor going down in the finals to Yazdani last year. With Naifonov out that gets Taylor out of “the hard” semifinal which Yazdani had to go through the past two times.

The semifinal opponent will most Likely be Deepak Punia of India or Myles Amine of San Marino which either way Taylor is favored to win.

Either way Taylor and Yazdani are the two best wrestlers at the weight class and it is not very close. Yazdani comes in as the favorite here taking out Taylor last year 6-2 but Taylor won the Olympic finals 4-3 with a late comeback.

Yazdani seems to have built into the weight class a lot better and it looks like Taylor’s pace and ability to fatigue Yazdani was not there as much in the last two meetings. If Taylor wants to get this one back he will need to get to legs early, with him getting up in age also it becomes a question of is he on his way out also.

I think this match could go either way and honestly nothing would shock me here but Yazdani is the favorite to win this and claim his 5th gold medal.

92kg- J’den Cox

Cox has looked rough ever since covid. He is still world class and will medal there is no doubt about that. Ghasempour however is just as good and has not lost internationally since 2013 with his only losses being to Hassan Yazdani.

Cox fell to Ghasempour in the semifinals last year which I think was a bad call and Cox should have won that match. Even then Ghasempour looks a lot better than he did last season while Cox looked rough at Final X dropping a match to Nate Jackson and not looking overly impressive in the two that he won.

Cox could win this but I have him taking silver here unless he can make some changes.

97kg- Kyle Snyder

Snyder will be looking for his 4th gold medal and first since all the way back in 2018. He is the overwhelming favorite to win here with Abdulrashid Sadulaev out of the picture .

Snyder vs Mohammadian to me looks like it will be the final. Mohammadian actually pinned Snyder when they last wrestled in 2020 and it should be another good match this go around.

I would say that Snyder should be able to take the match this time with how he has been performing and how Mohammadian has been in somewhat of a slump not looking as dominant and even falling in the first round of the Olympics.

A couple other guys that could very well be seeing Snyder in the finals (if on the other side of the bracket) are 2012 Olympic Champion Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan and Elizbar Odikadze of Georgia.

Sharifov took out Snyder in the 2019 world semis and went on to lose to Sadulaev in the finals 4-0 while Odikadze was the one to knock off Mohammadian in the Olympics falling to Sadulaev yet again.

Snyder should take gold here with Sharifov being up there in age if he even wrestles at this tournament.

125kg Hayden Zillmer

Zillmer has been very impressive to me so far. He did fall to Geno Petriashvili twice but he put up a good fight and some takedowns. If anything his size will be his downfall here but his gas tank looks very good.

I don’t see him beating the top three with Amir Zare, Geno Petriashvili, or Taha Akgul but I could very well eat my words there.

There are a couple other solid competitors at this weight such as Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur of Mongolia and Yusup Batirmurzaev of Kazakhstan who have impressed me with their performances as a whole.

Zillmer can 100% medal at this weight class and he has never really lacked consistency in his showing so I expect him to look solid in all his matches. He will need to if he wants to grab a medal and possibly pull a massive upset.

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