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World Championships preview in Greco-Roman wrestling at 66 kg/145.5 lbs.

By Richard Immel USA Wrestling | Aug. 28, 2014, 11:34 a.m. (ET)

 
 Bryce Saddoris at the 2014 U.S. Open in Las Vegas.
Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com Photo.
VIDEO: Bryce Saddoris (USA) vs. Sandeep Tulsi Yadav (India) at 2014 Jack Pinto Cup

Date of Competition: Saturday, September 13

The past two years 66 kg/145.5 lbs. has been owned by the nation of Korea, with Hyeon-Woo Kim winning Olympic gold in 2012 in London and Han-Soo Ryu taking the top prize last year in Budapest.

Ryu will look to defend his World title this year in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but the journey to World title number two will not come easy.

Ryu has endured a tough stretch since being crowned World Champion last September. Earlier this year, Ryu fell short of gold at the Asian Championships, finishing behind both Ruslan Tsarev of Kyrgystan and Khusrav Obloberdiev of Tajikistan to wind up in third place.

While finishing with bronze at a tough continental championship is no small feat, the talented Korean also suffered losses at both the World Cup and Olympia Tournament this season, which begs the question of what form Ryu will be in come the World Championships.

The defending World Champion is currently ranked No. 10 in the FILA World Rankings and will have to fend off some rising talent to give Korea its third World gold medal in as many years.

Current ranked No. 1 in the world is up and coming Russian Adam Kurak. This talented Russian has placed in the top five of every international tournament he has competed in dating back to 2010, but the pressure will be on in Tashkent as he is stepping in for 2013 World Silver medalist Islam-Beka Albiev at this weight.

Kurak has had a solid 2014 season earning gold medals at both the European Championships and Ivan Poddubny Tournament. He defeated the second ranked wrestler in the world, Hasan Aliyev of Azerbaijan, in the finals of the Europeans to cement his spot atop this weight class.

Aliyev will be looking to secure his second World Championship in Tashkent. He won the World Championships at 60 kg/132 lbs. in Moscow back in 2010. Aliyev bumped up to 66 kg/145.5 lbs. for the World Championships last year, finishing in fifth place.

The wrestler who downed Aliyev for bronze last year in Budapest, Germany’s Frank Staebler, is having an excellent 2014 campaign and will surely be in the running for the top spot in Tashkent.

Staebler secured a bronze medal at the European Championships in April, finishing behind both Kurak and Aliyev. He also came away with bronze at the Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Cup last month. Staebler is currently ranked No. 3 in the world by FILA.

Returning World Bronze medalist Sandeep Tulsi Yadav of India will try to continue his winning ways at the Worlds next month.

Yadav is currently unranked by FILA, likely due to a shaky performance at the Dave Schultz Memorial International where he finished in fifth place, suffering a technical fall loss to young American RaVaugn Perkins in the process.

Yadav has not competed internationally since the Dave Schultz in January, but is on India’s preliminary World roster.

Serbia’s Davor Stefanek is sitting in the No. 5 spot in the FILA world rankings after solid international showings this year.

Stefanek has won the Zagreb Open, Golden Grand Prix and Mediterranean Championships in 2014. The only blemish on his resume is a 17th place finish at the European Championships, where he dropped a match to Staebler in the first round.

2012 Olympic Champion Omid Noroozi of Iran is primed for another run to the top in 2014.

Noroozi won the London Olympics at 60 kg/132 lbs. and has since taken a year off and bumped up in weight to 66 kg/145.5 lbs.

Noroozi went undefeated at the World Cup, held in his home country of Iran, and finished third in the Golden Grand Prix event won by Stefanek.

Another dangerous young wrestler making his mark on to the senior circuit is Cuban Miguel Martinez. Last month Martinez won the Pan American Championships in Mexico City, scoring a convincing victory over Bryce Saddoris of the U.S. in the finals.

A two-time NCAA All-American for the Naval Academy, Saddoris will get the nod in Tashkent, replacing World Team Trials Champion RaVaughn Perkins in the U.S. lineup.

Saddoris was runner-up at the Pan American Championships, Dave Schultz Memorial International and World Team Trials in 2014. He finished third at the U.S. Open.

The American owns a technical fall victory over 2013 World Bronze medalist Sandeep Tusli Yadav of India this year.

This may be his first year on the international circuit, but Saddoris has shown tremendous improvement over the course of the year and has the mental fortitude to perform well in Tashkent.

With two World Champions and an Olympic Champion entering this weight, and young competition narrowing the gap, 66 kg/145.5 lbs. is sure to be a tightly contested, excited bracket in Tashkent.

FILA WORLD RANKINGS
1. Adam KURAK (RUS)
2. Hasan ALIYEV (AZE)
3. Frank STAEBLER (GER)
4. Revaz LASHKHI (GEO)
5. Davor STEFANEK (SRB)
6. Istvan LEVAI (SVK)
7. Omid NOROOZI (IRI)
8. Aram JULFALAKYAN (ARM)
9. Azamat AKHMEDOV (RUS)
10. RYU Han-Soo (KOR)
11. Fredrik BJERREHUUS (DEN)
12. Atakan YUKSEL (TUR)
13. Dominik ETLINGER (CRO)
14. Ruslan TSAREV (KGZ)
15. Khusrav OBLOBERDIEV (TJK)
16. David KARECINSKI (POL)
17. Denys DEMYANKOV (UKR)
18. Ramin TAHERISARTANG (IRI)
19. Jussi-Pekka NIEMISTOE (FIN)
20. Miguel MARTINEZ (CUB)

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS AT 66 KG/145.5 LBS.

2013 World Championships
66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Gold -Han-Soo Ryu (Korea); Silver - Islam-Beka Albiev (Russia); Bronze – Sandeep Tulsi Yadav (India); Bronze - Frank Staebler (Germany); 5th - Aleksandar Maksimovic (Serbia); 5th - Hasan Aliyev (Azerbaijan); 7th - Vladimiros Matias (Greece); 8th - A. Byabangard (Iran); 9th – Yuksel Atakan (Turkey); 10th - Tamas Lorincz (Hungary)

2012 Olympic Games
66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Gold - Hyeon-Woo Kim (Korea); Silver - Tamas Lorincz (Hungary); Bronze - Manuchar Tskhaidia (Georgia); Bronze - Steeve Guenot (France); 5th - Frank Staebler (Germany); 5th - Pedro Mulens (Cuba); 7th - Edgaras Venckaitis (Lithuania); 8th - Justin Lester (USA); 9th - Darkhan Bayakhmetov (Kazakhstan); 10th - Amm El Garably (Egypt)

2011 World Championships
66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Gold - Saeid Morad Abdvali (Iran); Silver - Manuchar Tskhadaia (Georgia); Bronze - Hyeon-Woo Kim (Korea); Bronze - Pedro Isaac Mulens (Cuba); 5th - Frank Stabler (Germany); 5th - Justin Lester (USA); 7th - Tamás Lorincz (Hungary); 8th - Kanatbek Begaliev (Kyrgyzstan); 9th - Yuji Okamoto (Japan); 10th - Pan Zheng (China)

2010 World Championships
66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Gold – Ambako Vachadze (Russia); Silver – Armen Vardanyan (Ukraine); Bronze – Vitaly Rahimov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Vasif Arzimanov (Turkey); 5th – Steeve Guenot (France); 5th – Tamas Lorincz (Hungary); 7th- Pascal Strebel (Switzerland); 8th – Hyeon-Woo Kim (Korea); 9th – Danijel Janecic (Croatia); 10th – Emilian Todorov (Bulgaria).

2009 World Championships
66 kg/145.5 lbs. - Gold - Farid Mansurov (Azerbaijan); Silver - Manuchar Tskhadaia (Georgia); Bronze - Ambako Vachadze (Russia); Bronze - Pedro Isaac Mulen (Cuba); 5th - Tamas Lorincz (Hungary); 5th - Sasun Ghambaryan (Armenia); 7th - Afshin Byabangard (Iran); 8th - Tsutomu Fujimura (Japan); 9th - Emil Milev (Bulgaria); 10th - Darkhan Bayakhmetov (Kazakhstan)