2018 World Championships preview at 97 kg/213.5 lbs. in Greco-Roman

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Oct. 11, 2018, 1:38 p.m. (ET)
G'Angelo Hancock of the United States, shown competing at the 2017 World Championships in Paris, is a rising star on the Senior level. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

Dates of competition: Saturday, October 27 and Sunday, October 28

This weight class has a dominant superstar, 2016 Olympic champion and three-time World champion Artur Aleksanyan of Armenia. Add in a 2013 World silver medal and a 2012 Olympic bronze medal, and this rugged wrestler has put together perhaps the longest streak of excellence in international wrestling, regardless of style. When the important events are here, Aleksanyan shows up ready. He won a Junior World title in 2010, then took off from there. This year, Aleksanyan won the European Championships, his third career Euro gold, and claimed a gold at the Ukrainian Memorial International. But in his last event, he was thrown and pinned in the semifinals by American G’Angelo Hancock and placed fifth. Aleksanyan loses rarely, but it does happen, and quite recently.

It is good that UWW is developing a seeding system, which is helping separate some of the top stars in the sport from each other early on. In this weight class, because they didn’t count last year’s Worlds results, Aleksanyan competed only enough in 2018 to get a No. 5 ranking, and fall short of the seeds. Yet, earning a seed at No. 4 is Luillys Jose Perez Mora of Venezeula. Go figure. Aleksanyan will fall into the blind draw, and could wrestle any other contender at any time.

2009 World champion Balazs Kiss of Hungary has earned the No. 1 seed in this weight class in Budapest. Kiss won the 2018 Grand Prix of Hungary and took third at the European Championships this season. He has also been a 2013 and 2017 World bronze medalist, bringing an extensive resume along with him. He lacks an Olympic medal, placing ninth in the 2016 Rio Games in his only Olympic appearance. His age-group achievements are a 1998 Cadet World title, 2003 Junior World silver medal and a two University World silver medals (2004 and 2008). With the home crowd behind him, Kiss should be ready for another strong run.

Another past World champion is expected, Melonin Noumonvi of France, who won the 2014 Worlds at 85 kg. Noumonvi has been a consistent challenger for a number of years, including a fifth-place finish at the 2012 Olympic Games. Unable to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, Noumonvi moved up to 98 kg last year and placed seventh at the 2017 World Championships. So far this season, Noumonvi claimed gold at the Mediterranean Games, won a bronze at the Grand Prix of Germany and missed the medal rounds at the European Championships. Experienced and talented, he is capable of making a run in Budapest.

2015 World champion, 2016 Olympic silver medalist and 2014 World bronze medalist Zhan Beleniuk of Ukraine is competing again, and could show up at 97 kg, although he has wrestled at 87 kg in some recent events. If Beleniuk moves up to this weight, he becomes a serious threat here.

2017 World silver medalist Musa Evloev of Russia has been strong this season, winning the Russian Nationals, and claiming gold medals in four of the five international events he has entered. Included are 2018 titles at the respected Podubbny International in Russia, the Palusalu Memorial in Estonia, the Kartozia and Balavadze International in Georgia and the Gedza International in Serbia. The only event he fell short of a medal was the 2018 European Championships. Evloev was a 2013 Junior World Champion.

2016 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time World bronze medalist Cenk Ildem of Turkey is another heavy hitter at this weight class. Ildem won his World bronze medals in 2011 and 2014. Like some of the other top contenders, he has not had a great season this year, with a lone silver medal performance at the Takhti Cup in Iran in four international tourneys. Ildem was eighth at the 2018 European Championships. Also a 2012 Olympian, he was successful at the age-group levels, winning a 2006 Junior World title and 2008 University World title.

2017 World bronze medalist Revazi Nadareishvili of Georgia is another proven talent. He won a silver medal in the Kartozia and Balavdaze International in his home country this year, but did not reach the medal rounds in the last two international events he entered this season. A 2011 Junior World champion, he placed 10th at the 2016 Olympic Games.

The United States has been building its Greco-Roman program with young talents like G’Angelo Hancock, who made an early commitment to a full-time focus on the classic style. A 2016 Junior World bronze medalist, Hancock has been competing at both the age-group and the Senior level at the same time as he has improved quickly. In 2017, he wrestled at three World Championship events in the same year, at the Senior, U23 and Junior Worlds. Hancock won the 2017 Arvo Haavisto Cup in Finland at 130 kg, but made the commitment to 97 kg and is hitting his stride as we head into the World Championships.

Bulgaria is expected to enter Nikolay Bayryakov, who was fifth at the 2016 Olympics at 85 kg. Bayryakov was ninth at the 2017 World Championships. He won a silver medal at the Pytlasinki Memorial in Poland, falling to Hancock in the finals. He was also a 2017 European bronze medalist.

Another challenger is Mahdi Aliyarifeizagadi of Iran, who reached a World medal match when he placed fifth at the 2013 World Championships. This will be his third Senior World appearance. He won a bronze medal at the 2018 Vehbe Emre International in Turkey, his only major international event of the season. He boasts a 2014 Asian Games title, two Asian Senior Championships gold medals and a 2013 University World Games bronze medal.

Mikheil Kajaia of Serbia has had his best season to date, winning the silver medal at the 2018 European Championships, and adding three other medals, a silver at the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria, plus bronze medals at the Grand Prix of Zagreb in Croatia and the Mediterranean Games. He was ninth in the 2017 World Championships. He started his career in Georgia, where he won a 2013 World University Games bronze medal.

2014 Junior World champion Orkhan Nuriyev of Azerbaijan was also a 2013 Junior World bronze medalist. He claimed a 2015 European Senior gold medal, and will be entering his third Senior World meet. His top finishes in 2018 was a gold medal at the Takhti Cup in Iran and a bronze medal at the Ukrainian Memorial International.

Sergei Starodub of Belarus won the 2018 Vehbe Emre Intnational in Turkey, and was third at the 2016 University World Championships. 2018 World Military champion Matti Kuosmanen of Finland was also a 2017 U23 World silver medalist, and was a 2011 Cadet World champion. 2012 Junior World champion Vilius Laurentus of Lithuania placed eighth at the 2017 World Championships.

2018 Asian Games champion Kyo-Chul Cho of Korea placed 10th in his only previous Senior World Championships appearance. Uzur Dzhuzupbekov of Uzbekistan won bronze medals at both the 2018 Asian Games and the 2018 Asian Championships. 2012 Junior World bronze medalist Peter Oehler of Germany was also ninth at the 2016 Senior Worlds. 2010 World University bronze medalist Marcin Olejniczak of Poland is among the other experienced entries. 2018 Pan American champion Luillys Perez Mora of Venezuela and runner-up Kevin Mejia Castillo of Honduras are others to watch.

Note: TheMat.com will be posting daily weight class previews for the 2018 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, October 20-28

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS

2017 World Championships
98 kg/215 lbs. - Gold - Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Silver - Musa Evloev (Russia); Bronze - Revazi Nadareishvili (Georgia); Bronze - Balazs Kiss (Hungary); 5th - Rustam Assakalov (Uzbekistan); 5th - Dimitriy Timchenko (Ukraine); 7th - Mélonin Noumonvi (France); 8th - Vilius Laurinaitis (Lithuania); 9th - Mikheil Kajaia (Serbia); 10th - Laokratis Kesidis (Greece)

2016 Olympic Games
98 kg/216 lbs. – Gold – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Silver – Yasmany Lugo Cabrera (Cuba); Bronze – Cenk Ildem (Turkey); Bronze – Ghasem Rezaei (Iran); Fifth – Alin Alexuc Ciurariu (Romania); Fifth – Carl Schoen (Sweden); Seventh – Elis Guri (Bulgaria); Eighth – Islam Magomedov (Russia); Ninth – Balazs Kiss (Hungary); Tenth – Hamdy Abdelwahab (Egypt); Tenth – Revazi Nadareishvili (Georgia)

2015 World Championships
98 kg/216 lbs. – Gold – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Silver – Ghasem Rezaei (Iran); Bronze – Islam Magomedov (Russia); Bronze – Dimitriy Timchenko (Ukraine); 5th – Elis Guri (Bulgaria); 5th – Alin Alexuc-Ciurariu (Romania); 7th – Di Xiao (China); 8th – Marthin Hamlet Nielsen (Norway); 9th – Peter Oehler (Germany); 10th – Vilius Laurinaitis (Lithuania)

2014 World Championships
98 kg/216 lbs. – Gold – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Silver –Oliver Hassler (Germany); Bronze – Ghasem Rezaei (Iran); Bronze – Cenk Ildem (Turkey); 5th – Aliaksandr Hrabovik (Belarus); 5th – Alin Alexuc-Ciurariu (Romania); 7th – Miroslav Metoviev (Bulgaria); 8th – Ardo Arusaar (Estonia); 9th – Marthin Nielsen (Finland); 10th – Adam Varga (Hungary)

2013 World Championships
96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Gold – Nikita Melnikov (Russia); Silver – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Bronze – Balazs Kiss (Hungary); Bronze – Shalva Gadabadze (Azerbaijan); 5th – Mahdi Aliyarifeizagadi (Iran); 5th – Norikatsu Saikawa (Japan); 7th – Yerulan Iskakov (Kazakhstan); 8th – Timo Antero Kallio (Finland); 9th – Mélonin Noumonvi (France); 10th – Cenk Ildem (Turkey)

2012 Olympic Games
96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Gold – Ghasem Rezaei (Iran); Silver – Rustam Totrov (Russia); Bronze – Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia); Bronze – Jimmy Lidberg (Sweden); 5th – Yunior Estrada Falcon (Cuba); 5th – Timofej Dzeynichenko (Belarus); 7th – Elis Guri (Bulgaria); 8th – Ardo Arusaar (Estonia); 9th – Hassine Ayari (Tunisia); 10th – Shalva Gadabadze (Azerbaijan)

UWW Rankings Series standings (for seeding)

1 Balazs Kiss (Hungary)
2 Orkhan Nuriyev (Azerbaijan)
3 Cenk Ildem (Turkey)
4 Luillys Jose Perez Mora (Venezuela)
5 Artur Aleksanyan (Armenia)
6 Gabriel Rosillo Kindelan (Cuba)
7 Yerulan Iskakov (Kazakhstan)
8 Mihail Kajala (Serbia)
9 Kevin Mejia Castillo (Honduras)
10 Matti Elias Kuosmanen (Finland)