photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com
From the moment last August in Paris, France, when Kyle Snyder defeated Abdulrashid Sadulaev and clinched the United States’ first Senior Men’s Freestyle world championship since 1995, it was assumed that Russia was already planning for the 2018 World Championships. Russia was left without a world champion, as well, and needed to go back to the drawing board. Since that time the inception of ten weight classes has taken effect, helping countries with depth such as the US, Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran. Over the weekend Russia held their national championship, which will help formulate their team for the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Here’s a look at the Russian National Champions and their current outlook for worlds at each weight class.
57 kg – Zaur Uguev (Dagestan)
It appears that Zaur Uguev will get another shot at the World Championships after emerging as the victor in the 57 kg bracket. The Russians had high hopes for Uguev in 2017, but he fell to Sandeep Tomar (India) in the Round of 32 8-2. Uguev then took a loss to countryman Azamat Tuskaev in late 2017, which he would avenge in the Yarygin finals. Tuskaev never got to see Uguev at Nationals, as he was upset by Ibragim Ilyasov. Donduk-ool Khuresh-ool came through the opposite side of the bracket to face Uguev in the finals. Uguev turned in an impressive 7-1 win, highlighted by a four-point body lock throw, to take the national title.
With his performance this weekend Uguev has to be considered one of the favorites to win the gold medal at the World Championships, along with Giorgi Edisherashvili (Azerbaijan) who defeated him earlier this year at the European Championships. Going back through his past achievements, Uguev was a two-time Cadet world champion in 2011 and 2012.
61 kg – Magomedrasul Idrisov (Dagestan)
Magomedrasul Idrisov had quite the tournament knocking off Aleksandr Bogomoev in the Round of 16, followed by Zelimkhan Abakarov in the semis and Ismail Musukaev in the finals. Both Bogomoev and Musukaev finished in the top three (Musukaev second and Bogomoev third) at the Yargin, as Bogomoev defeated Tony Ramos 4-0 for the bronze. The final score in the championship bout against Musukaev of 8-3 may be a little deceiving because there were missed calls for singlet pulls against Idrisov and he also scored one of his takedowns while his opponent was complaining about one of the pulls.
Before 2018, Idrisov had competed down at 57 kg. This year after moving up to 61 kilograms, Idrisov already has a title under his belt at the U23 European Championships. He will still need to go through Gadzhimurad Rashidov to earn a spot on the world championship team. Rashidov is a returning world silver medalist and has won gold this year at the Yarygin and the European Championships. At the 2017 World Championships Rashidov stopped Logan Stieber 11-0 in the Round of 16.
65 kg – Akhmed Chakaev (Chechnya)
Veteran Akhmed Chakaev came out on top of a crazy 65 kg bracket. Entering the tournament, there were four or five contenders that could have conceivably come away with the title. In the semi’s Chakaev defeated one of those contenders, 2017 U23 World bronze medalist Islam Dudaev, 4-0. The finals paired Chakaev up with 2013 60 kg world champion Bekkhan Goygereyev. Chakaev controlled the ties and center of the match in this matchup to win the gold 2-2.
Like Idrisov at 61 kg, this win does not guarantee Chakaev a spot on the world championship team. He and world number one Ilias Bekbulatov will enter a tournament within the next few months to help decide the spot. Bekbulatov was second at the European Championships this year and won the Yarygin, again defeating Stieber in the Round of 16 16-6.
70 kg – Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov (Dagestan)
One of the most impressive performances of the weekend belonged to 70 kg champion Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov. Just to earn a trip to the finals, Gazimagomedov stunned 2016 Olympic Champion Soslan Ramonov, Junior and Cadet world champion David Baev, and Razambek Dzhamalov. Once in the finals, Gazimagomedov breezed by upstart Arpat Sat, who was responsible for upsetting world number two Magomed Kurbanaliev in the quarterfinals 15-8.
Gazimagomedov is a 2015 world champion that defeated eventual 74 kg 2016 Olympic champion Hassan Yazdani in the finals 10-3. This year he was second in the Yarygin, losing a 2-2 decision to Kurbanlaliev. Gazimagomedov should be looked at as one of the top contenders at Worlds.
74 kg – Zaurbek Sidakov (North Ossetia-Alania)
One of the eye-catching results of the tournament was seeing Zaurbek Sidakov upsetting Khetik Tsabolov. Although he was a 2014 world champion, Tsabolov is probably best remembered by American fans for his epic world final match with Jordan Burroughs last year. Burroughs was pushed to the limit by Tsabolov and needed a late comeback to clinch the gold. Sidakov also fell to Tsabolov early this year in the finals of the Yarygin, though only by a 3-1 margin. Though the win was an upset, Sidakov has plenty of credentials himself. This year alone his has won a U23 European title and a World Military Championship, in addition to his Yarygin finish. As a junior in 2015, he won a bronze medal in the same weight class as Aaron Pico, though the two did not meet. In the match itself with Tsabolov, Sidakov was trailing and reviewed a step out call, which was overturned and gave him a takedown and lead by criteria in the 2-2 match. He was able to fend off a frantic charge by Tsabolov to take the championship.
It remains to be seen how this weight class will be handled. Tsabolov may have the opportunity to compete in a tournament setting against Sidakov, based on his past resume. Either wrestler that takes the mat for Russia in the world championships at this weight will be a solid medal contender.
79 kg – Akhmed Gadzhimagomedov (Dagestan)
The top-ranked wrestler in the world at 79 kilos was on display and did not disappoint. Gadzhimagomedov certainly had an impressive line of competitors to run through with Radik Valiev, a 2014 Cadet world silver medalist, and 2018 U23 European champ, along with 2017 U23 world champion and 2015 Junior world champion Gadzhi Nabiev, and Yarygin bronze-medalist Khalil Aminiov, all in his way before the finals. His finals opponent was Khusey Suyunchev, a Russian National bronze medalist and Yarygin runner-up, both back in 2016. Gadzhimagomedov was able to come out on top of a hard-fought 3-2 decision over Suyunchev.
Gadzhimagomedov is the only wrestler to defeat Kyle Dake at 79 kilos. He won an 8-2 decision over Dake in the finals of the Yarygin in January of this year. It appears that the two have separated themselves from the rest of the world at this weight and a rematch between the two at the World Championships could be inevitable.
86 kg – Dauren Kurugliev (Dagestan)
Dauren Kurugliev was the one who rose to the top of a crowded, talented field at 86 kg. In the finals, he knocked off third-ranked Artur Naifonov by a razor-thin 2-1 margin. Naifonov was never able to get anything going offensively during their championship bout. In the semi’s Kurugliev upended 2017 world bronze medalist Vladislav Valiev. The first Russian National win for Kurugliev is a bit of redemption after he came into last year’s tournament fresh off wins at the Yasar Dogu, the European Championships and the Yargin and did not place.
This weight class will be one to monitor, as Kurugliev and Naifonov may be asked to enter a tournament as a wrestle-off for the world team position. Naifonov has had an excellent last year winning a Junior world title in 2017 and a Senior European title in 2018. Russia will be tough at this weight either wrestler is likely a medal threat at worlds.
92 kg – Batyrbek Tsakulov (North Ossetia-Alania)
A new Russian star could have been born with Tsakulov’s title at Russian Nationals. Tsakulov broke out big-time at the Ali Aliev tournament this May when he defeated world bronze medalist Aslanbek Alborov (Azerbaijan), the same wrestler who would go on to beat Kyle Snyder recently at the Yasar Dogu. A month later he followed that performance with a bronze medal at the U23 European Championships. Tsakulov won this weekend by defeating fifth-ranked Anzor Urishev 7-5 in an entertaining bout.
This weight class currently looks up-for-grabs worldwide, with no clear-cut favorite. Tsakulov would have to been considered, at the minimum, a medal threat at worlds, though he does not have the long pedigree of international success like most of his team members.
97 kg – Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Dagestan)
Earlier this summer Sadulaev reiterated his desire to go 97 kilos for worlds, even though he would be small again for the weight. After day one of Russian Nationals, the message boards and social media were abuzz as Sadulaev looked rather ordinary, compared to his typically dominant self, in matches leading up to the finals. However, once in the finals Sadulaev was not seriously tested by 2018 European Champion Vladislav Baitsaev, winning by an 8-1 margin.
As you would expect Sadulaev will be one of the favorites, along with Kyle Snyder and Alborov, to win gold in Budapest. Both Snyder and Sadulaev will be looking for their fourth World/Olympic title.
125 kg – Anzor Khizriev (Chechnya)
The returning champion a year ago at this tournament, Anzor Khizriev, went back-to-back and claimed his second career Russian National championship. Khizriev won his title by avenging a Yarygin loss to fourth-ranked Muradin Kushkhov in the finals. In addition to his 4-4 win over Kushkhov, Khizriev also pinned Said Gamidov, a 2015 Junior world champion for Azerbaijan. Earlier in the tournament, Gamidov defeated 2016 Olympian Anzor Boltukaev 5-2.
This is not one of the stronger weights for Russia. It would be surprising if they were to medal at 125 kg.