Photos by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com.
65 KG COMPETITION DATE: Sept. 19-20, 2019
The entries for the 65 kg weight class in men’s freestyle feature multiple World and Olympic champions as well as several medalists at the Senior level.
Highlighting the field is Vladimer Khinchegashvili of Georgia, who is a 2016 Olympic champion and 2015 World champion.
Khinchegashvili has been name feared worldwide as he owns several other impressive accolades in addition to his golds, including a 2012 Olympic silver medal and World silvers from 2014 and 2017. Last year, he was 11th at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
This season, Khinchegashvili has had an up-and-down year, finishing eighth and ninth at the Henri Deglane Challenge in France and European Championships, respectively, but also securing a silver medal at the European Games in June.
Defeating Khinchegashvili in the European Games finals was Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan, who is just as accomplished as the Georgian.
Aliyev is a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, who has also topped the podium at Senior Worlds three times with gold-medal performances in 2014, 2015 and 2017. He fell to 25th-place at the 2018 World Championships.
In addition to winning gold at the European Games, Aliyev also earned gold at the European Championships in 2019.
Due to their inactivity at the UWW Ranking Series events, both Khinchegashvili and Aliyev enter the World Championships unseeded.
Carrying the No. 1 seed into Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, is Bajrang Bajrang of India, who is a 2018 Senior World silver medalist and 2017 U23 World silver medalist.
Bajrang racked up ranking points based on his 2018 World finish as well as his gold performance at the Dan Kolov International in Ukraine, which is a ranking event.
Opposite of Bajrang as the No. 2 seed is 2018 World champion Takuto Otoguro of Japan. Otoguro did not compete at any ranking events this season.
While Akhmed Chakaev of Russia holds the No. 3 seed, Russia submitted Gadzhimurad Rashidov as its representative at 65 kg.
Rashidov, who won Russia Nationals, is accomplished at the Senior level, recording silver medals at the 2017 and 2018 World Championships. He is also a two-time Cadet World champion and two-time Junior World bronze medalist.
Earlier this season, Rashidov won bronze at the Yarygin.
Current No. 4 seed is Selahattin Kilicsallayan from Turkey, who took fifth at the Kolov Tournament and was second at the European Championships.
Also in the field is two-time World bronze medalist and Pan Am Games champion Alejandro Valdes Tobier from Cuba as well as 2016 Olympic bronze medalist and 2015 World runner-up Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan.
As for the USA’s representative, that is still yet to be determined. There will be a special wrestle-off between Yianni Diakomihalis and Zain Retherford for the 65 kg World Team spot on Sept. 2 at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Diakomihalis, who won his second-straight NCAA title in March for Cornell, enters the wrestle-off with two big international victories from this season under his belt. In July, Diakomihalis won the Yasar Dogu International in Turkey, which included a first-round win over Retherford.
Less than a month later, Diakomihalis scored a gold medal at the Waclaw Ziolkowski Memorial in Poland.
Beginning his international career in 2015, Diakomihalis is a two-time Cadet World champion, winning titles in 2015 and 2016.
Three-time NCAA champion for Penn State Zain Retherford also is a Cadet World champion, claiming his gold in 2012.
Retherford seeks to make his second Senior World Team as he was on the 2017 U.S. World Team and played a role in the squad winning the team title in Paris, France.
Internationally this season, Retherford competed at three major events. In January, he was eighth at the famously tough Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix. Just over a month later, he helped Team USA to a third-place finish at the World Cup, going undefeated, 4-0.
After falling to Diakomihalis at the Yasar Dogu, Retherford pulled out of the tournament and took seventh.
It will be interesting to see the results from whomever the USA sends to Kazakhstan.
American wrestling fans will recognize a couple of other names in the field as U.S. citizens David Habat and Malik Amine are competing for Slovenia and San Marino, respectively.
Current UWW Ranking Series standings (used for seeding)
1. Bajrang BAJRANG (India)
2. Takuto OTOGURO (Japan)
3. Akhmed CHAKAEV (Russia)
4. Selahattin KILICSALLAYAN (Turkey)
5. Nachyn KUULAR (Russia)
6. Sayatbek OKASSOV (Kazakhstan)
7. Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (Mongolia)
8. Niurhun SKRABIN (Belarus)
9. Haji Mohamad ALI (Bahrain)
10. Alejandro VALDES TOBIER (Cuba)