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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Tokyo Watch - 50 Profiles in 50 Days: Hassan Yazdani Charati (Iran)

    Hassan Yazdani (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.

    6/18/21 - Tamas Lorincz (Hungary)

    6/17/21 - Takuro Otoguro (Japan)

    6/16/21 - Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia)

    6/15/21 - Koumba Larroque (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)

    YAZDANI THE GREATEST. The trademark namesake of the 3x World/Olympic champ #2 Hassan Yazdani Charati of Iran has made him one of the most popular wrestlers in the world. But behind the hype, Yazdani Charati has made himself into one of the best 86 KG wrestlers of the past decade and, at only 26 years old, can continue to build his legacy. Today's athlete profile will be looking to see if Yazdani really is the greatest.

    The Stats

    #2 Hassan Yazdani Charati (IRI) 2019 world champion, 2015 70 KG world runner-up, 2016 74 KG Olympic champ, 2017 86 KG world champ, 2018 world bronze, 2018 Asian games champ, 2019 Dan Kolov champ, 2021 Asian champion

    Key Wins: Aniuar Geduev (2016 74 KG Olympic finals), #3 Artur Naifonov (2019 world championships quarterfinals), #13 Myles Amine (2019 world championships semifinals), Bekzod Abdurakhmanov (2016 Medved), #2 (92) Kamran Ghasempour (2018 Iranian world team trials, 2021 Iranian Olympic Trials), #10 (97) Alireza Karimimachiani (2017 Iranian world team trials), #13 (74), Khetag Tsabolov (2016 World Cup), #18 Ali Shabanov (2019 Dan Kolov finals), #12 (74) Soner Demirtas (2016 Medved), Boris Makoev (2017 World finals), #8 Vladislav Valiev (2017 World semis), #4 Dauren Kurugliev (2018 World bronze medal match).

    Key Losses: #1 David Taylor (2017 World Cup, 2018 World's), #18 Ali Shabanov (2016 Grand Prix of Paris), #13 (74) Khetag Tsabolov (2016 74 KG Medved finals), #11 (74) Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov (2015 70 KG world finals), #1 (65) Gadzhimurad Rashidov (2011 55 KG Cadet World finals), Mehdi Teghavi (2014 70 KG World Club Cup)

    YAZDANI THE GREAT (2011-2016)

    Hassan Yazdani Charati's career would begin not as the punishing upperweight that he is known as today but a gangly 50 KG Cadet in 2011, where he'd finish bronze at the Cadet Asian championships and improve upon it with a runner-up finish at the World Championships with a runner-up finish to #1 (65) Gadzhimurad Rashidov (RUS). Already only two competitions into his international career, Yazdani was showing his trademark pressure and punishing underhook series, but the superior counter wrestling and leg attacks of Rashidov picked apart the Iranian.
    After a three-year hiatus and debuting as a Junior, Yazdani would win the Asian championships over 2017 70 KG world bronze medalist Yuji Fujinami of Japan. Yazdani Charati entered the Junior World Championships with impressive accolades but was outshadowed by the dominant Aaron Pico (USA), the 2013 Cadet world champion who had multiple wins over college and Senior level stars while only in high school. Pico, who typically broke opponents with his brutal handfighting, could not get in on the lanky Yazdani. He kept the American talent on the defensive throughout the match and dominated 9-2 for his first world title. At the end of the year, Yazdani would get the opportunity to compete at the World Club Cup in Iran at the Senior level. In his biggest test to date, Yazdani would fall 6-4 to two time 66 KG world champion Mehdi Teghavi (IRI) and establish himself as the #3 senior level 70 KG wrestler in Iran behind Senior world rep Mostafa Hosseinkhani and Teghavi.

    Yazdani's international debut at the Senior level would be at the Grand Prix of Paris, where he'd earn two tech falls and a pin to make the finals opposite Poland's #16 (65) Magomedmurad Gadzhiev, a 2010 European runner-up and Russian Nationals bronze medalist who'd establish himself as a top world medal threat transferring to Poland. In what was one of the ultimate body and style contrasts, Yazdani absolutely bullied the shorter and more defensive Gadzhiev all over the mat in a dominating 8-0 victory for his first international title. In his first-ever international competition, Yazdani had already put himself on the shortlist of favorites to win gold at world's and he would sustain that momentum at the World Cup going 4-0 with wins over 2014 European champion Ruslan Dibirgadzhiev (AZE) and 2014 74 KG Yasar Dogu champion Nick Marable (USA). All that was left before the world championships for Yazdani was some revenge in the form of a rematch against two-time world champion Mehdi Teghavi at the Iranian world team trials. A victorious Yazdani Charati would emerge over Teghavi and seal his spot as one of the favorites to win gold along with #11 (70) James Green (USA) and #11 (74) Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov (RUS).

    At his first senior world championships, Yazdani would debut in fashion earning two pins and a tech fall to make the semis opposite another young upstart in American #11 (70) James Green. Green had been one of the biggest developments for the US team. After having won the trials over 74 KG brickhouse Nick Marable, Green entered the Grand Prix of Spain and faced off against 65 KG European Games runner-up, two-time world champion #5 Frank Chamizo (ITA). Green stunned the international wrestling world with a huge upset victory over Chamizo and announced himself as a major contender in the process.

    The match between Yazdani and Green would be a war of attrition. Yazdani set the pace right off the bat but an early Green uchi mata on the edge would put the American up and show he would not roll over to Yazdani's pressure. Yazdani recuperated from it and figured the best way to fight fire is with fire and continued the pressure to finish the period up 5-3. Now going into the second, Yazdani had gotten his read on Green and kept him on his heels the rest of the match, pulling away with a 9-4 win to face off against #11 (74) Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov of Russia in the finals. Gazimagomedov was an entirely different animal than Yazdani had faced before, having the length to match the Iranian and the physicality to surpass him. Gazimagomedov had done what no one else had been able to so far and big brothered the Iranian, completely negating his underhooks and outhustling him with takedowns from his front headlock and body lock to a 10-3 win.

    Entering 2016, Yazdani would take over the 74 KG Olympic spot qualified by Alireza Ghasemi's 5th place finish in Las Vegas. Yazdani's debut at 74 KG would come at the Grand Prix of Paris, where he'd be seeking his second title after his 2015 gold at 70 KG. Facing him in the finals would be the wily veteran, two-time World bronze medalist Ali Shabanov of Belarus. Shabanov, considerably more experienced and filled out at 74 KG, was an absolute nightmare of a matchup for Yazdani at the time as he had the speed to surpass Yazdani and incredible defense and a powerful underhook series of his own that frustrated Yazdani to a 6-6 criteria loss.

    Yazdani's next major competition would be the Medved in Belarus, a loaded tournament that would give him a great look before going into the World Cup. Yazdani was spectacular on his path to the finals, disposing with ease elite contenders the likes of #9 (79) Arsalan Budazhapov (KGZ), two-time World/Olympic medalist #12 Soner Demirtas (TUR) and two-time world medalist Bekzod Abdurakhmanov (UZB). Awaiting Yazdani in the finals would be #13 (74) Khetag Tsabolov (SRB), the 2014 70 KG world champion for Russia and an extremely dangerous crafty veteran who could put matches away at any time with his lethal knee pull single to leg lace and slick counters. Yazdani would bring the fight to Tsabolov early and take command of the match but a deft roll through counter off a whizzer while Yazdani tried to finish an underhook on the edge put Tsabolov in complete control of the match and stunned the Iranian phenom with an incredible pin.

    There was no man in the world with a less envious position than to be the first person Yazdani wrestled after his finals loss at the Medved. That person would be none other than 2011 World bronze medalist Ashraf Aliyev of Azerbaijan at the world cup. Aliyev, a dangerous veteran who had boasted wins over #2 Kyle Dake (USA) and David Khutsishvili (GEO), was supposed to be a test for Yazdani, which Yazdani passed with flying colors putting the dangerous Azeri veteran away in a 9-5 victory. Next for Yazdani would be the Oklahoma State great, 3x NCAA champion Alex Dieringer (USA), who was coming off a third-place finish at the US Olympic trials. Dieringer, a powerhouse who dominated elite competition in college and domestically, was ragdolled by Yazdani in a 10-0 win for the greatest. A 12-2 layup against Parveen Rana of India put Yazdani finished Yazdani's pool action and put him and team Iran in the World Cup finals, where he'd get a chance of revenge against #13 Khetag Tsabolov (SRB) in their match against Russia. The Yazdani that would face off against Tsabolov was an absolute killer and put the world on notice with a commanding 14-4 tech fall win over the Russian hammer to cap off a 4-0 World Cup run and gold for Iran.

    The field at the 2016 Olympics is where Yazdani, as good as he was, was seen as an underdog to win it behind 4x World/Olympic champion #8 (74) Jordan Burroughs of the United States and the Russian hulk that was Aniuar Geduev. Yazdani was situated on the opposite side of the bracket of these Geduev and Burroughs and would beat the likes of Asnage Castelly (HAI), #12 (74), Soner Demirtas (TUR), and Galymzhan Usserbaev (KAZ) to make the finals. In lieu of the heavy favorite #8 (74) Jordan Burroughs, who was expected to capture Olympic title #2, it would be the Russian powerhouse Aniuar Geduev facing Yazdani in the finals. Geduev, had gone on a career-best run on the year, beating three-time world champion Denis Tsargush (RUS), four-time World/Olympic champion #8 (74) Jordan Burroughs (USA), four-time World/Olympic medalist Jabrayil Hasanov (AZE) and two-time world medalist Bekzod Abdurakhmanov (UZB) to make the Olympic finals in what was supposed to be a poster book ending for the Russian legend. And early on, that's what it looked like as Geduev raced out to a commanding 6-0 lead to end the first period. But in a 20-minute marathon match heavily slowed down by injury-time stoppages to tend to Geduev's cuts on his face, it would be Yazdani who would seize the day in the second period and with under 10 seconds left to seal a takedown to win 6-6 on criteria and Olympic gold. What had simply been hyperbole was now the truth and Yazdani was the greatest.

    YAZDANI THE GREATEST (2017-2021)

    Another year and another weight for Yazdani the conquered; this time his eyes were set on 86 KG. His debut competition would be the World Cup set at Kermanshah, Iran, with Iran gunning for its third straight World Cup title. Yazdani would take a 2-0 pool record to the finals against the US, where he'd face off against a surging #1 David Taylor (USA) who'd upset three World/Olympic medalists in #13 (97) Sharif Sharifov (AZE), #8 Vladislav Valiev (RUS) and Dato Marsagishvili (GEO) going into the finals. In a matchup of the two hottest commodities at 86 KG, it would be the superior scrambling and low attacks of Taylor that would overcome the pressure and underhooks of Yazdani and the Nittany Lion great would walk away with an electrifying pin win over the Yazdani.

    Now, after his stunning loss to Taylor, many were left wondering if Yazdani would be able to replicate his middleweight success amongst the best at 86 KG. With Yazdani slated to compete at the Islamic Solidarity Games that would field three-time World/Olympic medalist #11 (92) Selim Yasar (TUR) and #13 (97) Sharif Sharifov (AZE), the returning Olympic runner-up and bronze medalist, Yazdani was sure to be tested. But Yazdani was ahead of the curve and absolutely demolished Yasar and Sharifov in tech fall wins to capture the Islamic Solidarity Games gold. With David Taylor's loss at the World Team Trials to Olympic bronze medalist #4 (97) J'den Cox (USA) and three-time World/Olympic champion #1 (97) Abdulrashid Sadulaev (RUS) moving up to 97 KG, Yazdani was the most consistent man in the field and seen as the favorite for gold.

    Yazdani's world title run in Paris would begin against the likes of the bruiser Azamat Dauletbekov of Kazakhstan, who would be the only man to score on Yazdani the whole tournament after a big first-period takedown Yazdani went into overdrive and mauled Dauletbekov to a 12-2 win. Techfalls over European stalwarts Piotr Ianulov (MDA) and Alexander Gostiev (AZE) put Yazdani into the semifinals opposite #8 Vladislav Valiev (RUS), who would be Yazdani's toughest opponent of the whole tournament, holding the Iranian to a four-point win. Boris Makoev (SVK) had stunned the world after his huge 6-3 upset victory over returning Olympic bronze medalist #4 (97) J'den Cox (USA), who was seen as a lock to face Yazdani and matriculate his immense talent into becoming the new king of 86 KG with Sadulaev gone. With J'den's dreams dashed, Yazdani, the conqueror, did what he had done all tournament and dominated for gold thrashing Makoev 10-0.

    With two World/Olympic titles at two weight classes under his belt, Yazdani would capture the one title that had evaded him his whole Senior-level career, which was Asian championships gold. Yazdani walked through the field in Bishkek, dominating 2016 Olympian Uitemen Orgodol (MGL) for gold. Two wins over two-time U-23 world champion #2 (92) Kamran Ghasempour at Iranian World Team Trials would make Yazdani the man for the Asian Games and the World championships. The Asian Games title came with ease for Yazdani, bulldozing Michigan All-American Domenic Abounader of Lebanon in the finals. Yazdani's continental dominance would set the stage for a monster rematch against #1 David Taylor (USA) at the world championships.
    In the "luck" of the random draw, Yazdani and Taylor would face each other in the very first round. This brings to light controversy associated with UWW's random draw and bracketing process that have rightfully been called out for making lopsided brackets where the best don't place and gives extra opportunities to countries who would otherwise be unable to place someone. Regardless of the random draw that had made the world finals a qualification round match, Yazdani and Taylor went to absolute war with each other; both men at their best, it would be the Taylor who would walk away with an 11-6 win. With Taylor's dominant run through the bracket guaranteeing him a spot in the finals, Yazdani was put in the repechage bracket, where he gutted Medved champion #9 (92) Gadzhi Radzhabov (BLR) and Pan-Am runner-up Yurieski Torreblanca (CUB) to qualify for the bronze medal match against #4 Dauren Kurugliev (RUS). Kurugliev and Yazdani would fight tooth and nail, but it would be the Iranian who would pull away to win his fourth World/Olympic medal 11-5.

    Yazdani's 2019 began with a chance at revenge. Three years before, four-time world medalist #18 Ali Shabanov (BLR) had beaten Yazdani in the finals of the 74 KG Grand Prix of Paris. Yazdani tech falled his way to the finals to get his chance at Shabanov and the match that ensued would be on the shortlist of matches of the year and show how far both men had come. A game Shabanov would scramble out of Yazdani's underhooks with his spectacular athleticism and whizzer series, but the now seasoned Yazdani kept coming forward to take an 8-3 lead to end the first. Another 8 point spread for Yazdani and one counter takedown for Shabanov sealed the match 16-5 for the Greatest and showed he had no intentions of backing down after finishing bronze at world's in 2018.

    With returning world champion #1 David Taylor (USA) out with injury, #4 (97) J'den Cox (USA) moved up to 92 KG Yazdani was as much of a lock as possible for his third World/Olympic title. Dominance would be an understatement of Yazdani's performance as he pinned world medalists #3 Artur Naifonov (RUS) and Istvan Vereb (HUN) and tech falled #12 Myles Amine (SMR) and 2012 Olympic runner-up Jaime Espinal (PUR) to make the finals where India's Deepak Punia would forfeit to him. Another title for Yazdani the Greatest. All that remained was another Olympic gold.

    But Yazdani wouldn't get the chance in 2020 for his second Olympic title. Yazdani did win his qualifying match for the 2020 Individual World Cup at Iranian Trials beating Ahmed Bazrigaleh 11-0 but didn't compete as Iran only sent one athlete Rahman Amouzadkhalili who took bronze at 57 KG. Yazdani's full return to international competition would be at this year's Asian Championships in April. He would destroy Indian wrestling star Deepak Punia (IND) for gold. Yazdani would win his Olympic trials match against #2 (92) Kamran Ghasempour to lock up his spot for Tokyo and his second Olympic title.

    Hassan Yazdani Charati is in a very interesting position. He is on track to become one of Iran's most credentialed upperweight wrestlers and has age on his side at only 26 years old to continue through for a third Olympics. While #1 David Taylor (USA) is peaking and likely at the end of his career, Yazdani Charati has made the adjustments to not only threaten Taylor but take over the American world champion for Olympic title #2. Time will tell if that is to be, but I very much look forward to Yazdani/Taylor round three as both men are clearly the class of the field.

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