After one day of insane men’s freestyle action at the Tokyo Olympic Games, it is time for 74 KG and 125 KG to kick off. Check out the bracket analysis for 57 KG and 86 KG, and the updated results from United World Wrestling. Each day, two weight classes will compete through the semifinals, with the finals taking place the following morning. You can also follow USA Wrestling’s updates for schedules with American time zones.
74 KG - Stage is set for pound-for-pound elite clash, despite imbalance
All eyes are on two-time World champions Kyle Dake and Zaurbek Sidakov. Once Dake defeated Jordan Burroughs in two straight matches at the US Olympic Team Trials, this became the biggest story in wrestling. Let’s take a look at the path to the finals for each of them.
For #1 Zaurbek Sidakov, he’s received about as good of a draw as one can get in Olympic wrestling. After disposing of his overmatched first-round opponent, he will meet the currently unranked two-time World medalist Bekzod Abdurakhmonov. Abdurakhmonov has defeated elite opposition in the past, most notably Jordan Burroughs at the Rio Olympics, but his recent results do not indicate that he will be a serious threat to Sidakov. Abdurakhmonov is the toughest challenge of the bottom half, there is really no one else of note on Sidakov’s path. This bracket is incredibly lopsided.
The top half, however, is a warzone. #5 ranked Frank Chamizo, a two-time World champion and Olympic bronze medalist, will face 2019 World silver medalist #7 Avtandil Kentchadze in his very first match. If Chamizo gets through Kentchadze, he gets a bit of a break in his next match until the semifinals.
For two-time World champion #2 Kyle Dake, he’ll face #2 Hosseinkhani in his first match. Hosseinkhani broke into the rankings by winning the Ziolkowski tournament in June, with a notable victory over the solid Khadzhimurad Gadzhiyev. He’s tough, but he’s in a terrible position in the bracket.
Dake’s quarterfinal is murder, he’ll likely have #3 Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov. I wrote about Kadimagomedov’s fantastic run at the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier, he’s in fine form heading into this tournament. Kadimagomedov is an excellent counter wrestler, and is great at utilizing upper-body setups to get to safe attacks on the feet. It’s as close to a mirror match as you’re going to get at this weight. Make no mistake - this is a dangerous matchup for Kyle Dake, and it’s really a shame that this bracket was so poorly assembled. The #2, #3, #5 and #7 wrestlers at the weight are on the same side of the bracket - meaning that only two of them will be eligible to earn a medal. Sidakov is the only ranked wrestler on his side of the bracket.
Most fans are hoping for a Kyle Dake vs. Frank Chamizo semifinal - a rematch of their exhibition a few months ago. There were a few looks in scramble situations that inspired some confidence in Chamizo’s chances, but ultimately Dake got the win and it was clear neither was taking the match very seriously. In an exhibition format with zero stakes, there’s no reason to give your opponent much information to work with for future matchups.
The winner will face off with Zaurbek Sidakov for the chance at an Olympic gold medal. I like the way Dake matches up with Sidakov - his defense and counters can shut down some of Sidakov’s more wild leg attacks, and he’s got the upper body chops to threaten Sidakov in a way that Jordan Burroughs never could. Sidakov is not invincible - he was defeated by his rival and friend Khetik Tsabolov at Russian Nationals just one year ago. I am tentatively picking Kyle Dake to take out the pound-for-pound #2 wrestler in the world and become an Olympic champion.
125 KG - Hammers everywhere
American fans have to be incredibly emotional right now. Perhaps the greatest talent in the country’s latest crop of wrestlers, #6 Gable Steveson absolutely laid waste to the domestic field, shutting out #7 Nick Gwiazdowski along with Junior World champion Mason Parris to make the Olympic team. In his current form, he has yet to be tested against the rest of the world.
He will get the chance in his second-round match, where he is set to meet the multiple-time World champion and 2016 Olympic champion, #1 Taha Akgul. If Steveson wins convincingly, there is no reason not to pick him to run away with the entire tournament. He has looked untouchable in the past year, he is an absolute phenom. Akgul, however, has not shown signs of age or decline. At the European Championships in April, he disposed of the field with little trouble, including a 6-1 win over three-time World champion, #2 Geno Petriashvili.
The winner of Steveson-Akgul will likely go on to face #9 Yusup Batirmurzaev. While that ranking suggests danger, Batirmurzaev was defeated 9-2 by Nick Gwiazdowski in June. To be frank, he is not on their level. Heavyweight has around five elite wrestlers, and then the rest.
#2 Geno Petriashvili’s path to the finals is not much easier than Akgul’s, he will certainly be challenged. After his first-round match, he will likely run into #4 Sergey Kozyrev. Kozyrev has been solid in the past year, defeating his high-ranked Russian counterparts as well as some lower ranked international opponents, but he did lose a lopsided 9-2 match to Taha Akgul in April. If Petriashvili is in good form, he will move on.
In the semifinals, he will most likely face #3 Amir Zare of Iran. Since 2019, Zare has picked up a U23 World title, a statement technical fall victory over Nick Gwiazdowski at the Alans tournament, and a shocking, high scoring win over Geno Petriashvili. Zare is riding an undefeated hot streak and could make serious waves in this division. It would not be shocking to see him take out Petriashvili and make the Olympic finals.
Ultimately, I believe the winner of Taha Akgul vs. Gable Steveson will be an Olympic champion. It’s the most dominant wrestler at the weight vs. the wrestler with the most upside, a match that should have every wrestling fan’s attention.
Come back tomorrow for analysis on the final set of brackets!