2021 World Olympic Games Qualifier

Threats To Team USA at Last Qualifier

Threats To Team USA at Last Qualifier

Some of the best wrestlers in the world are still trying to qualify for the Olympics. Check out could challenge Team USA in Tokyo.

May 3, 2021 by Jon Kozak
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All eyes for American Freestyle fans will be on 65kg at the last Olympic Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria. There are still two spots up for grabs at each weight with world-class competitors who will challenge Team USA for medals in Tokyo (once they qualify of course). Let’s take a look at the top contenders to qualify for Tokyo at every weight, their past credentials and who, if any, have a chance to challenge Team USA’s rep at the Olympics.

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All eyes for American Freestyle fans will be on 65kg at the last Olympic Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria. There are still two spots up for grabs at each weight with world-class competitors who will challenge Team USA for medals in Tokyo (once they qualify of course). Let’s take a look at the top contenders to qualify for Tokyo at every weight, their past credentials and who, if any, have a chance to challenge Team USA’s rep at the Olympics.

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57kg

Top Contenders

-#7 Yuki Takahashi (JPN) - 2017 World Champion, 2018 World Bronze

-Bekhbayar Erdenebat (MGL) - 2017 World Bronze, 2015 World Bronze

-Reineri Andreu (CUB) - 2019 & 2017 U23 World Gold, 2020 Pan-Am Gold

-Georgi Edisherashvili (AZE) - 2018 Euro Gold, 2017 Euro Gold

-Vladislav Andreev (BLR) - 2014 World Bronze, 2018 Euro Bronze


Threats to Thomas Gilman

Yuki Takahashi has two wins over Thomas Gilman in the last 3 years. The first came on the biggest stage - the finals of the 2017 World Championships. Takahashi would come away with a World Title over Gilman in a controlling, 6-0 win. Just eight months later at the 2018 World Cup, Gilman would have his chance for revenge but would fall short again, this time by a score of 4-1. Takahashi would be a threat to Gilman and every other competitor at 57kg should he qualify.

Takahashi’s win over Gilman in the 2018 World Finals:

Azerbaijan has been testing 4 different competitors over the past six months for the spot at 57kg but it looks like Giorgi Edisherashvili will be the guy they send to Bulgaria. Edisherashvili is one of two men in the world to defeat defending world Champion Zaur Uguev in the past 3 years. Anyone who is capable of defeating Uguev should be considered a threat but Edisherashvili has not shown to be at that level of late. In fact, Thomas Gilman defeated Edisherashvili twice at the Henri Deglane in January 2021.

Cuba's Reineri Andreu should be considered the last major threat to Gilman at the qualifier. Gilman beat Andreu on his way to qualifying for the Olympics in the quarter-final match at the 2020 Pan-Am qualifier. Andreu was by far Gilman's most difficult match there and even holds a win over Gilman from the 2018 Pan-Am Championships. 

65kg

Top Contenders

-#12 Ilyas Bekbulatov (UZB) - 2020 Asian Gold, 2018 Euro Silver, 2018, 15, 13 Yarygin Gold,  2017 Euro Gold, Ranked #12 in world at 65kg

-Magomedmurad Gadzhiev (POL) - 2020 World Cup Gold, 2019 World Bronze, 2017 World Silver

-Beka Lomtadze (GEO) - 2019 World Gold, 2016 World Silver

Threats to Jordan Oliver

Because this is the only weight Team USA hasn’t qualified in Men’s Freestyle, we took a more extensive look at Oliver’s competition in this previous article. For a shorter breakdown, Bekbulatov is the biggest threat and would likely be the only wrestler seeded about Oliver (if this tournament were seeded of course). Bekbulatov has never lost to an American (defeated Metcalf, Stieber, and Molinaro) and holds international wins over David Baev (World Champ), Vladimir Khinchegasvhili (World and Olympic Champ), Akhmed Chakaev (World Silver), and Soslan Ramonov (World and Olympic Champ).


74kg

Top Contenders

-#3 Tajmuraz Salkazanov (SVK) -  2019 World Bronze, 2021 Euro Gold, 2018 U23 World Gold

-#8 Khetik Tsabolov (SRB) -  2014 World Gold, 2017 World Silver, 2020 Russian Nationals Silver’

-Soner Demirtas (TUR) - 2017 World Bronze, 2016 Olympic Bronze, 2020 Euro Bronze 

-#18 Ali-Pasha Umarpashaev (BUL)

-#20 Magomed Kadimagomedov (BLR) - 2020 World Cup Bronze, 2020 Euro Gold, 2017 Russian Nationals Gold

-Murad Kuramagomedov (HUN) - 2020 World Cup 5th, 2020 Euro 5th, 2019 U23 World 5th

Threats to Kyle Dake

Anyone who beats Frank Chamizo, Razambek Zhamalov and Avtandil Kentchadze on the same day should be considered a threat come the Olympics. That feat was accomplished by Tajmuraz Salkazanov at the European Championships. Salkazanov also has a past win over 2019 World Champ David Baev, so while his win at Euros was surprising, it should not be considered a fluke. 

Watch Salkazanov's win over Razambek Zhamalov:

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Khetik Tsabolov (former Russian) should also be considered a threat should he qualify. Along with being a world champion, he holds 2 wins over 2-time defending World Champion, Zaurbek Sidakov. The first came in the finals of the 2018 Yarygin and the second came just 6 months ago at 2020 Russian Nationals. 

86kg

Top Contenders 

-Boris Makoev (SVK) - 2017 World Silver, 2020 Euro Bronze, 

-#20 Sohsuke Takatani (JPN) - 2014 World Silver 

-Azamat Dauletbekov (KAZ) - 2018 U23 World Silver 

-Yurieski Torreblanca (CUB) - 2020, 2019, 2017, & 2015 Pan-Am Gold

Threats to David Taylor

It's at least worth mentioning Yurieski Torreblanca in this conversation. David Taylor is 4-0 against Torreblanca and has been able to extend his margin of victory every time they've wrestled. Their first meeting was at the 2018 Yarygin - Taylor narrowly came away with a 4-4 criteria victory. They met that same year at the Pan-Am and World Championships. Taylor won 3-2 at Pan-Ams but widened the margin at Worlds and won a more controlling 8-0 victory. Then, to qualify 86kg for the Olympics, Taylor defeated Torreblanca at the Pan-Am qualifier again by the 8-0 margin. Torreblanca is tough, but Taylor seems to have figured out whatever puzzled him in their first two meetings.

Though Boris Makoev defeated J’den Cox back at the 2017 World Championships (the match that sparked some controversy between Taylor and Cox), Makoev has not seen the same success recently. In fact, David Taylor pinned Boris Makoev at the 2018 Yasar Dogu and was leading 11-0 at the time of the fall. Coincidentally, he also pinned Azamet Dauletbekov at the same tournament and was leading 14-6 at the time. And while Taylor does not have any matches against Takatani, Kyle Dake did tech fall him, 10-0 at the 2018 World Cup. 

Boris Makoev’s win over J’den Cox in the 2017 World Semis


97kg

Top Contenders

-Albert Saritov (ROU) - 2016 Olympic Bronze

-Ahmed Bataev (BUL) - 2020 World Cup Bronze 

-Abraham de Jesus Conyedo (ITA) - 2018 World Bronze 

-#18 Erik Thiele (GER) - 2016 Junior World Silver, 2021 Euro Qualifier Bronze 

Threats to Kyle Snyder

With only one ranked competitors in the field at 97kg, Kyle Snyder should not be challenged by the 2 who qualify for the Olympics in Bulgaria. USA fans might remember Kyle Snyder defeated Albert Saritov in the quarter finals of the 2016 Olympics. Saritov would go on to take bronze in Rio but has not since had the same success since at Worlds. 

125kg

Top Contenders

-#6 Sergey Kozyrev (RUS)

-#13 Robert Baran (POL) - 2020 World Cup Silver, 2020 Euro Bronze

-Daniel Ligeti (HUN) - 2012 Euro Silver,  2011 Euro Bronze, 2010 World 5th

-Aiaal Lazarev (KGZ) - 2021 Asian Silver, 2020 World Cup Bronze, 2020 Asian Silver 

Threats to Gable Steveson 

No competitor at 125kg stands out as being a huge threat to win the Olympics but a few could push for a medal and challenge Gable (maybe). Russia just declared they will send Sergey Kozyrev for their representative at the last qualifier. The interesting note is Russia has not medaled at a Worlds or Olympics since 2015. And although Kozyrev did reach the finals of the European Championships, he did not seem to be a threat to #1 Taha Akgul. Should Kozyrev qualify, look for him to challenge for a bronze medal.

Akgul's (heated) win over Kozyrev:

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Poland’s Robert Baran looks to be the second best heavyweight at the last qualifier. He recently defeated Nick Gwiazdowski in January and holds head to head wins over Ligeti, Ludescher, Magomedov, and Lazarev. Should Baran qualify for the Olympics, he would be a legitimate contender for a medal.

Baran’s win over Gwiazdowski:

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