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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    2020 Olympic Preview: Greco-Roman (87, 97, 130kg)

    John Stefanowicz (left) and G'Angelo Hancock (Photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    Over the next six days, we will bring you weight class previews for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Each preview will include three Olympic weights. They will highlight notable past achievements of the competitors in each weight, the American entry, and what to look for during the competition. Today we'll wrap up Greco-Roman with the final three weights (87 kg, 97 kg, and 130 kg).

    Greco-Roman Part One (60, 67, 77kg)

    87 kg Greco-Roman

    Islam Abbasov (Azerbaijan) - 2x World fifth-place, 2x U23 World Bronze Medalist, 2019 European Silver Medalist

    Rustam Assakalov (Uzbekistan) - 2x World Medalist, 2x Asian Champion

    Bachir Sid Azara (Algeria) - 3x African Champion

    Atabek Azisbekov (Kyrgyzstan) - 2x World fifth-place, 3x Asian Silver Medalist

    Zhan Beleniuk (Ukraine) - 2x World Champion, 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist, 4x World Medalist, 3x European Champion

    Zurab Datunashvili (Serbia) - 2x Olympian, 2x World fifth-place, 3x European Champion

    Lasha Gobadze (Georgia) - 2019 World Champion, 2x World Medalist, 2019 European Silver Medalist

    Daniel Gregorich Hechavarria (Cuba) - 2x U23 World Medalist, 2018 Pan-American Champion

    Ivan Huklek (Croatia) - 2017 U23 World Silver Medalist,

    Denis Kudla (Germany) - 2x World Medalist, 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 3x European Bronze

    Viktor Lorincz (Hungary) - 3x World Medalist, 2017 European Champion

    Kiryl Maskevich (Belarus) - 2019 U23 World Bronze Medalist, 2021 European Silver Medalist

    Mohamed Metwally (Egypt) - 2x African Champion

    Fei Peng (China) - 2016 Olympian, 2x Asian Bronze Medalist

    Nursultan Tursynov (Kazakhstan) - 2014 Asian Champion

    The Seeds

    1) Lorincz

    2) Beleniuk

    3) Assakalov

    4) Gregorich Hechavarria

    The American Entry

    John Stefanowicz - When John Stefanowicz takes the mat for the United States, he'll become the first Marine to compete in wrestling at the Olympics since Buddy Lee did so in 1992. Much has already been made about Stefanowicz's rise from never qualifying for the Pennsylvania state tournament to competing on the biggest stage in the sport. Stefanowicz burst onto the international scene in late 2018 and made his first world team, just a year later, at 82 kg. Since 82 kg is not an Olympic weight, he needed to move up for the Olympic year.

    With 2016 Olympic Trials winner Joe Rau having already qualified the United States for the Olympics, Rau was awarded a bye to the finals of the 2020 Olympic Trials. That meant Stefanowicz had to fight through a challenge tournament field that included Senior National champion Alan Vera and three-time world team member Patrick Martinez. Stefanowicz got by Vera 6-3 before a 1-1 win over Martinez in the challenge tournament finals. Against Rau, Stefanowicz took a controversial match one 6-5, before claiming the series 2-1 in the second bout.

    After securing his spot on the Olympic team, Stefanowicz went to the Pan-American Championships and came away with his second career gold medal at the event. While no one in that field will compete in the Olympics, it was a good tune-up for the Marine. With his continued growth, don't be surprised to see him in the medal mix.

    Number of Senior World/Olympic Champions: 2 (Beleniuk, Gobadze)

    Number of Senior World/Olympic Medalists: 5 (Assakalov, Beleniuk, Gobadze, Kudla, Lorincz)

    The seeding at this weight looks pretty good. The two favorites are split from each other and two of the top medal contenders inhabit the third and fourth seeds. Maybe the lone exception is Georgia's Lasha Gobadze. He is a past world champion, though his title came at a non-Olympic weight. He could be a bad draw for one of the top-four. While anything short of a Beleniuk/Lorincz final would be a mild upset, this could be a bracket where we see some younger stars emerge. Abbasov, Gregorich Hechavarria, Huklek, and Maskevich are all recent U23 world medalists. This could be the time and place for one or more of them to step up and become threats at the Senior level.

    97 kg Greco-Roman

    Haykel Achouri (Tunisia) - 2x Olympian, 6x African Champion

    Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia) - 4x World/Olympic Champion, 7x World/Olympic Medalist, 5x European Champion

    Adem Boudjemline (Algeria) - 2016 Olympian, 4x African Champion

    Uzur Dzhuzupbekov (Kyrgyzstan) - 2019 Asian Champion

    Musa Evloev (Russia) - 2x World Champion, 3x World Medalist, 2x European Champion

    Cenk Ildem (Turkey) - 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 4x World/Olympic Medalist, 2014 European Silver Medalist

    Mikheil Kajaia (Serbia) - 2x World Bronze Medalist, 2018 European Silver Medalist

    Giorgi Melia (Georgia) - 2019 World fifth-place, 2x U23 World Medalist, 2016 Junior World Champion

    Tadeusz Michalik (Poland) - 2019 World fifth-place, 2016 European Bronze Medalist

    Kiril Milov (Bulgaria) - 2018 World Silver Medalist, 2019 European Silver Medalist

    Artur Omarov (Czech Republic) -

    Gabriel Rosillo Kindelan (Cuba) - 2019 Junior World Champion, 2019 Pan-American Champion

    Mohammad Saravi (Iran) - 2019 U23 World Bronze Medalist, 2021 Asian Champion, 2018 Junior World Champion

    Arvi Savolainen (Finland) - 2019 U23 World Champion, 2018 Junior World Champion

    Alex Szoke (Hungary) - 2016 Cadet World Champion

    The Seeds

    1) Evloev

    2) Aleksanyan

    3) Saravi

    4) Michalik

    The American Entry

    G'Angelo Hancock - The new face of US Greco-Roman wrestling, G'Angelo Hancock represents the best chance at a medal for any of the Americans in Tokyo. For the last quad, Hancock has been dominant domestically, making every Senior world team from 2017-19, and has rarely been tested. Hancock announced that he would be an international medal threat for the foreseeable future in 2018 when he pinned the second seed at the weight, the legendary Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia), in Poland. But in the following two World Championships, Hancock has not placed higher than 15th.

    Since Hancock was unable to qualify the weight for the Olympics at the 2019 World Championships, he was forced to attend the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier in early 2020. There he rolled into the finals, outsourcing his competition 35-0, before running into Gabriel Rosillo Kindelan (Cuba). He fell to the Cuban in that bout, though he beat Rosillo Kindelan at the Pan-American Championships earlier in the week.

    At the 2020 Olympic Trials, Hancock was paired off against upstart Braxton Amos. The Wisconsin recruit turned the rest of the bracket on its head and was a surprise finalist. That didn't bother Hancock, as he dispatched Amos like most other domestic foes, 8-0, 8-0. Hancock hasn't competed since the Trials. We've seen that when he's on top of his game, he can beat the best in the world at 97 kg.

    Number of Senior World/Olympic Champions: 2 (Aleksanyan, Evloev)

    Number of Senior World/Olympic Medalists: 5 (Aleksanyan, Evloev, Ildem, Kajaia, Milov)

    The big takeaway from the seeding at this weight is that the two favorites Aleksanyan and Musa Evloev, are separated from each other as the top two seeds. Some top medal contenders with proven track records are going in without seeds, ones like Cenk Ildem (Turkey), Kiril Milov (Bulgaria), and Mikheil Kajaia (Serbia). They could be in for an unfortunate draw as at least one could meet one of the favorites. Like 87 kg, this weight has a lot of younger wrestlers that had success at the age-group levels. Saravi, Giorgi Melia (Georgia), Rosillo Kindelan, Arvi Savolainen (Finland), and Hancock are some that could step up and announced themselves as next-in-line at 97 kg. While those new faces, coupled with the veterans, could fight for the two bronze medals, it's hard to project anything other than an Aleksanyan/Evloev final here.

    130 kg Greco-Roman

    Muminjon Abdullaev (Uzbekistan) - 2x Olympian, 2x Asian Silver Medalist

    Yasmani Acosta (Chile) - 2017 World Bronze Medalist, 2011 Pan-American Champion

    Alin Alexuc-Ciurariu (Romania) - 2016 Olympic fifth-place, 2x World fifth-place, 2020 European Champion

    Amine Guennichi (Tunisia) - 2x African Champion

    Iakob Kajaia (Georgia) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist, 2016 Olympian, 2x European Silver Medalist

    Riza Kayaalp (Turkey) - 4x World Champion, 2x Olympic Medalist, 8x World Medalist, 9x European Champion

    Min-Seok Kim (South Korea) - 2018 World Bronze Medalist, 2020 Asian Silver Medalist

    Elias Kousmanen (Finland) - 2017 U23 World Silver Medalist, 2x European Bronze Medalist

    Mantas Knystautas (Lithuania) - 2017 U23 World Bronze Medalist, 2014 Junior World Silver Medalist

    Mijain Lopez (Cuba) - 3x Olympic Gold Medalist, 5x World Champion, 8x World Medalist, 9x Pan-American Champion

    Amin Mirzazadeh (Iran) - 2018 Junior World Champion, 2020 Asian Champion

    Abdellatif Mohamed (Egypt) - 2016 Olympian, 2018 U23 World Bronze Medalist, 4x African Champion

    Eduard Popp (Germany) - 2016 Olympic fifth-place, 3x World fifth-place, 2021 European Bronze Medalist

    Sergey Semenov (Russia) - 2018 World Champion, 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2019 European Bronze Medalist

    Eduard Soghomonyan (Brazil) - 2016 Olympian; 2016 Pan-American Silver Medalist

    Artur Vititin (Estonia) -

    The Seeds

    1) Kayaalp

    2) Mohamed

    3) Abdullaev

    4) Mirzazadeh

    The American Entry

    None - In 2019, American Adam Coon went 0-1 with a loss to Lingzhe Meng (China) at the World Championships. Though he was a world silver medalist in 2018, since he didn't finish in the top-five that year, he did not qualify the US for the Olympics. That forced Coon to compete at the 2020 Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. In the opening round in Ottawa, Coon drew former world bronze medalist Yasmani Acosta Fernandez (Chile). He was defeated 3-2 in that bout and settled for third place. Only the top two at that event qualified for Tokyo.

    Coon's last shot at qualifying came in Bulgaria less than a month after winning the Olympic Trials. He would go 1-1 at the event and was eliminated by Mykola Kuchmii (Ukraine) 6-3. The Ukrainian got a four-point arm throw on Coon and sat on that lead for the remainder of the bout. Since Coon fell before the finals, he did not qualify for the Olympics.

    Number of Senior World/Olympic Champions: 3 (Kayaalp, Lopez, Semenov)

    Number of Senior World/Olympic Medalists: 6 (Acosta, Kajaia, Kayaalp, Kim, Lopez, Semenov)

    This weight class has the potential to be an all-timer. Two absolute legends of the sport in Riza Kayaalp and Mijain Lopez on a possible collision course. Between the two, they account for 12 World/Olympic gold medals and all but two World/Olympic titles since 2008. The pair have a long history with each other. Most recently, Lopez defeated Kayaalp in the 2016 Olympic finals. The two split in 2014 and 2015, with Lopez winning in the 2014 World finals and Kayaalp getting revenge the following year. In fact, Kayaalp got his first world title in 2011, by downing Lopez in the gold medal match. A year later, Lopez returned the favor in the semifinals of the London Olympics. Let's hope another chapter is written in the rivalry in Tokyo. The only problem is that Lopez, who has not competed internationally in almost two years, was not seeded, so theoretically, the two could hit in round one. Also, at 38, does Lopez still “have it”?

    A potential wrench into the Kayaalp/Lopez super match is Russian Sergei Semenov. Semenov is responsible for one of those two world titles not won by the pair, in 2018.

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