Plenty of information sources here. USA Wrestling’s site, The Mat, takes the same approach to wrestling that the big pro sports’ sites take to their sports — they’re the clearinghouse of news and features going well beyond the standard federation fare. (That almost makes up for the utterly uninformative international site run by FILA.) And with so many wrestlers moving on into MMA, the thriving MMA blogosphere will weigh in — check out Bloody Elbow’s in-depth previews if you want to know more than who beat whom.
One caveat here: We have not seen final entry lists. When The Mat’s previews list qualifiers and say “fifth in 2011 World Championships,” they mean the country earned the quota spot that way. The wrestler in the Olympics might not be the same person. As a final reminder, the point of this exercise is to come up with a complete medal projection by country. In a lot of cases, a Russian wrestler may be a medal contender even if it’s not the same person we expected.
I’ve been a great fan of the crowd-sourcing that’s taking place here. If you see a name in this post that ought to be removed, please let me know.
The 2011 World Championships took place after the original picks, so we have a lot of new information here.
To the mat we go …
55kg: Gold medalist Henry Cejudo made a comeback bid this year but lost in the U.S. trials. The bid goes to Sam Hazewinkel. Russia’s Viktor Lebeden has won two straight world titles. Beijing bronze medalist Radoslav Velikov (Bulgaria) was last year’s runner-up. The other podium finishers were from Kazakhstan and Iran. Was RUS-USA-JPN-AZE; now Russia, Bulgaria, Japan, Iran
60kg: This one’s easy — Russia’s Besik Kudukhov has won three straight world titles. The runner-up last year was a former Michigan State wrestler, Franklin Gomez, wrestling for Puerto Rico. Japan’s Kenichi Yumoto, a bronze medalist in Beijing, was back on the podium last year. Azerbaijan’s Zalimhkan Huseynov was on the podium in 2009 and 2010 before slipping to eighth last year. Iran appears to have a new wrestler at this class and wasn’t a factor in 2011. American Coleman Scott earned his spot in Times Square and upset Yumoto at a World Cup event this year. Was RUS-AZE-UKR-IRI; now Russia, Japan, Azerbaijan, Puerto Rico
66kg: Iran’s Mehdi Taghabi has two of the last three world titles. The other one went to India’s Sushil Kumar, who went out early last year. Japan’s Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu was the runner-up last year and third in 2009. Also consistent: Azerbaijan’s Yabrail Hasanov, third the last two years and seventh in 2009. Cuba has had two different wrestlers on the podium the last two years. Russia has had three different wrestlers the last three years, with two runners-up and one fifth. This isn’t the USA’s best weight class, with no top-10s in the last three years. Jared Frayer has the U.S. spot. Was RUS-IND-AZE-CUB; now Iran, Japan, Azerbaijan, Russia
74kg: You may have heard the name Jordan Burroughs. He broke through in a big way last year, winning the world title. We think Russia will enter two-time world champion Denis Tsargush, whom Burroughs dethroned last year. The Bloody Elbow preview also has evidence of him engaging in some argy-bargy. Iran’s Sadegh Goudarzi was the runner-up the last two years and third the year before that. Kazakhstan’s Abdulhakim Shapiev nearly reached the podium for the second straight year. Last year’s bronze medalists were from Azerbaijan and Georgia. Was RUS-IRI-HUN-BUL; now USA, Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan
84kg: “This is a fairly wide open class,” says The Mat’s preview. Cael Sanderson cut short his comeback bid, but Jake Herbert is a legit U.S. contender with a world runner-up finish to his name. Ukraine’s Ibragim Aldatov has two podiums and a fifth-place finish in the last three world championships. Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov was third in 2009 and world champion last year. Sharing third last year: Georgia’s Dato Marsagashvili and Russia’s Albert Saritov. Uzbekistan’s Zaurbek Sokhiev was the 2009 title and was runner-up in 2010 but lost to Saritov in the round of 16 last year. Was UZB-BUL-RUS-UKR; now Azerbaijan, Ukraine, USA, Uzbekistan
96kg: The world champion, Reza Yazdani (Iran), is a relative newcomer to the weight class. Runner-up Serhat Balci (Turkey) also was third in 2009. Belarus’ Ruslan Sheikhau has been the most consistent contender/medalist in recent world championships. American Jake Varner has climbed up the ranks, sharing third with Sheikhau last year. 2010 world champion, 2009 runner-up and 2008 bronze medalist Khetag Gazumov (Azerbaijan) dropped off a bit last year. So did Georgia’s Georgi Gogshelidze, who was on the podium in Beijing and the next two world championships. Was AZE-RUS-GEO-KGZ; now Iran, Belarus, Turkey, Azerbaijan
120kg: Russia’s Beylal Makhov is the man here, though he dropped the World Championship final to Belarus’ Alexei Shemarov last year. Sharing third at Worlds: Azerbaijan’s Jamaladdin Magomedov and Georgia’s Davit Modzmanashvili. Two-time gold medalist Artur Taymazov (Uzbekistan) is still in the mix, as is American Tervel Diagnev (fifth at Worlds). Was RUS-UZB-GRE-IRI; now Russia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, USA
As in several other sports, we have more World Championship weight classes than Olympic weight classes. But last year’s Worlds were the first Olympic qualification event, so don’t expect too much shuffling in classes from 2011 to 2012.
48kg: Last year’s World Championship final was a showdown of the last two championships, with Japan’s Hitomi Obara Sakamoto defeating Azerbaijan’s Maria Stadnyk. China, oddly enough, didn’t medal here in 2008 but has two third-place finishes through Zhao Shasha in the last two years. Canada’s Carol Huynh won gold in 2008 and followed up with third in 2010 and fifth in 2011. The USA’s Clarissa Chun won the world title in 2008 and was seventh last year. Russia didn’t qualify in this class. Was JPN-CAN-AZE-RUS; now Japan, Azerbaijan, China, USA
55kg: Japan’s Saori Yoshida might be the most dominant champion in the admittedly brief history of women’s wrestling. The runner-up last year was Canada’s Tonya Verbeek, who was also on the podium in Beijing and in 2009. Azerbaijan has two different wrestlers as the runners-up in 2009 and 2010, and Yulia Ratkevich rebounded from a seventh-place finish in 2011 to win the European qualifier. Russia’s Maria Gurova has been fifth the last two years. Kelsey Campbell upset Helen Maroulis to take the U.S. berth. Was JPN-AZE-USA-CAN; now Japan, Canada, Azerbaijan, Russia
63kg: Japan has won the Olympic or world title every year dating back at least to 2004. Kaori Icho has most of that gold. Hungary’s Marianna Satsin was second in 2011, fifth in 2010. We’re bullish on the USA’s Elena Pirozhkova, fifth last year after a runner-up finish in 2010. Russia fell out of contention last year but has usually had wrestlers in contention. Sharing third in 2011: China and Mongolia. Was JPN-USA-SWE-CHN; now Japan, Hungary, USA, China
72kg: Bulgaria’s Stanka Zlateva (now Stanka Zlateva Hristova) was upset in the Beijing final by home-country wrestler Jiao Wang. That won’t happen again. Zlateva Hristova has won five world titles, including the last two. Russia’s Ekaterina Bukina has been third and second the last two years. Wang and Japanese medalist/multiple-time world champion Kyoko Hamaguchi are still involved. The U.S. situation is interesting — Ali Bernard was third last year but lost in the trials to Stephany Lee. Then Lee tested positive for marijuana for the second time in her career. Exit Lee, re-enter Bernard. Was BUL-CAN-RUS-CHN; now Bulgaria, Russia, USA, China
55kg: Iran’s Hamid Sorian Reihanpour has five world titles. But he didn’t compete last year and was just runner-up in the Asian qualifier to Japan’s Kohei Hasegawa. The reigning world champion is Rovshan Bayramov (Azerbaijan), who also took silver in Beijing, second in 2009 and third in 2010. South Korea’s Gyu-Jim Choi has also been consistent. We’re not sure how much stock to put in 2011 runner-up Elbek Tazhyiev (Belarus). Russians are typically contenders, and they have several options. The U.S. entry here is Spenser Mango. Was IRI-RUS-KOR-AZE; now Azerbaijan, South Korea, Russia, Iran
60kg: Iran’s Omid Noroozi won the world title after knocking around in the world championships for a few years. Kazakhstan’s Almat Kebispayev has been on the podium each of the past two years. Azerbaijan has had a lot of success here, with Hasan Aliyev following up his 2010 world title with seventh place in 2011. Russia’s Zaur Kuramagomedov replaced Olympic and world champion Islam-beka Albiev and finished third last year. Bulgaria’s Ivo Angelov took the other podium spot last year. But really, we just want to see the USA’s Ellis Coleman pull off the flying squirrel. Was AZE-KAZ-JPN-KOR; now Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Russia
66kg: The 2009 and 2010 world champions aren’t here — their countries (Azerbaijan, Russia) didn’t earn their way in. Neither did Ukraine, another of our projected picks from last time. That might leave an open field for 2011 champion Saeid Mourad Abdvali (Iran). Georgia’s Manukhar Tskhadia was runner-up in 2009 and 2011. South Korea’s Hyeon-Woo Kim was third in 2011 after finishing eighth in 2010. Hungary’s Tamas Lorincz has been in the mix the last two years. Defending Olympic champion Steeve Guenot (France) won the European qualifier. The USA’s Justin Lester was fifth in 2011. Was RUS-AZE-UKR-FRA; now Iran, Georgia, South Korea, France
74kg: Turkey’s Selcuk Cebi won the world title in 2009 and 2010, then lost it on home soil to Russia’s Roman Vlasov. Croatia’s Neven Zugaj was third last year after placing eighth in 2010. Armenia’s Arsen Jufalakyan was second in 2010, third in 2011. The USA sends young Ben Provisor. Was TUR-ARM-RUS-AZE; now Russia, Turkey, Croatia, Armenia
84kg: The most consistent wrestler in this muddled class is Turkey’s Nazmi Avluca — bronze in Beijing, world champion in 2009, fifth in 2010, third in 2011. The current world champion is Belarus’ Alim Selimau, who also won it in 2005. Runner-up Damian Janikowski (Poland) made a nice upward progression from eighth in 2009 and fifth in 2010. The 2010 world champion, Bulgaria’s Hristo Stoitchkov — er, Marinov — won the Euro title. The USA sends Chas Betts. Was CUB-TUR-RUS-BUL; now Turkey, Belarus, Poland, Bulgaria
96kg: Just read The Mat’s preview for this class. We have world champions who haven’t qualified. We’ll try to find scant signs of consistency. Sweden’s Jimmy Lidberg was third in 2010, second in 2011. Russia has had two different wrestlers on the podium the last two years. That’s it. The world champion is Bulgaria’s Elis Guri. And maybe whoever emerges from Iran — possibly 2010 champion Amir Ali Akbari — will contend. This is the only class sans American. Was IRI-BLR-SWE-RUS; now Sweden, Russia, Bulgaria, Iran
120kg: Cuba’s Mijain Lopez took the world and Olympic titles from 2007 to 2010 but was upset in last year’s final by Turkey’s Riza Kayaalp. Kazakhstan’s Nurmakhan Tinaliyev has finished third the last two years. Armenia’s Youri Patrikeev medaled in 2007, 2008 and 2010. The USA sends 97-year-old Dremiel Byers to the Games. (OK, he’s not 97, but given how long he’s been in the public eye as either Rulon Gardner’s rival or successor, doesn’t it seem that way?) Was CUB-ARM-TUR-USA; now Cuba, Turkey, Armenia, Kazakhstan