World Championships preview in men's freestyle at 61 kg/134 lbs.

By Richard Immel, USA Wrestling | July 30, 2017, 3:57 p.m. (ET)
Photo: Defending World champion Logan Stieber looks to defend his crown against a stellar international field in Paris. Photo by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.

Video: Logan Stieber at World Team training camp

Date of competition: Friday, August 25

The mass exodus of top talent at 57 kg/125.5 lbs. may have left us with many unknowns, but one thing is certain, the 61 kg/134 lbs. bracket has greatly increased its depth and will be perhaps the most explosive weight at the World Championships.

The top contender is reigning 57 kg Olympic champion Vladimer Khinchegashvili of Georgia. As the top-ranked wrestler in the UWW World Rankings, Khinchegashvili owns a World gold, World silver and Olympic silver, in addition to his golden run in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

He has been known to take a regular season loss from time-to-time, but always performs to his highest potential at season’s end. Since moving up to 61 kg, Khinchegashvili won individual titles at the European Championships and Waclaw Ziolkowski Memorial. He dropped matches to Ukraine’s Vasyl Shuptar and India’s Sandeep Tomar this season, giving him some semblance of vulnerability in Paris.

The second Olympic medalist expected to enter 61 kg is World No. 6 Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan. Aliyev finished with bronze in Rio de Janeiro after falling to Khinchegashvili in the quarterfinals. He was the 61 kg World champion in 2014 and 2015 before cutting down to 57 kg for the Olympic year.

Aliyev is expected to get the nod for Azerbaijan over last year’s World bronze medalist Akhmednabi Gvarzatilov, who slots in at No. 17 in the World Rankings.

The reigning World champion hails from the United States, and is quite the offensive juggernaut himself. Logan Stieber enters as No. 3 in the World Rankings following a golden outing at the Grand Prix of Spain and a bronze-medal performance at the Pan American Championships.

Stieber won the U.S. World Team Trials in two-straight matches over rising talent Kendric Maple. Since winning the World title last December, Stieber has competed often. He went 3-1 at the World Cup with his only loss coming to two-time World medalist Masoud Esmailpour of Iran. He also dropped a match to World No. 8 Davian Quintana Jaime of Cuba at the Pan Ams. The U.S. gunslinger will undoubtedly put up some serious point totals in Paris and is right in the mix for gold.

Russia boasts two top-10 ranked wrestlers in No. 2 Akhmed Chakaev and No. 7 Gadshimurad Rashidov. Chakaev won bronze at the Worlds last year with his only loss coming to Stieber. He also picked up gold at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix and silver at the European Championships, falling to Khinchegashvili in the finals. On the flip side, Rashidov but won both the U23 Europeans and Russia Nationals. The pair each posted wins against one another this season, but it appears Rashidov has the inside track to representing Russia in Paris.

Iran is another country with two World-class contenders. World No. 4 Behnam Ehsanpoor looks to be the guy for Iran after winning the Asian Championships and downing World No. 14 Esmailpour in the Iranian Nationals. Ehsanpoor finished in fifth place at the World Championships last year.

Han-Song Kim of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea enters at No. 9 in the World Rankings after finishing in second place at the Asian Championships. We don’t know much about his success rate internationally given his lack of results on the Senior level.

2014 World bronze medalist Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez will take the mat for Cuba in Paris. He currently owns the No. 10 World Ranking following a fifth-place finish at the Olympic Games, silver medal outing at the Golden Grand Prix and championship performance at the Cerro Pelado International. Bonne Rodriguez will be sent over Quintana Jaime who won the Pan American Championships.

It was expected that Olympic silver medalist Rei Higuchi would represent Japan at 61 kg, however upstart Rinya Nakamura made other plans. Nakamura upset Higuchi to make Japan’s World Team, but will be a big question mark in Paris.

The top four seeds as established by the new United World Wrestling seeding criteria are Chakaev, Stieber, Ehsanpoor and Andrei Perpelita of Moldova. With Chakaev out, Stieber will move into the No. 1 spot. Ehsanpoor and Perpelita will be separated on the opposite side of the bracket. The remaining entrants will be drawn in at random.

Perpelita has competed at seven World Championships, but has yet to earn a medal. He may have broken through to the top-tier at 61 kg in 2017 after scoring a bronze at the European Championships and a silver at the Waclaw Ziolkowski Memorial. Perpelita currently sits at No. 18 in the World Rankings.

Another dark horse in the running is World No. 12 Volodya Frangulyan of Armenia, who picked up a bronze at the European Championships, in addition to gold at the Kartozia and Balavadze Price Tournament and bronze at the Yasar Dogu. His top achievement to date is a Junior World bronze medal from 2012.

Now a seven-time African champion, Senegal’s Adama Diatta is a dangerous early-round opponent for anyone in the field. Diatta has competed at two Olympic Games and four World Championships.

This weight category will be contested on the first day of men’s freestyle action, Aug. 25. 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. Vladimir Khinchegashvili (Georgia)
2. Akhmed Chakaev (Russia)
3. Logan Stieber (United States)
4. Behnam Ehsanpoor (Iran)
5. Rei Higuchi (Japan)
6. Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan)
7. Gadshimurad Rashidov (Russia)
8. Davian Quintana Jaime (Cuba)
9. Han-Song Kim (DPR Korea)
10. Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez (Cuba)
11. Galib Aliyev (Azerbaijan)
12. Volodya Frangulyan (Armenia)
13. Daulet Niyazbekov (Kazakhstan)
14. Masoud Esmaeilpour (Iran)
15. Shota Phartenadze (Georgia)
16. Ali Rahimzade (Azerbaijan)
17. Akhmednabi Gvarzatilov (Azerbaijan)
18. Andrei Perpelita (Moldova)
19. Viktor Rassadin (Russia)
20. Sharvan Sharvan (India)

World Championships Seeds
1. Akhmed Chakaev (Russia)
2. Logan Stieber (United States)
3. Behnam Ehsanpoor (Iran)
4. Andrei Perpelita (Moldova)

Recent World Results
2016 World Championships
61 kg/134 lbs. – Gold – Logan Stieber (United States); Silver - Beka Lomtadze (Georgia); Bronze – Akhmednabi Gvarzatilov (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Akhmed Chakaev (Russia); 5th - Behnam Ehsanpoor (Iran); 5th - Iurii Siemakin (France); 7th – Andrei Perpelita (Moldova); 8th – Temurjon Usmonohunov (Uzbekistan); 9th – Bajrang (India); 10th – Heorgi Kaliyeu (Belarus)

2015 World Championships
61 kg/134 lbs. – Gold – Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan); Silver – Nomin Batbold (Mongolia); Bronze – Vladimir Dubov (Bulgaria); Bronze – Vasyl Shuptar (Ukraine); 5th – Masakazu Kamoi (Japan); 5th – Bajrang (India); 7th – Beka Lomtadze (Georgia); 8th – Munir Aktas (Turkey)
9th – Valodya Frangulyan (Armenia); 10th – Jaehoon Yang (Korea)

2014 World Championships
61 kg/134 lbs. – Gold – Haji Aliyev (Azerbaijan); Silver – Masoud Esmaeilpoor (Iran); Bronze – Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez (Cuba); Bronze – Nyam-Ochir Enkhsaikhan (Mongolia); 5th – Andrei Perpelita (Moldova); 5th – Artas Sana (Kazakhstan); 7th – Vladimir Dubov (Bulgaria); 8th – Krzysztof Bienkowski (Poland); 9th – Aleksander Bogomoev (Russia); 10th – Jimmy Kennedy (United States)

2013 World Championships
60 kg/132 lbs. – Gold – Bekhan Goigereev (Russia); Silver – Vladimir Dubov (Bulgaria); Bronze – Bajrang (India); Bronze – Masoud Esmailpoor (Iran); 5th – Nyam-Ochir Enkhsaikhan (Mongolia); 5th – Artur Arakelyan (Armenia); 7th – Franklin Gomez (Puerto Rico); 8th – Reece Humphrey (United States); 9th – Ivan Guidea (Romania); 10th – Vladimer Khinchegashvili (Georgia)