News ID: 315112
Published: 0153 GMT July 30, 2021

American Taylor biggest barrier facing Iran’s Yazdani en route to Olympic glory

American Taylor biggest barrier facing Iran’s Yazdani en route to Olympic glory

American David Taylor (L) and Hassan Yazdani of Iran

The 86kg freestyle wrestler Hassan Yazdani, the defending Olympics and world champion, is on the verge of becoming Iran’s first-ever two-time Olympic gold medalist, but his path to that historic feat will likely go through his biggest rival, David Taylor of the United States.

The duo of headlining superstars is on a collision course for a third career meeting. Taylor earned hand-raining performances in each of their two colossal matchups, reported.

Their first meeting took place at the 2017 World Cup in front of an Iranian-friendly crowd in Kermanshah. The then-relatively unknown American gassed Yazdani in the second period and scored a stunning fall over the Iranian – sparking one of the sport’s biggest rivalries. A year later, Taylor proved the Kermanshah match wasn't a fluke. After trailing by four points after the first period, Taylor outscored Yazdani 9-0 in the second period of their opening-round clash at the 2018 World Championships en route to winning his world title.

But Yazdani, known as “The Greatest,” reclaimed 86kg supremacy at the 2019 World Championships after Taylor underwent season-ending surgery after tearing his ACL in an exhibition bout.

Yazdani easily blew through the 86kg bracket at the 2019 World Championships. The 27-year-old picked up a pair of falls and technical superiority wins before earning an injury default in the gold-medal final against Indian Deepak Punia. It was Yazdani’s second world gold and fourth overall world medal. He won a silver medal in 2015 and a bronze medal in 2018. He backed that up with a 30-0 thumping of his three opponents at the Asian Championships.

Tailing Yazdani in the other seeded positions will be Punia, San Marino’s Myles Amine and Russian Artur Naifonov.

The 22-year-old Punia is seeded second. A month after winning a junior world title, Punia shockingly reached the world finals with four wins before injury defaulting out of the gold medal match.

When third-seeded Amine takes the mat, it’ll be the first time a wrestler from San Marino has competed at the Olympic Games.

Naifonov rounds out the top four seeds at 86kg. The Ossetian-born 24-year-old has finished with a medal in his last 10 competitions – eight of which were golds – and only dropped two matches during those tournaments. He fell to Yazdani en route to his world bronze medal finish and dropped his Russian National finals match against Dauren Kurugliev. Outsides of those losses, he’s won a pair of European and Russian National titles.

Outside of Taylor and the top-four seeded wrestlers, two guys to keep an eye on are Ali Shabanau of Belarus and Slovakia’s Boris Makoev.

Shabanau, the 31-year-old Kizilyurt, Dagestan native, will return to the Olympic Games for the first time since the London 2012. He’s a four-time world bronze medalist. His most recent medal finish was at the 2018 World Championships.

Makoev is another guy with high-level experience that could cause an unexpected shakeup. He fell to Yazdani in the 2017 world finals.

Wrestling competitions at the Tokyo Olympics kick off August 1-7 at the Makuhari Messe with 86kg action beginning on August 4.



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