2008 Olympics preview at 74 kg/163 lbs. in men's freestyle wrestling
Gary Abbott USA Wrestling

<!--[if gte vml 1]><v:shapetype id="_x0000_t75" coordsize="21600,21600" o:spt="75" oreferrelative="t" path="m@4@5l@4@11@9@11@9@5xe" filled="f" stroked="f"> <v:stroke joinstyle="miter"/> <v:formulas> <v:f eqn="if lineDrawn pixelLineWidth 0"/> <v:f eqn="sum @0 1 0"/> <v:f eqn="sum 0 0 @1"/> <v:f eqn="prod @2 1 2"/> <v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelWidth"/> <v:f eqn="prod @3 21600 pixelHeight"/> <v:f eqn="sum @0 0 1"/> <v:f eqn="prod @6 1 2"/> <v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelWidth"/> <v:f eqn="sum @8 21600 0"/> <v:f eqn="prod @7 21600 pixelHeight"/> <v:f eqn="sum @10 21600 0"/> </v:formulas> <vath o:extrusionok="f" gradientshapeok="t" o:connecttype="rect"/> <o:lock v:ext="edit" aspectratio="t"/> </v:shapetype><v:shape id="Picture_x0020_2" o:spid="_x0000_s1026" type="#_x0000_t75" alt="http://www.themat.com/images/Beijing2008_logo.gif" style='position:absolute; margin-left:0;margin-top:0;width:137.25pt;height:192.75pt;z-index:1; visibility:visible;mso-wrap-style:square;mso-wrap-distance-left:0; mso-wrap-distance-top:0;mso-wrap-distance-right:0;mso-wrap-distance-bottom:0; mso-position-horizontal:left;mso-position-horizontal-relative:text; mso-position-vertical:absolute;mso-position-vertical-relative:line' o:allowoverlap="f"> <v:imagedata src="file:///C:\Users\Jacob\AppData\Local\Temp\msohtmlclip1\01\ clip_image001.gif" o:title="Beijing2008_logo"/> <w:wrap type="square" anchory="line"/> </v:shape><![endif]--><!--[if !vml]-->This weight has been dominated internationally by 1996 and 2004 Olympic champion Bouvaisa Saitiev of Russia, one of the most technically skilled athletes of this generation. Saitiev has won six World titles and numerous other major events such as the Europeans, the World Cup and the World Military Championships.

At this weight class, Russia also boasts 2007 World champion Makhach Murtazaliev, who moved up to this division two years ago. Murtazaliev was a 2005 World champion and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist at 66 kg, and added a European gold medal already this year.

Murtazaliev beat out Saitiev a year ago for this spot within Russia. Saitiev defeated Murtazaliev at the 2008 Russian Nationals. Whoever Russia enters would be a top favorite to win.

The 2006 World champion was young talent Ibragim Aldatov of Ukraine, who placed second at the 2007 World Championships behind Murtazaliev. Aldatov still has not even won a medal at the European Championships, placing fifth this year, but is already a two-time World finalist.

Cubas Ivan Fundora was a 2004 Olympic bronze medalist and captured a World bronze medal in 2007. Fundora has dominated the competition at the Pan American level, winning the 2007 Pan Am Games title and six Pan American Championships golds. The other 2007 World bronze medalist was Chamsulvara Chamsulvaraev of Azerbaijan.

The United States should be a top contender with the exciting young Ben Askren earning the spot on the Olympic Team. In his first full season out of the college ranks, Askren won the U.S. Nationals and Olympic Team Trials, and looked strong at the 2008 World Cup. The U.S. was strong at this weight the last two years. Joe Heskett, who was fifth in the 2007 World Championships has retired because of health challenges. Donny Pritzlaff won a World bronze medal in 2006. Askren has tremendous skill and mat savvy, and should surprise his opponents at the Olympic Games.

Ali Asharbazrei of Iran won a World silver medal in 2006. Soslan Tigiev of Uzbekistan claimed a bronze medal at the 2006 World Championships. The 2005 World silver medalist was veteran Arpad Ritter of Hungary, although Gabor Hatos competed for Hungary at the 2007 World Championships and placed seventh.

Also winning a World bronze in 2005 was Nikolai Paslar of Bulgaria, a World champion in 2001 at 69 kg. Another tough competitor is Murad Gaidarov of Belarus, who was second at the 2008 European Championships and fifth in the 2006 World Championships. Other top European challengers in the field include Stefan Gheorghita of Romania and Gela Saghirashvili of Georgia.

The 2008 Asian champion is Byung-Kwan Cho of Korea. Veteran Krystian Brzozowski of Poland and Emzarious Bentinidis of Greece are others to watch in this weight class. An athlete of interest is Canadas Matt Gentry, who was a NCAA Div. I champion competing for Stanford.

Qualified nations at 74 kg/163 lbs: Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Uzbekistan, Poland


2007 World Championships
74 kg/163 lbs. - Gold - Makhach Murtazaliev (Russia); Silver - Ibragim Aldatov (Ukraine); Bronze - Chamsulvara Chamsulvaraev (Azerbaijan); Bronze - Ivan Fundora (Cuba); 5th - Stefan Gheorghita (Romania); 5th - Joe Heskett (United States); 7th - Gabor Hatos (Hungary); 8th - Gela Saghirashvili (Georgia); 9th Ali Asghar Bazrighaleh (Iran); 10th - Emzarios Bentinidis (Greece)

2006 World Championships
74 kg/163 lbs. Gold Ibraghim Aldatov (Ukraine); Silver Ali Asharbazrei (Iran); Bronze Soslan Tigiev (Uzbekistan); Bronze Donny Pritzlaff (USA); 5<sup>th</sup> Mihail Ganev (Bulgaria); 5th Murad Gaidarov (Belarus); 7th Emzarios Betinidis (Greece); 8th Bouvaisa Saitiev (Russia); 9th Krystian Brzozowski (Poland); 10th Stefan Gheorghita (Romania)

2005 World Championships
74 kg/163 lbs. - Gold - Bouvaisa Saitiev (Russia); Silver - Arpad Ritter (Hungary); Bronze - Joe Williams (USA); Bronze - Nikolay Paslar (Bulgaria); 5th - Alexandru Burca (Moldova); 5th - Mehdi Hajizadeh (Iran); 7th - Ivan Fundora (Cuba); 8th - Soslan Tigiev (Uzbekistan); 9th - Talant Jekshenov (Krygyzstan); 10th - Salvatore Rinella (Italy)

2004 Olympic Games
74 kg/163 lbs. - Gold Bouvaisa Saitiev (Russia); Silver Gennadiy Laliev (Kazakhstan); Bronze Ivan Fundora (Cuba); 4th Krystian Brzoziwki (Poland); 5th Joe Williams (USA); 6th Daniel Igali (Canada); 7th Salvatore Rinella (Italy); 8th Arayik Gevorgyan (Armenia); 9th Yusup Adulsalomov (Tajikistan); 10th Emzarios Betinidis (Greece)

2003 World Championships
74 kg/163 lbs. - Gold Bouvaisa Saitiev (Russia) won by ref. dec. over Murad Caidarov (Belarus), 2-2, ot, 9:00; Bronze Gennadiy Laliyev (Kazakhstan) dec. Hadi Habibi (Iran), 5-1; 5th Siharmir Osmanov (Macedonia); 6th Talgat Ilyasov (Australia); 7th Arpad Ritter (Hungary); 8th Sujeet Mann (India); 9th Aslanov Elnur Isquandar (Azerbaijan); 10th Obata Kunihiko (Japan)

2002 World Championships
74 kg/163 lbs. - Gold - Mehdi Hadjizadeh Joybari (Iran) dec. Magomed Isagadzhiev (Russia), 4-0; Bronze - Vladimir Sirotin (Ukraine); 4th - Gennadiy Laliyev (Kazakhstan); 5th - Daniel Igali (Canada); 6th - Xu Xuanchong (China); 7th - Georgi Mechedlidze (Georgia); 8th - Daniel Gonzales (Cuba); 9th - Elshad Allahverdiev (Azerbaijan); 10th Alexander Leipold (Germany)