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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Tokyo Watch - 50 Profiles in 50 Days: Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia)

    Elizbar Odikadze (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    As of today, we under 50 days from the start of wrestling at the Olympic Games. Over the next 50 days, we'll bring you one profile per day of a decorated international contender. Make sure you get to know the wrestlers that Team USA will compete against in Tokyo.

    6/15/21 - Elizbar Odikadze (France)

    6/14/21 - Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan)

    6/13/21 - Ningning Rong (China)

    6/12/21 - Bajrang Punia (India)

    6/11/21 - Frank Staebler (Germany)

    6/10/21 - Geno Petriashvili (Georgia)

    A talented competitor who has been a perennial contender for the past decade, #6 Elizbar Odikadze has proven he has the skill to hang with and beat the world's best time and time again. But while Odikadze's skill has never been in question, his consistency has and will be huge if he wants to break through for his first Olympic medal in a loaded field. We're going to see if Odikadze has what it takes to medal in Tokyo in this career recap.

    #6 Elizbar Odikadze (GEO)- 4x World 5th place finisher (‘14,'15,'17,'19), 2015 European Games runner-up, 2016 Olympics 5th place finisher, 2018 world bronze medalist, 2019 European Games bronze medalist, 2015 Baku GGP champion, 7x European championships bronze medalist (‘15,'16,'17,'18,'19, ‘20, ‘21).

    Key Wins: #2 Kyle Snyder (2016 World Club Cup), #4 (92) Aslanbek Alborov ( 2017 97 KG European championships, 2018 97 KG world championships, 2015 Baku GGP), #13 Sharif Sharifov (2015 Baku GGP finals), Khetag Gozyumov (2013 Yasar Dogu finals), Reza Yazdani (2012 world cup), Reineris Salas Perez (2017 world championships wrestling).

    Key Losses: Abdusalam Gadisov (2015 world championships, 2016 World Cup), #2 Kyle Snyder (2016 Olympics, 2016 World Cup, 2019 world championships bronze medal match), #1 Abdulrashid Sadulaev (2015 Alrosa Cup, 2017 world championships, 2018 world championships, 2020 European championships), Khetag Gozyumov (2014 world championships, 2015 world championships, 2015 European Games finals), Georgi Ketoev (2017 world bronze medal match), Valerii Andriitsev (2014 world bronze medal match), #13 Sharif Sharifov (2019 world championships)

    2011-2013

    Elizbar Odikadze's Senior career would kick off in 2011 at the Tbilsi Grand Prix in June, a two-year gap after an 11th place finish at the Junior European championships. Odikadze would make a major statement in his debut, finishing as runner-up to 2009 world bronze medalist Serhat Balci (TUR). Odikadze concluded his 2011 with a bronze medal finish at the Ziolkowski behind Abdusalam Gadisov (RUS) and Serhat Balci (TUR) and 2012 would be the year things started to change for Turkey, but first, we have to talk about someone else.

    Giorgi Gogschelidze was a towering presence at 97 KG for over a decade and arguably the face of Georgian upperweight wrestling. And he had entirely earned that reputation earning a world title for Russia in 2001, 5x World/Olympic medals for Georgia and a European title in 2008, where he beat 6x World/Olympic Khadzhimurat Gatsalov (RUS). While Odikadze would have a compelling 2012 with a pair of bronze medal finishes to start the year at the Ziolkowski and International Tournament and a huge win at the World Cup over reigning world champion Reza Yazdani (IRI), it would be Gogschelidze who would go to the Olympics and finish his career with a bronze medal in London. While Gogschelidze finished out his career in London, Odikadze continued to march in with impressive end of the year showings at the Baku GGP, winning gold over Russian Nationals medalist Arslanbek Aliev (RUS) and a runner-up finish at the Intercontinental Cup to 2011 Russian Nationals silver medalist Yuri Belonovski (RUS).

    2013 started off with a breakthrough for Odikadze as he upset 2010 world champion, returning Olympic bronze medalist Khetag Gozyumov (AZE) for gold in the finals of the Yasar Dogu, for the biggest international win of his career. High off the biggest achievement of his young career, Odikadze's momentum was stopped abruptly by Yarygin champion Vladislav Baitsaev (RUS) in the second round of the European Championships, where he finished 10th. Odikadze would have to wait yet again for his chance at the world championships as it would be Dato Kerashvili (GEO) who would go in his place, taking fifth. Odikadze wrestled through the end of the year, finishing with bronze at the Dmitri Korkin tournament behind future world medalists Shamil Akhmedov (RUS) and #4 (92) Aslanbek Alborov (AZE). An errant move up to 120 KG for the Baku GGP would result in Odikadze's worst finish of the year, where he took eighth.

    2014-2019

    2014 would see the beginning of a new stage of Odikadze's career as Georgia's most consistently, inconsistent upperweight fixtures. 100% capable of hanging with the best in the world, but time and time again, be it in the form of gassing out or poor match decision making, Odikadze would grasp defeat from the jaws of victory. Odikadze's 2014 would start off very strong with back-to-back titles at the Stepan Sargsyan Cup and Ziolkowski Memorial and avenged his loss to Vladislav Baitsaev (RUS). But the World Championships would halt that momentum for Odikadze, as the ever consistent powerhouse Khetag Gozyumov (AZE) would stop him in his tracks in second-round action and a bodylock from 2012 Olympic runner-up Valerii Andriitsev (UKR) would put Odikadze away in the bronze medal match.

    Off a disappointing finish at the world championships, Odiakdze reset his sights in 2015 to the Takhti Cup, where he beat Hassan Rahimi (IRI), a young talent fresh off an upset win over returning world bronze medalist Valerii Andriitsev (UKR). An eighth-place finish at the Medved behind a trio of Olympic medalists in Sharif Sharifov (AZE), Khetag Gozyumov (AZE), and Valerii Andriitsev (UKR) was no shame for Odikadze going into the European Games where he had a favorable shot at medaling if he could stay away from Russian powerhouse Abdusalam Gadisov (RUS) or the Azeri stalwart Khetag Gozyumov (AZE). Odikadze's run in Baku would be a memorable one as he avenged his loss to 2014 World bronze medal loss to Valerii Andriitsev (UKR) in the semis and fall 3-1 to Khetag Gozyumov (AZE). After an impressive showing in Baku, Odikadze followed it up with a head-scratching performance at the Ziolkowski. After beating 2018 84 KG world medalist #8 Mohammad Mohammadian (IRI) and future European champion Riza Yildirim (TUR), he would fall to what should have been an overmatched Abbas Tahan (IRI) 3-1 in the finals. The World Championships would see Odikadze coast through to the semis where he was stopped dead in his tracks 7-2 by returning world champion Abdusalam Gadisov (RUS) and fall again by way of a four-point counter to Khetag Gozyumov (AZE) for bronze in a match he had been winning. Slated as the man to welcome reigning two-time 84 KG world champion #1 Abdulrashid Sadulaev (RUS) to 97 KG at the Alrosa Cup, Odikadze was severely outgunned and tech falled in the Russian great's light heavyweight debut. Odikadze's final competition of 2015 would be his best, winning a loaded Baku Golden Grand Prix field with wins over Olympic champion #13 Sharif Sharifov (AZE) and two-time world bronze medalist Pavlo Oliiynk (UKR) to gain momentum going into 2016.

    2016 would be a strange start for Odikadze, losing to the unheralded Ivan Yankouski (BLR) at the Medved and finishing in bronze. Anzor Boltukaev, the brawny Chechen who stunned the wrestling world in 2013 by pinning Abdusalam Gadisov to winning Russian Nationals and go on to win world bronze, would make his return in an emphatic statement with wins over World/Olympic champions #2 Kyle Snyder (USA) and Jake Varner (USA) to win the Yarygin title. The European championship was all but guaranteed for Boltukaev and falling in his warpath was Odikadze, tech falled by the bruiser 12-0 in the quarterfinals. Odikadze rallied back to finish bronze with a tentative 3-1 win over Valerii Andriitsev (UKR).

    2016 would be arguably the most Odikadze year of Odikadze's career. What I mean by that is he has a weird loss he shouldn't, beats really solid guys really early in the season or post world's and then falls to the elite of the elites come time for the big show. But even saying that, Odikadze was really closing in on the likes of world champions #2 Kyle Snyder (USA) and Abdusalam Gadisov (RUS), as evident by his razor-thin losses to the two at the World Cup. And his first round 8-1 win over former pound-for-pound great Georgi Ketoev (ARM) made Odikadze seem like he could really bring home hardware on time #3. But a powerful first-period semi against returning world champ #2 Kyle Snyder became a defeated and exhausted second period that culminated with a 9-4 loss and Odikadze was then blown out for bronze against Albert Saritov (ROU), a 2011 84 KG world bronze medalist for Russia. To finish his year, Odikadze goes and beats now Olympic champion, #2 Kyle Snyder (USA) at the World Club Cup and reannounces himself as a major contender at 97 KG going into the new quad.

    A uniquely Odikadze performance ensued to start off 2017 at the European championships. Impressive on his way to the semifinals, beating the surging #4 (92) Aslanbek Alborov (AZE), who had just unseated #2 Kyle Snyder (USA) at the World Cup, Odikadze was stopped in a slow-paced, defensively-minded loss to eventual champion Riza Yildirim (TUR). Another Odikadze headscratcher in the form of a 4-4 semifinal loss to Mamed Ibragimov (KAZ) would relegate Odikadze for bronze. The world championships would come around for Odikadze and he went through an absolutely loaded bracket going 2-2 placing 5th. Wins over world medalists Reineris Salas Perez (CUB) and Pavlo Oliinyk (UKR) cemented Odikadze as the best of the rest, but a tech fall to runner-up #1 Abdulrashid Sadulaev (RUS) and a stifling loss in the bronze medal match to Georgi Ketoev (ARM) meant Odikadze was on the outside looking in after his fourth straight fifth-place finish at the World/Olympics.

    Injury defaulting of the Dan Kolov, Odikadze's first competition of 2018 would be at the European championships and he would be no match for old foe Vladislav Baitsaev (RUS), who outscored the competition 42-0 on his way to gold. Odikadze did have a strong win over future world medalist #14 Abraham De Jesus Conyedo Ruano (ITA) in repechage. Back-to-back titles at the ranking series events, the Tbilsi Grand Prix and the Ziolkowski Memorial, meant favorable placement for Odikadze in the bracket for World's. And Odikadze looked at his career-best, upsetting Yasar Dogu champion and returning world bronze #4 (92) Aslanbek Alborov (AZE) in the quarterfinals after Alborov had looked primed for another world medal after upsetting Olympic champions #2 Kyle Snyder (USA) and #13 Sharif Sharifov (AZE). As good as Odikadze was at his best, #1 Abdulrashid Sadulaev (RUS) was a man possessed after falling short in a battle of Olympic championships in the 2017 world finals. Sadulaev had outscored the competition 35-0 going into the semifinals against Odikadze and Odikadze would be another victim of the scoreboard, being dominated in a 10-0 tech fall loss. But there was redemption for Odikadze as he would get his fifth shot at a world medal and would make the most of it, coming out on top of a scramble in a back and forth match against 2016 Olympic bronze medalist #18 Magomed Ibragimov (UZB) for his first world medal. The massive weight off his chest and coming off a career-high now as a world medalist, Odikadze went into the prestigious Alans tournament looking to exact revenge upon his earlier season loss to Vladislav Baitsaev (RUS) but was upset early by Russian Nationals bronze medalist Zaynulla Kurbanov (RUS) and placed ninth.

    In the final year of the quad, 2019 was a return to form for Odikadze in the good and the bad. New contenders emerged in Europe and made their presence felt against Odikadze. #11 Aleksandr Hushtyn (BLR) beat the talented Georgian 2-1 in the European Championships semifinals, with Odikadze rebounding to a strong bronze medal finish over Nicolai Ceban (MDA) and then an absolute beatdown of a loss in the finals of the International Ukrainian Tournament to 2018 U-23 world bronze medalist Murazhi Mchelidze (UKR) that was followed up by a bronze medal finish at the European Games that saw him beat Mchelidze 5-0 for bronze after a 7-3 quarterfinals loss to Nurmagomed Gadzhiev (AZE). The 2019 World Championships would come and Odikadze would yet again beat a red hot Yasar Dogu champ expected to contend for hardware in #7 Ali Khalil Shahbanibengar (IRI). He was then shut out by Olympic champions #13 Sharif Sharifov (AZE) 6-0 in the quarterfinals and 5-0 by #2 Kyle Snyder (USA) for bronze. Odikadze qualified for his second Olympics, but it would seem the cycle would repeat itself, especially with the new talent-injected 97 KG weight class. A second run at the Alans would be more fruitful for Odikadze as he would take bronze after a loss to Vladislav Baitsaev (RUS) and stymie the rise of young Russian prospect Shamil Ali Musaev (RUS).

    In the truncated 2020 COVID season, Odikadze was able to win his eighth European Championships/Games medal with a bronze medal in Italy over returning European Games runner-up Nurmagomed Gadzhiev (AZE). So far this year, Odikadze has finished fifth at the International Ukrainian Tournament after a razor-thin loss to 2020 Individual World Cup bronze medalist #5 Suleyman Karadeniz (TUR) and followed it up with European medal #9 with impressive wins over #11 Aleksandr Hushtyn (BLR), 2019 world bronze medalist Magomedgadzhi Nurov (MKD) and 2018 92 KG U-23 world champion Shamil Zubairov (AZE) to go against a 7-5 semifinal loss to #5 Suleyman Karadeniz (TUR).

    Elizbar Odikadze's position in Tokyo is a strange one. He has the potential to beat the best, but historically not when they are at their best, so I'm not expecting at 32 years old for Odikadze to have this huge career turnaround and start beating the elite ranks of Sadulaev, Snyder, Karadeniz, or Mohammadian in Tokyo. But I think Odikadze is still a threat with a good draw and can still keep young prospects honest and, if luck is on his side, potentially medal. Even if this is Odikadze's final run, Georgia will have a more than capable replacement in 2018 U-23 world champion #12 Givi Matcharashvili (GEO) waiting in the wings.

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