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.


Kusaka, Losonczi shine on final day of Budapest Ranking Series

By Vinay Siwach

BUDAPEST, Hungary (June 9) -- The final day of the Ranking Series with seven Greco-Roman weight classes. Four Olympic weights will be in action -- 67kg, 77kg, 87kg and 97kg -- with ranking points to be earned.


Incredible session of wrestling. The finals are set and Iran is likely to have a few wrestle-offs for the Paris Olympics

14:30: Ali CENGIZ (TUR) and David LOSONCIZ (HUN) wrestle in the 87kg semifinal. Cengiz and Losonciz shared the World Championships gold after Losonciz won an appeal for a judge's error. But in the rematch here, Losonciz pins Cengiz in the second period after racing to a 5-0 lead. He knows what it means! This is the first time the two have wrestled after that World Championships final

14:10: Nao KUSAKA (JPN) with a stepout in the second period to beat world silver medalist Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) 2-1 and enter the 77kg final against Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL) who defeated Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) 1-1 

13:50: Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) has defeated world champion Luis ORTA (CUB)! OH WAIT WHAT?! What did we just witness here! Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) was clearly the better wrestler for five minutes and 58 seconds. He led 6-0 at the break but gave up a four pointer in the second as Orta closed the gap to 6-4. Iran challenged the call asking for two points for counter but lost to make the score 6-5. Esmaeili did well to keep the lead but for the last two seconds. As Orta dropped his guard, Esmaeili began celebrating but Orta launched a massive throw for four. It was originally not scored as the clock expired but Cuba challenged the call. On review, the move was completed with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock. Esmaeili is inconsolable.

13:35: 63kg world champion Leri ABULADZE (GEO) hands Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) a 6-1 loss at 67kg. A big setback for Geraei and his Olympic dreams. He would now hope that Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) fails to win the gold medal here and the two get to have a playoff later in the evening.

13:25: David LOSONCZI (HUN) gives up a turn from par terre in the second period but that is not enough for Mohammadhossein MAHMOODI (IRI) to win their 87kg bout. Losonczi had a 5-0 lead from the first period and he looked in control of the bout.

13:22: Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) has given a walkover to Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) in their 77kg quarterfinal. Akbudak will now wrestle Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL) for a spot in the final.

13:00: Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) may feel he has been hard done here against Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) at 77kg. Geraei defended two par terre positions and led 1-1 on criteria with 23 seconds left on the clock. He made an arm throw but had no contact with Suleymanov who was awarded two points and two more for a turn. Geraei was not defending thinking the referees would call it a risk. Iran challenged for the same but it called points and Geraei dropped his bout 6-1.

12:55: Nao KUSAKA (JPN) beats Mohammad Reza MOKHTARI (IRI) at 77kg to enter the semifinals. He will now wait for the winner of Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) and Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI). 

12:40: World champion Luis ORTA (CUB) and Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN) now wrestling at 67kg. Orta launches a big four-pointer on the edge for the early lead. He then is then awarded a point for Sogabe's passivity. No turn in par terre but he scored a takedown to lead 7-0 at the break. Sogabe is unable to break Orta's defense in the second period. Orta closes out the match 7-1.

12:00: A tough opening round for world champion Ali CENGIZ (TUR) as he needs six minutes to beat Payton JACOBSON (USA) 6-1 at 87kg. He is on his way for a clash with David LOSONCIZ (HUN). Both were awarded the World Championships gold medal after Hungary won an appeal for a referee error in the final

11:40: Nao KUSAKA (JPN) continues to chip away at 77kg. He beats Iuri LOMADZE (GEO) 6-0 to advance to the 1/8 finals. In the same weight class, Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) has set up a 1/8 final with Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE).

11:30: A minute and 29 seconds is all Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) needs to win 8-0 against Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) in their round two bout at 55kg. Azizli looking absolutely dominant so far.

11:05: Mohmmadreza GERAEI (IRI) did not look his best in his opening match against Souleymen NASR (TUN) at 67kg as he failed to perform his throw from par terre. Nasr was called for negative wrestling twice which gave Geraei a 4-0 lead. But a lost challenge from Gereaei and par terre in the second period made it 4-2. Geraei holds on to that score to win. Iran's second wrestler at 67kg, Saeid ESMAEILI LEIVESI (IRI) rolls to a 10-0 win over Nestor ALMANZA (CHI) in no time.

10:55: World champion Luis ORTA (CUB) shows up and rolls over David MANYIK (HUN) for a technical superiority win at 67kg. He earns a quarterfinal date with Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN).

10:50: Nao KUSAKA (JPN) dominates his first bout over Abd Elkrim OUAKALI (4), winning 11-3 and marching on at 77kg. He will face Iuri LOMADZE (GEO) next. In the same weight class, a quick finish as Zoltán LEVAI (HUN) pins Levente LEVAI (HUN).

10:40: Poya DAD MARZ (IRI) has been trying to get the better of Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) at 55kg but he will have to wait another day for that as Azizli beats Dad Marz in the first bout at 55kg. On Mat A, Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) beats Marat GARIPOV (BRA).

10:30: Long day ahead in Budapest with some top matches scheduled. Nao KUSAKA (JPN), Geraei brothers, Ali CENGIZ (TUR), David LOSONCIZ (HUN), Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) are among the stars to be on the mat.