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2022 65kg World Championships Preview: Can Yianni Break Deep Field?

Yianni Diakomihalis will represent the United States for the second straight year at 65kg and will be looking to end a 15-year medal drought for Team USA at that weight. Watch a full preview and predictions for 65kg at the Worlds to see where Yianni ranks in weight.

Senior World Championship 2022

For the first time, the world championships will be awarded to the top 8 wrestlers based on ranking points accumulated over the past year. Most of the top wrestlers in the world have earned a place including the 4 world medalists in the field – Haji Aliyev (3 time world champion), Tulga Tumur-Ochir, Bajrang Punia and Ismail Musukaev. There are a few notable wrestlers who happen to be dragged into the bracket, but we’ll cover those in the contenders and landmines sections of this preview.

Projected Seeds:

  1. Tulga Tumur-Ochir, MGL
  2. Haji Aliyev, AZE
  3. Bajrang Punia, IND
  4. Sebastian Rivera, PUR
  5. Ismail Musukaev, HUN
  6. Alibek Osmonov, KGZ
  7. Krzysztof Bienkowski, POL
  8. Vazgen Tevanyan, ARM

favourites

The best wrestlers in the field:

The favorites at 65 kg are clear – Haji Aliyev and Ismail Musukaev. Aliyev, a three-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, is by far the most recognized in the field and, at 31, is nearing the end of his career. Despite being “of age”, Aliyev brought home a silver medal from last year’s Tokyo Olympics and recently a silver medal at the European Championships in April. Aliyev will be the No. 2 to compete at the World Championships and will certainly be fighting for a medal. To even improve Aliyev’s chances of reaching the finals, the two wrestlers with recent victories over Aliyev – Ismail Musukaev and Vazgen Tevanyan – are on the other side of the bracket.

Aliyev’s victory over world champion Gadzhimurad Rashidov at the 2017 World Finals:

2019 world bronze medalist Ismail Musukaev will be world No. 5 and could be considered the biggest favorite to win 65kg in Serbia. Despite Musukaev not making it to the Olympics last year, Takuto Otoguro and Gadzhimurad Rashidov were the only two wrestlers to defeat Musukaev – and they won’t be competing in Serbia. In addition, Musukaev dominated Haji Aliyev 12-1 in the 2022 European Championship final. It’s also worth noting that Musukaev looked better conditioned than ever at this tournament. In the past, poor condition was a glaring weakness for Musukaev (this description of his condition might be an understatement). Should we see a similar type of Musukaev on worlds, expect him to walk away with gold.

Musukaev’s win over Hai Aliyev at Euro 2022:

candidate

The group with the greatest potential to win a medal or challenge the favourites:

Iran has seen a resurgence of young talent in recent years and Rahman Amouzad is one of the wrestlers looking to lead the way in Serbia. Amouzad is a two-time world cadet champion (2018 and 2019), world junior champion (2021) and represented Iran at senior world championships last year aged just 20. Recently, Amouzad put in an outstanding performance at the Asian Championships, where he defeated Bajrang Punia 3-1 in the final. Amouzad isn’t set, but that shouldn’t matter – he has the ability to defeat anyone in that group.

Amouzad’s win over Bajrang at the 2022 Asian Championships:

Bajrang Punia has won three world medals, most recently winning bronze at the Tokyo Olympics last summer. Behind Aliyev, he is the most recognized wrestler in this 65 kg field. However, Punia has brought some ups and downs back to the mat since his Olympic performance. We’ve already covered his loss to Amouzad, but Punia was beaten at the rankings in Kazakhstan, where he surprisingly lost to Abbos Rakhmonov to ultimately take home the bronze. Those aren’t terrible losses, but I’m thinking about whether Bajrang will reach the finals or bring home a medal. He will also likely have to face Haji Aliyev in the semifinals – Aliyev defeated Bajrang at the Tokyo Olympics last year.

Bajrang’s win over Joey McKenna at Matteo Pellicone 2021:

Armenia’s Vazgen Tevanyan will be number 8 but don’t be surprised if he wins the entire tournament. In the last 20 months, Tevanyan has won against Haji Aliyev, Magomedmurad Gadzhiev (2021 World Champion), Ismail Musukaev, Vladimer Khinchegashvili (World and Olympic Champion) and Yianni Diakomihalis. Tevanyan is incredibly difficult to score and has a strong gut key that can end any match when working at the top.

Vazgen Tevanyan’s win over Haji Aliyev from the 2021 Olympics qualifying tournament:

Tulga Tumur-Ochir of Mongolia broke through last year with a bronze medal at the 2021 World Championships, where he impressively defeated the aforementioned Tevanyan. For worlds, Tumur-Ochir has had its ups and downs. He finished 5th at the Yasar Dogu in February, where he surprisingly lost to Umidjon Jalolov (UZB). At the ranking tournament in Kazakhstan in June, he bounced back by winning gold and defeating Abbos Rakhmonov (after Rakhmonov defeated Bajrang). While Tumur-Ochir might be an outsider to win worlds, he should definitely be considered a medal-tender.

Tumur-Ochir’s win over Tevanyan at last year’s World Championships:

sleepers & landmines

The group not currently projected towards a medal but with great potential to “bust the bracket”:

The above wrestlers will all compete in the World Championship unseeded (with the exception of Sebastian Rivera) but have the ability to knock out the above favorites and competitors. First – Yianni Diakomihalis. Yianni’s victories over Musukaev and Bajrang prove he can compete with the best at this weight. However, he lost 5-1 to Vazgen Tevanyan at last year’s World Championships. Most recently, Yianni lost 8-2 to Sujeet of India at the ranking tournament in Tunisia. Those two matches shed light on a weakness Yianni must address if he hopes for a World Championships medal – his inability to generate attacks from his own shots against defensive wrestlers and an over-reliance on counter-offensive. Yianni needs to address these areas quickly to win a medal at the World Championships.

Uzbekistan has two 65 kg land mines, both with victories over world medalists that year. Abbos Rakhmonov defeated Bajrang in the ranking tournament in Kazakhstan in June. Umidjon Jalolov defeated Tulga Tumur-Ochir in Yasar Dogu in February. We don’t yet know who the World Cup representative will be, but after those two games they should be on everyone’s radar in Serbia.

Abbos Rakhmonov’s victory over Bajrang:

Greece and Albania aren’t known for their wrestling, but that shouldn’t mislead us into underestimating Georgios Piliids or Islam Dudaev. Pilidis qualified for the Olympics last year and then won the 2021 U23 World Cup by beating a tough Russian, Ibragim Abdurakhmanov, in the final. Dudaev is a Russian transfer who now represents Albania and won bronze at the European Championships in March. Before that, Dudaev won bronze in January’s Jarygin, where he defeated world medalist Tulga Tumur-Ochir.

Pilidis’ win over David Habat qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics:

Finally, there are the wrestlers with American connections who represent other countries – Sebastian Rivera and Lachlan McNeil. The four-time Rutgers All-American made his mark internationally by finishing second at the Pan-Am Championships and winning both the Matteo Pellicone and the Spanish Grand Prix. Rivera’s most impressive victories in these tournaments were Erik Arushanian (2019 World Junior Champion), Shamil Omarov, Lachlan McNeil and Nikolai Okhlopkov (2020 Euro bronze, 2018 World U23 bronze). Rivera has shown he can turn heads at senior level at 65kg – Serbia could be his time to shine.

Highlights of Sebastian Rivera’s victory over Erik Arushanian:

McNeil, a redshirt freshman at North Carolina, doesn’t have as many notable senior-level wins as Rivera, but has been impressive in his limited senior-level stint. McNeil won the Canada Cup in early July and a week later took bronze at the Spanish Grand Prix. Most recently, McNeil won silver at the Commonwealth Games, only losing 9-2 in the final to Bajrang Punia. McNeil will be a tough hit for anyone in this class and has the potential to knock out some of the better known contenders in Serbia.

predictions:

65kg is deep and can impact in a number of ways depending on the draw. For that reason, I’ll stick with the tried and true Haji Aliyev. While he lost to Musukaev in March, Aliyev always seems to raise his level when it matters most.

Will Yianni break through and win a medal? He absolutely can, but his recent performance in Tunisia gives me pause when anticipating hardware for the American this year.

Predictions for the 65 kg World Championships 2022:

Gold: Haji Aliyev, AZE

Silver: Rahman Amouzad, IRI

Bronze: Ismail Musukaev, HUN

Bronze: Vazgen Tevanyan, ARM

Get to know the 65kg field even better by checking out our World Championship Rankings – a ranking of the top 10 guys in each weight class based on head-to-head wins.

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