The 2018 World Championships begin Saturday in Budapest, Hungary, with wrestling kicking off on Saturday morning with competition at 61, 74, 86 and 125 kilograms.
For the American squad it's a mixed bag of talent, from unproven Joe Colon to Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs and all the in-betweens. David Taylor, arguably the hottest wrestler in the world at the moment, could help ignite a three-day run of finalists for the United States. Having seen his results against the world's best it's tough to see anything but a head-to-head matchup with Hassan Yazdanicharati.
Like the NCAA Championships, the World Championships are a celebration of a wrestler's hard work. It's everyone's job around them (even mine) to make sure they have the best experience possible. The tournament -- the challenge of the event -- is the reward.
Tonight, I watched as members of the Russian team stretched, ran laps, and did sit-ups in full sweat gear -- each hoping to wrench out those last pounds of sweat. Despite the sunken cheek bones and gaunt expressions, anticipation was in every technique practiced and a slight intensity beneath every friendly handshake among opposing nations.
While Paris was the start of the 2020 Olympic cycle, many of the wrestlers consider the post-Olympic year a throwaway season. Some choose that year to start families, while others relax and enjoy time with friends and family. Not Budapest. For everyone not named Mijain Lopez (who is waiting until the 2019 World Championships to compete), the Budapest Championships are the start of the Olympic 2020 journey.
There will be hundreds of matches over the next several days and some with bad officiating, or poor sportsmanship, and maybe even some criteria. But I'm predicting that in total the product we see on the mat will be the best the sport has ever seen.
I hope you'll join me and the rest of the world in watching, and discussing, everything that happens during #BudaWrestle2018.
To your questions …
In lieu of questions I thought I'd provide helpful links for fans who want to watch and follow along this weekend.
Fan and Press Guide: This has EVERYTHING you need to get caught up to speed on the World Championships. Social media accounts to follow, past champions, who to watch, and links to about 300 matches from the top competitors.
Entry lists: Always fun to give these a run-through.
Please take the time (10 minutes) to watch the first episode of Wrestling 360: "From Many, One" which takes an inside look at the United States' men's freestyle team's historic 2017 team championship and previews their attempt to repeat. I'm producing several more episodes in the coming year, with the next one scheduled to be on Dagestan and released later this year, or in early 2019.
Other links: Jason Bryant's Buda Facts | World Championship Event Page
InterMat will be providing session recaps from Budapest.
NBC Olympics Schedule on NBCSN and Olympic Channel