The last three world champions in freestyle wrestling's lightest weight will take the mat this year in Tashkent to see if they can add another world gold to their record.
Iran's Hassan Rahimi returns to try to replicate his 2013 success, where he beat India's Amit Kumar in the world finals. Kumar, in keeping with the growing Indian tradition of winning a world medal and disappearing, will not attend this year's championship, but Rahimi and his pace pushing, physically punishing style will still face a field filled with elite talent.
One of Rahimi's stiffest competitors comes in the form of the People's Republic of Korea's Kyong-Il Yang. Yang has been awfully good for a while now, and has shown the ability to beat the very best in the world. The South Korean already has multiple Asian championship golds, a world championship gold and an Olympic silver to his credit.
Russia's Viktor Lebedev also has his eyes set on a gold medal at this weight. The Yakutian (he's from a particularly frozen region of Northeastern Russia) took some time off from wrestling after narrowly missing an Olympic berth in 2012, but now returns and seems to have found his old form. In 2009, Lebedev won a world bronze medal, while in both 2010 and 2011 he claimed gold in the world championships. Though Lebedev does not possess the most impressive physique, his ability to turn strange and dangerous positions into points is second to none.
After Rahimi, Yang and Lebedev, Georgia's Vladimir Khinchegashvili and Turkey's Sezar Akgul, bring the most decorated resumes to this championship. Khinchegashvili won an Olympic silver medal at 55 kg, then moved up in weight until FILA added two kilograms to the lowest weight. Now he comes into this tournament as the number one wrestler in FILA's world rankings (which are imperfect, but it's an impossible task).
Meanwhile, Turkey's Akgul stands as a serious medal threat in his own right. Last year he cashed in his second world medal by beating the USA's Angel Escobedo for third place.
Other than those mentioned above, this weight's representatives from Azerbaijan, Japan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia all can make deep runs.
My pick to win it: Since 2008, a Russian has failed to claim the top spot in the world only twice, and in both those years the Russian finished third. Victor Lebedev won three world medals and two world championships in a row before the London Games, and beat Rahimi in this year's World Cup. I see no reason why Lebedev will not walk away with his third world title.
Darkhorse: France keeps improving in wrestling, and at this weight they feature a very experienced and solid competitor. Zoheir El Quarragqe placed seventh in last year's World Championship, and has shown that he is only a couple upsets a way from wrestling for a world medal.
The American: In just a few months, Tony Ramos went from one of the best wrestlers in college to not win nationals, to an NCAA champion and the most promising American small-man prospect since Henry Cejudo.
In March, Ramos capped off his stellar career at the University of Iowa with a win over Wisconsin's Tyler Graff in the national finals. Only two months after this, the Hawkeye took his place on his first senior-level World Team by defeating 2012 Olympian Sam Hazewinkel in the World Team Trials final wrestle off.
When he wrestled in college, I hated Ramos, but must admit that I am enjoying the hell out of rooting him on now that he is on the national team. The young man is so confident as to border on cocky at times, but he backs it up with incredible conditioning, strong technique, and a huge heart. His most underrated quality, however, might be his brain, as he has shown a penchant for executing smart tactics and intelligently waiting for his time to strike during his matches. Despite the (undeserved) reputation for Iowa wrestlers to emphasize aggression and hyper-offensiveness to the detriment of the immaculate execution demanded by world-level wrestling, Ramos has shown that he knows how to wrestle a measured style perfect for international freestyle competition.
Ramos is new to the world scene, but this can work to a wrestler's advantage. The United States has a had a number of wrestlers storm their way on the podium at their very first World Championship. Just to make the American team, Ramos had to beat out two fifth place World Championship finishers in Angel Escobedo and Nick Simmons before he even had a chance to wrestle Hazewinkel. While I think that a medal for Ramos might be a tiny bit unlikely, I would not be the slightest bit surprised to find him in a third-place match.