David Taylor (left), Kyle Snyder (center), and Gable Steveson (Photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Over the last six days, we have brought you weight class previews for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Each preview includes 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 finish with the final three weights from the men's freestyle portion of the competition (86, 97, 125 kg).
If you missed our earlier previews, they are below.
Women's Part One (50, 53, 57kg)
Women's Part Two (62, 68, 76kg)
Greco-Roman Part One (60, 67, 77kg)
Greco-Roman Part Two (87, 97, 130kg)
Men's Freestyle Part One (57, 65, 74kg)
86 kg Men's Freestyle
Ekerekeme Agiomor (Nigeria) - 2018 African Champion
Pool Ambrocio (Peru) - 2x Pan-American Silver Medalist
Myles Amine (San Marino) - 2019 World fifth-place finisher, 2020 European Silver Medalist
Fateh Benferdjallah (Algeria) - 2020 African Bronze Medalist
Osman Gocen (Turkey) - 2019 U23 World Bronze Medalist
Carlos Izquierdo Mendez (Colombia) - 2016 Olympian
Zushen Lin (China) -
Boris Makoev (Slovakia) - 2017 World Silver Medalist, 2020 European Bronze Medalist
Artur Naifonov (Russia) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist, 2018 U23 World Silver Medalist, 2017 Junior World Champion, 3x European Champion
Deepak Punia (India) - 2019 World Silver Medalist, 2021 Asian Silver Medalist
Stefan Reichmuth (Switzerland) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist
Ali Shabanov (Belarus) - 4x World Bronze Medalist, 2012 Olympian, 2x European Bronze Medalist
Javrail Shapiev (Uzbekistan) -
Sosuke Takatani (Japan) - 2014 World Silver Medalist, 2016 Olympian
Hassan Yazdani Charati (Iran) - 2016 Olympic Champion, 2x World Champion, 4x World Medalist, 2x Asian Champion
1) Yazdani Charati (Iran)
2) Punia (India)
3) Amine (San Marino)
4) Naifonov (Russia)
The American Entry
David Taylor - This will be the Olympic debut for David Taylor, who has been a top contender for the team dating back to his days at Penn State. Taylor was a favorite to claim the spot in 2016, but did not make the finals and ended up third. He finally broke through in 2018 and made a world team, at this weight, and proceeded to dominate the field en route to a world title. Taylor won his title with an impressive 12-2 tech in the finals.
That was Taylor's only Senior world-level tournament as he suffered a knee injury in 2019 that forced him to miss the Trials. With Taylor out of the picture, Patrick Downey competed at the World Championships, but did not qualify America for the Olympics. That job fell to Taylor at the 2020 Pan-American Championships, where he made his return and shut out his two opponents on the way to the finals. In April, Taylor clinched a spot on the Olympic team by holding off fellow Penn State alum and Hodge Trophy Winner Bo Nickal.
Since the Trials, Taylor has participated in and won the 2021 Pan-American Championships. That event did not contain any Olympic opponents. It's hard to gauge where Taylor fits into the weight class since it's been years since his last significant international competition. If he's anywhere near his peak, he'll come away with the gold.
Number of Senior World/Olympic Champions: 2 (Taylor, Yazdani Charati)
Number of Senior World/Olympic Medalists: 8 (Makoev, Naifonov, Punia, Reichmuth, Shabanov, Takatani, Taylor, Yazdani Charati).
It would be a significant upset to see anyone other than Taylor or Hassan Yazdani come away with the gold medal. Both seem to have a substantial gap between them and the rest of the field. Since Taylor is unseeded, we could see another early-round match with him and the Iranian, similar to the 2018 World Championships. The pair met in round one. Yazdani jumped out to an early lead, but was worn down by Taylor. If a similar bracketing situation would occur, that would bode well for Michigan's four-time All-American Myles Amine, who is on the other half as the three seed. He continues to evolve at the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club, while competing for San Marino. Amine, along with second-seeded Deepak Punia, a 2019 World Silver medalist, would be the favorites to advance from the bottom half of the bracket. Unseeded, but always dangerous is veteran Ali Shabanov, who has competed at the Games before and owns four world bronze medals.
97 kg Men's Freestyle
Abraham Conyedo Ruano (Italy) - 2018 World Bronze Medalist, 2015 Pan-American Silver Medalist
Mohamed Fardj (Algeria) - 2020 African Champion
Aleksandr Hushtyn (Belarus) - 2020 Individual World Cup Silver Medal, 3x European Silver Medalist
Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan) - 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2x Asian Champion
Suleyman Karadeniz (Turkey) - 2020 European Champion
Mohammad Mohammadian (Iran) - 2014 World Bronze Medalist, 2015 Asian Champion
Magomedgadzhi Nurov (North Macedonia) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist
Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia) - 2018 World Bronze Medalist, 6x European Bronze Medalist
Mohamed Saadaoui (Tunisia) - 4x African Champion, 2016 Olympian
Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia) - 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist, 4x World Champion, 4x European Champion
Reineris Salas Perez (Cuba) - 3x World Medalist
Albert Saritov (Romania) - 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2011 World Bronze Medalist
Sharif Sharifov (Azerbaijan) - 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2011 World Champion, 3x World Medalist, 2019 European Champion
Jordan Steen (Canada) - 2x Pan-American Bronze Medalist
Alisher Yergali (Kazakhstan) - 2021 Asian Silver Medalist
The American Entry
Kyle Snyder - The last time Kyle Snyder competed at the Olympic Games, he became the youngest American to ever win a gold medal. Now he's attempting to join the elite of the elite and become the first American since John Smith to win multiple golds.
After the 2016 Olympics, Snyder faced an incredible test from fellow gold medalist Abdulrashid Sadulaev, who bumped up from 86 kg. In one of the most highly anticipated matches in recent history, Snyder downed the Russian, which helped the US win a men's freestyle team title, too. The two met the following year in the world finals and Sadulaev evened the score with a quick fall.
In 2021, it seems as if Snyder would have his most competition domestically, as two-time world champion J'den Cox was sent to move up to 97kg for the Olympic Trials. Of course, Cox did not weigh-in and one of the most unusual saga's in the Trials history was born. Snyder ended up meeting former Ohio State teammate Kollin Moore in the best-of-three finals and cruised to his second Olympic Team. Since the Trials, Snyder went and captured a title at the Pan-American Championships.
Number of Senior World/Olympic Champions: 3 (Sadulaev, Sharifov, Snyder)
Number of Senior World/Olympic Medalists: 10 (Conyedo Ruano, Ibragimov, Mohammadian, Nurov, Odikadze, Sadulaev, Salas Perez, Saritov, Sharifov, Snyder)
For American wrestling fans used to seeding at major tournaments, it's great to seed Sadulaev and Snyder on opposite halves of the bracket as the top-two at 97 kg. Could we see the third installment of their rivalry in Tokyo? Of course, 97 kg features the most returning world medalist of any men's freestyle weight, so there are plenty of entrants who could prevent such as super-match. One of those is unseeded veteran Sharif Sharifov, the competitor who knocked off Snyder at the World Championships in 2019. The Iranian entry, Mohammadian, is also capable of a deep run. He has a semi-recent win over Snyder at the 2020 Matteo Pellicone. As we go up in weight, speed is less of a factor and we see older, grizzled competitors. 97 kg has plenty of these capable veterans like Ibragimov, Odikadze, and Saritov that have been there before and can hang with the best.
125 kg Men's Freestyle
Diaaeldin Abdelmottaleb (Egypt) - 3x African Champion, 2016 Olympian
Taha Akgul (Turkey) - 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist, 2x World Champion, 5x World Medalist, 7x European Champion
Yusup Batirmurzaev (Kazakhstan) - 2019 U23 World Bronze Medalist, 2020 Asian Champion
Djahid Berrahal (Algeria) - 2020 African Silver Medalist
Gennadij Cudinovic (Germany) -
Zhiwei Deng (China) - 2x World Medalist, 2016 Olympian, 2019 Asian Silver Medalist
Amar Dhesi (Canada) - 2020 Pan-American Silver Medal
Dzianis Khramiankov (Belarus) - 2x U23 World Medalist
Aleksander Khotsianivski (Ukraine) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist, 2019 European Bronze Medalist
Sergey Kozyrev (Russia) - 2021 European Champion, 2014 Youth Olympic Games Gold Medalist
Aiaal Lazarev (Kyrgyzstan) - 2020 Individual World Cup Bronze Medalist, 2015 Asian Champion
Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur (Mongolia) - 2019 U23 World Bronze Medalist
Geno Petriashvili (Georgia) - 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 3x World Champion, 5x World Medalist, 2x European Champion
Egzon Shala (Kosovo) -
Amir Zare (Iran) - 2019 U23 World Champion
The American Entry
Gable Steveson - Rarely in sports does the actual substance of an athlete live up to, or even exceed the hype. Coming out of high school, Gable Steveson was billed as perhaps the best recruit EVER! Or at least since Steve Mocco twenty years before him. With two years of college eligibility available (if he chooses to use them), Steveson has already won a share of the Hodge Trophy and made an Olympic Team. Steveson didn't â€œjustâ€ make the team; he dominated two-time world bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski in the best-of-three finals.
Rarely has Gwiazdowski been beaten the way he was by Steveson, which leads many American fans to believe that Gable can win a gold medal...this year! Steveson has his share of international experience. He won back-to-back Cadet World titles in 2015 and 2016, then moved up to the Junior division a year later and did the same. There isn't much recent data to go off of for Steveson on the Senior level. After making the team, he went to the Pan-American Championships and eviscerated the field, though there were no 2020 Olympians in the mix.
Number of Senior World/Olympic Champions: 2 (Akgul, Petriashvili)
Number of Senior World/Olympic Medalists: 4 (Akgul, Deng, Khotsianivski, Petriashvili)
Since 2014, every 125 kg world/Olympic championship has been won by either Taha Akgul or Geno Petriashvili. Akgul took home gold from 2014-16, while Petriashvili has grabbed the next three. These two have generally been head and shoulders above the competition and, for the most part, their only losses during this span have come to each other. They are on separate halves of the bracket, so another meeting between the two could come in the Olympic finals. A trio of young upstarts could be the only two capable of stopping this clash of titans. We've already discussed the American sensation, Steveson, but Iran's Amir Zare and Russia's Sergey Kozyrev seem ready to take the next step. Zare is a monstrous heavyweight that was a Junior World silver medalist in 2019 and a U23 champion the same year. Just three years ago, Kozyrev was a Youth Olympic Games champion. Watch where the three young guns get placed in the brackets, as they are most likely to cause chaos here.