Mohammadian Closes Olympic Ticket for Iran; USA Shines at Poland Open

By Vinay Siwach

WARSAW, Poland (June 8) -- Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) had to wait until the final bout of the day but it was worth it as he successfully captured the gold medal at the Poland Open Ranking Series event in Warsaw.

The value of this gold medal increased as he also won the right to represent Iran at the Tokyo Olympics after beating two of his compatriots during his title-winning run on Tuesday.

Poland Open

Iran is treating the Poland Open as a selection tournament for the three freestyle and one Greco-Roman weight classes.

At 97kg, Mohammadian captured the spot after he beat Alireza Mohammad KARIMIMACHIANI (IRI) and Ali Khalil SHABANIBENGAR (IRI) with little separation in both the bouts.

“Thank God I was able to win,” Mohammadian said. “This is not the biggest day for me but I am happy.”

Apart from Iran's selection, the Tokyo seeds were confirmed in three weight classes as the final ranking points for 57kg, 86kg and 97kg were finalized on Tuesday.

Mohammadian's gold may not have been enough for a seed in the weight class at the Olympics, but it ended a long wait of Iran finalizing the wrestler at the weight. He won the quota in dominating fashion at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in April.

But Shabanibengar's wins over him earlier this year and Karmimachiani's record at 92kg made them contenders as well. Instead of hosting a trial back home, the Iranian Federation decided to send the wrestler to Warsaw for a face-off. The winner would be selected for the Olympic team.

The stage was set when Karimimachiani and Mohammadian were drawn on the same side while Shabanibengar was split to the upper half. Mohammadian began with an 11-0 thrashing of Kollin MOORE (USA) in the qualification, while Karimimachiani overcame Abraham de Jesus CONYEDO RUANO (ITA), 11-1, in the quarterfinal. Earlier in the day, the Italian upset Olympic champion Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE) for a 2-2 criteria win.

Mohammadian's 10-0 win over Serik BAKYTKHANOV (KAZ) put him in the semifinal. He began with a takedown and secured a 2-0 lead. Karimimachiani's one point for passivity and a step out tied it 2-2, but Mohammadian held the criteria to set up a final against Shabanibengar.

It was anti-climatic as both wrestlers played it safe. They exchanged a point each for passivity but it was Mohammadian who was awarded one in the second period which gave him the win.

“I have been wrestling with Shabanibengar since cadet-level and I know his style,” he said. “Before becoming here I had strategized a lot and thankfully it paid off.”

At 57kg, Serbian Olympian Stevan MICIC (SRB) won his second Ranking Series gold medal in convincing fashion. He outscored Beka BUJIASHVILI (GEO) and Makhmudjon SHAVKATOV (UZB), 18-3, and was awarded the 57kg Nordic style gold medal.

Micic, who came into the tournament at the third-seeded wrestler for the Tokyo Olympic Games, passed second-seeded Sueyman ATLI (TUR) for the second spot in Tokyo.

“I felt really good today,” he said. “At this tournament, I just wanted to get my weight down to 57kg and go to the Olympics after a strong competition. The gold medal is always a boost in confidence.”

The top-four seeds at 57kg for Tokyo are Zavur UGUEV (RUS), Micic, Suleyman ATLI (TUR) and Ravi KUMAR (IND), respectively.

“I wasn't sure about the seeds so it was better to just compete,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in my ability and it doesn't matter where I am seeded. I will have four tough matches in order to win at the Olympics.”

Micic defeated Beka BUJIASHVILI (GEO) and Makhmudjon SHAVKATOV (UZB) in the two matches to win the gold medal.

Stevan MICIC

USA also had a field day as they captured two gold medals. Zahid VALENCIA (USA) added another Ranking Series gold as he dominated the 86kg weight category.

“I started off a little bit slow but I am happy with how I ended it,” he said. “More offense, more takedowns is what I am looking for.”

Valencia survived a scare against local boy Sebastian JEZIERZANSKI (POL) and won 6-5 before an injury default by world silver medalist Deepak PUNIA (IND) gave him a spot in the semifinal. Myles AMINE (SMR) was up next in the semifinal but Valencia had an easy 7-1 win.

In the 86kg finals, Zahid VALENCIA (USA) claimed his second Ranking Series title with a 10-0 trouncing of Georgia’s Sandro AMINASHVILI (GEO). The bleach blonde-haired American scored five first-period takedowns and ended the match less than two minutes into the finals.

But with David TAYLOR (USA) going to the Olympics, it was just the points for Valencia but not for the Olympics.

“[I am looking for] experience,” he said. “I am still young and could not make the Olympic team this year. It is still a goal of mine. I wanted to get matches and see how foreigners wrestle.”

The close first bout did upset Valencia but he is keen on working on his skills to not give up easy points.

“I got taken down,” he said. “I was working on my offense and defense. I did not want to over wrestle and expose myself.”

Also at 86kg, Myles AMINE (SMR) beat Sebastian JEZIERZANSKI (POL) in the bronze medal match and leaped Artur NAIFONOV (RUS) for the No. 3 seed at the Olympic Games.

Amine came into the competition with 40 points -- seven points behind his Russian nemesis -- but used his ten-point bronze medal to move to the opposite side of the bracket as top-seeded Olympic champion Hasan YAZDANI (IRI).

The Olympic seeds at 86kg are Yazdani), Punia, Amine and Naifonov, respectively.

Another American with a big day was Alec PANTALEO (USA) who plowed his way to a fourth consecutive gold medal with a career-defining win over three-time world champion Haji ALIYEV (AZE), before capping things off with a win over rival James GREEN (USA) in the 70kg finals.


In the semifinals, Pantaleo cruised out to an early 6-1 lead over Aliyev thanks to a takedown and a four-point move. But the Azeri clawed back in the second period and tied the match, 6-6. The American’s first-period fought off a late flurry of attacks and used his four-point move to push himself into the finals.

In the gold-medal match, Pantaleo jumped out to an early four-point advantage against two-time world-medal winner James Green. He scored both early takedowns on head inside single legs to Green’s right leg. Pantaleo surrendered a takedown and a stepout in the second period, but hung on to win his fourth consecutive competition, 5-3.

At 79kg, Akhsarbek GULAEV (SVK) scored a last-second takedown to beat veteran Rashid KURBANOV (UZB) 2-2 in the final and claim the gold medal.


GOLD - Stevan Andria MICIC (SRB) (2-0)
BRONZE - Makhmudjon SHAVKATOV (UZB) (0-2)

GOLD - Alec William PANTALEO (USA) df. James GREEN (USA), 5-3

GOLD - Akhsarbek GULAEV (SVK) df. Rashid KURBANOV (UZB), 2-2

GOLD - Zahid VALENCIA (USA) df. Sandro AMINASHVILI (GEO), 10-0
BRONZE - Myles AMINE (SMR) df. Sebastian JEZIERZANSKI (POL), 6-1

GOLD - Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) df. Ali SHABANIBENGAR (IRI), 1-1
BRONZE - Alisher YERGALI (KAZ) df. Magomedgadji NUROV (MKD), via fall
BRONZE - Alireza KARIMIMACHIANI (IRI)df. Kollin Raymond MOORE (USA), 2-2


Saravi Dominates #WrestleWarsaw to Claim Spot on Iran Olympic Team

By Vinay Siwach

WARSAW, Poland (June 13) --- After the 97kg Greco-Roman final, Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI) went up to the judge to seek answers. His actions were justified as he had not only lost the gold medal to compatriot Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) but also the opportunity to represent Iran at the Tokyo Olympics.

Iran, treating the Poland Open as the selection trial for Tokyo Games, had entered the two and on Sunday, they dominated the field and reached the final. This was the last category that was undecided for Iran after three freestyle and one Greco-Roman class finalized in Warsaw.


Poland Open

They had to wait till the end of the day as it was the final bout and then more as both Iran wrestlers had mistakenly wore opposite singlets. 50 seconds into the bout they changed the singlets and resumed the bout. Saravi got the advantage of Balihamzehdeh being passive in the first period and he got an exposure to lead 3-0.

Balihamzehdeh was hoping that Saravi will be warned for inactivity as well but that did not happen as the latter kept on the pressure throughout the period. It ended 3-0 in favour of Saravi, completing the Iran team for the upcoming Games.

His gold medal also pushes him to third position in the Tokyo seeding as he collected 16 points. His total of 52 points takes him ahead of Cenk ILDEM (TUR) who is now out of the seeding.

Tadeusz MICHALIK (POL) finished fifth in Warsaw and collected 10 points for a total of 42 to edge past Ildem by a point.

There was no other major shuffle in the Olympic seedings for the weight classes that were in action on Sunday.

At 87kg, veteran Uzbek wrestler Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB) won a bronze medal to collect 12 points but that doesn't change his third position in the seedings.


The gold medal was captured but he upcoming star and two-time U23 world champion Semen NAVIKOV (UKR). In the final, he defeated Istvan TAKACS (HUN) 2-1 with all points scored on referees call.

Takacs had earlier stopped Rio Olympic bronze medalist Assakalov's run in the tournament with a 2-1 win in the semifinal. The Uzbek then came back in the bronze medal bout against Arkadiusz KULYNYCZ (POL) with a big fall.

The next big thing in Ukrainian wrestling Navikov will not be at the Olympics as another star wrestler Zhan BELENIUK (UKR) is scheduled to wrestle in the Japanese capital city.

In the remaining three weight categories, hosts Poland captured two gold medals while the third went to Uzbekistan.

Michal TRACZ (POL) wrestled Ekrem OZTURK (TUR) in the 60kg final and held on for 3-2 win for his home country. In the nordic style bracket, he won two bouts to reach the semifinal in which he came out on top against Mukhammadkodir YUSUPOV (UZB) 3-2.

Ozturk had a back-and-forth semifinal against Olivier SKRZYPCZAK (POL) as the two scored 26 points in the stipulated six minutes. In the end, Ozturk won 15-11 to reach the final.

Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL) won the second gold medal for Poland as he defeated Mirzobek RAKHMATOV (UZB) 4-3 in the 72kg final.

The Pole had some tough bouts throughout the day as he began with a 3-1 win against Krisztian VANCZA (HUN) 3-1 before pulling through a 1-1 win against compatriot Roman PACURKOWSKI (POL).

From the other side, Rakhmatov defeated Juan AAK (NOR) 9-0 in the qualification before clinching a 7-0 win over Mateusz BERNATEK (POL) in the quarterfinal. He had a tough one against Cengiz ARSLAN (TUR) in the semifinal but managed to pull off 5-4.

Uzbekistan did get it's gold medal on Sunday as five-time ranking series finalist Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB) managed to hang on and defeat Ayata SUZUKI (JPN) 5-3 in the 63kg final. Suzuki was awarded a point for Bakhramov's passivity and he later got an exposure from par terre to lead 3-0. But Bakhramov reversed it and completed a head-pinch to make it 3-2.

In the second period, he got the point for Suzuki's inactivity and then exposed him from the par terre position to lead 5-3. The Japanese did try quite a few arm throws but failed to get any points.

From Japan, world champion Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) was also scheduled to make the Poland trip but pulled out at the last moment due to unforeseen circumstances. Fumita has now not competed internationally since winning the gold medal at the Asian Championships in New Delhi in February, 2020.

Poland Open 63kg


GOLD: Michal TRACZ (POL) df Ekrem OZTURK (TUR), 3-2
BRONZE: Mukhammadkodir YUSUPOV (UZB) df Olivier SKRZYPCZAK (POL), 10-2

GOLD: Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB) df. Ayata SUZUKI (JPN), 5-3
BRONZE: Christopher KRAEMER (GER) df. Artor HAGERUP (NOR), via fall
BRONZE: Krisztian KECSKEMETI (HUN) df. Mairbek SALIMOV (POL), 4-0

GOLD: Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL) df. Mirzobek RAKHMATOV (UZB), 4-3
BRONZE: Cengiz ARSLAN (TUR) df. Juan AAK (NOR), 2-1
BRONZE: Krisztian VANCZA (HUN) df. Roman PACURKOWSKI (POL), 3-1

GOLD: Semen NOVIKOV (UKR) df. Istvan TAKACS (HUN), 2-1
BRONZE: Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB) df. Arkadiusz KULYNYCZ (POL), via fall
BRONZE: Metehan BASAR (TUR) df. Bachir SID AZARA (ALG), 1-1

GOLD: Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) df. Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI), 3-0
BRONZE: Islam ABBASOV (AZE) df. Gerard Cyprian KURNICZAK (POL), 4-0