Georgia’s Vladimir Khinchegashvili, known to some as King Vlad, others prefer the abbreviated “Khinche”, has an all-time great resume at 57 kg.
After winning back-to-back Junior World titles in 2010 and 2011, Vlad began his ascension to the top at the senior level. By 2014, he had arrived, winning silver at the senior World Championships.
In 2015, he planted his flag with a gold medal in Las Vegas. He was poised to cement his status as one of the best of the era by the time the Rio Olympics rolled around in 2016. On his way to the finals he took out now two-time World medalist Nurislam Sanayev, a transfer from Russia, then Haji Aliyev - a three-time World champion. In the semifinals, he put away two-time World medalist Vladimir Dubov, 8-4. Americans may know Dubov for eliminating Dan Dennis in the first round.
On the opposite side, Japanese newcomer Rei Higuchi was on his miracle run. He first dispatched Olympic bronze medalist and two-time World champion Yang Kyong-il of North Korea by technical fall. After rolling over the outmatched Belarusian, Higuchi upset the great Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez, an eventual World champion.
To cap off his run to the finals, Higuchi took out four-time World medalist and one-time World champion Hassan Rahimi of Iran, 10-5.
It was an incredibly tough bracket, leading to one of the most highly anticipated finals matches of the 2016 Olympics. In a tight, athletic match, King Vlad prevailed 4-3 over the surging Japanese wrestler.
In 2017, Vlad moved up to 61 kg, where he racked up gold medals at the European Championships and Ziolkowski before suffering a loss to Haji Aliyev at the 2017 World Championship, wrestling back for bronze.
That was Khinchegashvili’s last World medal. The Olympic champion struggled to find consistency at 61 kg, and seemed to drop off even harder after moving up to the Olympic weight of 65 kg.
On Thursday, September 17th, Khinchegashvili will return to action against two-time NCAA champion and two-time Cadet World champion Yianni Diakomihalis.
While he’s clearly lost a step, Khinchegashvili has never lost to an American. With his streak on the line, the Beat the Streets exhibition headliner will be sure to produce fireworks.
To get an idea of how Khinchegashvili wrestles up a weight, take a look at his barnburner match vs. Chechnya’s Akhmed Chakaev.
Shooting Low - Pros and Cons
Vladimir Khinchegashvili ran into Akhmed Chakaev in the finals of the 2017 European Championship at 61 kg.
Chakaev, a two-time World medalist, has used his absurd athleticism and dangerous chest wrap counters to win matches against the elite, such as 2019 World champion Gadzhimurad Rashidov.
Vladimir Khinchegashvili operates in bursts, often exploding into leg attacks after throwing his opponents out of position with short offense or broken rhythm and fakes.
Unfortunately, he was outhustled early and thrown feet-to-back for a perfect five point arc.
This put Vlad in a precarious position.
He would have to force his own attacks at a much higher rate than he was used to, and the strategy of winning chaotic scrambles carried a huge risk - he could potentially dig himself into an even deeper hole.
Vlad typically scores either in tight with a fake into his high-crotch and cracks down, or he launches himself from the outside into a low or sweep single, turning the corner and transitioning into his lace or powerful gut wrench.
The high crotch was especially dangerous, as it put him directly in position to be chest wrapped by Chakaev. Vlad found out how effective this counter was early on.
In this first exchange, Vlad doesn’t have time to set up his attack on his own. Chakaev attempted a slide-by and pressured in off the ensuing flurry, Vlad instinctively shot his high-c to counter that aggression. Instantly, Chakaev locked up the chest wrap and sat the corner opposite of Vlad’s head and control.
In the second half of the clip, you can tell what Vlad typically intends to do with his high-c.
Level faking from the outside, Vlad encourages Chakaev to step in and attempt to tie him up. Once his hands are committed up top, Vlad throws back the the near-side tie and shoots to Chakaev’s lead leg. hitting both knees. Instead of building back to his feet, Vlad loaded up Chakaev’s weight on his back and slung him across his body, while switching his hips out to put his full weight on the leg.
This way he’s able to quickly adjust and square his hips with the mat to avoid being turned, as well as taking away Chakaev’s ability to base and attack the chest wrap effectively.
As a higher level attack, the high-crotch played much more into Chakaev’s counters.
Vladimir Khinchegashvili has also demonstrated the agility and explosion to hit low leg attacks like swing singles.
The setups themselves aren’t as risky here. Vlad can typically keep tie-ups short and disengage often, setting a rhythm for his opponent to plant his feet and try to get his hands on him.
Ever agile and quick to react, Chakaev gracefully kicked back and avoided Vlad’s initial low single to his right leg.
Now that Chakaev was expecting outside attacks, Vlad adjusted by tying up the wrist on the side he intended to attack, and used an over-tie on the rear-side to apply pressure. Now, Vlad was able to quickly let go of the wrist, change levels and pivot to attack the ankle at an angle.
Low attacks like these are great for getting off quick entries against physical opponents, but there are disadvantages as well. If the angle isn’t sharp enough, you’ll still end up underneath your opponent and it will be necessary to scramble up to your base with your opponent draped over top of you.
If you do hit the angle well but don’t build back up quickly, your opponent can stuff the head, turn and attempt to kick out to freedom.
In this case, Vlad’s sweep single was foiled by Chakaev’s quick footwork, he was able to turn and face just enough that Vlad couldn’t gain a dominant angle and was stuck underneath.
Just like with the high-crotch attacks, Vlad learned that he would have to physically control Chakaev’s positioning before taking his attack if he wanted to get off a clean shot.
He began to chain together short offense - attacking a two-on-one “Russian” tie, which Chakaev posted his way out of. Vlad passed the arm through to get wrist control, then used his free hand to jack up an underhook.
Chakaev looked to circle out and disengage to retain his lead, feeling Vlad’s pressure coming on strong with short time left.
If you take a look at the position Vlad gained just before Chakaev got spooked, you’ll see that he has a clear shot to attack his high-crotch with his right arm to Chakaev’s right leg.
The previous threat of the high-crotch essentially set up this crucial moment.
Chakaev instinctively kicked away that right leg to get out of danger, and in doing so left him completely out of his stance. If Vlad had actually taken the shot, Chakaev would have had time to turn in and adjust, but in fact he was biting on a feint.
After showing the high-crotch entry, Vlad was able to quickly pivot and turn his shot toward the fleeing Chakaev.
It was a bit of a divebomb, but it was exactly the kind of opportunistic enthusiasm necessary to capitalize on Chakaev’s broken stance.
Vlad was able to attack the ankles, get height, and cover up behind Chakaev.
Showing off the craft of an Olympic champion, he transitioned immediately to his gut wrench the second his grip closed around Chakaev’s body.
Vlad would go on to complete his comeback, after being down big against a ruthless and tricky opponent.
He’ll need all of his intelligence and physicality against the rising star Yianni Diakomihalis. Both like to set up attacks off the wrist on the outside, both can make magic out of dicey situations, but each wrestler is in a completely different stage of his career.
Will Vladimir Khinchegashvili suffer his first loss to an American, or will Yianni Diakomihalis take out another international star at a Beat the Streets event? Find out tonight on FloWrestling.