Due to Russia’s involvement in the war with Ukraine, the current exclusion of Russia in the 2022 World Championships spells disaster. What could this mean for the current wrestlers competing?
International powerhouses of wrestling include America, Iran, and Russia. These countries are undisputedly always competing at the highest level in the Olympic, World, and Open tournaments. The whole value of a medal comes from the fact that the greatest wrestlers in the world will compete at the tournament, and in order to win you must go through each country and athlete like a level to a video game. And in completing the final boss, Russia is often there. So what does it mean when Russia is unincluded?
Valuation of the medal goes down. Russia not competing has taken significant key players out of the game. The tournament pales in comparison of difficulty to the previous years. Last year, in 2021, Russia had 4 gold medalists, 5 silver medalists, and 9 bronze medalists tallying up to 18 medals in total. They ranked 4th as a nation, trailing behind Japan, the U.S, and Iran (in that order). Russia had won the men’s free-style and Greco-Roman categories.
In 2020, the COVID pandemic year, there was an “Individual Wrestling World Cup” where not all 8 of the top nations chose to compete, including the U.S, Iran, and Japan. As a result, Russia dominated the scene with 17 gold medals because many powerhouses chose to sit this one out in an attempt of not putting the athletes in “harm’s way” (according to USA Wrestling).
In 2019, the year before the pandemic, Russia had swept the competition with 9 gold medals, 19 medals in total. Winning gold in the 57kg, 65kg, 70kg, 74kg, and 97kg freestyle weight classes. Their light to middle weights are surprisingly sturdy, making it that much more difficult for the current competition to overpower them. According to the history of the past few years, they would have done more than just make it strenuous. It’s very likely that certain weight classes would have swept the entire bracket. Due to the war with Ukraine, politics have intermingled with sports and ruined very interesting possible match-ups.
For example, Abdulrashid Sadulaev and Kyle Snyder at the 97kg weight class have been a consistent rivalry. Kyle Snyder made his debut professionally when he won gold in the Olympics in 2016 at 97kg, as did Sadulaev at 86 kg. After that year Sadulaev moved up to 97kg and ever since has been going head-to-head with Snyder. More often than not, Sadulaev has been the dominant competitor but they are good friends. They train together, they compete together. They are both wrestling legends in their own right, it is a complete shame that Sadulaev will not be there in the 2022 World’s Tournament to show what he’s been working on.
Do you think that the war with Ukraine and Russia will continue into
2023? Will Russia be prohibited again? The 2023 tournament is supposed to be hosted in Russia, but with the current political tensions, who knows?