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65kg Olympic Preview - The Deepest Weight In Tokyo

65kg Olympic Preview - The Deepest Weight In Tokyo

An in depth preview of the 57kg weight class at the Tokyo Olympics.

Jul 26, 2021 by Jon Kozak
65kg Olympic Preview - The Deepest Weight In Tokyo
65kg is the only weight in Men’s Freestyle that Team USA does not have a representative. Despite that, 65kg is one of the deepest in the world and will be a premier weight to watch in Tokyo. This 65kg Olympic preview will give a brief overview of every competitor’s senior level career. We'll also break down the competitors into tiers based on the favorite, medal contenders, dark horses and long shots at the Olympic Games.

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65kg is the only weight in Men’s Freestyle that Team USA does not have a representative. Despite that, 65kg is one of the deepest in the world and will be a premier weight to watch in Tokyo. This 65kg Olympic preview will give a brief overview of every competitor’s senior level career. We'll also break down the competitors into tiers based on the favorite, medal contenders, dark horses and long shots at the Olympic Games.

The Favorite

Entering the Olympics, 2019 World Champion Gadzhimurad Rashidov is the favorite to win 65kg. At those 2019 worlds, Rashidov defeated 4 of the main contenders in this Olympic field in Haji Aliyev (AZE), Takuto Otoguro (JPN), Ismail Musukaev (HUN) and Daulet Niyazkbekov (KAZ). Prior to 2019, Rashidov reached the world finals in both 2017 and 2018 earning silver both years. Also of note, Rashidov has only lost 3 matches in the last 3 years (1 being by injury default). For the last three years on the senior level, Rashidov has been one of the most consistent wrestlers and has climbed all the way to #6 in our International Pound for Pound Rankings.

Take a look at Rashidov’s accomplishments and record against the 65kg Olympic field below:

Gadzhimurad Rashidov (RUS)

Record Since 2018 - 50-3

Accolades:

  • 2019 World Gold
  • 2018 World Silver
  • 2016, 2017, 2018 Euro Gold

6-2 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

Watch Gadzhimurad Rashidov win the 2019 World Championships:

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The Contenders

As alluded to, 65kg has some serious depth and a number of competitors who could challenge Rashidov. Three time world champion Haji Aliyev might be considered the biggest challenge for Rashidov. Aliyev defeated Rashidov in the finals of the 2017 world championships and was out to a 4-0 lead on Rashidov in December 2020 before Rashidov injury defaulted out of the match. Also, Aliyev has gone on record saying he will retire after the Olympics if he wins gold and will look to end his stellar career on top of the Olympic podium.

After Aliyev, the other threats to Rashidov will be Takuto Otoguro, Vazgen Tevanyan, Bajrang Punia, and Ismail Musukaev. All but Tevanyan are seasoned veterans with world medals to their name. Tevanyan is included in this list based on his recent performances at the 2020 Individual World Cup and the 2021 European Olympic Games Qualifier. At the World Cup Tevanyan took out Ismail Musukaev 9-1. Then at the 2021 European OG Qualifier, Tevanyan defeated both Magomedmurad Gadzhiev and Haji Aliyev. While young and relatively unknown, Tevanyan could be the surprise of the Olympics. 

Takuto Otoguro has already been on top of the world at 65kg when he won the 2018 World Championships. Otoguro is 3-0 against Bajrang and has wins over both Haji Aliyev and Vazgen Tevanyan. It’s worth noting that Otoguro does have a head to head loss against Rashidov from the 2019 World Championships. In that match, Rashidov won 8-1 but the bout was closer than indicated by the score. Otoguro was down just 3-1 in the last 20 seconds before he gave up multiple scores by throwing “the kitchen sink” at Rashidov in desperation. Otoguro is capable of defeating any competitor in this bracket and winning Olympic gold in his home country.

Bajrang Punia and Ismail Musukaev are the last of this contender list. Musukaev took bronze at the 2019 World Championships and lost to Rashidov in a close, 3-2 match. And while it was 9 years ago, Musukaev did defeat Rashdiov back in 2012 when he was still representing Russia. Musukaev is known for his on the mat antics of faking injuries and resting in between whistles, but his technique and abilities are second to none. When Musukaev is on, he can defeat anyone in the world. 

Unlike Musukaev, Bajrang’s conditioning is noted as one of the best in the world. Bajrang’s pace and offensive attacks often overwhelm his opponents and have allowed him to have success at the last two world championships - he placed silver in 2018 and bronze in 2019. Bajrang’s conditioning, consistency and success over some of the best wrestlers at 65kg makes him an interesting matchup against Rashidov. They have never met in competition and will be seeded on opposite sides of the bracket. If we do see a Rashidov-Bajrang match, it will be for the Olympic gold. 

Take a look at the contenders’ profiles below:


Takuto Otoguro (JPN)

Record Since 2018 - 33-3

Accolades:

  • 2018 World Gold
  • 2020, 2021 Asian Gold

8-2 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

Otoguro's win over Bajrang in the 2018 World Finals:

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Vazgen Tevanyan (ARM)

Record Since 2018 - 17-7

Accolades:

  • 2020 World Cup Gold
  • 2018 Junior World Bronze

3-2 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

Tevanyan's win over Haji Aliyev in the finals of the European Olympic Games Qualifier:

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Bajrang Punia (IND)

Record Since 2018 - 72-10

Accolades:

  • 2018 World Silver
  • 2013, 2019 World Bronze
  • 2017, 2018, 2019 Asian Gold
  • 2014, 2020, 2021 Asian Silver
  • 2013, 2019 Asian Bronze

9-4 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

Watch Bajrang make the finals of the 2018 World Championships with his semi-final win over Alejandro Valdes:


Ismail Musukaev (HUN)

Record Since 2018 - 33-13

Accolades:

  • 2019 World Bronze
  • 2020 World Cup Silver

3-3 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

Musukaev's win in the bronze medal match of the 2019 World Championships:

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Haji Aliyev (AZE)

Record Since 2018 - 42-15

Accolades:

  • 2014, 2015, 2017 World Gold
  • 2016 Olympic Bronze
  • 2020 World Cup Bronze
  • 2014, 2018, 2019 Euro Gold

4-8 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

Aliyev's win over Rashidov in the 2017 World Finals:


The "Dark Horses"

It’s challenging to determine where to cut the "contenders" list off and start the "dark horse" list at 65kg. The 6 wrestlers included in this list are dangerous match-ups for the contenders but those who we don’t see defeating Rashidov or even making the finals. Therefore, the six dark horses at 65kg are Magomedmurad Gadzhiev (POL), Alejandro Valdes (CUB), Daulet Niyazbekov (KAZ), Tulga Tumur-Ochir (MGL), Ernazar Akmataliev (KGZ), and Morteza Ghiasi (IRI). 

Gadzhiev, Valdes, and Niyazbekov are all in a similar position in that they are past world medalists. In fact, Gadzhiev and Niyazbekov have both made the world finals at 65kg! Niyazbekov made his world final in 2019 and was swiftly teched by Rashidov. Gadzhiev made his world final in 2017 and then won world bronze in 2019 up at 70kg. And while Valdes hasn’t made a world finals, he has 2 world bronze medals (2017 and 2018). Though these competitors have proven themselves on the world stage, they have been inconsistent elsewhere and are nearing the end of their freestyle careers. 

After the seasoned vets, the younger competitors in Akmataliev, Tumur-Ochir and Ghiasi could shake up the bracket in Tokyo. Akmataliev proved his ability to defeat the best in the world when he pinned Ilyas Bekbulatov (UZB) at the Asian Olympic Games Qualifier. And while Tumur-Ochir doesn’t have a world medal to his name, he has defeated Niyazbekov, Gadzhiev, Ghiasi and Akmataliev in this field.

Take a look at the Dark Horse Profiles below:


Magomedmurad Gadzhiev (POL)

Record Since 2018 - 44-10

Accolades:

  • 2017 World Silver
  • 2019 World Bronze
  • 2020 World Cup Gold
  • 2016, 2020 Euro Gold
  • 2015, 2017, 2018 Euro Silver
  • 2019 Euro Bronze

3-2 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:


Alejandro Valdes (CUB)
Record Since 2018 - 53-13

Accolades:

  • 2017, 2018 World Bronze 
  • 2010, 2013, 2014, 2019 Pan-Am Gold
  • 2016 Pan-Am Silver
  • 2018 Pan-Am Bronze

6-4 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

Valdes' win over Haji Aliyev from the 2018 World Championships:


Daulet Niyazbekov (KAZ)

Record Since 2018 - 31-10

Accolades:

  • 2019 World Silver
  • 2011 World Bronze
  • 2015, 2016, 2018 Asian Gold
  • 2013, 2014, 2017 Asian Bronze

5-6 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

Niyazbekov's win over Bajrang in the 2019 World Semis:


Tulga Tumur-Ochir (MGL)

Record Since 2018 - 35-23

Accolades:

  • 2019 World 5th

5-5 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:


Ernazar Akmataliev (KGZ)

Record Since 2018 - 23-16

Accolades:

  • 2021 Asian OG Qualifier Gold

1-4 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:


Morteza Ghiasi (IRI)

Record Since 2018 - 22-12

Accolades:

  • 2021 Asian Bronze

2-2 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

The Long Shots

The final 4 competitors have zero combined wins over the previous 12 mentioned wrestlers. Agustin Destribats (ARG), Georgios Pilidis (GRE), Adama Diata (SEN), and Haithem Dakhlaoui (TUN) would be absolute shocks to medal or even defeat one of the top 12 at this weight. Destribats and Pilidis are the most notable of this bunch. As most American fans know, Destribats is the reason Team USA does not have a representative at 65kg. Destribats pinned Zain Retherford at the 2020 Pan-Am Olympic Games Qualifier and subsequently punched his ticket to Tokyo. Pilidis has accolades of his own in that he is a two-time cadet world medalist. 

Check out the profiles of the long shots at 65kg:


Agustin Destribats (ARG)

Record Since 2018 - 28-19

Accolades:

  • 2020 World Cup Bronze
  • 2019, 2020 Pan-Am Bronze

0-3 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:


Georgios Pilidis (GRE)

Record Since 2018 - 11-8

Accolades:

  • 2015 Cadet World Silver
  • 2017 Cadet World Bronze

0-1 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:

  • Forfeit loss to Magomedmurad Gadzhiev (World OG Qualifier)


Adama Diatta (SEN)

Record Since 2018 - 15-5

Accolades:

  • 9X African Gold (2007-2009, 2012, 2015-2019)
  • 2010 African Silver 
  • 2011 African bronze 

1-0 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:


Haithem Dakhlaoui (TUN)

Record Since 2018 - 10-12

Accolades:

  • 2020 African Gold
  • 2018 African Silver

0-1 Record Against 65kg Olympic Field:


65kg Olympians - Records Against The Field (sorted by winning percentage)

  1. Adama Diatta (SEN)- 1-0
  2. Takuto Otoguro (JPN) - 8-2
  3. Gadzhimurad Rashidov (RUS) - 6-2
  4. Bajrang Punia (IND) - 9-4
  5. Alejandro Valdes (CUB) - 6-4
  6. Vazgen Tevanyan (ARM) - 3-2
  7. Magomedmurad Gadzhiev (POL) - 3-2
  8. Tulga Tumur-Ochir (MGL) - 5-5
  9. Ismail Musukaev (HUN) - 3-3
  10. Morteza Ghiasi (IRI) - 2-2
  11. Daulet Niyazbekov (KAZ) - 5-6
  12. Haji Aliyev (AZE) - 4-8
  13. Ernazar Akmataliev (KGZ) - 1-4
  14. Georgios Pilidis (GRE) - 0-1
  15. Agustin Destribats (ARG) - 0-3
  16. Haithem Dakhlaoui (SEN) - 0-1