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|2005 World Championships preview at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. in menís Greco-Roman wrestling|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Wrestling fans will long remember that the most exciting athlete at the Athens Olympics in wrestling was Olympic champion Karam Gaber of Egypt, who put on an amazing display of throwing techniques the entire event. He competed with a flair and enthusiasm that was electrifying. Everybody knew that this two-time World silver medalist was capable of greatness. However, under the stage lights of the Olympic Games, his special talents were displayed for all. Gaber has done some mixed martial arts since the Olympics ended, but is remaining active in wrestling, and should be a gold-medal favorite if he enters in Budapest.
Gaber tossed around 2003 World bronze medalist Ramaz Nozadze of Georgia in the gold-medal match in Athens, totally shutting down Nozadze's tremendous abilities. Nozadze was a bronze medalist at the Pytlasinski Tournament in Poland this summer, a key tuneup event prior to the World Championships.
Claiming a bronze medal in the Athens Olympics was 2002 World champion Mehmet Oezal of Turkey. Oezel also boasted a World bronze medal in 2001. Turkey may be represented by two-time Olympic champion Hamza Yerlikaya at this weight, however, as Yerlikaya moved up from 85 kg to win the 2005 European Championships at 96 kg.
Ernesto Pena of Cuba, a 2001 World silver medalist, was fourth at the Olympics and has tremendous experience. Cuba used a young athlete at the Pan American Championships this year, Luis Fuste, who won a gold medal.
Gennadi Chaidze of Kyrgyzstan was fifth and five-time World champion Gogi Koguachvili of Russia placed sixth in the Athens Olympics. Koguachvili returned to compete seeking his first Olympic title, but fell short. At his advanced age, it may be the end of Koguachvili's career. Russia had a World champion in 2001 with Alexandre Bezroutchkine, and if he returns this year, will immediately be a top medal hopeful.
The U.S. brings young Justin Ruiz to the World meet for the second time, after a strong season of success on the international circuit. Ruiz spent many years learning his craft competing against 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Garrett Lowney on the U.S. circuit, including a few victories against Lowney.
2005 European Championship medallists were Jimmy Lidberg of Sweden with a silver, and bronze medallists Dmitiri Timchenko of Ukraine and Mindaugas Ezerskis of Lithuania. Lidberg comes from some hearty family stock, as his brother Martin was a World champion at this division in 2003.
Aleksey Cheglakov of Uzbekistan has shown some consistency, placing in the top six at the World Championships for three straight years (2001-03). Another athlete to watch is Georgios Koutsioumpas of Greece, who was seventh at the 2004 Olympic Games. Koutsioumpas won a bronze medal at the Pytlasinski Tournament in Poland, a major World Championships preview event. The champion at Pytlasinski was Hungary's own Lajos Virag, who could get a boost from the home crowd and battle for medals at the World meet this year.
Claiming the Asian title this year was Margulan Assembekov of Kazakhstan, with the silver going to Chen Xia Fei of China. An athlete who might be fun to watch is Ali Salman of Iraq, who was fifth at the Asian meet this year. Salman trained in the United States in 2004 as part of an IOC scholarship program and could be his nation's best athlete.
Athletes such as Davyd Saldadze of Ukraine, Marek Svec of the Czech Republic, Marek Sitnik of Poland and Ali Mollov of Bulgaria are consistently near the top of major events. Retirement may be in order for some of these proven veterans. However, it is not uncommon for athletes to excel in the upper weights for many years.
If Karim Gaber of Egypt continues to pursue excellence in Greco-Roman wrestling, he will be the major force at this weight class for years to come. He is a star in a division that has many experienced and successful competitors. The excitement that Gaber brings to the sport overshadows the skills of many of his challengers. This will be a division that fans will look forward to watching, especially when Gaber is on the mat.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2004 Olympic Games results
96 kg/211.5 lbs. - Gold - Karim Ibrahim Gaber (Egypt); Silver -Ramaz Nozadze (Georgia); Bronze -Mehmet Ozal (Turkey); 4th - Ernesto Pena (Cuba); 5th - Genadi Chhaidze (Kyrgyzstan); 6th - Gogi Koguachvili (Russia); 7th - Georgios Koutsioumpas (Greece); 8th - Kaloyan Dinchev (Bulgaria); 9h - Lajos Virag (Hungary); 10th - Marek Sitnik (Poland)
2003 World Championships results
211.5 - Gold - Martin Lidberg (Sweden) dec. Karam Gaber (Egypt), 3-0; Bronze - Ramaz Nozadze (Georgia) dec. Davyd Saldadze (Ukraine), 6-0; 5th - Aleksey Cheglakov (Uzbekistan); 6th - Alexander Bezrutchkin (Russia); 7th - Gennadiy Chhaidze (Kyrgyzstan); 8th - Kostas Thanos (Greece); 9th - Lajos Virag (Hungary); 10th - Mirko English (Germany)
2002 World Championships results
96 kg/211.75 lbs. - Gold - Mekhmet Oezal (Turkey) dec. Koram Mohamed Guder Ibragim (Egypt), 15-11; Bronze - Ali Mollov (Bulgaria) dec. Ernesto Pena (Cuba), 4-0; 5th -Roman Meduna (Slovakia); 6th -Aleksei Cheglakov (Uzbekistan); 7th - Marek Svec (Czech Republic); 8th - Mirko Englich (Germany); 9th - Sasa Dukai (Yugoslavia); 10th - Hao Liu (China)
2001 World Championships results
97 kg/213.75 lbs. - Gold - Alexandre Bezroutchkine (Russia) dec. Ernesto Pena (Cuba), 7-0; Bronze - Mehmet Ozal (Turkey) dec. Petru Sudureak (Romania), 7-5; 5th - Marek Svec (Czech Republic); 6th - Aleksey Cheglakov (Uzbekistan); 7th - Marek Sitnik (Poland); 8th - Ehssan Karimfar (Iran); 9th - Roman Meduna (Slovakia); 10th - Sergey Matviyenko (Kazakhstan)