2022 Senior World Championships

The Biggest Men's Freestyle Rivalries We Want Renewed At Worlds

The Biggest Men's Freestyle Rivalries We Want Renewed At Worlds

A collection of the fiercest international men's freestyle rivalries we could see renewed on the mat in Belgrade, Serbia at the 2022 World Championships.

Sep 7, 2022 by Andrew Spey
The Biggest Men's Freestyle Rivalries We Want Renewed At Worlds

One of the best things about the World Championships is that it increases the chances that you'll get to see the renewal of some of the raddest international rivalries in the sport of wrestling. And what's cooler than sports rivalries? Not much if we're being honest. 

Here are six of the most exciting rivalries we hope to see again at the 2022 World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia. 

86kg David Taylor, USA vs Hasan Yazdani, IRI

Let's get right to it. This is the most anticipated matchup of the tournament. Two champions from the two favorites to contend for the team title.

And while yes, not having Russia and Belarus removes more than a few excellent individual rivalries, it actually enhances the competition between Team USA and Iran. Both squads will be closely watching how the other is doing, and nowhere more so than at 86kg. 

A brief summary of the Magic Man vs Yazdani the Greatest:

Round 1: 2017 World Cup - David Taylor comes from behind and pins Hassan Yazdani.

Round 2: 2018 World Championship - David comes from behind to beat Yazdani 11-6. 

Round 3: 2020 Tokyo Olympics - David comes from behind to beat Yazdani 4-3. 

Round 4: 2021 World Championships - Yazdani beats David 6-2. 

One could extrapolate a trend from this progression of results and assume that Yazdani has overtaken David and is now favored to win should they meet again. I mean, I would not make that extrapolation, but one could do it. 

A better assumption to make in my humble opinion is that Taylor and Yazdani are two legends of the sport who are still at the top of their game and if we see them wrestle each other in Belgrade the real winners will be the fans. Fingers crossed for round 5!

Hear David Taylor's own thoughts on the rivalry after his epic win in Tokyo:


125kg Taha Akgul, TUR vs Geno Petriashvili, GEO

This is one of the greatest heavyweight rivalries of all time, and probably one of the greatest rivalries of any weight class of all time -- by the way, who wants to take on that project? It's up for grabs, go for it! 

The all-time series drastically favors Taha Akgul (I have the count at 7-3 but I could be missing a match or two), however, Geno Petriashvili was more clutch recently at the World Championships where he was the victor in 2017 and 2019. 

Where Taha has been better is at the European Championships and Euro Games, where he has won every matchup over his Georgian rival, save the opening round of the 2016 Euros. 

The medal tallies for both are ridiculous, Petriashvili has 9 Euro medals, 2 gold; 6 World medals, 3 gold; and two Olympic medals. Akgul has 9 Euro medals, all gold; 6 World medals, 2 gold; and 2 Olympic medals, 1 gold. Absurd. 

Iran's Zare will have his say, as will Hayden Zillmer, but the chances are that we will see these two giants wrestling for yet another medal in Belgrade.

Watch the most recent battle between these two titans from the 2022 Euros in March:


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74kg Kyle Dake, USA vs Frank Chamizo, CUB

Although they've only met twice, with Kyle Dake winning both contests, this rivalry was intensified by the healthy amount of hype that fed into their headlining bout on the first FloWrestling professional card in the summer of 2020. Dake, or 'the blond one' as Frank Chamizo referred to him, earned the dub in a tactical 4-3 bout. 

Dake won bout number two in the bronze-medal match of the Tokyo Olympic Games, denying the Italian by way of Cuba a second Olympic medal, something I'm sure Frank will be thinking about heading to Belgrade. 

We'd be remiss if we didn't mention that the medal odds for both wrestlers are enhanced by the absences of Kadimagomedov and Sidakov. That goes for the rest of the bracket as well.

We should also note that Chamizo will also be looking for revenge against Taimuraz Salkazanov, a Slovakian by way of the Russian Republic of North Ossetia, who defeated Frank in the 2022 Euro finals and the 2021 European Championships. Dake, meanwhile, defeated Big Salk in Oslo at the 2021 World finals.

Watch the match from this history-making event: 


79kg Jordan Burroughs, USA vs Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, UZB

Jordan Burroughs is 3-1 against Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, the Uzbek by way of Clarion University, however, that loss was one of the most impactful matches in American wrestling history, coming in the repechage of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Burroughs, after losing 4-3 to Russia's Geduev in the quarterfinals, got a double dose of heartbreak as Bekzod administered 11-1 defeat in the first round of the repechage, handing Burroughs the only tech-fall loss of his senior level career and eliminating him from medal contention. That was the only Olympic or World Championship that Burroughs entered in which he failed to medal. 

Burroughs had previously beaten Bekzod at the German Grand Prix just over a month earlier, and would get revenge over Abdurakhmonov at the 2017 World Championships as well as the 2019 Kolov. 

Though they are both true professionals in every sense of the word and have been competing in the sport for a long time (Bekzod finished third at the 2012 NCAAs, a year after Burroughs won his second NCAA title and the Hodge Trophy), there will be no love lost on the mat if these two face off. 

Watch the finals from the 2019 Dan Kolov:


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65kg Haji Aliev, AZE vs Ismail Musukaev, HUN

They've met twice recently, in both instances it's been Ismail Musukaev (or Iszmail Muszukajev if you're spelling his name in Hungarian), coming out on top. Musukaev eked out a 7-6 win in the semifinals of the 2020 Individual World Cup but then handed Haji Aliev a 12-1 tech-fall in the finals of the 2022 European Championship last March. 

Both Musukaev and Aliev are veterans who have been competing at the elite level for about a decade each (Ismail has a World Junior silver medal from 2013, Haji has a Euro Junior silver medal from 2011). 65 kilos is also probably the deepest weight in freestyle wrestling, and there will be entertaining, high-level matches everywhere you look in the bracket. So while you can hardly go wrong with watching any of the 65kg bouts, an Aliev-Musukaev tilt would be an extra-special treat.

Watch the 2022 Euro gold-medal match:


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Stevan Micic, SRB vs Suleyman Atli, TUR

Perhaps not the first rivalry you think of when it comes to international wrestling, however these two met three times between 2019 and 2020. Stevan Micic, the recent Michigan grad, won round 1, beating Suleyman Atli 6-5 in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Euro games. Micic would eventually place second while Atli earned a bronze. 

Round 2 and 3 went to the Turk, who beat Stevan 5-4 in the 2019 World Championship quarterfinals and then again 7-5 in the Round of 16 at the 2020 European Championships. They both qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, however neither made the podium. 

We'll have to see if both Micic and Atli wrestle at 61kg, something we are expecting but obviously can't guarantee before we know if we have a round 4. But assuming they both check in under 61 kilos, then a highly anticipated bout they will be.