We’ll begin this preview of Day 6 as we will all future previews, with a link back to our Olympics Wrestling primer, which has a cheat sheet and live stream details. Also a link to NBC’s wrestling webpage where you can find video streams. And here is a link to CBC’s streams for all you Canadians (or global citizens with computers that are pretending to be Canadian for now).
Also a note that wrestling brackets are random draw and uneven. You can check out the brackets from the 2015 World Championship and the European Olympic Qualification Tournament to give you a better idea of what the Rio brackets will look like.
All to the point that picking place finishers before the weigh-ins are completed and brackets are released (which happens the day before each tournament) is a fool’s errand. Which is perhaps why I find it so much fun.
Men’s Freestyle 57kg
GOLD: Hassan Rahimi IRI
SILVER: Yowlys Bonne CUB
BRONZE: Vladimer Khinchegashvili GEO
BRONZE: Sandeep Tomar IND
Georgia’s Khinchegashvili and Iran’s Rahimi were in an epic gold medal battle in last year’s world championship, which Khinchy won with a text book duck under with seconds left in the match. They are now both former world champs and are expected to come home from Brazil with shiny metal discs.
Cuba’s Bonne is a remorseless slaughtering machine who’s every match is appointment viewing. This is likely his last Olympics so you’d be wise not to miss him. India’s Tomar is this year’s Champion of Asia who I like as a dark horse medal contender.
OTHERS OF NOTE
After finishing his collegiate career at Iowa with a loss in the NCAA finals, American Dan Dennis spent a couple years roving out West, living out of a pickup truck and climbing the occasional mountain. He came back to the sport a little over a year ago, training at his alma mater. Dennis didn’t miss a beat, promptly winning the Olympic Team Trials and punching his ticket to Rio. Expect to see an NBC soft-focus entertainment story about him right about now.
Though I don’t have a taped confession, I believe Russia’s Viktor Lebedev is responsible for ruining the Russian National Championship tournament earlier this year due to match fixing. He also has a dreadfully boring wrestling style. But he’s also a 2X world champ and plenty of people still think he’s good enough to win in Rio. I don’t believe that to be the case unless a few refs fly home with suitcases stuffed full of undeclared, illicit cash, but please don’t let my controversial speculation influence your opinion of the man’s quality or talent.
North Korea’s Yang wrestles very infrequently but when he does, he often wins gold, as he did at the 2009 and 2014 World Championships. Japan’s Higuchi is a young up and comer who should also not be overlooked.
1 GEO Vladimer KHINCHEGASHVILI
2 IRI Hassan RAHIMI
3 CUB Yowlys BONNE
4 MGL Bekhbayar ERDENEBAT
8 KAZ Nurislam SANAYEV
10 JPN Rei HIGUCHI
11 IND Sandeep TOMAR
13 TUR Suleyman ATLI
15 USA Daniel DENNIS
16 ROU Ivan GUIDEA
18 ARM Garnik MNATSAKANYAN
19 SEN Adama DIATTA
20 UZB Abbos RAKHMONOV
AZE Haji ALIYEV
BLR Asadulla LACHINAU
BUL Vladimir DUBOV
KOR Junsik YUN
MAR Chakir ANSARI
PRK Kyong-Il YANG
Men’s Freestyle 74kg
GOLD: Hassan Yazdani IRI
SILVER: Jordan Burroughs USA
BRONZE: Aniuar Geduev RUS
BRONZE: Livan Lopez CUB
HA HA NO
JK here are my real picks:
GOLD: Jordan Burroughs USA
SILVER: Aniuar Geduev RUS
BRONZE: Hassan Yazdani IRI
BRONZE: Livan Lopez CUB
The face of USA Wrestling will cement his place on the American Mount Rushmore of freestyle wrestling if he can duplicate his gold medal winning performance from London. Jordan Ernest Burroughs enters the tournament as the odds on favorite.
Geduev gave Burroughs a hell of a match in the semifinals of last year’s world championship. The Russian from the Karbadino-Balkar Republic remains JB’s closest competitor in Rio.
Iran’s Yazdani the Younger is the worldwide leader in Instagram likes. If he does not win at least a bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games, the entire population of Iran will go into a minimum one week of mourning. Lopez is another crafty veteran from Cuba who is also probably in his last Olympics.
OTHERS OF NOTE
Mongolia’s Purevjav made last year’s world finals before losing to Burroughs and will be a handful for whoever he draws in the bracket. Japan’s Takatani lost in the finals a year before that and will also be trouble for his opponents.
India’s Yadav is a medal threat and recently went through a doping scandal too bizarre to summarize. You can read more about it online but good luck making heads or tails from it.
Former Clarion Golden Eagle D1 college wrestler and current Harvard Crimson assistant coach, Bekzod “The Merciless” Abdurakhmonov is a strong podium candidate from Uzbekistan.
Guinea-Bissau’s Midana is a tough sonovagun who sprained Jordan Burroughs’ knee while taking a hard fought loss in the opening round of the 2014 World Championships. Russia’s Denis Tsargush, who Burroughs beat in the 2012 Olympics and 2011 World Championship, then exploited that injury in the semifinals to finally get revenge. If Tsargush is in Rio, he should buy Midana one of those fancy coconut beverages.
Finally, my buddy, Haiti’s Asnage Castelly, received one of four special Olympic wrestling qualification quotas given to underrepresented countries. He basically single handedly runs the entire Haitian Wrestling Federation while simultaneously competing internationally. Rounding up, Castelly has a zero point zero percent chance of medaling. Regardless, please cheer heartily for my friend, Asnage.
1 USA Jordan BURROUGHS
2 RUS Aniuar GEDUEV
3 MGL Unurbat PUREVJAV
4 IRI Hassan YAZDANICHARATI
5 CUB Livan LOPEZ
7 TUR Soner DEMIRTAS
8 AZE Jabrayil HASANOV
9 IND Narsingh YADAV
10 UZB Bekzod ABDURAKHMONOV
11 FRA Zelimkhan KHADJIEV
12 GEO Jakob MAKARASHVILI
14 JPN Sohsuke TAKATANI
17 MDA Evgheni NEDEALCO
19 ESP Taimuraz FRIEV
20 BUL Georgi IVANOV
AUS Talgat ILYASOV
COL Carlos IZQUIERDO
GBS Augusto MIDANA
HAI Asnage CASTELLY
KAZ Galymzhan USSERBAYEV
COACH MIKE’S (SEVERELY LONG) TAKE
Olympic men's freestyle wrestling is my very favorite sporting event, and I wish I could spend the time to write about it the same way I did back in 2012.
There's so much to say about these crazy three days. The event is geographically fascinating. Roughly seventy percent of the medals will likely go to wrestlers born in the land mass encompassing the Northeastern part of Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, the Southern Caucuses of Russia, and the Caspian coast of Iran: an area comparable in size and population to California.
The product since the 2013 brush with Olympic exile is excellent (we just finished with the Greco-Roman portion of the wrestling week, and while Greco is much better, it still sucks). Points in freestyle are scored plentifully, drama is in high supply, and the jaw dropping skills of fantastic athletes display themselves with alacrity.
If you pay attention to Twitter, you'll notice fans griping about the criteria system used to break ties. They have a point. Criteria are a flawed way to settle a deadlock, however they rank vastly higher than referees decisions, and infinite times over grabbing multi-colored balls out of a felt sack.
We have a great sport here, and the USA has a promising team. I believe this is the best freestyle wrestling team fielded by the USA since 2000, where the USA earned medals in half the weights. The downside lies in a top-heavy American lineup. Credentials are concentrated in three weights: Jordan Burroughs at 74 kg, Tervel Dlagnev at 125 kg and Kyle Snyder at 97 kg. This means that if one of these three studs falter, our other three wrestlers lack the track record which suggests they'll be able to pick up the slack.
I'm not as worried about Dlagnev and Snyder falling short; the first is in a tough place in the landscape of his weight and the second has a very long future ahead of him.
Mainly I'm scared for Jordan Burroughs. If he wins gold, and he should, he will cement himself as the closest thing USA Wrestling has had to a crossover star since Dan Hodge. He will also become, in my learned opinion, the greatest American wrestler ever. Finally, and most importantly, a gold will set Burroughs up for a very prominent run at history in the next four years, as he will have a chance to take his place among the all time greats in the world.
If Burroughs loses, all bets are off.
I ramble. Cutting to the chase, I think we see the USA wrestle for medals at four weights, but only win two. Burroughs will win gold and Snyder will grab a silver or bronze. Maybe, just maybe, we will see a third medal with a fortuitous, planets-aligned type of draw (cough... Varner).
Meanwhile, Russia will win four weights: Boltukaev at 97 kg is a monster, Sadulaev at 86 kg is as sure a thing as ever has been, Ramonov will win at 65 kg because he's also Russian. That leaves Taha Akgul of Turkey, whom I dubbed the world's next great heavyweight almost four years ago, as the 125 kg champ.
Oh, and Viktor Lebedev, freestyle wrestling's biggest heel, will take the 57 kg title after being banned little more than a week ago.
I'm sick with anticipation
Thanks Coach Mike!
AND NOW FOR A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME
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