2018 World Championships preview at 130 kg/286 lbs. in Greco-Roman

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Oct. 14, 2018, 8:55 a.m. (ET)
Adam Coon fights for position against Robby Smith in the 2018 Greco-Roman World Team Trials in Tulsa, Okla. Photo by Austin Bernard.

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

There have been two dominant Greco-Roman heavyweights in the past decade, both who are certain UWW Hall of Famers someday. Three-time Olympic champion and five-time World champion Mijain Lopez Nunez of Cuba and three-time World champion and five-time World-level finalist Riza Kayaalp of Turkey are on the entry list for Budapest.

Last year, Lopez did not compete in the World Championships, and was replaced by Oscar Pino Hinds, who won the 2017 World bronze medal. Both Lopez and Hinds are listed for Cuba, meaning they aren’t saying who is coming yet. Lopez didn’t wrestle at all in 2017, and has one competition this year, a gold medal at the Central American and Caribbean Games. Pino has been to four big events in 2018, winning a gold at the Pan American Championships and the Central American and Caribbean Championships, a silver at the Granma Cup in Cuba and a bronze at the Podubbny Grand Prix in Russia. If he enters, Pino has the No. 4 seed in Budapest. But if Lopez is competing, there is no doubt who the favorite will be to win this weight class.

Lopez is considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, and if he is serious about a return, could be in line to become a four-time Olympic champion in Tokyo 2020. However, he does not have a perfect record against Kayaalp, who defeated Lopez in the finals of the 2011 and 2015 Worlds Championships. Since Lopez has not wrestled much since he defeated Kayaalp in the 2016 Olympic finals, it is anybody’s guess what level of preparation Lopez would bring to Budapest.

Kayaalp has medaled in every Senior World Championships he has competed in. He won World gold in 2011, 2015 and 2017, while finishing with silver in 2013 and 2014. In 2009 and 2010, he brought home World bronze medals. A three-time Olympian, Kayaalp boasts a 2016 Olympic silver and a 2012 Olympic bronze. He won gold medals in all three events he entered in 2018, the European Championships plus the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria and the Vehbi Emre in Turkey. The rest of the world has not challenged Kayaalp at the big events, and if Lopez is not competing, Kayaalp is as big a favorite as any athlete in the entire Greco-Roman field. Kayaalp earned the No. 1 seed for Worlds, but Lopez would enter unseeded, which could mean a possible rematch in any round based upon draw.

The 2017 World silver medalist is also very accomplished, two-time World champion Heiki Nabi of Estonia. He won the 2006 World Championships at 96 kg before moving up and eventually winning the 2013 World Championships at 120 kg. Nabi also won an Olympic silver medal at 120 kg in 2012. In 2014, he finished with a World bronze, and adding in his 2017 World silver, now has five World or Olympic medals. Nabi has wrestled three international events in 2018, with bronze medals at the Palusalu Memorial in Estonia and at the Grand Prix of Germany. He is a top medal contender every year at the World level.

2016 Olympic bronze medalist Sergey Semenov of Russia is also at the top of his game. Semenov did not compete in the 2017 Senior Worlds, but won the 2017 U23 World title. In 2018, he won the Russian Nationals, captured golds at the Podubbny International in Russia and the Gedza International in Serbia, and was second at the Kartozia and Balavadze International in Georgia. A two-time Junior World champion and three-time Junior World finalist, Semenov has been a star going back to his age-group days.

2017 World bronze medalist Yasmani Acosta Fernandez of Chile is also expected to challenge for the medal rounds again. Acosta started his career in Cuba behind Lopez, and won a 2011 Pan American Championships gold medal for them. In 2017, he emerged on Chile’s team, placed second behind Pino at the Pan American Championships, then powered to a bronze medal at the Worlds in Paris. In 2018, Acosta has won four international medals, with golds at the South American Games and the Ion Corneanu Memorial in Romania.

2015 World bronze medalist Oleksandr Chernetski of Ukraine has been wrestling on the Senior level since 2006, when he won a European bronze medal. He has wrestled in seven Senior World Championships and two Olympic Games. A 2008 World Military champion, Chernetski has cut back on his competition schedule, with only one event during 2018, a bronze medal at the Grand Prix of Germany.

Alin Alexuc-Ciurariu of Romania has three fifth-place finishes in his career, including taking fifth at the 2016 Olympic Games at 98 kg, as well as fifth places at the 2014 and 2015 World Championships at that weight. Alexuc-Ciurariu has drifted back and forth between the two highest weight classes for much of his career, but has focused entirely on 130 kg since the 2016 Olympics. There isn’t a big man who wrestles as much as he does, with 10 different international competitions during the 2018 year alone. He has six 2018 international medals, including a silver medal at the Ion Corneanu Memorial in Romania and five different bronze medals. One of those 2018 bronze medals came at the European Championships.

Another top challenger who has fallen just short of a World medal is Eduard Popp of Germany, who was fifth at the 2016 Olympic Games at 130 kg and also was fifth at the 2014 World Championships at this weight class. Most recently, Popp was ninth at the 2017 World Championships. He has only two events so far this year, fifth places at the Military Worlds and at the Grand Prix of Germany.

Another veteran big man in the hunt is Kiril Grishchenko of Belarus, who placed fifth at the 2017 World Championships. Grishchenko has a pair of age-group World medals, a silver medal at the 2011 Junior Worlds and a silver medal at the 2016 University Worlds. This season, his best finish was second place at the Vehbi Emre International in Turkey.

The United States will be represented by a first-time Senior World Team member, Adam Coon, who snapped Robby Smith’s streak of five-straight World and Olympic Team berths on Team USA. Coon, who was a three-time NCAA All-American at Michigan, has considerable past age-group success and competes in both international styles. In 2014, Coon won Junior World bronze medals in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. In 2011, he was a Cadet World freestyle champion, and also competed in Greco-Roman there. Coon is big and strong and unafraid to throw, and many of the current Senior Greco-Roman heavyweights have not yet wrestled him.

2018 Asian Championships gold medalist Behnam Mehdizadeh Arpatapeh of Iran placed eighth in the 2014 World Championships, his only previous Senior World appearance. He won the Takhti Cup in Iran this year, and added a bronze medal at the 2018 Military World Championships.

Winning the 2018 Asian Games was Muminjon Abdullaev of Uzbekistan, who placed second behind Mehdizadeh at the Asian Championships. Abdullaev competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

2016 University World champion Balint Lam of Hungary has been busy in 2018, winning five international medals, including a gold medal at the Karavaev Memorial in Belarus. Lam was second at the 2018 Military Worlds, and placed fifth at the 2018 European Championships.

Georgia’s Iakobi Kajaia was seventh in the 2016 Olympic Games and placed third at this year’s European Championships. He won the Grand Prix of Germany in preparation for the Worlds this year. In 2012, Kajaia was a Junior World bronze medalist.

Others to watch include 2018 Asian silver medalist Marat Ramanov of Kyrgyzstan, 2018 Asian Games bronze medalists Arata Sonoda of Japan and Min-Seok Kim of Korea, along with Anton Savenko of Kazakhstan, who was fifth at the 2018 Asian Senior Championships.

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
130 kg/286 lbs. - Gold – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Silver - Heiki Nabi (Estonia); Bronze – Oscar Pino Hinds (Cuba); Bronze – Yasmani Acosta Fernandez (Chile); 5th - Kiril Grishchenko (Belarus); 5th - Nikolai Kuchmiy (Ukraine); 7th - Levan Arabuli (Georgia); 8th - Shahab Morteza Ghourehjili (Iran); 9th - Eduard Popp (Germany); 10th - Robby Smith (USA)

2016 Olympic Games
130 kg/286 lbs. – Gold – Mijain Lopez Nunez (Cuba); Silver – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Bronze – Sabah Shariati (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Sergey Semenov (Russia); Fifth – Eduard Popp (Germany); Fifth – Heiki Nabi (Estonia); Seventh – Iakobi Kajaia (Geogia); Eighth – Jahan Euren (Sweden); Ninth – Oleksandr Chernetskyy (Ukraine); Tenth – Bashir Babajanzadeh Darzi (Iran)

2015 World Championships
130 kg/286 lbs. – Gold – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Silver – Mijain Lopez (Cuba); Bronze – Oleksandr Chernetski (Ukraine); Bronze – Bilyal Makhov (Russia); 5th – Sabahi Shariati (Azerbaijan); 5th – Robby Smith (United States); 7th – Murat Ramonov (Kyrgyzstan); 8th – Heiki Nabi (Estonia); 9th – Erwin Caraballo Cabrera (Venezuela); 10th – Yongmin Kim (Korea)

2014 World Championships
130 kg/286 lbs. – Gold – Mijian Lopez (Cuba); Silver – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Bronze – Bilyal Makhov (Russia); Bronze – Heiki Nabi (Estonia); 5th – Eduard Popp (Germany); 5th – Lyubomir Dimitrov (Bulgaria); 7th – Johan Euren (Sweden); 8th – Behram Mehdizadeh (Iran); 9th – Nurmakhan Tinaliyev (Kazakhstan); 10th – Iakovi Kajaia (Georgia)

2013 World Championships
120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Gold - Heiki Nabi (Estonia); Silver - Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Bronze – Nurmakhan Tinalyev (Kazakhstan); Bronze - Johan Euren (Sweden); 5th - Mihaly Deak-Bardos (Hungary); 5th - Robby Smith (USA); 7th - Eduard Popp (Germany); 8th - Radhouane Chebbi (Tunisia); 9th – Ramon Garcia (Dominican Republic); 10th - Sergei Andrusik (Russia)

2012 Olympic Games
120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Gold - Mijian Lopez (Cuba); Silver - Heiki Nabi (Estonia); Bronze - Riza Kayaalp (Turkey); Bronze - Johan Euren (Sweden); 5th - Guram Pherselidze (Georgia); 5th - Iosif Chugoshvili (Belarus); 7th - Darzi Babanjanzadeh (Iran); 8th - Yuri Patrikeev (Armenia); 9th - Dremiel Byers (USA); 10th - Lukasz Banak (Poland)

Current UWW Ranking Series standings (for seeding)

1 Riza Kayaalp (Turkey)
2 Balint Lam (Hungary)
3 Alin Alexuc Ciurariu (Romania)
4 Oscar Pino Hinds (Cuba)
5 Behnam Mehdizadeh Arpatapeh (Iran)
6 Murat Ramonov (Kyrgyzstan)
7 Mantas Knytautas (Lithuania)
8 Vitalii Shchur (Russia)
9 Moises Perez Hellburg (Venezuela)
10 Iakobi Kajaia (Georgia)