Iran’s freestyle wrestling team will be among medal hopefuls when the Tokyo Olympics get underway in nine days.
Iran – along with Russia – will be represented by a complete six-man squad at the freestyle event, starting August 4.
According to IRNA, 289 athletes, from 60 countries, will participate at the wrestling competitions in Tokyo, four of which will be looking for a second consecutive gold in the men’s freestyle contests.
Iran’s Hassan Yazdani, Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia, American Kyle Snyder, and Turkish wrestler Taha Akgül will be defending their Rio 2016 glories in the Japanese capital.
In the 57kg weight class, Reza Atri – an Asian gold medalist in 2019 – was among the first Iranian athletes to secure a quota for the country in Tokyo by reaching the bronze medal bout at the World Wrestling Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, two years ago.
The Iranian will battle it out with the likes of Russia’s Zaur Uguev, who beat Atri in the semis before claiming the gold in Nur-Sultan, and Turkey’s Süleyman Atli – a beaten finalist in 2019 – as well as Indian Ravi Kumar Dahiya, who beat Atri to the world bronze in Kazakhstan.
Inexperienced Morteza Qiyasi – an Asian bronze winner earlier this year – will wear the Iranian outfit in the 65kg contest, where Gadzhimurad Rashidov of Russia, Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov, Indian Bajrang Punia, Hungarian Daulet Niyazbekov, as well as Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan, and the host’s Takuto Otoguro will be the favorites for success.
Mostafa Hosseinkhani will look to build on a glorious record at the Asian Championships when beginning his campaign in the 74kg event.
Five-time Asian medalist – and a world bronze winner in 2016 – will see competition from Italian Frank Chamizo, Russia’s Zaurbek Sidakov, American Kyle Dake, and Daniyar Kaisanov of Kazakhstan.
Iranian sensation Yazdani will be the most favorite to win a gold for the country across all sports at the Games.
The biggest barrier facing the Iranian en route to the 86kg gold will probably be American David Taylor, who came out victorious in the previous meetings between the two at the 2017 World Cup in Iran and World Championships a year later.
India’s Deepak Punia, and Russian Artur Naifonov will be among other contenders of the weight class.
In the 97kg contests, 2014 world bronze medalist Mohammad-Hossein Mohammadian will be hoping to put the nightmare of a four-year suspension – due to a positive doping test – behind him by emulating the Olympic success of his father, Asgari Mohammadian, who won double silvers in Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992.
However, Mohammadian will be facing a tough task in Tokyo as a host of decorated wrestlers – including Sadulaev and Snyder, as well as Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov, Kazakhstan’s Alisher Yergali, and Cuban Reineris Salas – will be present in Tokyo.
Amirhossein Zare’, in his seniors’ debut, will participate at the 125kg competition on the back of an illustrious career at the youth level, including an under-23 world gold in 2019.
The 20-year-old Iranian rose to the fame in 2019, when he overcame a nine-point deficit to beat Georgian Geno Petriashvili – three-time world champion and a bronze medalist in Rio – 15-11 in the final of the Iranian Wrestling Premier League.
Zare’ and Petriashvili will be joined by defending champion Akgül, and China’s Deng Zhiwei in race for the heavyweight medals.