FILA names top stories about athletes from 2013

By Bill May | Jan. 06, 2014, 10:19 a.m. (ET)
Photos of Jordan Burroughs competing at the 2013 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary by Tony Rotundo/Wrestlers Are Warriors

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (January 4) – The most obvious wrestling-related story of 2013 was the decision to remove wrestling from the program of the Olympic Games, and the subsequent worldwide campaign to save the sport from the Olympic axe.

But, despite all of the attention to developments off the mat this year, there was plenty of news about the wrestlers, the tournaments, the teams and the championships.

So we present some of the big wrestling stories for 2013 from the mat – with the full understanding that what happened off the mat this year makes it possible for stories such as these to be told again in 2014 and beyond.


KIM Hyeon-Woo (KOR) won a rare duel of reigning Olympic Games gold medalists for the world championship title, scoring a second-period takedown for a 2-1 win over Roman VLASOV (RUS) in the 74kg final in Budapest.

KIM, the London 2012 gold medalist at 66kg, has not lost in a world-level or continental championships bout since the semifinals of the 2011 world meet in Istanbul where he was edged by eventual champion Saeid Mourad ABDVALI (IRI).

Meanwhile, before Budapest, the only blemish on VLASOV’s international record was a semifinals loss to Peter BACSI (HUN) at the 2011 European championships in Dortmund, Germany.

The most recent match-up of Olympic gold medalists meeting for a world title in Greco-Roman was in 1994 when Alexander KARELIN (RUS) defeated fellow Barcelona gold medalist Hector MILIAN (CUB) for the 130kg crown in Tampere, Finland.

Interestingly enough, VLASOV, who hails from Novosobirsk, Russia, is affiliated with the Alexander Karelin Wrestling Club which honors the local hero.


Wrestlers from Asia won five of the seven championship finals contested in Budapest, marking an apparent continental drift of Greco-Roman wrestling prowess from Europe to Asia.

And, even with the recent disqualification of 120kg winner Amir ALIAKBARI (IRI) for a failed doping test, Asian wrestlers – two from Korea as well as one each from DPR Korea and Iran – still won a majority of world titles on offer in Budapest.

The results of the 2013 world meet come on the heels of the London 2012 where three Iranian wrestlers – Hamid SORYAN (55kg), Omid NOROOZI (66kg) and Ghasem REZAEI (96kg) -- won their country’s first-ever Olympic Games gold medals in Greco-Roman and KIM Hyeon-Woo (KOR) gave Korea its seventh gold medalist since 1984 in the classic style.

Historically, Greco-Roman wrestling, with its roots in French professional wrestling, has been dominated by wrestlers from Europe. The first world champion from outside Europe was Ali Mahmoud HASSAN (EGY, 57kg) in 1950 and Asia got its first world champion in 1962 with Masamitsu ICHIGUCHI (JPN, 57kg).

Over the last half century, Asian wrestlers have continued to make inroads into the European stronghold. With weight categories trimmed for 10 to eight in 1997, two wrestlers from Korea and two from Kazakhstan grabbed half of the gold medals in 1998.

Following the introduction of seven weight categories in 2002, four non-European entries – Iran, the United States, China and Egypt – left Europe with a minority of only three champions in 2006.

This year in Budapest, however, was the first time that wrestlers from the same continent, other than Europe, have taken the majority of gold medals.


YUN Won-Chol (PRK) became the first world champion in Greco-Roman from DPR Korea when he defeated CHOI Gyu-Jin (KOR), 4-3, in the 55kg final in Budapest. With the triumph, YUN also avenged losses to CHOI at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Asian championships in April.

YUN’s march to the medals podium included four wins by technical fall, including a 7-0 semifinals triumph over Universiade champion Ivan TATARINOV (RUS).

Although DPR Korea has produced a number of world and Olympic champions in men’s freestyle, they had managed only a pair of bronze medals in Greco-Roman. KANG Yong-Gyun (PRK) took the bronze medal at 54kg at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and KIM Kum-Chol (PRK) won a bronze at 66kg in the 2005 world meet.

Along with YUN’s world title, DPR Korea also had a breakthrough in women’s freestyle in 2013 when 22-year-old PAK Yong-Mi (PRK) won the Asian title at 48kg. It was the first gold medal in women’s wrestling in the continental or world championships for DPR Korea.


With only one weight category to be contested on the final day of the men’s freestyle competition in Budapest, Russia held a seemingly comfortable 44-37 lead over Iran for the team title with no other country within striking distance of the defending champions.

In addition to its seven-point lead, Russia was going with Yarygin Grand Prix bronze medalist Kakhaber KHUBEZHTY (RUS) while Iran had entered Essadollah AKBARI, whose only result in the international database was a 15th in this year’s World Cup – a loss to Jordan BURROUGHS (USA).

Tranquility in the Russia camp, however, turned to anxiety when KHUBEZHTY lost to Narasingh Pancham YADAV (IND) in his opening bout and was eliminated when the YADAV fell to BURROUGHS (USA) in the round of 16.

But, even with KHUBEZHTY out of the competition, AKBARI still needed to finish with a medal to secure the team title to Iran. The lanky Iranian advanced to the semifinals on two early technical falls and a pair of decisions.

In the semifinals, he edged Asia champion Rashid KURBAN (UZB), 4-3, on a go-behind takedown in the second period to ensure Iran of nine points and a 46-44 victory over Russia for the team title.

The win was Iran’s first team title in men’s freestyle since 2002 and its first outside of Tehran since 1965, when the Iranians won in Manchester.

It was also Iran’s fifth world team title following those won in 1961 (Tokyo) 1965 (Manchester), 1998 (Tehran) and 2002 (Tehran).


Khadshimourad GATSALOV (RUS) won his fifth world championship crown in Budapest, and along with his Athens 2004 Olympic Games gold medal, moved into elite company as the 12th wrestler in men’s freestyle to reach six world-level titles.

Three-time Olympic Games gold medalist Alexander MEDVED (URS) tops the list of men’s freestyle with 10 world-level championships, followed by another triple Olympic gold medalist Buvaisar SAITIEV (RUS) with nine.

The world championship was the first for GATSALOV since 2009 and his first at 120kg, after being a dominant force at 96kg for much of the past decade. The 31-year-old from North Ossetia also has three titles from the European championships.

In Budapest, GATSALOV, who had wrestled most of 2013 at 96kg, opened with a 3-2 win over former Asia champion Kurban KURBANOV (UZB). In the final, GATSALOV recorded his third technical fall of the day over Alen ZASEEV (UKR).


World champ and London 2012 gold medalist Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) made the defense of his 74kg world title look like a walk in the park, outscoring five opponents, 34-3.

BURROUGHS recorded three technical falls and one win by disqualification against an over-matched Ali SHABANOV (BLR) in the semifinals. In the final, BURROUGHS shut out Iranian challenger Essadollah AKBARI (IRI), 4-0, to run his win streak to 65.

The ease of his victory, however, became even more impressive when fans learned that he was wrestling less than a month after breaking his left ankle during a training session in Colorado. After surgery to put five screws in his ankle, BURROUGHS joked “I’m like Iron Man now.”

After becoming only the second American wrestler to win three straight world-level titles after John SMITH (USA, 1987-1992), BURROUGHS remarked that his triumph was “really special” and was “the biggest win of my career.”


Mongolia emerged as a new force in women’s wrestling in 2013 – challenging traditional powers Japan and China at every turn.

Mongolia finished second in the World Cup to China, after coming from behind to defeat Japan, 4-3, in their Pool A meeting. Mongolia tied Japan for second place, behind China, in the Asian championships, and tied Russia for second in the junior world meet behind Japan.

Then, in Budapest, Mongolia finished one point behind Japan in the team standings – two points from winning its first world championship team title.

Mongolia first entered the women’s senior world championships in 2001 and got their first medalist – Enkhjargal TSOGTBAZAR (MGL) who won a bronze at 51kg – in 2005 at the world meet in Budapest.

Battsetseg SORONZONBOLD (MGL) won Mongolian’s first world title in 2010 at 59kg and added a bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games before collecting a silver behind Kaori ICHO (JPN) in Budapest at 63kg.


Marianna SASTIN (HUN), sandwiched between the two superstars of women’s wrestling -- Saori YOSHIDA (JPN) and Kaori ICHO (JPN), stole the spotlight by becoming Hungary’s first world champion in women’s wrestling.

SASTIN, a silver medalist in 2005, surrendered the lead in the final seconds of this year’s 59kg championship bout, but rallied for a three-point double-leg and a back-arching throw for a technical fall and the win over young challenger Taybe YUSEIN (BUL).

SASTIN, who has been a regular on the medals podium over the last decade, took her wrestling to another level in 2013 and won three straight tournaments heading into the world championships in Budapest.

Among those triumphs was the prestigious Poland Ladies Open, where SASTIN scored a second-round win over former world champion and London 2012 bronze medalist Yulia RATKEVICH (AZE).

Meanwhile, 2011 junior world champion YUSEIN pinned RATKEVICH in the semifinals in Budapest, but lost to SASTIN for a third straight tournament in the finals.

On SASTIN’s big night, Emese BARKA (HUN) won a bronze medal at 55kg to become the first woman -- other than SASTIN -- to win a medal at the world championships for Hungary.


Saori YOSHIDA (JPN) won an unprecedented 11th world title in Budapest, and her 14th world-level crown when her three Olympic Games gold medals are counted as well. YOSHIDA outscored five opponents 35-0 and won four bouts by technical fall with only Sofia MATTSSON (SWE) able to go the distance.

Kaori ICHO (JPN) won her eighth world title and 11th world-level crown, winning every bout by technical superiority. Her triumph lifted ICHO past Alexander MEDVED (URS) on the all-time world-level titles list to third behind YOSHIDA (14) and the legendary Alexander KARELIN (RUS), with 12.

In her march to the title, ICHO defeated 2011 world champion at 67kg XILUO ZHUOMA (CHN) in the quarterfinals, two-time Olympic Games bronze medalist Jackeline RENTERIA CASTILLO (COL) and 2010 world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Battsetseg SORONZONBOLD (MGL) in the final.

By William May, Coordinator of FILA World Rankings

About FILA
FILA, the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles, is the global governing body of the sport of wrestling. It works to promote the sport and facilitate the activities of its 177 national federations from around the world. It is based in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland.

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