Hayden Zillmer was a massive cinderella story at Final X. After coming up short year after year moving all the way up from 86kg to 125kg in the length of his senior level career Zillmer would get it done this year at Final X knocking off 4x world team member Nick Gwiazdowski.
Zillmer made his first showing after snagging the 125kg spot at the Zouhaier Sghaier ranking series in Tunisia. He looked good but where he stands is kind of up in the air after this performance. He got wins over Mohit of India and Yergali of Kazakhstan in the tournament but ended up taking a pair of losses to 3x world champion Geno Petriashvili.
The first match was an 8-2 victory for Petriashvili which was more one sided but the finals match was a bit more higher paced on both ends. Zillmer would score a takedown off of his own shot and one off of Petriashvili’s shot. Geno would take over after this scoring a couple takedowns and guts to win the ranking series.
Rankings for worlds are somewhat up in the air but for the time being it is looking like Amir Zare from Iran will secure the top seed being the defending world champion and having not lost a match since then.
Taha Akgul of Turkey will most likely get the second seed with back to back bronze medal performances at the olympic games and the world championships because of his recent victory over Petriashvili which in turn will put Geno in at the third seed.
Those three guys have been the only ones who have been consistent, mainly Akgul and Zare who will be the real test for Zare heading into the tournament to see if last year was just a fluke or not.
Some other bracket breakers that could affect Zillmer’s tournament will most likely be Munkhtur of Mongolia who made the bronze medal at the olympic games but fell to Taha Akgul. He did take bronze at the world championships and most recently silver at the Yasar Dogu. This is a guy who got bronze I feel because Gwiazdowski pulled Akgul in the bronze medal match so it definitely looks winnable for Zillmer.
Amar Dhesi former 3x All American for Oregon State competing for Canada is another guy that has been looking phenomenal as of recently coming off a gold medal finish at the commonwealth games and even knocking off Nick Gwiazdowski at the Pan American championships a few months back.
Robert Baran of Poland is another man that should not be looked past. He has beaten Gwiazdowksi before and put up decent matches against Petriashvili even facing him in the finals of one of the ranking series this year.
Kazakhstan has three guys ranked in the top 15 at 125kg with Yusup Batirmurzaev, Oleg Boltin, and Alisher Yergali. I see Batirmurzaev getting the spot here and he has a lot of big moves in his arsenal which he can pull out whenever he needs them. Should be a fun guy to watch at the world championships.
If I had to say based on his prior performances at 125kg this year Zillmer is sitting around the 4-6 range in the world. He has jumped levels visibly from the 2021 world team trials till now so we will be able to see if he has improved since then, and more importantly if he has improved enough to get himself on the podium in Belgrade.