#WrestleAlmaty Weight-to-Watch: Freestyle 97kg

By Eric Olanowski

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (April 1) -- Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) headlines the ten-man freestyle 97kg bracket at next week's Asian Olympic Qualifier (April 9-11) that'll feature a field that has a Rio Olympic bronze, a world bronze, and five Asian medals.

Wrestlers have to reach the finals in Almaty to book their nation's tickets to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Mohammadian will take the mat for the first time since his magical run to the ’20 Matteo Pellicone gold medal. During that run in Rome, the former Asian champion outscored his five opponents 41-0, while tallying victories over an Olympic champion, a U23 world champion, a world bronze medalist and a world fifth-place finisher.

Behind the headlining Iranian, other notable entries are Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB), Satywart KADIAN (IND), and Batzul ULZIISAIKHAN (MGL).

Ibragimov is a Rio Olympic bronze medalist and two-time Asian champion. He's looking to punch his ticket to a second consecutive Olympic Games. Ibragimov fell to Kyle SNYDER (USA) in the quarterfinals at the '19 World Championships and barely missed out on an Olympic berth with a seventh-place finish. Most recently, the 36-year-old struggled at the International Ukrainian Tournament, but before that, he was riding an 11-tournament streak where he finished top ten -- including six podium finishes.

Kadian, last year's Asian runner-up, is also entered at 97kg. The three-time Asian medalist is looking to become the fourth Indian freestyle wrestler to qualify for the Olympic Games. India has also qualified at 57kg, 65kg and 86kg. 

Ulziisaikhan rounds out the list of Olympic, world, or continental medalists who are entered at 97kg.

The last competition where Ulziisaikhan laced up his boots was the '19 World Championships. In Nur-Sultan, the '19 Asian runner-up won his opening match against Magomed MUSAEV (KGZ) but fell to eventual fifth-place finisher Alisher YERGALI (KAZ) in the quarterfinals and fell to a 15th-place finish.

Wrestling at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers kicks off on April 9-11 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, but freestyle action takes center stage on Sunday morning. You can follow all the action live on www.uww.org.

97kg Freestyle Entries 
Awusayiman HABILA (CHN)
Satywart KADIAN (IND)
Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI)
Minwon SEO (KOR)
Jongku LEE (KOR)
Muhammad INAM (PAK)
Zyyamuhammet SAPAROV (TKM)
Magomed Idrisovitch IBRAGIMOV (UZB)


11 Reigning Champs Looking to Reclaim Asian Supremacy

By Eric Olanowski

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (April 12) – Eleven gold medalists from last year’s Asian Championships return to the mat this week in Almaty with hopes of defending their New Delhi continental crowns from a year ago. Greco-Roman welcomes six returning champions, while a trio of women’s wrestlers and a pair of freestyle champs are searching for back-to-back podium-topping finishes.

Iran’s loaded Greco-Roman squad is highlighted by ’20 Asian champions Poya Soulat DAD MARZ (IRI), Amin Yavar KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI) and Mahdi Asgar EBRAHIMI (IRI). They’ll wrestle at 55kg, 72kg and 82kg, respectively.

The other three returning Greco-Roman champs making the trip to Kazakhstan are Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB), Tamerlan SHADUKAYEV (KAZ) and Kumar SUNIL (IND). Tasmuradov, a Rio Olympic bronze medalist, is not only looking to defend his '20 title, but he’s looking for a sixth overall Asian gold medal. He’ll wrestle at 63kg. Last year’s 77kg and 130kg champs, respectively, Shadukayev and Sunil, will compete at their title-winning weights from ’20.

Japan’s women’s team claimed five of the ten golds last year, but after contract tracing removed the defending team champions from the competition, women’s wrestling welcomes the trio of reigning champions Pinki PINKI (IND), Sarita SARITA (IND) and Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ).

Pinki is entered at 55kg. Her biggest threat to repeating is her ’20 finals opponent Dulguun MUNKHBOLD BOLORMAA (MGL). Sarita and Bakbergenova are the lone returning medalists at 59kg and 72kg, respectively.

In freestyle, lightweight stars Kumar RAVI (IND) and Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) are looking to claim a second consecutive continental crown. 

Returning champ Ravi is entered at 57kg – the same weight where he claimed his ’19 world bronze. 

Otoguro will share the 65kg bracket with his ’20 Asian finals opponent Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) and ’19 world silver medalist Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ).

Wrestling begins on Tuesday (April 13-18) at 11:00 (local time) with Greco-Roman action. Women's wrestling takes center stage on Thursday while freestyle action closes out the tournament beginning on Friday.

Returning Champs by Style:
57kg - Kumar RAVI (IND)
65kg - Takuto OTOGURO (JPN)

50kg - Poya Soulat DAD MARZ (IRI)
63kg - Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB)
72kg - Amin Yavar KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI)
77kg - Tamerlan SHADUKAYEV (KAZ)
82kg - Mahdi Asgar EBRAHIMI (IRI)
87kg - Kumar SUNIL (IND)

Women’s Wrestling
55kg - Pinki PINKI (IND)
59kg - Sarita SARITA (IND)
72kg - Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ)