The Turks love wrestling, so I've never understood why they haven't done a little better at it in the Olympics or World Championships in freestyle wrestling. Of late, however, their big men have experienced impressive success. They had a Greco heavy, Riza Kayaalp, win a world championship in 2011 (though Cuba's Mijian Lopez may have thrown the match in the final), and Olympic bronze in 2012. In freestyle, Turkey's Aydin Polacti won a heavyweight world championship in 2005, and at 96kg, Serhat Balci won a world silver in 2011.
Despite this, I will hazard to say that Turkey has never had a heavyweight talent like Taha Akgul.
When I watch Taha, his athleticism quickly stands out. He attacks and reacts like a much smaller wrestler. While not quite possessing the overwhelming, eye popping explosiveness of Stephen Neal, or the brawn of Artur Taymazov, Akgul claims a remarkable ease and fluidity of motion. Far more than his physical characteristics, however, I notice his exquisite technique. This kid has learned his lessons well. He wrestles exactly how a coach would draw it up: using high percentage attacks, great set ups and smart situational choices.
Taha won the European Championships earlier this year, and represented Turkey in the London Olympics,where a tough draw and a weird upset knocked him out in the second round (120kg in London was insanely loaded). Below, he defeats Ukraine's Oleksandr Khostianivskyi for the University World Championship.
Notice the wonderful set ups accompanying his takedowns. The first he scores off a re-shot from Oleksandr's attack, something which would make any wrestling coach smile with glee. Second he hits a textbook snatch single off a nice elbow-off, finishing with a subtle pressuring- in after securing the leg. His third takedown comes via a low double hit by sliding down off a front headlock. He seems almost to will himself to score off his fourth and final successful attack, a left handed high crotch. Let me remind you that this variety of scoring technique rarely manifests itself in a heavyweight match.
When you first watch this match, these guys might not seem to be that big. Both possess long, lean and proportionate builds, which may conceal their actual size. Watch them standing next to their coaches or the ref and you should notice that in relation they are both very tall and meaty. I've discussed Akgul's weight with my colleagues, and the agreed-upon range rests in the 240's.
Taha Akgul should be a threat to win a Senior World Championship this year; he has the skills to eventually be the best heavyweight in the world