The rankings only look at results from this past year, which makes sense, but in 2013, only six of London's 14 Olympic finalists have competed. I'm willing to bet that not all eight of the remaining finalists have retired, and that we will see at least half of them at the next World Championships. Unfortunately, they have little incentive to participate in the meantime, as these World rankings will have no effect on their draw at Worlds. As of now, these World rankings are replete with faces and names that I guarantee won't be particularly relevant come time for the World Championships. I'm appreciative that FILA has tasked someone like Mr. May with formulating these rankings. I hope that at some point in the future these rankings grow some teeth.
Opan SatAt the Beat the Streets Gala this week, also known as "The Rumble on the Rails" we will be treated to seeing the wrestling from some of the names from the newly minted rankings. One of the world's No. 1-ranked wrestlers (and he should be), who will show up this week in New York is Russia's 60-kilo triple European champion Opan Sat.
Other than his wrestling, which is superb, a few things jump out about Mr. Sat. First off he has a really cool name; it almost sounds like he's from the future. The second thing you may notice is Opan's appearance. We think of Russia as a European nation, but Sat's features are more paradigmatically Asian. This should remind us that Russia in its vastness is not monolithic, rather, it's a state which is an amalgamation of many different smaller countries. These smaller countries are home to people from hundreds of different ethnicities. While someone who is technically Russian living next to the Baltic Sea may have fair skin and blue eyes, a Russian who grew up on the coast of the Sea of Japan will likely look very different.
Opan Sat is from a semi-autonomous republic contained with Russia known as the Tyva Republic, nestled between Siberia and Mongolia. Ethnically, Sat is Tuvan, more closely related to Mongolians than an ethnic Russian. Though wrestling is the national sport of the Tyva Republic, for a Tuvan to ascend to the top in Russia is fairly rare. The landscape of Russian wrestling is dominated by natives of Caucuses mountain republics like Ossetia, Dagestan, or Kabardino-Balkaria. This is what really makes wrestling special. A young man from a forgotten corner of the planet, of a people that almost nobody has ever heard of, will walk step on a mat in the middle of Manhattan, and there he will be a star. Only in wrestling will you see stories like that of Opan Sat.
The state of the Iranian wrestling team
Komeil GhasemiI heard someone remark on the unfortunate absence of Iran's Olympic silver medalist 74-kilo wrestler Sadegh Goudarzi and 96-kilo World champ Reza "The Panther of Juybar" Yazdani from the Iranian contingent this week for the USA-Iran dual meet. This is still a very good team, essentially the same squad that crushed the USA six matches to one at this past World Cup. Six of its seven wrestlers either have won a World or Olympic medal, or will seriously threaten for one at the next World Championships. If this is indeed Iran's current No. 1 team, I would probably rank it as the third best team in the world, placing the assembled best wrestlers of Russian and Azerbaijan as Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Considering the beating they laid on us the last time we met, I am very concerned about the U.S.'s chances in this dual meet.
55 kilos: Iran's Hassan Rahimi is a World bronze medalist. He's beaten Nick Simmons in the past, and at the World Cup comfortably beat an overmatched Zach Sanders.
60 kilos: Iran's Masoud Esmailpour Jouybari has never placed at a world-level tournament and lost to Coleman Scott at last year's World Cup. This year's World Cup was a different story altogether, as Esmailpour overwhelmed Scott with his physicality, horsing him around with a vicious underhook for several takedowns. The way he wrestled, I half expected him to slip on a black Iowa warmup after he stepped off the mat.
66 kilos: Iran's Mehdi Taghavi Kermani is a multiple-time World champ. This isn't to say he's unbeatable. He's endured some questionable losses over the past couple years and did not place in London. That being said, when he faced Brent Metcalf in Tehran a few months ago, it was pretty ugly, and quick as Taghavi blew Metcalf out of the water.
74 kilos: I'm not going to pretend to know much about the Iranian here. Hassan Tahmasebi should be a nice test for Kyle Dake.
84 kilos: Olympic bronze medalist Ehsan Lashgari is compact, quick, and very, very strong. He has uncanny timing with his snatch singles.
96 kilos: Hamed Tatari beat J.D. Bergman in Tehran, though the match was fairly competitive. Perhaps the U.S. has a chance here.
120 kilos: Komeil Ghasemi now has two wins over Tervel. In the last match in Iran, he hit what appeared to be a super duck on him. I sort of thought that the first win over Tervel was a fluke, but that super duck ... wow.
Like I said, seeing how we match up with Iran, our chances don't look too great, but hope springs eternal. There's probably going to be a ton of happy Iranian wrestling fans in New York this week. Hopefully this event gives the sport the showcase it sorely needs ahead of the IOC board meeting.