Daton Fix at the 2021 World Championships (Photo Courtesy of UWW)
#1 Abasgadzhi Magomedov (RWF) and #4 Daton Fix (USA) dominate to set up the highly anticipated 61 KG world final.
#1 Abasgadzhi Magomedov (RWF) and #4 Daton Fix (USA) have shown themselves to be on a completely different level than their competition in Oslo. Magomedov cruised through his bracket, pinning the likes of 2018 world bronze medalist Tuvshintulga Tumenbileg (MGL) and Emrah Ormanoglu (TUR) before tech falling 2018 57 KG U-23 world champion Toshihiro Hasegawa (JPN) 10-0 in the semis. Fix's path of destruction has seen him not concede a single point and dominate the likes of Georgi Vangelov (BUL), Arman Eloyan (FRA), Ravinder Ravinder (IND) and Arsen Harutyunyan (ARM) by a margin of 42-0. Since their last battle at 2015 Cadet World's, both men have improved leaps and bounds and I expect the offensive dynamo that Fix has matriculated into to culminate his world championships performance with gold over Magomedov.
Toshihiro Hasegawa (JPN) was one of the other big stories of the bracket as the past 57 KG standout made a strong run to the semifinals. An opening round win over #13 Nico Megerle (GER) put him against electrifying Junior World Champion #9 Rahman Amouzadkhalili (IRI), who terrified the age group scene with his dominating underhook series. Hasegawa showed veteran poise and composure and outlasted the young Iranian to win 9-5 and make the quarterfinals. Against another member of the top ten in European bronze medalist #7 Eduard Grigorev (POL), it would be the chain wrestling of Hasegawa that would carry him to a late 6-3 victory for a semifinal berth. While he was tech falled 10-0 by #1 Abasgadzhi Magomedov (RWF), Hasegawa does have a strong path to bronze in what would cap off a standout debut at the Senior world championships.
#3 Beka Lomtadze (GEO) had suffered a rib injury back in September at the Medved in his 65 KG semifinal bout against #20 (65) Ramazan Ferzaliev (RWF) and it came back to haunt him in his Round of 16 match against Ravinder Ravinder (IND). Lomtadze, a wrestler known for his speed and high paced offense, was sluggish and hesitant throughout the match and the powerful Ravinder took advantage of it for an 8-3 win. It's a shame that we didn't get to see Lomtadze at his full strength against Fix in the quarters or against Magomedov as the reigning world champion at the weight, but here's hoping that he recovers so that we can.
#3 Kyle Dake (USA) dominant on his path for third world title while European champion #14 Taimuraz Salkazanov (SVK) returns to form to make the finals.
Based off their respective performances this year, I pegged #3 Kyle Dake (USA) and #14 Taimuraz Salkazanov (SVK) as my favorites to win gold in what was a loaded 74 KG bracket. Even with both men having suffered lopsided defeats to #2 Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov (BLR) this year with Salkazanov's being at the World Olympic qualifier and Dake's in the Olympic quarterfinals, Salkazanov and Dake had both shown themselves to be the cream crop of the weight outside of Sidakov and Kadimagomedov.
But there was some hesitation regarding #14 Taimuraz Salkazanov (SVK). A loss to #2 Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov (BLR) is absolutely understandable given the year Kadimagomedov went on to have, but Salkazanov losing his semifinal match to #13 Magomed Dibirgadzhiev (RWF) in September at The Medved put doubt on his chances in Oslo.
Salkazanov didn't have near the level of dominance that Dake had in his run to the finals, but Salkazanov made up for it with consistency. Starting off his tournament by avenging his loss from the European Olympic qualifier to Alipasha Umarpashaev (BUL) 3-0, Salkazanov was given a huge test against three-time Russian Nationals bronze medalist #6 Timur Bizhoev (RWF).
With Bizhoev leading 2-1 and being as defensively strong as he is, it looked like Salkazanov's chances for gold were gone but a clutch duck under into a bodylock for Salkazanov saw the Slovakian pick up Bizhoev and carry him out of bounds for a clutch stepout and the 2-2 win. 2018 world runner-up Avtandil Kentchadze (GEO) would be all that stood between Salkazanov and the world finals and ever the calm, cool, and collected Salkazanov used two passivity points, a stepout and a late double leg to forge a 5-0 win over the explosive Georgian and make the world finals.
#3 Kyle Dake (USA) had a much less dramatic path to his third straight world finals match, tech falling Vasile Diacon (MDA) before winning comfortable 5-0 and 8-1 wins over Fatih Eryilmaz (TUR) and #12 Azamat Nurikov (BLR). Dake and Salkazanov is going to be a very interesting contrast of styles as the highly aggressive Dake will try and put Salkazanov away early while the composed Slovakian will look to chip away and take over the match late on the American standout. For me, it is one of the premier matches of the whole tournament to watch.
#12 Azamat Nurikov (BLR) had a very strong run to the semifinals defined by his comeback win in the quarterfinals against #16 Khetag Tsabolov (SRB). Nurikov historically has not been a wrestler with a strong comeback record or gas tank but the improvements he showed against the past world champion Tsabolov saw him overcome a 5-0 deficit to cap off a 7-7 criteria win with a takedown in the final second of the match. Nurikov's improved match IQ and increased offensive output will serve him well on his path to earn his first world medal after taking fifth four times before.
Olympic champions #1 David Taylor (USA) and #2 Hassan Yazdani Charati (IRI) set to renew their rivalry for gold in Oslo.
On his path to his third World/Olympic title, #1 David Taylor (USA) has more than lived up to the moniker of "The Magic Man" as the Olympic champion outscored the likes of #14 Boris Makoev (SVK), Akhmed Aibuev (SVK) and #15 Abubakar Abakarov (AZE) by a 25-2 margin with two pins. #2 Hassan Yazdani Charati (IRI) continued his chargeback to becoming the greatest as the Iranian standout outscored #3 Artur Naifonov (RWF), Azamat Dauletbekov (KAZ), and Ethan Ramos (PUR) by a 30-4 margin.
I expect to see #3 Artur Naifonov (RWF) and #15 Abubakar Abakarov (SVK) walk away with bronze from the event and Taylor finish off his year with his third World/Olympic title as well. Keep an eye out for Ethan Ramos (PUR) as the past Tar Heel All-American has looked strong this tournament with a 13-2 win over Gwanuk Kim and could take out 2019 Intercontinental Cup champion Azamat Dauletbekov (KAZ) in repechage.
#3 Amir Zare (IRI) upsets #1 Taha Akgul (TUR) on his path to gold.
#3 Amir Zare (IRI) was a wrecking ball on his way to his pivotal semifinal match against three-time World/Olympic champion #1 Taha Akgul (TUR). Zare thoroughly controlled #10 Dzianis Khramiankov (BLR) in an opening round win before absolutely taking it to two time world bronze medalist #8 Nick Gwiazdowski (USA) for a 10-0 tech fall in under 2 minutes. In the semis against fellow Tokyo bronze medalist #1 Taha Akgul (TUR), Zare was in control throughout the bout and sealed the deal with a takedown in the final minute of the match.
On the opposite side of the bracket, Olympic runner-up #2 Geno Petriashvili (GEO) opened with an 11-1 tech fall win over #9 Lkhagvagerel Munkhtur (MGL) and used wins over Johannes Ludescher (AUT) and Oleg Boltin (KAZ) to book his spot in his fourth-straight World/Olympic finals. Zare and Petriashvili are tied in their match series at 1-1 with Petriashvili winning in Tokyo and Zare winning in the Iranian Club League in 2019. While Zare has great momentum behind him, Petriashvili has shown this whole quad of being one of the most clutch performers when the spotlight is on so it's really anyone's match in the finals and I'm excited to get the chance to watch it.