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Gatsalov vs. Gogchelidze is the new “Bout of the Week” on USA Wrestling Audio/Video website



USA Wrestling has updated its new "Bout of the Week" which has been posted as a video file on-line on TheMat.com Audio/Video website .

The featured match this week is the 2006 Khadjimurad Gatsalov vs. Georgi Gogchelidze gold medal finals at 96 kg/211.5 lbs. in men's freestyle at the World Wrestling Championships in Guangzhou, China.

This match featured two past World champions, both who at one time were competing for the same spot on the Russian national team, but now were opponents with a World title on the line. In this match, it was Gatsalov competing for Russia and Gogchelidze competing for Georgia in a continuation of a rivalry in recent years.

As is the case in wrestling since the breakup of the Soviet Union into independent nations, there are wrestlers who change their national affiliation in order to compete at the world level. However, when World champion wrestlers to change their nation, it is usually big news.

Georgi Gogchelidze made his name international competing for Russia. He broke into international wrestling by winning a 1998 Junior World title at 198 pounds, then when the weight classes changed, he moved up to 213 pounds and won the 1999 Junior World title.

Gogchelidze made an immediate impact on the Senior level. He won the World Military Games in 1999, then represented Russia at the 2001 European Championships, winning a silver. That summer, at the age of 21, at the 2001 World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, he won the World title at 97 kg/213.75 lbs.

It was in 2001 that Gatsalov, then 19 years old, made his first appearances for Russia on the age-group levels, placing sixth in the Senior World Cup, taking a silver medal at the World Military Games and winning a Junior World title.

At that time, Gatsalov was competing mostly at 85 kg/187.25 lbs. His weight class was loaded with top Russian stars, such as 2000 Olympic champion Adam Saitiev and emerging star Sajid Sajidov. Gatsalov won Senior World Cup gold medals in both 2002 and 2003 at 84 kg, but Russia chose other athletes for the World Championships. Saitiev won the World title in 2002 in Tehran, Iran and Sajidov won the World title in 2003 in New York City.

Meanwhile, Gogchelidze remained Russia's top competitor at 96 kg, placing sixth in the 2002 World Championships. He also won a title at FILA Absolute Championships in 2003.

In 2003, Russia tested Gatsalov at 96 kg, and he won the European gold medal. However, at the World meet in New York City, Russia entered Taimuraz Tigiev at this division, and he placed a disappointing 14th in the standings.

Going into the Olympic year, Gatsalov made a full commitment to this weight division. He was once again entered in the European Championships, and won the European title for the second straight year. Russia had not qualified this weight class in New York, because of Tigiev's performance, so Gogchelidze was selected to compete in one of the Olympic qualification tournaments, where he placed fourth. Russia was able to qualify for the Athens Olympics at this division.

It was Gatsalov who was Russia's choice for the 2004 Olympic Games, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. He won the Olympic gold medal at 96 kg, defeating Magomed Ibragimov of Uzbekistan in the gold-medal match.

Since then, Gatsalov has owned this weight class internationally. He followed up with his first World Championship gold medal in Budapest, Hungary in 2005, and was the European champion once again in 2006.

Meanwhile, Gogchelidze made the move to change nations, and made his first appearance for Georgia at the 2006 European Championships, where he won the bronze medal. He showed his skills remained sharp when he added the gold medal at the FILA Gold Grand Prix finals event later that season.

At the 2006 World Championships in Guangzhou, Gatsalov and Gogchelidze were on opposite sides of the draw.

Gatsalov defeated Xiao Chen Cui of China, Michel Batista of Cuba and David Zilberman of Canada to qualify for the finals. On the other side, Gogchelidze stopped Norbert Bodor of Slovakia, 1998 World champion Ali Reza Heidari of Iran, Alexei Krupnyakov of Kyrgyzstan and Ruslan Sheykhov of Belarus to make the finals round.

The bout between Gatsalov and Gogchelidze in the gold-medal round was very close and highly competitive, a memorable battle between a pair of World champions at the top of their game. Many believe it may have been the best freestyle finals match of the evening.

Gatsalov emerged with his third straight World-level title, and Gogchelidze proved that he is worthy of being the top challenger in this division. You can expect additional battles in the future between these two great wrestlers, who once battled for a spot on Russia's team and now represent two different nations.

This popular feature will be changed on a regular basis, allowing members to enjoy many of the greatest matches in wrestling history. Posted in the archive section of the Members Only web page was 2006 Radoslav Velikov vs. Besik Kudukhov gold medal finals at 55 kg/121 lbs. in men's freestyle at the World Wrestling Championships in Guangzhou, China. Many other entertaining and historic matches are in the archive section for the Bout of the Week.

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