In the second installment of the greatest Olympic wrestling preview on the net, we present the freestyle sixty kilogram weight class.
This weight comes loaded with intriguing story lines. Will the world's greatest wrestler finally taste the sweet ambrosia that is Olympic triumph? Will an aging star summon up his finest performance in this, his final shot at glory? What of this American upstart - maybe the hottest wrestler in the world - will he keep his white hot run alive? And will Puerto Rico, this tiny Carribean nation known for its Olympic boxing, be able to claim its first ever wrestling gold medal? No matter the answer to these questions, spectacular wrestling action is a certainty as some of the worlds best go head to head.
Olympic Wrestling Previews
After the jump, answers to these questions and more as we examine the sixty kilogram weight class in freestyle at the Olympic games.
As always, I begin with a list of competitors and results from world-level championships from the past Olympic cycle:
60 kg field
Besik Kudukhov, Russia
Franklin Gomez, Puerto Rico
Dauren Zhumagzyyev, Kazahkstan
Kenichi Yumoto, Japan
Didier Pais, France
Malkhaz Zarkua, Georgia
Toghrul Asgarov, Azerbaijan
Anatolie Guidea, Bulgaria
Masoud Esmailpoor, Iran
Yogeshwar Dutt, India
Yowlys Bonne, Cuba
Guillermo Torres, Mexico
Hassan Ibrahim, Egypt
Farzad Aurash, Australia
Jong Ri, PRK
Seungchul Lee, Korea
Coleman Scott, USA
Vasyl Fedoryshyn, Ukraine
Tim Schleicher, Germany
2011 World Championship Results:
1. Besik Kudukhov, Russia
2.Franklin Gomez, Puerto Rico
3.Kenichi Yumoto, Japan; Dauren Zhumgaziev, Kazakhstan
2010 World Championships
1. Besik Kudukhov, Russia
2.Vasyl Fedorishin, Ukraine
3.Seyed Mohammadi Pahnekalaei, Iran; Zelimkhan Huseinov, Azerbaijan
2009 World Championships
1. Besik Kudukhov, Russia
2. Zelimkhan Huseinov, Azerbaijan
3. Dilshod Mansurov, Uzbekistan; Vasyl Fedorishin, Ukraine
1.Mavlet Batirov, Russia
2.Vasyl Fedorishin, Ukraine
3.Seyed Mohammadi Pahnekalaei, Iran ; Kenichi Yumoto, Japan
My thoughts on this weight:
This weight is more well rounded and deep than 55 kg with more decorated names in the field. Year after year, it appears that the same names appear at the top of the results column with just a little bit of shuffling - except for the top spot which brings me to my next point...
Who will win:
Besik Kuduhhov is the best pound for pound wrestler in the world, plain and simple. He has four won golds in the last four world championships. This puts him in rare company in wrestling history, particularly in a seven weight class era, but one jewel remains absent from his crown, an Olympic gold medal. Though even a first place finish at these games would still leave him a few Olympic golds away from "greatest of all time" consideration, winning in London would likely vault him into top ten territory.
His last Olympics saw him suffer his most crushing defeat. Down a weight in 2008, he was destroyed in a spectacular upset in the semifinals, a loss which cleared the way for American Henry Cejudo to win Gold.
Besik and his American-inspired physical and aggressive style have been nearly unbeatable ever since and he is a very safe bet to win gold in London.
Who will win if Kudukhov does not:
Vasyl Fedorishin of the Ukraine has had fantastic career littered with world and Olympic top five finishes and golds at the world cup, Yarygin, and the European championships. In the last Olympic cycle alone, he has earned three world-level medals, and his silver in 2010 would have been gold but for a moment of sublimity by Besik Kudukhov (go to nine minutes in).
Vasyl's disappointing performance in last year's world championships might be a sign that his window is closing. He is only thirty one, but he has been competing on the senior level since the age of nineteen and this will be his third Olympics; he's logged many miles in his journey and at some point, the wear and tear will take its final toll. He is at an important juncture in his competitive life where he can determine whether he will leave the sport as a Jim Kelly or as a John Elway.
How the American will do:
Coleman Scott has had a hell of a year, dominating opponents both domestic and foreign and earning titles at both the Olympic trials and World Cup. USA Wrestling rewarded him generously: they allowed him a one match wrestle off with the reigning world team trials champion, Reece Humphrey, who had not wrestled a match in months, to win the right to have a three match wrestle off with Shawn Bunch, who had managed to qualify the weight, but did not look that great in doing so, all in order to win his Olympic spot. This was the longest and hardest road any of our Olympians had to take to London and he navigated it with consummate poise.
Coleman stands a decent shot at a medal at these games. He won gold in a tough weight class at the World Cup, beating Japan's world and Olympic bronze medalist Kenichi Yummoto and Masoud Esmailpoor, the Iranian number one. He also had to best a tough domestic field in capturing his Olympic spot, beating out the following highly qualified wrestlers
- Martin Berberyan - Olympian and world bronze medalist
- Mike Zadick - Olympian and world silver
- Matt Valenti - two time NCAA champion
- Logan Steiber - NCAA champ and junior world silver medalist
- Kellen Russell - two time NCAA champ
- Derek Moore - NCAA champ
- Reece Humphrey- Reigning world team trials champ, seventh place in the world
- Shawn Bunch - Olympic team trials runner up, world team trials champion, Medved grand prix champion
- AND MORE!
Dark horse from and unlikely land:
My first inclination in this category was to choose Franklin Gomez of Puerto Rico, indeed a fantastic talent from a commonwealth with little wrestling tradition, but he is essentially a product of the USA. He went to high school in New Jersey and Florida, won an NCAA championship at Michigan State and conducts his freestyle training at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club.
Instead, I am going with Didier Pais of France. The Land of the Baguette has had some limited recent world-level success in Greco, but this was mostly with transplants from Eastern Europe. Pais is a freestyle wrestler, a native born Frenchman, a product of France and France alone, and was one win away from a medal in the last world championships. This is nearly unheard of. The last time France won a World or Olympic medal in freestyle wrestling was 1989 - a generation ago.
In a recent interview, Pais chalked up France's lack of international wrestling success to bad luck, injuries, and a lack of commitment from the government; he also lists his favorite wrestling accomplishment as his victory in last year's world championships over American Reece Humphrey. Pais is wrong in the first case, France's lack of success in freestyle can simply be explained by the fact that they aren't that good - there is not much else to it. But he is justified in the latter statement. He should be proud of beating a good wrestler like Humphrey,
Didier is bucking the odds and carving out a nice wrestling career for himself despite coming from a country with little to no interest in his sport. Perhaps he can overcome even more odds and we will all be listening to “La Marseillaise” play in the Olympic wrestling arena for the first time since 1936.
A multitude of outcomes would constitute a fitting end to a great story. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, a world of anti-climax; threads are rarely tied off, circles are seldom closed. The ending of this Olympic tale likely will be less The Wire and more The Sopranos - a sudden flash to an unexpected place. I see the finals being a contest between two good, but less heralded wrestlers who possess little of the out of that ordinariness that compels an audience to care, but managed to outdo the very best in the one match that mattered. All the other guys I mentioned above? They'll have to fight it out for the two bronze medals.
After a huge set of upsets, I say Zhumagzyyev beats Asgarov for gold.