Photo of Ismael Borrero Molina, 67 kg World champion for Cuba, by Tony Rotundo/Wrestlers are Warriors.
With the World Championships concluded, let’s take a look at all ten Greco-Roman World champions and some of the wrestlers they had to defeat to earn their titles in Nur-Sultan this September.
55 kg- Nugzari Tsurtsumia (Georgia)
Tsurtsumi claimed his first senior World title in 2019 after taking bronze at the 2018 Senior World Championships. He was also a 2018 U23 World Champion. Tsurtsumia obviously had the pedigree to be a World champion, but he was definitely not a favorite coming into the tournament. Tsurtsumia finished eighth at the European Championships this year, falling, 8-0, in the quarterfinals to returning World champion Eldaniz Azizli of Azerbaijan. Azilzi finished third at this year’s World Championships on the other side of the bracket from Tsurtsumia.
On his run to the finals, Tsurtsumia defeated 2018 World fifth place finisher Liguo Cao of China, 9-0, 2019 European champion Vitali Kaboloev of Russia, 8-3, and eventual 2019 bronze medalist Shota Ogawa of Japan, 8-0. Of note, Tsurtsumia also defeated Kaboloev in the 2018 U23 World Championship finals.
In the finals he won by technical fall, 9-0, over Khorlan Zhakansha of Kazakhstan. Zhakansha had knocked off Azizli in the semifinals.
For 2020, Tsurtsumia will have to make the move up to the Olympic weight, 60 kg. Georgia’s representative at 60 kg this year Dato Chkhartishvil went 0-1. Chkhartishvili is a 2016 Junior World champion at 55 kg. However, Tsurtsumia should be considered a big favorite to be the 2020 representative.
60 kg –Kenchiro Fumita (Japan)
A 2017 Senior World champion, Fumita did not compete in the 2018 Senior World championships, but he did enter and win the 2018 U23 World Championships. Leading up to Worlds this year, Fumita did not appear to be in top form, placing third at the Asian Championships and 16th at the Oleg Karavev in Belarus. However, Fumita was primed and ready to go in Nur-Sultan.
He opened his tournament with a 3-1 decision over 2019 Pan American Games champion Montano Arroyo of Ecuador. He followed it up with a 9-1 technical fall over Elmurat Tasmuradov of Uzbekistan. Tasmuradov was a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist at 59 kg, a 2018 World silver medalist at 63 kg, a 2014 World bronze medalist at 59 kg and a 2013 World bronze medalist at 60 kg.
In the quarterfinals Fumita bested 2018 World silver medalist Victor Ciobanu of Moldova by decision, 12-5. Then in the semifinals, he defeated eventual 2019 bronze medalist Alireza Ayat Ollah Nejati of Iran by technical fall, 10-1.
Fumita’s finals opponent was the formidable Sergey Emelin of Russia. Emelin was the returning World champion and a 2017 U23 silver medalist at 59 kg. Fumita claimed the victory and the World title, 10-5.
63 kg – Shinobu Ota (Japan)
Ota, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist at 59, did not compete in the 2017 World Championships and finished ninth at the 2018 World championships at 60 kg. After bumping up to 63 kg in 2019, he has looked excellent.
In the semifinals, he defeated three-time World bronze medalist and 2011 World silver medalist Almat Kebispayev of Kazakhstan, 10-1. That set up a final with returning World champion and 2017 World bronze medalist Stepan Maryanyan of Russia. Ota would claim the win, 10-4.
For the Olympics, Ota will either bump up to 67 kg or cut down to 60 kg to challenge his fellow World Champion compatriot Fumita for the spot.
67 kg – Ismael Borrero Molina (Cuba)
In one of the deepest weight classes in the tournament, Borrero Molina showed that he’s still a force to be reckoned with. Borrero Molina is a 2016 Olympic champion and 2015 World Champion at 59 kg. He did not compete in 2017. In 2018, his first time at 67 kg for a World Championships, he finished 16th.
Just to make the finals, Borrero Molina had to defeat several studly opponents. In the round of 16, Borrero Molina dominated three-time World champion and two-time World bronze medalist Frank Staebler of Germany, 11-0. In the quarterfinals, he defeated two-time World champion and one-time World silver medalist, Ryu Han-Soo of South Korea, 3-1. In the semifinals he took a 6-2 bout over 2018 U23 World champion Mohamed Elsayed of Egypt.
In the finals, Borrero Molina squared off with returning World champion and two-time World bronze medalist Artem Surkov of Russia. Borrero Molina earned his title with a 3-1 victory.
72 kg – Abuyazid Matsigov (Russia)
After putting four wrestlers in the finals of the first five weight classes, Russia got their first champion when Mantsigov took home gold at 72 kg. Mantsigov placed fifth at the 2018 World Championships and was a 2013 Junior World champion.
In the quarterfinals, Mantsigov defeated 2018 Junior World champion and 2017 Junior World runner-up Malkhas Amoyan of Armenia, 4-0. In the semifinals he would face 2016 World champion Balint Korpasi of Hungary. Korpasi is also a 2018 World silver medalist, and 2017 World bronze medalist. Mantsigov handled him with an 8-0 technical fall. Korpasi would come back to take bronze
In the finals he defeated a relatively unheralded Aram Vardanyan of Uzbekistan, 9-0. Mantsigov ended the tournament outscoring his opponents, 29-0. Next year he will either go down to 67 kg and challenge a former champ in Surkov, or go up to 77 kg and challenge two-time Olympic and two-time World champion Roman Vlasov and 2018 World champion Aleksandr Chekhirkin.
77 kg – Tamas Lorincz (Hungary)
Lorincz has been a consistent medal threat for over a decade, but 2019 was the first year he was able to punch through for gold. Lorincz was a World runner-up in 2017 and 2018. He also has a World bronze from 2014 and an Olympic silver from 2012.
The 77 kg bracket was rife with upsets, so Lorincz did not face a previous Senior World medalist. However in the semifinals he did have four-time World fifth-place finisher Ashkat Dilmukhamedov of Kazakhstan. Lorincz would win on criteria, 1-1. In the finals he defeated last year’s fifth-place finisher Alexandros Kessidis Bjurberg of Sweden by technical fall, 8-0.
82 kg – Lasha Gobadze (Georgia)
After a disappointing 26th-place finish in 2018, Gobadze earned a World title in 2019. He also holds a Senior World bronze medal from 2015 and a U23 World silver medal from 2017.
Gobadze defeated American Jon Stefanowicz in the opening round, 7-0. Gobadze did not run into any previous Senior World medalists in the bracket. In the finals he defeated two-time World fifth place finisher Rafik Huseynov of Azerbaijan, 5-3.
Georgia’s representative at 77 kg Gela Bolkvadze went 0-1 but is a 2018 U23 World Champion and 2017 U23 World runner-up and a 2015 Junior World champion, so he has pedigree. Their representative at 87 kg Gurami Khetsuriani also went 0-1, but has not had the age-group success that Bolkvadze has. Whether that effects Gobadze’s decision to go up or down remains to be seen.
87 kg – Zhan Beleniuk (Ukraine)
Ukraine’s Beleniuk claimed his second World Championship this year. He took him a title in 2015 at 85 kg. He is also a 2018 World runner-up, a 2014 World bronze medalist and a 2016 Olympic silver medalist.
In the semifinals he defeated Denis Kudla of Germany, 2-1. Kudla was an Olympic bronze medalist in 2016 and a World silver medalist in 2017. This set up a final with Viktor Lorincz of Hungary, the brother of 77 kg World champion Tamas. Beleniuk defeated the two-time World Bronze medalist, 2-1, to claim gold.
97 kg – Musa Evloev (Russia)
Evloev repeated as a World Champion in 2019 after claiming a title in 2018. In 2017, he finished as a runner-up. In the semifinals, Evloev pinned returning World bronze medalist, Kajaia Mikehil of Serbia (formerly Georgia). Mikehil would wrestle back for another bronze.
In the finals, Evloev was unfortunately denied a rubber match with Artur Aleksanyan of Armenia. The 2016 Olympic champion and three-time World Champion defeated Evloev in the finals of the 2017 World Championships, but Evloev got revenge in the 2018 World semifinals. Aleksanyan made the finals, but was unable to compete due to injuries he sustained in the semifinals. There is a strong possibility these wrestlers meet in the Olympic finals next year.
130 kg – Riza Kayaalp (Turkey)
Kayaalp added his fourth World title to his trophy case this year. He also has a 2016 Olympic silver, a 2012 Olympic bronze, 2014 and 2013 World silvers and World bronzes from 2009 and 2010.
Kayaalp did not face a Senior World medalist until he reached the final against Oscar Pino Hinds, a bronze medalist in 2017 and 2018 for Cuba. Kayaalp won a controlled 3-1 decision to claim gold.
Next year, Cuba will most likely send Mijain Lopez Nunez, one of the most decorated wrestlers ever, as their Olympic representative. Lopez Nunez has three Olympic gold medals, five World gold medals, and three World silvers. In 2011 and 2015, Kayaalp defeated Lopez in the World finals. Nunez defeated Kayaalp in the Olympic finals in 2016 and the World finals in 2014.