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|2006 World Championships preview at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. in men's freestyle wrestling|
By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling
The battle for the gold medal at heavyweight could be wide-open in freestyle this year.
Capturing the World title last year at heavyweight was Turkey's Ayden Polatci, who won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympic Games. Polatci has not been active this year on the World scene, so it is hard to handicap what he might do if he returns.
Holding the top international ranking in recent months is 2004 Olympic champion and 2003 World champion Artur Taymazov of Uzbekistan, who won the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals. Taymazov was 10th in the World last year, and seeks to return to the top this season.
Cuba's veteran Alexis Rodriguez, a 1998 World champion, was second behind Polatci last year. Rodriguez has also not been on the mats much lately.
The two World bronze medalists coming back are Tolly Thompson of the United States and Otto Aubeli of Hungary. Both have had up-and-down seasons this year, but are capable of making a run for the medals once again.
Thompson capitalized on his chance to compete in the World Championships for the first time in 2005 and look for him to be in the mix again. He is very tough to score on and will be tough to beat if he stays on the attack with his offense. With the right approach - which he appears to have through the American team's training camps - Thompson could win the gold medal.
The European Champion was Kuramagomed Kuramagomedov of Russia, who lost to Thompson to place fifth at the Worlds last year. He was a World champion in 1997.
Marid Mutalimov of Kazakhstan, fourth at the 2000 Olympics, was second behind Taymazov at the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals and also won the Asian Championships. The 2006 European silver medalist was Ivan Ischenko of Ukraine.
The intriguing entry is two-time World champion Eldar Kurtanidze of Georgia, who moved up to 120 kg this year and won bronze medals at the European Championships and Golden Grand Prix. If he goes back down, Georgia has another talent in Alex Modebadze.
Others to watch are Liang Le of China, Rares Chintoan of Romania, Vadim Tasoev of Ukraine and Boidjar Boyadzhiev of Bulgaria.
RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS
2005 World Championships results
120 kg/264.5 lbs. - Gold - Ayden Polatci (Turkey); Silver - Alexis Rodriguez (Cuba); Bronze - Otto Aubeli (Hungary); Bronze - Tolly Thompson (USA); 5th - Liang Lei (China); 5th - Kuramagomed Kuramogomedov (Russia); 7th - Rares Chintoan (Romania); 8th - Fardi Mousami (Iran); 9th - Vadim Tasoev (Ukraine); 10th - Artur Taymazov (Uzbekistan)
2004 Olympic Games results
120 kg/ 264.5 lbs. - Gold - Artur Taymazov (Uzbekistan); Silver - Ali Reza Rezaei (Iran); Bronze - Aydin Polatci (Turkey); 4th - Marid Mutalimov (Kazakhstan); 5th - Alexis Rodriguez (Cuba); 6th - Kuramagomed Kuramagomedov (Russia); 7th - Kerry McCoy (USA); 8th - Bozhidar Boyadzhiev (Bulgaria); 9th - Sven Thiele (Germany); 10th - Francesco Miano-Petta (Italy)
2003 World Championships results
120 kg/ 264.5 lbs. - Gold - Artur Taymazov (Uzbekistan) dec. Kerry McCoy (United States), 4-1. ot, 6:12; Bronze - Ali Reza Rezaei (Iran) dec. Serhii Priadun (Ukraine), 3-0; 5th - Efsathios Topalidis (Greece); 6th - Marid Mutalimov (Kazakhstan); 7th - Baris Hrinkevich (Belarus); 8th - Aleksi Modebadze (Georgia); 9th - Otto Aubeli (Hungary); 10th - Gelegjamts Usukhbayar (Mongolia)
2002 World Championships results
120 kg/264.5 lbs. - Gold - David Musulbes (Russia) dec. Alexis Rodriguez (Cuba), 5-0, ot, 6:04; Bronze - Aydin Polatci (Turkey) won by tech. fall over David Otiashvili (Georgia), 10-0, 1:25; 5th - Otto Aubeli (Hungary); 6th - Ruslan Shikhsafiyev (Kazakhstan); 7th - Markus Hamann (Germany); 8th - Artur Taymazov (Uzbekistan); 9th - Boris Boyadzhiev (Bulgaria); 10th - Boris Grinkevich (Belarus)
2001 World Championships results
130 kg/286 lbs. - Gold - David Musulbes (Russia) dec. Artur Taymazov (Uzbekistan), 4-3; Bronze - Alexis Rodriguez (Cuba) dec. Kerry McCoy (USA), 3-1; 5th - Arpad Ritter (Hungary); 5th - Aydin Polatci (Turkey); 6th - Boyadjiev Bojidar (Bulgaria); 7th - Abbass Jadidi (Iran); 8th - Cheema Pallander (India); 9th - Th. Abatzis (Greece); 10th - Barys Hrynkevich (Bulgaria)