World Championships preview in men's freestyle at 97 kg/213 lbs.

By Richard Immel, USA Wrestling | Aug. 14, 2017, 1:58 p.m. (ET)
Photo: Olympic and World champion Kyle Snyder at the U.S. World Team Trials in Lincoln, Neb. Photo by John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com.

Video: Kyle Snyder after winning U.S. World Team Trials


Date of Competition: Saturday, August 26

Simply stated, the 97 kg/213 lbs. weight category comes down to a tale of two goliaths and a litany of understudies hoping to alter history in their favor.

The two goliaths in question, Kyle Snyder of the United States and Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia, both won the Olympic Games last August. Snyder did so at 97 kg, while Sadulaev achieved the feat at 86 kg/189 lbs.

The two enter the World Championships as worldwide faces of wrestling thanks to their explosive on-the-mat abilities. But the parallels between these two men go much further than their Olympic stardom.

The reigning Olympic gold medalist Snyder boasts the No. 1 World ranking heading into his third-straight World crowning event. At his first Senior-level World tournament, Snyder made history by becoming the youngest American to strike gold at the ripe age of 19. He achieved a similar feat last summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by setting the record for youngest American to win Olympic gold at age 20.

Not only did Snyder set the U.S. standard of success in terms of age, he did so by taking out longtime greats in the process. He scored his first World title in a back-and-forth thriller over World champion Abdusalam Gadisov of Russia in 2015. Last year’s Olympic final was won over eight-time World and Olympic medalist Khetag Goziumov of Azerbaijan.

Among his many international accomplishments, Snyder was a two-time Junior World medalist, winning the title in 2013, and is a two-time Pan American champion. This year alone he won gold at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix, Pan American Championships and Grand Prix of Spain.

Snyder has spent the last three years peppering in a college career at Ohio State University where he has won two NCAA titles and earned three finals berths with one year of eligibility remaining.

Juxtapose this with Sadulaev’s remarkable accomplishments. The “Russian Tank” currently holds the No. 2 slot in the UWW World Rankings at 97 kg after previously standing atop the 86 kg charts for the better part of three years.

Sadulaev won his first World title in 2014 at 18 years of age. He backed that up with a World championship in 2015, followed by Olympic gold last year. Sadulaev has not dropped a match since 2013. Over that span, he has earned three European titles, plus gold medals at prestigious international events like the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix and Alexander Medved International. He also won two Cadet World titles before jumping straight into Senior-level competition.

Both Snyder and Sadulaev are among the youngest in this year’s 97 kg field at age 21. Ironically, it will be a crew of older combatants seeking to upended the young guns.

Atop the list of challengers is Olympic bronze medalist Magomed Ibragimov of Uzbekistan. Ibragimov is ranked No. 3 in the World following a gold-medal performance at the Asian Championships.

A dangerous player to the field is World No. 4 Arslanbek Alborov of Azerbaijan who has won gold medals at the Ali Aliev and Yasar Dogu tournaments this year. Alborov also owns a 5-4 win over Snyder from the World Cup held in February. His only slip up this year came to World No. 5 Elizbar Odikadze of Georgia at the European Championships, resulting in a seventh-place continental finish.

Odikadze is another veteran who has wrestled Snyder competitively over the years, even picking up a win over the American at the World Club’s Cup last November. The Georgian lost to Snyder in the Olympic semifinals and fell down to fifth place in Rio. Recently, Odikadze won bronze medals at the European Championships and Waclaw Ziolkowski Memorial.

European champion Riza Yildrim of Turkey comes in at No. 6 in the UWW World Rankings. Yildrim has only competed at one World Championships, finishing outside of the top 10 in 2013, but does have a hot streak going in 2017. His recent outings include the European gold, plus gold at the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov Tournament and silver at the Yasar Dogu. His only loss on the year is to Alborov.

After finishing in fifth place at 86 kg in the Olympic Games, Cuba’s three-time World medalist Reineris Salas Perez is bumping up to give it a go at 97 kg. Salas Perez is currently No. 13 in the World Rankings, but has the potential to finish much higher in Paris. His only international outing in 2017 was a gold-medal win at the Cerro Pelado International in February.

Ukraine has been notably tough at 97 kg in recent years. It will be two-time World bronze medalist Pavlo Oliynik getting the nod for Ukraine this time around. World No. 19 Oliynik last competed at the Worlds in 2015 where his only loss came to Snyder. His last outing was a bronze-medal win at the Ladislau Simon Memorial, but the Ukrainian has been up-and-down all season.

It remains to be seen who powerhouse nation Iran will send to Paris. 2016 Junior World champion Hossein Shahbazigazvar has been the most active Iranian this year with three international medals, including a silver from the Asian Championships. However, indications point toward either hot prospect Mojtaba Goleij or 2016 University World champion Amir Mohammadi representing Iran.

An interesting entrant to watch will be World No. 7 Aleksandr Hushtyn of Belarus. Although lacking major World Championships experience, Hushtyn did pick up gold medals at the Ukrainian International and Waclaw Ziolkowski Memorial, plus a bronze at the European Championships, in 2017.

Other notables who could play a major part in the final outcome at 97 kg are World No. 8 Magomedgadzhi Nurov of Macedonia, Asian bronze medalist Magomed Musaev of Kyrgyzstan and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Georgi Ketoev of Armenia. Interestingly enough, all three of these men are international transfers from Russia.

This weight category will be contested on the last day of men’s freestyle action, Aug. 26. The tournament will begin at 10 a.m. local time, with finals scheduled for 7 p.m. Paris is situated six hours ahead of U.S. Eastern Time.

A live stream of the World Championships, as well as brackets for each weight, will be provided to U.S. residents on Trackwrestling.com.

UWW World Rankings
1. Kyle Snyder (United States)
2. Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Russia)
3. Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan)
4. Arslanbek Alborov (Azerbaijan)
5. Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia)
6. Riza Yildrim (Turkey)
7. Aleksandr Hushtyn (Belarus)
8. Magomedgadzhi Nurov (Macedonia)
9. Hossein Shahbazigazvar (Iran)
10. Yuri Belonovski (Russia)
11. Anzor Boltukaev (Russia)
12. Fatih Yasarli (Turkey)
13. Reineris Salas Perez (Cuba)
14. Mamed Ibragimov (Kazakhstan)
15. Georgi Ketoev (Armenia)
16. Magomed Musaev (Kyrgyzstan)
17. Mikhail Ganev (Bulgaria)
18. Amir Mohammadi (Iran)
19. Pavlo Oliynik (Ukraine)
20. Givi Matcharashvili (Georgia)

World Championships Seeds
1. Kyle Snyder (United States)
2. Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan)
3. Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia)
4. Magomed Musaev (Kyrgyzstan) 

Recent World and Olympic Results
2016 Olympic Games
97 kg/213 lbs. – Gold – Kyle Snyder (United States); Silver – Khetag Goziumov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Albert Saritov (Romania); Bronze – Magomed Ibragimov (Uzbekistan); 5th – Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia); 5th – Valerii Andriitsev (Ukraine); 7th – Reza Yazdani (Iran); 8th – Mamed Ibragimov (Kazakhstan); 9th – Magomed Musaev (Kyrgyzstan); 10th – Javier Cortina (Cuba)

2015 World Championships
97 kg/213 lbs. – Gold – Kyle Snyder (United States); Silver – Abdusalam Gadisov (Russia); Bronze – Khetag Gazumov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Pavlo Oliynik (Ukraine); 5th – Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia); 5th – Abbas Tahan (Iran); 7th – Stefan Kehrer (Germany); 8th – Ibrahim Boulukbasi (Turkey); 9th – Magomed Musaev (Kyrgyzstan); 10th – Jaegang Kim (Korea)

2014 World Championships
97 kg/213 lbs. – Gold – Abdulsalam Gadisov (Russia); Silver – Khetag Gazumov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Javier Cortina (Cuba); Bronze – Valerii Andriitsev (Ukraine); 5th – Elizbar Odikadze (Georgia); 7th – Egzon Shala (Albania); 8th – Khderbulga Dorjkhand (Mongolia); 10th – Zueyi Zhang (China).

2013 World Championships
96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Gold – Reza Yazdani (Iran); Silver – Khetag Gazumov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Anzor Boltukaev (Russia); Bronze – Pavlo Oliynik (Ukraine); 5th – Aleksey Krupnyakov (Kyrgyzstan); 5th – Dato Kerashvili (Georgia); 7th – Kamil Skaskiewicz (Poland); 8th – Takeshi Yamaguchi (Japan); 9th – Nicolai Ceban (Moldova); 10th – Egzon Shala (Albania)