2021 World champion at 61 kg Abasgadzhi Magomedov (photos courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
With loaded fields across the board, the 2022 Russian Nationals promises to welcome in the first year of the new quad with a bang. With an impressive mixture of seasoned Senior-level talents with world and domestic titles to their name, to a new influx of Junior age stars and everyone in between, Russian Nationals has something to watch for everybody. Day one will see athletes in the 61, 70, 79, and 92 KG weight classes compete and we'll be looking at who stands out in the field and what to watch out for.
Who To Watch Out For
Currently held down by reigning world champion #1 Abasgadzhi Magomedov, 61 KG in Russia has seen an explosion of talent develop to usher in the new quad. 57 KG Yarygin runner-up #7 (57) Akhmed Idrisov looks to be the man with the best chances of pushing Magomedov in the finals from the top side. Keep an eye out for Idrisov's quarterfinal against the winner of 2021 57 KG Junior world champ Ramazan Bagavudinov and 2021 61 KG U23 World runner-up Artur Chebodaev, as both men should prove to be Idrisov's toughest match on the top side of the bracket.
The bottom side of the bracket lays claim to the top-ranked Russian 61's in the world with #1 Abasgadzhi Magomedov and #5 Bashir Magomedov. The battle of the Magomedov's should be anticipated for a semifinal rematch of their Ivan Poddubny tournament finals won by Abasgadzhi. Now two men between Bashir and Abasgadzhi could potentially derail the semifinal showdown and they are 2019 57 KG Alans bronze medalist Alexander Sabanov for Bashir in the round of 16 and a rematch of last year's national finals match in the quarterfinals against #7 Muslim Mekhtikhanov for Abasgadzhi. While I'm very convinced of both men's abilities, if anything, Bashir is at a higher risk of being upset than Abasgadzhi, who has a history of being able to pull out close domestic matches, like he has against Mekhtikhanov at the Yarygin and last year's national finals and in the Yarygin finals against #8 Fedor Baltuev. In the semis, I see it being a controlling win for Abasgadzhi to set up a finals match against #7 (57) Akhmed Idrisov and taking gold. For bronze, I expect to see Ramazan Bagavudinov finish in bronze on the top half and #7 Muslim Mekthikhanov take bronze on the bottom half.
There's a couple of under-the-radar guys here, who, while not having the same level of credentials as the top-end of the weight class, are tough opponents with upset potential. On the topside, two-time Ali Aliyev finalist Dzhabrail Gairbekov is an explosive counter-oriented wrestler with a past win over #7 (57) Akhmed Idrisov and potential medal ability. On the bottom side, Alexander Sabanov began his Senior career off with a bang in 2019 by taking bronze at the 57 KG Alans with a win in the bronze medal match over 2019 57 KG Russian Nationals champion #6 (57) Ramiz Gamzatov. While Sabanov hasn't lived up to the early potential he showed in Vladikavkaz back in 2019, his high offense style could pose problems for the rest of the field if he is on.
Who to Watch Out For
In what is a recurring trend, the depth at the non-Olympic year weights this year for Russian Nationals have been incredible. 70 KG is the poster boy for this as it boasts 12 Russian Nationals medals and three past European champions. #4 Viktor Rassadin is the highest-ranked in the field and has had an excellent start to 2022 with a Yarygin title and wins over #6 Kurban Shiraev and #13 Anzor Zakuev to his name but the preemptive favorite looks to be #6 Kurban Shiraev who tech falled Rassadin in December at the Umakhanov tournament and has past wins over Russian Nationals champions #5 (74) David Baev and #16 (65) Akhmed Chakaev.
On the top half of the bracket, Rassadin shouldn't be tested until his quarterfinal match where he will either face #12 Ruslan Bogatyrev or 2021 74 KG Yarygin champion Aznaur Tavaev. While Bogatyrev is the higher-ranked of the two, Tavaev is the more dangerous and almost tech falled Rassadin at last year's Russian Nationals championships, before being pinned off a poorly executed scramble. Tavaev is one of the most dangerous men in the field and while he has struggled with weight and injury issues, if he is dialed in he can make a run to the finals. In the semifinals, expect to see the winner of Tavaev/Rassadin take on either #5 Ruslan Zhendaev or #7 Israil Kasumov who face off in the qualifying round. While Kasumov is the Chechen boogeyman, who's been a constant presence at the weight since 2014 and racked up three finals appearances in that time, Zhendaev is coming off a dominant win over Kasumov and #6 Kurban Shiraev at the Ivan Poddubny tournament, so while I do highly factor Kasumov's experience and veteran status at the weight, I think Zhendaev is too hot right now and makes a run to the semis. If Rassadin can make it through a top half against Tavaev and face Zhendaev, I think he can break through to his third finals match, but if Kasumov makes his run through to the finals beating Zhendaev I see Rassadin struggling against him and falling to the returning national champion. And that's not even factoring in Aznaur Tavaev, who's the current top-ranked Russian 2021 world bronze medalist #1 Evgheni Zherbaev! It's absolutely disgustingly stacked on the top side and I cannot wait to see what happens.
The bottom half of the bracket is a lot more cut and dry with #6 Kurban Shiraev having a clear path to the semis after a quarterfinal win over #13 Anzor Zakuev and taking on the winner of 2019 61 KG Russian Nationals bronze medalist Dinislam Takhtarov and 2021 70 KG Russian Nationals bronze medalist Abdulla Akhmedov. I see Shiraev beating a streaking Takhtarov in the semis and making a confident run to the finals.
My safest bet for the bronze medalist on the top half would be #4 Viktor Rassadin but you could sub out #5 Ruslan Zhendaev, #7 Israil Kasumov, or Aznaur Tavaev and have just as good of a bet. And just like on the championships preview, the bottom half is much clearer to pick with #13 Anzor Zakuev being my choice to take bronze.
Who to Watch For
With the returning world bronze medalist #3 Radik Valiev and the past two national champions of #4 Malik Shavaev and #12 Akhmed Usmanov all in the top half quarterfinal, 79 KG is the runaway winner of the most lopsided bracket. With that being said, let's break down how the top half goes. I have #12 Akhmed Usmanov evening his series 2-2 against returning national champion #4 Malik Shavaev and making the quarterfinals where he'll fall to #3 Radik Valiev. In the semifinal, expect to see Valiev go over German Ustinov and make the finals. My sleeper pick for the top half is 2019 Junior world champion Akhmad Tashukhadzhiev who has great strength and a fantastic inside control throwby that could catch Shavaev in his round of 32 match over Usmanov in his round of 16 match and with momentum he could potentially push Valiev.
The best match of the bottom half of the bracket takes place in the quarterfinals between reigning U23 world champion #13 Magomed Magomaev and two-time Russian Nationals bronze medalist Nikita Suchkov. Suchkov started off the 2016-2021 quad on fire with two straight Russian Nationals bronze medal finishes in 2017 and 2018 at 74 KG, but has stagnated a bit since then so the move up in weight could be a much-needed change for him. Magomaev has been on an absolute tear through the age group scene and beat reigning Asian champion #14 Ali Savadkouhi (IRI) at the U23 world championships on his way to gold. Savadkouhi would finish off the year with a victory over 2021 74 KG Olympic runner-up #2 Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov (BLR) in the Iranian Pro League, making Magomaev's win all the more impressive. While Suchkov has the more efficient offense between the two with an excellent knee pull single and ankle pick, I expect to see the pace and physicality of Magomaev take him through to the semifinals. I expect to see Gadzhimurad Alikhmaev repeat his win over #16 Amanulla Gadzhimagomedov from 2020 Russian Nationals and make a strong run through to the semis, where he'll fall to Magomaev. My predicted finals match is #3 Radik Valiev vs. #13 Magomed Magomaev with my bronze medalists being #12 Akhmed Usmanov and Nikita Suchkov.
Who to Watch Out For
Reigning world silver medalist #2 Magomed Kurbanov should expect to be a clear favorite into the finals on the top half, beating 2021 Umakhanov Tournament champion #16 Alan Bagaev in the quarters and winning a rematch of his Poddubny Tournament finals match against Junior national champion #14 Magomed Sharipov in the semifinals. Expect a minor upset from #16 Alan Bagaev over #17 Tamerlan Tapsiev in the round of 16 to avenge his 3-3 semifinal loss to Tapsiev from the Yarygin semis in January.
On the bottom half of the bracket, expect to see 2017 86 KG World bronze medalist #5 Vladislav Valiev as the favorite to come through to the finals, beating 2021 U23 world runner-up #13 Azamat Zakuev in the semifinals after Zakuev avenges his Yarygin semifinals loss to #15 Guram Chertkoev in the quarterfinals.
My finals pick is #2 Magomed Kurbanov vs. #5 Vladislav Valiev and for bronze medalists, I have #16 Alan Bagaev and #13 Azamat Zakuev.