Valiev gets 74kg Paris 2024 spot; USA completes Olympic line-up

By United World Wrestling Press

ISTANBUL, Turkiye (May 12) -- A day after he was dealt with a heartbreaking loss, Cherman VALIEV (ALB) pulled off a stunning last-second win over Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR) to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

At the World Olympic Qualifier, the last chance to qualify for the Paris Olympics, Valiev lost to Viktor RASSADIN (TJK) in the 74kg semifinal on Saturday after he was docked for a singlet-pull. But 24 hours later, Valiev turned it around. Trailing 2-1 in the Olympic playoff between the two bronze medal winners, Valiev got a par terre position over Demirtas and turned him for two points with just a second left.

Demirtas challenged, asking for a block and two points as he stopped Valiev mid-turn, but blocking was not confirmed on review, giving Valiev another point for a lost challenge and a 4-2 win.

Apart from Valiev's dramatic win to earn Albania's third Freestyle quota for Paris, 70kg world champion Zain RETHERFORD (USA) won the 65kg spot for the United States to complete the line-up for Paris with all six spots. Spencer LEE (USA) won the 57kg spot on Saturday.

China earned two spots for Paris while Georgia and Hungary won a spot each. China won the spots at 57kg and 97kg, Georgia 86kg and Hungary will be represented in 125kg.

Retherford, who lost to Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (MGL) at 65kg, wrestled four bouts on Sunday with his bronze-medal bout against SUJEET (IND) being the closest. Sujeet scored a counter takedown in the first period and tried holding on to that lead in the second. But as he was pushing Retherford towards the zone, the American circled back and took Sujeet down and take a 2-2 lead which he held till the end.

In the Olympic playoff, Retherford got the better of Niurgun SKRIABIN (AIN), 7-0, and earned a sixth Paris 2024 spot for the U.S. Since Retherford won the trials before coming to Istanbul, he will be now going to Paris.

Wanhao ZOU (CHN) and Awusayiman HABILA (CHN) earned the two quotas for China. Zou was up against  Andrii YATSENKO (UKR) and had little trouble beating Yatsenko in the playoff.

Habila wrestled 38-year-old Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB) in the playoff at 125kg and came out on top 2-1. Ibragimov got a 1-0 lead after Habila was out on the activity clock but he failed to score. Ibragimov was put on the clock in the second period but he also failed to score giving Habila a 1-1 criteria lead. Ibragimov made a few attempts in the final seconds but failed to get any points.

Ibragimov challenged asking for fleeing but it was not confirmed on review. The Rio bronze medalist later left his shoes on the mat, symbolizing his retirement from the sport.

Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO), who lost after giving up a late takedown, left nothing to luck on Sunday and defeated Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR), 8-2, giving Georgia its fourth qualification in Freestyle.

Hungary got its second Paris 2024 spot after Daniel LIGETI (HUN) pinned Jose DIAZ (VEN) in the playoff after building a 5-0 lead.

Paris 2024 Qualification Results

Wanhao ZOU (CHN) df. Andrii YATSENKO (UKR), 5-1

Zain RETHERFORD (USA) df. Niurgun SKRIABIN (AIN), 7-0

Chermen VALIEV (ALB) df. Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), 4-2

Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO) df. Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR), 8-2

Awusayiman HABILA (CHN) df. Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB), 2-1

Daniel LIGETI (HUN) df. Jose DIAZ (VEN), via fall...



Lee qualifies for Paris 2024; India, China earn first Freestyle spots

By Vinay Siwach

ISTANBUL, Türkiye (May 11) -- Spencer LEE (USA) says it was a long day for him in Istanbul but he needed only 36 seconds to qualify for the Olympics.

After four bouts in over 10 hours at the World Olympic Qualifier in Istanbul, Lee thrashed Rakhat KALZAN (KAZ) 12-2 in just 36 seconds in the Paris 2024 qualification bout at 57kg to qualify the United States for the Olympics.

"It was kind of a long day because our bracket was a little smaller," Lee said. "Even though I was like first up pretty much, there was a little bit of a break, with the bronze medal, like people coming back to repechage. There's a lot of space between my matches."

Lee spent only 7 minutes and 50 seconds on the mat, winning three bouts before the first minute finished. The only match that went all the way was his 1/8 final against Wanhao ZOU (CHN) as Lee survived a scare, winning 10-9.

But in his quarterfinal, Lee rocked former European champion Vladimir EGOROV (MKD) 12-2 in 53 seconds using his high gut and used the same move to beat Kalzan 12-2 to confirm his journey.

"I do think that it was like 18 or 19 days I had before this," Lee said about his recovery time after the U.S. trials three weeks ago. "It was a really quick turnaround. I remember like having two or three days off and then I was already scrapping in the room again, like not 100 percent. But we were getting back into it because this is a big deal. It's a big tournament."

Lee also knew that winning the quota from the semifinals was important and did not leave it to Sunday when he would have to win the bronze medal and then the playoff.

"If you don't win right on the semis and you don't qualify, and in the long day, the next day to making weight again, and then competing in other two matches. Better is to win the semis than not," he said.

Lee, a two-time former U20 world champion, was out of international wrestling for eight years. He returned at the Pan-Am Championships earlier this year and won gold. He later defeated Thomas GILMAN (USA) in the best-of-three finals in the U.S. trials to earn the right to wrestle in Istanbul.

"It's not like you really excel in the layoff," he said. "I definitely needed some competition internationally before I competed at the Olympics anyway. So if anything, you see it as a blessing, it was a good thing. Americans are really, really into your face all over you most of the time. Then over here, they're a little more calculated, a little smarter. I think that it was good to get that feel again. Because like I said, you know, eight years has been a long time for me to compete internationally. So I'm glad that I'm back on the scene."

Apart from winning a medal at the Olympics, Lee has another special reason to be in Paris. His mother, a former judoka, hails from France and her family lives there.

"This is a big deal for me," he said. "My family lives in France. They live outside of Bordeaux. My grandmother never has seen me wrestle and it's a really big deal for me to compete in my mother's home country."

AMAN (IND)Spencer LEE (USA) and AMAN (IND) after their qualification for the Paris Olympics. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

The second spot at 57kg was clinched by AMAN (IND), making him the first male wrestler from India to win a Paris Olympic quota, that it failed to win at the World Championships or the Asian Olympic Qualifier.

Aman, the Asian champion in 2023, defeated Asian Games silver medalist Chongsong HAN (PRK) 12-2 to complete a commanding day in which he had three wins, two of them via technical superiority.

"When I lost the Asian Olympic qualifier, my coaches told me that I should not wrestle outside my style," Aman said. "My style is not to allow the other wrestler to finish the bout. I have to wrestle for six minutes. I had only this target in my mind that I have to wrestle six minutes here."

Out of Aman's three wins on Saturday, only one bout went the full distance. He was up against Tokyo Olympian Georgi VANGELOV (BUL) in his first bout and built a 2-1 lead at the break. But relentless in his attacks, he quickly made it 6-1 before Vangelov hit a double-leg takedown to cut it to 6-3. But it was not enough as Aman won 10-4. Andri YATSENKO (UKR) was up next but Aman showed no mercy, winning the bout 12-2 a minute and eight seconds before time.

"I thought that Vangelov bout was a tight one," he said. "I didn't want him to get to my legs to finish it with a lace. So I kept my distance and scored points whenever I got a chance."

Aman was replacing Ravi DAHIYA (IND), a Tokyo Olympic silver medalist and three-time Asian champion, and was under pressure to win India's first spot for the Paris 2024 in Freestyle.

"I am relieved," he said. "It was big responsibility on me to qualify especially in the lowest weight. I was checking the records and India has a wrestler qualifying at this weight since 2004. So I had not qualified, everyone would have blamed me."

India had a chance to win another spot as SUJEET (IND) reached the semifinal against Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (MGL) but the latter proved too strong for the former. Tumur Ochir, who earlier defeated Zain RETHERFORD (USA), beat Sujeet 6-1 to earn the Paris spot.

The two were in some intense scrambles but Tumur Ochir seemed the more active wrestler. Sujeet was put on the activity clock in each period, in which he failed to score, giving Tumur Ochir a 2-0 lead. Sujeet got a point for Tumur Ochir's passivity to come within one-point distance for a win.

But his desperate attempts to get a stepout or takedown went in vain and Tumur Ochir hit a four-pointer in the final seconds to claim a 6-1.

The second spot at 65kg was claimed by European champion Islam DUDAEV (ALB) who defeated Erik ARUSHANIAN (UKR) 12-2 in the semifinal. This was Albania's second Paris 2024 qualification in any style.

While Arushanian was easily seen off, Dudaev must thank his stars as he won his quarterfinals only after a long challenge that Albania threw, asking for a takedown against Kwang Jin KIM (PRK).

 Kim led 2-0 with 30 seconds left on the clock when Dudaev hit a single-leg and attempted a takedown. As the time ticked, he failed to control Kim and complete a takedown. However, Albania challenged that at one point, Dudaev had control of the takedown with Kim in three-point contact with the mat.

On review, it was confirmed that Dudaev actually completed a takedown, giving him a 2-2 win which Kim did not accept and spent a few minutes protesting the decision.

Albania almost had a second Paris 2024 when Cherman VALIEV (ALB) defeated Viktor RASSADIN (TJK) 2-2 in the 74kg semifinal but Rassadin challenged and on review, it was seen that Valiev committed a singlet-pull. Rassadin was awarded a point that gave him a 3-2 win.

Valiev had defeated Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) in the quarterfinals and with his loss to Rassadin, Chamizo will not be at the Paris Olympics.

In the other 74kg semifinal, three-time world silver medalist and European champion Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) defeated Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), 4-2, to qualify for his first Olympics. After Salkazanov took 2-2 criteria lead with a stepout, Demirtas made attempts to score but Salkazanov countered one of them and scored a go-behind to make the score 4-2.

At 86kg, European champion Magomed RAMAZANOV (BUL) defeated Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO), 5-3, with a takedown in the final seconds to earn the Paris qualification while Dauren KURUGLIEV (GRE) controlled his semifinal and posted a 3-0 win over Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR) and qualified Greece for the Paris Games.

In a stunning moment of brain-fade, Awusayiman HABILA (CHN) gave up a takedown in the final five seconds against Zbigniew BARANOWSKI (POL) to drop his semifinal at 97kg, 2-2, and lose the Paris spot.

Erik THIELE (GER) won the other spot at 97kg after he tired out Radu LEFTER (MDA) and won 3-0.

China did achieve its first Paris quota in Freestyle when Zhiwei DENG (CHN) defeated Jose DIAZ (VEN), 4-0, in the 125kg semifinal and two-time Olympian Aiaal LAZAREV (KGZ) defeated Daniel LIGETI (HUN), 12-2, to win the other available spot.



57kg Paris Qualification Bouts
Spencer LEE (USA) df. Rakhat KALZAN (KAZ), 10-0
AMAN (IND)  df. Chongsong HAN (PRK), 12-2

65kg Paris Qualification Bouts
Islam DUDAEV (ALB) df. Erik ARUSHANIAN (UKR), 12-2

74kg Paris Qualification Bouts
Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) df. Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), 4-2
Viktor RASSADIN (TJK) df. Cherman VALIEV (ALB), 3-2

86kg Paris Qualification Bouts
Magomed RAMAZANOV (BUL) df. Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO), 5-3
Dauren KURUGLIEV (GRE) df. Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR), 3-0

97kg Paris Qualification Bouts
Zbigniew BARANOWSKI (POL) df. Awusayiman HABILA (CHN), 2-2
Erik THIELE (GER) df. Radu LEFTER (MDA), 3-0

125kg Paris Qualification Bouts
Zhiwei DENG (CHN) df. Jose DIAZ (VEN), 4-0
Aiaal LAZAREV (KGZ) df. Daniel LIGETI (HUN), 12-2