Russian Nationals Preview: 61kg & 70kg

By Seth Petarra

The Russian National Championships is one of the deepest, toughest tournaments of the year. For three days, the best wrestlers from all four corners of the Russian Federation converge to help determine (but not ultimately decide) the Russian world team. Here is a breakdown of everything you need to know about the first day of the tournament, which starts at 3 AM ET on Monday.

Free live streams can be seen here.

61 Kilograms

61kg has long been one of Russia's deepest weights, featuring legends of the sport such as Mavlet Batirov and Besik Kudukhov. Although their time competing may be done, Russia's depth at 61kg is as strong as it's ever been. In a field that includes two past world or Olympic champs, multiple-time European champions and medalists, past Russian national champions and medalists, and Yarygin medalists as well, sixth-ranked Gadzhimurad Rashidov is the leader of the pack.

Who's going to be missing

2015 57kg Yarygin and national runner-up Ismail Musukaev (injury), 2015 European Games champion Alexander Bogomoev (neck injury, then stabbed in a bar fight). UPDATE: Akhmed Chakaev and Djamal Otarsultanov both missed weight and will likely be unable to compete, pending a final decision by the Russian Federation.

Title Contenders

No. 6 Gadzhimurad Rashidov: A two-time European champion, Rashidov is coming off a runner-up finish at the Yarygin and a U-23 European title. Rashidov's performance at the Yarygin was especially impressive as he beat Olympic runner-up and No. 8-ranked Rei Higuchi (JPN), 2013 world champ and No. 17 Bekhan Goygereev (RUS), and 2016 Yarygin champ Nyurgun Skryabin (RUS), before losing to Chakaev in the finals. Rashidov's domestic wins are over No. 12 Viktor Rassadin, No. 15 (57kg), Rustam Ampar, No. 18 (65kg) Imam Adzhiev, and Goygereev.

Rashidov is patient and positionally sound from his feet, and while he can operate at an absolute snail's pace when he does, he prefers to go with a strong head inside single to the right side along with a powerful double. And he'll use his underhook throw-by to counter guys shots for a go-behind or to segue right into his own head inside single, or as he showed at U-23 European championships, just to get rear standing so he can bomb you on your head. Defensively, Rashidov is super stingy with a really nice limp leg and heavy hips. On top, Rashidov likes to high gut.

Watch Rashidov duke it out with the fiesta Suleyman Atli of Turkey at the 2016 World Cup in Los Angles in the video below.

Medal Contenders

No. 12 Viktor Rassadin: A 2016 university world champion, Rassadin is coming off a strong bronze medal showing this year at the Yarygin. He has posted domestic wins over the likes of No. 15 (57kg) Rustam Ampar, Naachin Kuular, and Bulat Batoev. On his feet, Rassadin has a strong left head inside single that he gets off going right hand head inside low single and bringing it up and finishing. He also uses a head outside single to the right side of guys as well. When it comes to finishing his single legs, Rassadin will come out the back door and look Iranian finish, or he'll bring it up to his feet and go back trip finish.

No. 17 Bekhan Goygereev: The 2013 world champion hasn't placed at a tourney this year but does have a runner-up finish at the 2016 Medved, where he beat Olympic champ Vladimir Khinchegashvili and 2016 world bronze medalist Akhmednabi Gvarzatilov. Goigereev's domestic wins include No. 5 (57kg) Nariman Israpilov, Egor Ponomarev, and P4P great Besik Kudukhov. Goygereev loves his slide-by to a Merkle. Outside of that, he has a solid head inside single that he'll come out the back door to finish. Goygereev also has great throws defensively.

Naachin Kuular: Naachin Kuular is coming off a fifth-place finish this year at the Yarygin and was a runner-up at the Mongolian Open up at 65kg to Sergey Tereschenko. Kuular was a runner-up at the Yarygin in 2015, where he beat last year's national champ Egor Ponomarev. Kuular's domestic resume is highlighted by wins over Egor Ponomarev and Bulat Batoev. Kuular's game is centered around over under bodylocks, whizzer-kick counters, and knee-block throws.

Egor Ponomarev: The returning national champ at this weight, Ponomarev won the Korkin in 2016 over 2010 national runner-up Bayar Tsyrenov and was bronze this year at the Yasar Dogu after losing to No. 12 Makhir Amiraslanov (AZE). Ponomarev's domestic wins include No. 12 Viktor Rassadin, Nyurgun Skryabin, Murshid Mutalimov, and Bayar Tsyrenov. On his feet, Ponomarev is stingy and relies on snapping guys down into a front head and then looking for his short offense from there, which is usually a double he'll run down or a snatch single.

Nyurgun Skryabin: Nyurgun Skryabin was a Yarygin champ last year over U-23 European champ Imam Adzhiev and also notched a win over world bronze medalist Akhmed Chakaev. Since then, Skryabin has struggled both domestically and internationally, placing third at Russian nationals last year and losing to eventual champ Egor Ponomarev. Skryabin's first placement since the Yarygin last year came in March, when he placed third at the President Cup of Buryatia, losing to Dasha Sharastepanov but beating Tuvshintulga Tumenbileg for bronze. Domestically, Skryabin has wins over No. 6 (57kg) Artem Gebekov, No. 5 Akhmed Chakaev, and No. 18 (65kg) Imam Adzhiev. Skryabin is strong positionally and prefers to shoot low on guys and come up to a head inside single left side or a head outside single right side.

Dark Horses

Nikolai Ohlopkhov: Ohlopkhov beat 2013 world champ Bekhan Goygereev last year at the Kunaev before finishing as runner-up to Ismail Musukaev. Ohlopkhov's domestic wins are over Goygereev and Marat Dedgekaev. Ohlopkhov has a nice arm spin right side, strong go-behinds, and a good head pinch and double.

Kezhik Chimba: Kezhik Chimba is a 2016 junior world bronze medalist and was fifth last year at the Yarygin, where he beat 2014 world bronze medalist Nyam Ochir Enkhsaikhan (MGL). Chimba doesn't have much in the way of domestic wins, but beating Enkhsaikhan was huge for him. On his feet, Chimba likes to go to an overunder bodylock that he'll look to throw with or simply throw it by to a go-behind, Chimba also has a solid right side ankle pick as well, and exposure-wise he presents a lot of problems for guys with high flyers, headlocks, chest wraps, and crotch locks. Chimba has a solid high crotch to right side that he'll also convert to head outside single and likes to set up his shots off an lefty underhook throw-by.

70 Kilograms

What was going to be one of the deepest fields at Russian Nationals with three world champs projected to compete has been diminished due to injuries, but 70kg is still one of Russia's most exciting and promising weights. This weight is headlined by returning world champion and No. 1-ranked Magomed Kurbanaliev. If he wants to earn his second world title this year in Paris, Kurbanaliev will have to navigate a tough field that includes the Nos. 3-, 5-, 9-, 16-, and 18-ranked wrestlers in the world.

Who Won't be Competing

2016 65kg Olympic champion Soslan Ramonov is out due to injury. 2015 world champ and No. 6 Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov is out due to injury. Last year's Yarygin runner-up and 10th-ranked Khusuy Suyunchev moved up to 74kg.

Title Contenders

No. 1 Magomed Kurbanaliev: The returning world champ at the weight, Kurbanaliev will look to earn his second-career Russian national title, with his first coming back in 2013 at 65kg when he was a world bronze medalist. Kurbanaliev's best domestic wins at 70kg have been over No. 3 Israil Kasumov and No. 15 Zaurbek Sidakov. Kurbanaliev has a deep, well-rounded skill set as you would expect of someone ranked No. 1 in the world. But where he stands out the most is how he can use an arm drag on either side to set up his favorite attacks, a left-hand arm drag for his outside-step lefty high crotch, and a right-hand arm drag to go to his head outside single. He has also developed a good arm spin as well that he can score with on its own or use to chain into a head outside single on the right side. Kurbanaliev's other leg attacks include a underrated double that he can lift or sag down and cut the corner to finish and also a left-head inside single right side inside control and knee pound it into a far side fireman's carry. On top, Kurbanaliev turns guys with a high gut.

Check out Kurbanaliev win the 2013 Russian Nationals in this throwback video below.

No. 3 Israil Kasumov: A Yarygin champion and European bronze medalist this year, Israil Kasumov is the returning three-time national runner-up twice at 70kg and once at 65kg, and he'll be looking to win his first Russian nationals title here. Kasumov's wins over the field include Rasul Arsanaliev, No. 18 Rasul Dzhukaev, and No. 15 Zaurbek Sidakov. From his feet, Kasumov loves over-under knee blocks throws and likes to go left-hand inside pick to set up a reverse grip single that he'll shelf to finish. From top, Kasumov looks to crotch lock first, and when he opens the guy up, he'll go turk into a high gut. Kasumov is incredibly hard to break down from quad pod and will look to high leg over or cartwheel out as guys try to finish on him.

Medal Contenders

No. 15 Zaurbek Sidakov: The returning national champ at this weight, Sidakov has registered runner-up finishes at the Yarygin and U-23 European Championships and is looking to repeat his title-winning performance from last year. Sidakov has posted domestic wins over No. 9 Evgeni Zherbaev, No. 5 Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov, and No. 18 Rasul Dzhukaev. Sidakov's go-to is a left collar tie, right underhook. He's got a good right hand high-C, along with a head inside single off a right side underhook throwby. He also throws his underhook by into a bodylock very well. Sidakov transitions well into a lace off his attacks on his feet and has a very good gas tank.

No. 5 Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov: So far this year, Kadimagomedov has won a bronze medal at the Yarygin and a gold medal at the Yasar Dogu, where he posted impressive wins over No. 6 Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov, No. 8 Magomedmurad Gadzhiev, and No. 18 Rasul Dzhukaev. From his feet, Kadimagomedov is a lefty lead and has a really a good double he can finish straight on, or he'll cut across and finish along with that. Kadimagomedov also looks for a lot of drags off a right side 2-1 throw-by. Defensively, Kadimagomedov is a good scrambler with a strong chest wrap, good go-behinds and limp legs, and a solid gas tank. What hurts Kadimagomedov is the fact he gives up underhooks a lot, and he also gives up position reaching back for a lat toss. While he's good at finishing his shots, his setups need work.

No. 9 Evgeni Zherbaev: Evgeni Zherbaev is coming off an impressive showing at the Mongolia Open, where he teched two-time world bronze medalist Mandakhnaran Ganzorig 20-7 on his way to the title. Zherbaev was fifth at this weight a year ago, and before that was bronze in 2015, notching impressive wins over No. 7 (74kg) Khetik Tsabolov and No. 5 Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov. Zherbaev's domestic wins include No. 3 Israil Kasumov, No. 5 Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov, and No. 7 (74kg) Khetik Tsabolov. From his feet, Zherbaev likes to go to a collar tie, underhook, and downblock to open guys up. Once he does that, Zherbaev will go into drag on either side and snap it to a front head and go for a go-behind into a leg attack, which he does exceptionally well. Zherbaev also does a great job countering guys' shots into a 2-1 or drag go-behind into a leg attack. Zherbaev is one of the most athletic guys at the weight as well and boasts serious horsepower when it comes to finishing attacks. From on top, he can put matches away quick with a beautiful leg lace.

Dark Horses

No. 18 Rasul Dzhukaev: Dzhukaev is a 2009 world runner-up, and so far this year he's gotten a fifth-place finish at the Yasar Dogu. Dzhukaev's body of work from a couple years back still keeps him relevant. While he may not be the same guy he was then, he's still dangerous. Dzhukaev's domestic wins include No. 1 Magomed Kurbanaliev, No. 3 Israil Kasumov, No. 6 Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov, and No. 10 Khusuy Suyunchev. On his feet, Dzhukaev is strong and tough to move out of position. He has a low activity rate during matches, which leads to him squeaking out wins. When he does attack, Dzhukaev has a good lefty high crotch, right-side head inside single, and a good head outside single to the left side. From on top, Dzhukaev has a strong gut wrench.

Rasul Arsanaliev: Rasul Arsanaliev is a two-time U-23 European champion and was a bronze medalist at last year's Yarygin but hasn't medaled since then due to injury he suffered earlier this year at the Yarygin. Arsanaliev should be fully healthy here, and if he's wrestling up to form, he could be a handful. Arsanaliev has posted big wins over No. 5 Magomedkhabib Kadimagomedov and No. 15 Gadjimurad Omarov (AZE) in the past. Arsanaliev has a good lefty high crotch that he likes to finish from a crackback, and he's an absolute wizard when it comes to sitting the corner and getting offense from there, either off a vice-grip cradle or a leg attack. Defensively, Arsanaliev is tough to break down from a quad pod and consistently scores on guys from there with a lat toss and his works from whizzers.

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