U.S. outlasts Azerbaijan to win Group A, qualify for Freestyle World Cup final against Iran

By Richard Immel, USA Wrestling | Feb. 17, 2017, 9:40 a.m. (ET)
Photo: James Green (USA) gets his hand raised following a 10-0 win over David Suynyuchkhanov (AZE) on Friday at the Freestyle World Cup. Photo by Justin Hoch, JHoch.com.

KERMANSHAH, Iran – As anticipated, the battle between the U.S. and Azerbaijan for first place in Group A at the Freestyle World Cup was hotly contested and wildly entertaining. Both teams won four matches in the dual, but it was bonus point performances that gave the American team the edge on criteria.

Picking up crucial technical fall wins were 2015 World bronze medalist James Green at 70 kg/154 lbs. and 2013 University World bronze medalist David Taylor at 86 kg/189 lbs.

Stepping on the mat with the team trailing 2-1, Green ignited a spark in the U.S. effort that changed the momentum of the dual. Green blasted David Suynyuchkhanov with a wide variety of offensive attacks to post a 10-0 first period technical fall.

“I know these guys were trying to slow us down, stay close. It was going to be a close match throughout the lineup, so to go out there and get a tech was definitely big for Team USA,” Green said.

Taylor continued his impressive World Cup showing with a signature 12-2 victory over 2012 Olympic champion and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Sharif Sharifov of Azerbaijan. Taylor notched five takedowns and a match ending exposure from a near-side cradle position in the winning effort. Taylor now owns wins over two past Olympic medalists at the World Cup this week.

Sandwiched in between Green and Taylor was 2012 Olympic champion and three-time World champion Jordan Burroughs, who found himself in a tussle against Golden Grand Prix bronze medalist Murad Suleymanov at 74 kg/163 lbs. Although tested, Burroughs found a way to come out on top.

The match started with a relatively slow pace. Suleymanov surrendered a shot clock point midway through the first period. Moments later, Burroughs was looking to convert a standing single leg, but was tripped to his back, giving up four points. Following a failed challenge, Burroughs trailed 5-1 at the break. Suleymanov gave up a second shot clock point early in the second stanza, followed by a step out and fleeing the mat violation. Upon receiving his third caution, Suleymanov was disqualified from the bout and Burroughs declared the winner.

“Going back to the finals against Iran tonight. We’re excited. It was a tough dual. We are just a little bit meaner, a little bit tougher than those guys. Back to the finals…make sure you’re up to watch America bring this cup back to the United States,” Burroughs said following the dual.

The fourth member of the U.S. team securing a win was 2016 World champion Logan Stieber at 61 kg/134 lbs. Stieber traded points back-and-forth with Ali Rahimzade, holding off a “too close for comfort” charge at the very end to emerge with a 12-11 decision.

Stieber, Green, Burroughs and Taylor all own individual records of 3-0 heading into tonight’s finals against five-time defending World Cup champion Iran.

“I’m expecting fireworks,” Green said of the matchup with Iran. “It’s going to be a good match, a rematch from last World Cup. We’re going to get it done. Except we are in the finals this time, so it’s on the big stage and we are looking to take home first place.”

With the four U.S. wins came four narrow defeats at the hands of talented Azerbaijani foes.

Reigning Olympic and World champion Kyle Snyder was upended in the final seconds by Aslanbek Alborov at 97 kg/213 lbs. Snyder led 4-1 with roughly 30 seconds left in the bout before Alborov hit Snyder with a four-point single leg going out of bounds. Snyder was unable to recover and fell 5-4.

Olympian Frank Molinaro lost a tight 4-1 decision to 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time World champion Haji Aliyev at 65 kg/143 lbs. Molinaro was close to several takedown conversions, but Aliyev’s counter abilities proved the difference in the match.

Getting his first call of the tournament, Nick Gwiazdowski came up two points shy of 2015 World silver medalist Jamaladdin Magomedov at 125 kg/275 lbs. Gwiazdowski led 1-0 in the second period, but surrendered a shot clock point and takedown in the final two minutes to lose 3-1.

Two-time World Team member Tony Ramos was unable to complete his comeback quest against Golden Grand Prix champion Giorgi Edisherashvili at 57 kg/125.5 lbs. Ramos surged with several legitimate leg attacks in the second period, but couldn’t overcome an early deficit to lose 3-2.

The win over Azerbaijan moves the U.S. to 3-0 overall in World Cup action and places them in the gold medal match against Iran at 8:30 a.m. (ET) on Friday. The match can be viewed live by U.S. residents on Trackwrestling.com.

“Awesome win for the team,” U.S. coach Bill Zadick noted at the conclusion of round three. “Really hard-fought match from top to bottom. Azerbaijan is a tough team. They are the Olympic champions in the unofficial count, have five medals, and to come in and beat a team like that, it’s a good win.”

Iran iced first place in Group B with a 7-1 victory over Mongolia on Friday morning. Iran has won its three World Cup duals by a combined 23-1 score.

In last year’s World Cup, Iran and the U.S. split four matches each with Iran taking the dual on criteria, 17-15.

Other results from session III saw Russia top Georgia 5-3 and Turkey cruise to a 7-1 win over India.

With the group rounds complete, the medal matches have been finalized. Azerbaijan and Turkey will wrestle for third place. Russia and Mongolia will duke it out for fifth place. Georgia and India are set to square off for seventh place.

The U.S. has not won a Freestyle World Cup since 2003 when the event was held on American soil in Boise, Idaho. The opportunity has arrived for the U.S. to reclaim the World Cup crown, and nothing could be sweeter than doing it against Iran in its home arena.

2017 FREESTYLE WORLD CUP
Feb. 16-17 in Kermanshah, Iran


Session III Results
Group A
United States 4 (20) – Azerbaijan 4 (14)

57 kg/125.5 lbs. – Giorgi Edisherashvili (Azerbaijan) dec. Tony Ramos (United States), 3-2
61 kg/134 lbs. – Logan Stieber (United States) dec. Ali Rahimzade (Azerbaijan), 12-11
65 kg/143 lbs. – Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan) dec. Frank Molinaro (United States), 4-1
70 kg/154 lbs. – James Green (United States) tech. fall David Suynyuchkhanov (Azerbaijan), 10-0
74 kg/163 lbs. – Jordan Burroughs (United States) dq. Murad Suleymanov (Azerbaijan), 3 cautions
86 kg/189 lbs. – David Taylor (United States) tech. fall Sharif Sharifov (Azerbaijan), 12-2
97 kg/213 lbs. – Aslanbek Alborov (Azerbaijan) dec. Kyle Snyder (United States), 5-4
125 kg/275 lbs. – Jamaladdin Magomedov (Azerbaijan) dec. Nick Gwiazdowski (United States), 3-1

Russia 5 (20) – Georgia 3 (13)
57 kg/125.5 lbs. – Zelimkhan Abakarov (Russia) dec. Beka Bujiashvili (Georgia), 10-2
61 kg/134 lbs. – Viktor Rassadin (Russia) tech. fall Shota Phartenadze (Georgia), 14-4
65 kg/143 lbs. – Chermen Valiev (Russia) dec. Iveriko Julakidze (Georgia), 12-7
70 kg/154 lbs. – Levan Kelekhsashvili (Georgia) dec. Alibek Akbaev (Russia), 2-2
74 kg/163 lbs. – Jakov Makarashvili (Georgia) dec. Radik Valiev (Russia), 4-2
86 kg/189 lbs. – Akhmed Magamaev (Russia) tech. fall Davit Khutsishvili (Georgia), 10-0
97 kg/213 lbs. – Rasul Magomedov (Russia) dec. Zviad Metreveli (Georgia), 4-0
125 kg/275 lbs. – Geno Petriashvili (Georgia) tech. fall Mukhamagazi Magomedov (Russia), 13-2

Group B
Iran 7 (27) – Mongolia 1 (5)

57 kg/125.5 lbs. – Hassan Rahimi (Iran) dec. Zanabazar Zandanbud (Mongolia), 7-6
61 kg/134 lbs. – Behnam Ehsanpoor (Iran) dec. Tulga Tumur-Ochir (Mongolia), 4-0
65 kg/143 lbs. – Batmagnai Batchuluun (Mongolia) dec. Mohammedemehdi Yeganehjafari (Iran), 4-3
70 kg/154 lbs. – Hamed Rashidi (Iran) tech. fall Mandakhnaran Ganzorig (Mongolia), 10-0
74 kg/163 lbs. – Peyman Yarahmadi (Iran) tech. fall Ankhbayar Batchuluun (Mongolia), 10-0
86 kg/189 lbs. – Hasan Yazdanicharati (Iran) tech. fall Unurbat Purejav (Mongolia), 13-2
97 kg/213 lbs. – Amir Mohammadi (Iran) fall Batzul Uliisaikhan (Mongolia), 3:58
125 kg/275 lbs. – Yadollah Mohebi (Iran) dec. Zolboo Natsagsuren (Mongolia), 5-0

Turkey 7 (28) – India 1 (7)
57 kg/125.5 lbs. – Sezar Akgul (Turkey) forfeit (India)
61 kg/134 lbs. – Harphool (India) forfeit (Turkey)
65 kg/143 lbs. – Safa Aksoy (Turkey) tech. fall Bajrang Bajrang (India), 10-0
70 kg/154 lbs. – Yakup Gor (Turkey) tech. fall Amit Dhankhar (India), 10-0
74 kg/163 lbs. – Islam Kilic (Turkey) tech. fall Jitender Jitender (India), 11-0
86 kg/189 lbs. – Selim Yasar (Turkey) dec. Deepak Deepak (India), 9-2
97 kg/213 lbs. – Faruk Akkoyun (Turkey) dec. Roublejit Rangi (India), 11-3
125 kg/275 lbs. – Salim Ercan (Turkey) forfeit (India)