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2022 Wrestling World Championships Freestyle Preview

Photo: Tony Rotundo

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With the world championships starting soon on September 10th United World Wrestling had finally released the seeding allocations for the tournament. They have seeded the top 8 wrestlers in each weight class and the seeding is done by points which wrestlers accumulate by going to tournaments and winning matches.

The big thing to note with these is that there are some guys that have not competed since the Tokyo olympic games and will be seeded lower than expected. Also Russia and Belarus are out for the world championships it seems at this point so their three olympic champs will not have a chance to compete here which is what it is at this point.

Zavur Uguev (57kg), Zaurbek Sidakov (74kg), and Abdulrashid Sadulaev (97kg) would all have been favorites to win their respective weight class but now all three of the weights have the American competitor that they would have faced as the top seed.

All top seeds-

57kg- Thomas Gilman (USA)

61kg- Arsen Harutyunyan (ARM)

65kg- Haji Aliyev (AZE)

70kg- Ernazar Akmataliev (KGZ)

74kg- Kyle Dake (USA)

79kg- Jordan Burroughs (USA)

86kg- Hassan Yazdani (IRA)

92kg- Kamran Ghasempour (IRA)

97kg- Kyle Snyder (USA)

125kg- Geno Petriashvili (GEO)

Team USA seeds-

57kg- Thomas Gilman (1)

61kg- Seth Gross (x)

65kg- Yianni Diakomihalis (x)

70kg- Zain Retherford (6)

74kg- Kyle Dake (1)

79kg- Jordan Burroughs (1)

86kg- David Taylor (2)

92kg- J’den Cox (3)

97kg- Kyle Snyder (1)

125kg- Hayden Zillmer (x)

57kg-

Competitors-

Thomas Gilman-

The reigning world champ and ranked number one for good reason. His last loss was all the way back at the Tokyo olympics and was to none other than the champ Zavur Uguev of Russia who will not be competing because of the ban. The loss to Uguev at the olympics was in a match were Gilman was winning and got taken down with around ten seconds left to give Uguev the win.

The biggest question about Gilman is his consistency being that he was pinned by Horst Lehr of Germany at the ranking series not too long ago. Lehr is a world bronze medalist in his own right and only 22 years of age so you can look out for him as he could possibly bust up this bracket.

There was something different about Gilman going into the Olympics and since then. Whether it was his move to the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club or something else he has jumped levels since then and nobody in his country can even touch him. He is definitely the favorite to make the finals but that is where he will have one of his toughest tests yet.

Ravi Kumar-

India’s Ravi Kumar is one of the many upcoming stars in a country that will be making a name for themselves soon enough on the senior level with how much success that they have been seeing on the age level circuit. Kumar was a silver medalist at the Olympic games falling to none other than Uguev.

He did not compete at the world championships last year but at 24 years old he is definitely a guy that can take this bracket and pick up his first world title. He took bronze at the world championships all the way back in 2019. He took out some big names there such as Yuki Takahashi who knocked off Daton Fix as well as Arsen Harutyunyan of Armenia who is the top seed at 61kg.

He is a big threat and going seemingly underlooked by many but we shall see soon enough how this bracket will play out.

Alireza Sarlak-

Sarlak burst on the scene last year picking up a world silver medal, falling to only Thomas Gilman. He would wrestle Gilman again at the ranking series where he lost a decently close match.

He will be looking to capture another medal here and possibly make the finals. Who knows something could happen but It would be unlikely to see him take gold here.

Dark Horse-

Horst Lehr-

Lehr is a big guy to watch here as he actually pinned reigning world champion Thomas Gilman at the ranking series. The only real reason I don’t have him listed as a contender is because Gilman did tech him at the world championships last year 15-5.

Prediction Gilman over Kumar

61kg-

Competitors-

Arsen Harutyunyan-

Harutyunyan is going to be a major problem in the weight division for years to come with how he looked last year. He took bronze only behind Daton Fix and Abasgadzhi Magomedov. He did get teched by Fix in the world semifinals but I still see him having the potential to take this bracket being that he is only 22 years old.

He is still really young so there is only so much you can say about him but he has two European gold medals as well as a U23 gold medal to his name.

Rei Higuchi-

The return of Rei Higuchi. Higuchi being 26 just seems absolutely insane as he was a silver medalist all the way back at the Rio olympics where he lost to Vladamir Khinchegashvili in a pretty controversial bout

Can he come back strong and win this, who really knows. Either way to count Higuchi out of this with what he has accomplished in this sport would just be dumb.

Dark Horse-

Georgi Vangelov-

Vangelov of Bulgaria would have to be the dark horse if any as there are no returning placers that we did not mention here with Daton Fix not making the team and Japan sending Higuchi this year.

Seth Gross-

Gross stunned silver medalist Daton Fix at Final X after losing the first match and won the ranking series he competed at so it depends. We don’t really know how he will look in a one match setting but he definitely has a shot. Seeding could be a massive factor with Gross.

Prediction Arsen Harutyunyan/Rei Higuchi winner

65kg-

Competitors-

With Ilyas Bekbulatov getting popped for doping and Rashidov out from the ban as well as Otoguro out with an injury it seems like a better shot that ever for someone to do something big here.

Haji Aliyev-

Olympic silver medalist and a 3x world champion. Haji Aliyev will be looking to pick up his fourth world title here coming in as the top seeded wrestler. He did get teched by Musukaev of Hungary in the Euro finals which could be interesting since they are slated to meet in the semifinals should the seeds hold.

Bajrang Punia-

Can’t really count out Bajrang but his performance recently has been a bit sketchy. He did claim a medal at the olympic games after falling to Haji Aliyev in the semifinals so he could very well capture another medal to add to his resume.

Ismael Musukaev-

If the Musukaev from the European championships shows up he will win the bracket and probably won’t be touched, However the problem has been his consistency and tendency to gas out in the second period of matches. He lost to Otoguro and Rashidov at the olympic where he would not medal. He will look to grab his first world title here in Serbia.

Vazgen Tevanyan-

Tevanyan is a big one here having wins over Haji Aliyev, Yianni Diakomihalis, and Ismael Musukaev in straight dominant fashion. He ran into Rashidov round one of the olympics and after Otoguro beat Rashidov in the semis went 0-1. One of the more unfortunate cases of this happening with the repechage system as there is a good chance he could have picked up a medal.

Dark Horse-

Yianni Diakomihalis

In theory Yianni could take bronze here but he will need to have a good performance. He lost 8-2 to India’s backup 65kg wrestler so consistency may be an issue here. However he does have a win over Bajrang Punia so seeding will be huge for him if he wants to make a run for the podium.

Predictions Vazgen Tevanyan over Ismael Musukaev

70kg-

Ernazar Akmataliev-

Akmataliev earned the top seed based on points here and has looked very good and dominant. I don’t know if he is the best guy at the weight class at the moment but would not be surprised at all if he wins here.

Zain Retherford-

Zain is a guy that a lot of people have counted out in years past but he is looking better than ever now at 70kg and with James Green retiring snagged the world team spot. He looks like he will medal with the 6 seed but he might have to get to the finals or atleast the semis in order to do that or risk not getting repechage.

Amir Yazdani-

Little Yazdani looked great at worlds last year picking up a silver medal at 65kg falling to Zagir Shakiev in the finals. Up at 70 can he be just as good it depends but looking at what he has done so far he could very well get it done here.

Prediction Amir Yazdani

74kg-

Competitors-

Kyle Dake-

With Sidakov and Kadi out, Dake seems to be a pretty sizable favorite here with wins over Chamizo and one at 74kg along with defeating Salkazanov in the world finals last year to pick up his third world title. Dake looked good at Final X considering how Nolf handled Tsabolov. Dake should be on course to win his 4th world title in Belgrade.

Tajmuraz Salkazanov-

Salkazanov has a win over Chamizo and as the two seed will most likely have to get through him again to get to the finals and if he does he will have Dake who kind of put a beating on him last time.

Frank Chamizo-

Chamizo had some rough matches and lost close ones but he could very well come back and make the finals and if he can wrestle a good match against Dake who knows what can happen.

Prediction Kyle Dake over Frank Chamizo

79kg-

Competitors-

Jordan Burroughs-

Burroughs will be looking to make history for the United States here in Serbia as he will be going for his 7th gold medal which would put him number one all time in USA history surpassing John Smith.

Mohammad Nokhodi-

Made the finals against Burroughs last year and lost 5-1. He is looking like he will be right back in the world finals against Burroughs and will look to possibly snag a gold from the all time great.

Dark Horse-

Things can happen but at this point I don’t really see anyone who can bust the bracket. Radik Valiev would have been the one guy who comes to mind but with Russia not competing it looks like it will be these two going at it again unless someone can knock one of them off.

Prediction Jordan Burroughs

86kg-

Hassan Yazdani-

No matter what order Yazdani and Taylor are ranked they will probably be meeting each other in the finals this year. Yazdani is looking better than ever and if Taylor is looking to grab gold he will need to find an answer for the underhook and get in on his leg attacks.

David Taylor-

Taylor has 3 wins over Yazdani and clinched the olympic gold with a late takedown to seal the deal. He fell in the world finals but he will look to bounce back in Serbia and regain his crown at 86kg.

Dark Horse-

Deepak Punia-

Hard to say that Punia could make the finals again like 2019 since Taylor is here now but he has made great strides and will be the guy Yazdani will face in the finals once Taylor retires.

Prediction Kind of torn here. I think Yazdani is the favored guy and will most likely win it but Taylor has the ability to put points on the board quickly and rack them up.

92kg-

J’den Cox-

Cox lost to Ghasempour last year and it was a sketchy call at the end with the step out, I think he got the point. That’s whatever now and with a 3 seed it shouldn’t mean much and he should be set to see Ghasempour in the finals to regain the top spot.

Kamran Ghasempour-

Ghasempour has not lost an international bout on the senior level with pretty much every loss coming to Hassan Yazdani which is what it is. I have been told that Ghasempour is still a true 86kg which if true is crazy. I don’t think he loses now as the 25 year old has looked phenomenal so far this year and Cox has not had the best showings.

Prediction Kamran Ghasempour over J’den Cox

97kg-

Odikadze and Sharifov are not seeded which may mean they won’t be competing or they don’t have the ranking points. If they are competing they will be in the competitor section for Sharifov and the dark horse for Odikadze.

Kyle Snyder-

With the tank out Snyder can finally look to claim his 4th gold medal this year in Serbia and finally get back on track. The 7x world and olympic medalist has already solidified himself amongst the greats but being behind Sadulaev does not do his career any justice. He will look to show out here and show the world that he is still that guy.

Mohammad Mohammadian-

He pinned Snyder in their last meeting and consistently looks impressive. Bit of a blunder in Tokyo going 0-1 falling to Odikadze blowing a lead late but if he is on track with how good he can be he should be seeing Snyder in the semifinals.

Prediction Kyle Snyder

125kg-

Competitors-

Geno Petriashvili-

What is there that has not been said about this man. One of the greatest heavyweights of all time and the rivalry with Akgul is legendary. Very rough 2021 season for Geno as he was less than a second away from finally winning olympic gold and falling in the world finals as well.

Taha Akgul-

Taha looks to be getting back on track after a rough last year falling to Gable Steveson and Amir Zare as well. Akgul recently defeated Geno at the European championships to win his 9th title which is absolutely insane.

Amir Zare-

Zare is the reigning champ but I was not too impressed with his last performance. Hopefully that was just him shaking off the rust and he is back to show the world that he is still the best at the weight.

Dark Horse-

Hayden Zillmer-

Zillmer got the spot knocking off Nick Gwiazdowksi in 3 matches with 2 comeback wins to stun the 2x world medalist. He looked solid at the ranking series but dropped 2 losses to Geno.

Amar Dhesi-

Dhesi knocked off Gwiz at Pan Ams not too long ago and also took gold at the commonwealth games where he looked impressive. He is primed to make a podium run soon enough and this may be the year.

Lkhagvagerel Munktur-

Munktur is very underrated with how he has been performing recently. He hasn’t had any upset victories over the top 3 guys but the 24 year old has a very bright future and maybe just maybe a title in his future.

Overall-

A lot of the weights could be blown up when the brackets drop so this is just based on what we know at the moment which is just the top 8 and most of the field. Team USA could be looking at 2 on the low end to possibly 6-7 on the high end if everything goes to plan.

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