Higuchi, Kiyooka reach finals at Budapest Ranking Series

By Vinay Siwach

BUDAPEST, Hungary (June 6) -- The final Ranking Series before the Olympics kicks off in Budapest. Seven weight classes in Freestyle will be in action with top wrestlers in all the weight categories. The ranking, and ultimately the seeds for the Olympics will be determined after this Ranking Series.


13:25: Abbas EBRAHIMZADEH (IRI) blanks Haji ALIYEV (AZE) 6-0 in the 65kg semifinal. Top win for the Iran wrestler who will now wrestle Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN) for the gold medal. Kiyooka defended well against a storming Austin GOMEZ (MEX) in the second period to win 12-6.

13:00: AMAN (IND) moves into the final of the 57kg after a 14-4 technical superiority win over Aryan TSIUTRYN (AIN). He will wrestle world silver medalist Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) for the gold medal. Higuchi was in all sorts of trouble in his semifinal against Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) when the Azerbaijan wrestler used a high chest wrap to lead 8-0. But Higuchi managed to defend the last turn. He scores a takedown and uses a gut wrench to finish the bout 18-8 inside the first period.

12:45: An upset from Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) as he pins Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) in the 125kg final. Petriashvili looks in some trouble with his elbow and has called for a medical timeout. But the pin takes him out of the final. 

12:40: Alisher YERGALI (KAZ) with a stunning late exposure takedown to beat Abolfazl BABALOO (IRI) 3-2 and enter the 97kg final. On Mat C, the 92kg world champion Rizabek AITMUKHAN (KAZ) looked like entering the final when he led 5-0 against Magomedkhan MAGOMEDGOV (AZE) but the Azerbaijani world silver medalist came back to beat him 15-7.

12:30: Taiyrbek ZHUMASHBEK UULU (KGZ) with a fall over Nahshon GARRETT (USA) after building a 10-1 lead in the 61kg semifinal. He will wrestle the winner of Shahdad Ali KHOSRAVI (IRI) and Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) for the gold medal.

12:15: That will sting Gulomjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) for some time. Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) pins Abdullaev in the 57kg quarterfinal and sets up a semifinal against Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) who defeated Almaz SMANBEKOV (KGZ) 11-0 in the quarterfinal.

12:12: Haji ALIYEV (AZE) cannot find a way past Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) at 65kg! After building a 4-1 lead at the break, he hits a huge four-pointer on Aliyev to steer clear and win 9-3.

12:00: Mason PARRIS (USA) was checked by Givi MATCHARASHVILI (GEO) on different occasions but Parris won the 125kg bout 9-2. The Georgian, who qualified for the Paris Olympics at 97kg, is wrestling at 125kg in this Ranking Series.

11:45: Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO), who got a walkover in his first bout, works to a technical superiority win over Dzianis KHRAMIANKOU (AIN) at 125kg. Moments later, at 57kg, AMAN (IND) rolls to an 11-1 win over Roberti DINGASHVILI (GEO)

11:35: World champion Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) drops his Round 2 bout! Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN) scores three technical points to lead 3-0 but Muszukajev's takedown cuts the lead to 3-2 with 30 seconds left on the clock. Kiyooka defends well and hits a counter takedown in the end, adding lace to win 7-2.  

11:27: Umidjon JALOLOV (UZB) does not show up for his Round 2 bout against Haji ALIYEV (AZE) at 65kg. A big result for Aliyev who is now poised to finish at the top of group A.

11:25: Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) dominates Giorgi GONIASHVILI (GEO) at 61kg and wins 18-5 to advance. Harutyunyan will come down to 57kg for the Paris Olympics.

11:20: Vazgen TEVANYAN (ARM), wrestling at 70kg instead of his preferred 65kg, rolls to an 11-0 victory at Alibek OSMONOV (KGZ). The ranking points won at 70kg will not be added to the ranking points of Tevanyan at 65kg.

11:15: Paris-bound wrestler Gulomjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) comes back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Ali Hossein MOMENIJOUJADEH (IRI) 6-2 at 57kg. He will wrestle Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) in the quarterfinals.

11:00: Arman ANDREASYAN (ARM) with a top 9-2 win over Evan HENDERSON (USA) at 70kg. The Armenian controlled the bout throughout for the win. 

10:50: World champion Iszmail MUSZUKAKEV (HUN), wrestling for the first time since winning the World Championships, begins with a solid 6-2 win over Umidjon JALOLOV (UZB). He keeps it under control despite many attacks from Jalolov.

10:45: Haji ALIYEV (AZE) vs Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN) felt like a long bout! Aliyev got a 1-0 lead at the break for Kiyooka's inactivity. Kiyooka got one point in the second period but Aliyev scored a counter just after the clock expired to lead 3-1. A stepout for Kiyooka with 17 seconds left on the clock. He needed a takedown to win and tried for one but Aliyev bodylocked for a takedown to win 5-2.

10:35: Austin GOMEZ (MEX), qualified for the Olympic Games at 65kg, begins with a 10-0 rout of Gyoergy SZILAGYI (HUN). The 65kg wrestlers are drawn in round-robin and will be wrestling again.

10:30: The first bouts in Budapest are crazy. Austin GOMEZ (MEX) is on Mat C but on Mat B, it's world champion Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) against Umidjon JALOLOV (UZB) and on Mat C, it's Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN) vs Haji ALIYEV (AZE).


Orta, Kusaka win Ranking Series gold; Esmaeili books Paris 2024 spot

By Vinay Siwach

BUDAPEST, Hungary (June 9) -- The 67kg weight class in Budapest was supposed to offer some interesting match-ups. Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN) could have avenged his World Championships loss to Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI). Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) could have qualified for the Paris Olympics if he had defeated Geraei in Budapest. Leri ABULADZE (GEO) could have become a contender in Georgia for the weight class.

But none of that happened as Orta dominated, outsmarted and controlled his way to the gold medal at 67kg in the Ranking Series, making him one of the favorites for the gold medal in Paris. The Paris Games will also present Orta a rare opportunity to win two Olympic gold medals in two different weight classes as he won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 60kg.

Orta began his day with an 8-0 win over David MANYIK (HUN) before using a four-pointer to beat Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN) 7-1 to set up a semifinal against Esmaeili. No one would have expected the Asian champion Esmaeili to challenge the world champion but the Iranian had different ideas.

Esmaeili raced to a 7-0 lead in the first period and was one point away from winning the bout. However, Orta managed to keep himself in the bout and began the second period with a front headlock for four and got one more for a lost challenge from Iran. Still, Esmaeili did well to defend the lead until the last three seconds.

As the bout entered the final 10 seconds left, Orta almost gave up and Esmaeili, thinking that Orta had accepted defeat, turned his back and began walking towards the Iranian corner to celebrate. Just the whole stadium gasped as Orta, realizing there was still time left, ran towards Esmaeili and threw him for four.

Midway through the throw, an air-borne Esmaeili knew he messed up. He pleaded that the time was over. Referees initially did not award points to Orta but Cuba challenged and it was clear that the move was completed with 0.1 seconds left. Orta was awarded four points, helping him win 9-7.

An inconsolable Esmaeili had to be helped to the warm-up area. For he thought his Paris 2024 dream was over. 

Orta, fueled by that unthinkable win and his Cuban teammates including Mijain LOPEZ (CUB) in the stands, went on to beat Abuladze in the final to claim the gold medal. He, however, will remain second in the seeding for the Olympics as Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) has already locked up the top seed.

Jafarov was wrestling in Budapest but was up at 72kg. He may have changed his weight class but had no trouble winning the gold medal at the higher weight as well.

Back to Esmaeili who had his task cut out in the evening session. He needed to beat Geraei in two bouts to earn the Paris 2024 spot on the Iran team. He gathered himself from that loss to Orta and scored a final second takedown against Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN) to clinch a 6-5 win while Geraei defeated Andres MONTANO (ECU) 3-3 to claim the other bronze.

The two stepped on the mat for the wrestle-off for the Olympic spot with Geraei holding an advantage that if he won the first match, he would book his spot for Paris but Esmaeili had to do it in a best-of-three format. But Esmaeili did not let it go to that third as he defeated Geraei in two straight bouts in a tennis-like scoreline, 6-0 and 6-4, to earn a spot on the Iran team for the Paris Olympics and maybe a rematch with Orta in the French capital which on Sunday witness Carlos ALCARAZ win his first French Open.

David LOSONCZI (HUN)David LOSONCZI (HUN) celebrates after securing a fall over Ali CENGIZ (TUR). (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

There was more drama in Budapest as David LOSONCZI (HUN) made sure he pinned Ali CENGIZ (TUR) when the two met in the 87kg semifinal. The two were awarded a shared World Championships title in September after Cengiz defeated Losonczi but the Hungarian wrestler won an appeal for judges' errors and was also awarded the gold medal.

Losonczi admitted that he was waiting for the rematch and though relieved to get the gold medal in Belgrade, he did not really celebrate it. So when he faced Cengiz this time, Losonczi stepped over when the Turkish wrestler was trying to finish a headlock throw. The local fans in Budapest were ecstatic and so was Losonczi who missed his final against Semen NOVIKOV (BUL) due to an injury, a deep cut on his chin.

Nao KUSAKA (JPN)Nao KUSAKA (JPN) defeated Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) in the 77kg semifinal in Budapest. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kostadin Andonov)

Nao KUSAKA (JPN) has now beaten World Championships gold and silver medalists at 77kg in the past two months. After his win over world champion Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) at the Asian Championships in April, Kusaka handed World Championships silver medalist Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) a 2-1 defeat in the semifinal. Suleymanov was leading 1-1 on criteria but Kusaka managed to score a stepout just in time to claim the win.

In the final, Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL) defaulted due to injury and Kusaka won the gold medal that will take him past Suleymanov as the top-ranked wrestler in the world. Suleymanov would have remained the top-ranked wrestler if he had won a bronze medal but pulled out due to injury. Kusaka will now have 67200 points while Suleymanov will have 67100 points.

At 97kg, World Championships bronze medalist Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) had no issues beating whoever tried to challenge him. In the final Alex SZOKE (HUN) led 1-1 on criteria but Saravi scored a takedown.



GOLD: Luis ORTA (CUB) df. Leri ABULADZE (GEO), 4-0

BRONZE: Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) df. Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN), 6-5
BRONZE: Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) df. Andres MONTANO (ECU), 3-3

GOLD: Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) df. Moustafa ALAMELDIN (EGY), 5-2

BRONZE: Danial SOHRABI (IRI) df. Shmagi BOLKVADZE (GEO), 7-3
BRONZE: Krisztian VANCZA (HUN) df. Gagik SNJOYAN (FRA), 2-1

GOLD: Nao KUSAKA (JPN) df. Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL), via inj. def.

BRONZE: Yosvanys PENA FLORESS (CUB) df. Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR), via inj. def.
BRONZE: Mohammad Reza MOKHTARI (IRI) df. Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE), via inj. def.


BRONZE: Karlo KODRIC (CRO) df. Spencer WOODS (USA), via fall
BRONZE: Mihail BRADU (MDA) df. Peter DOEMOEK (HUN), 3-0

GOLD: Semen NOVIKOV (BUL) df. David LOSONCZI (HUN), via inj. def.

BRONZE: Mohammadhossein MAHMOODI (IRI) df. Ali CENGIZ (TUR), 10-4
BRONZE: Bachir SID AZARA (ALG) df. Istvan TAKACS (HUN), via forfeit

GOLD: Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) df. Alex SZOKE (HUN), 3-1

BRONZE: Giorgi MELIA (GEO) df. Josef RAU (USA), 11-4
BRONZE: Shayan HABIBZARE (IRI) df. Kevin MEJIA CASTILLO (HON), via inj. def.