Members of Iran’s freestyle team will be sharing a remarkable 15 Olympic and world medals between them when heading to Belgrade, Serbia, for the Wrestling World Championships in September.
Alireza Sarlak and Mohammad Nokhodi were the last two to secure their spots in the 10-man squad after concluding a successful campaign at the Zouhaier Sghaier Ranking Series in Tunisia during the weekend.
Nokhodi beat Kazakhstan’s Bolat Sakayev 10-6 in a thrilling 79kg final and will be joined by Sarlak, who was handed the berth despite settling for a 57kg bronze.
With the 79kg competitions held in a round-robin format, Nokhodi – a world silver medalist in 2021 – had the chance to bounce back from a first-round defeat against his compatriot Ali Savadkouhi and was lucky to see the reigning Asian champion fail to reach the last-four bout.
Also a world silver winner last year, Sarlak edged Ahmad Mohammadnejad 2-0 in another all-Iranian bout in Tunis to make up for his loss against him at the Takhti Cup in June, though he again found it tough against American Thomas Gilman in the semis, suffering a 11-7 defeat in a repeat of last year’s world final.
Golds on the line
Of the 10 men representing Iran at the world event, three will be looking to defend their gold medals.
Iranian sensation Hassan Yazdani (86kg) – winner of seven major medals – Kamram Qassempour (92kg), and Amirhossein Zare’ (125kg) headlined a glittering campaign for the country in Oslo, Norway, last year and will be the men to beat when stepping onto the mat in Belgrade.
All three secured their spots in the team after dominating the Iranian trials in Tehran earlier in July.
Reza Atri (61kg) also came on top at the trials and will be seeking a first world medal at the fourth time of asking, while Rahman Amouzad (65kg) – an Asian champion in April – will be hoping to build on his three world cadet and junior golds when participating at the seniors event for a second year in a row.
Amir-Mohammad Yazdani cruised to the 70kg gold at the Takhti Cup for place in the squad and will be in hunt for a second successive world medal after a 65kg silver winning campaign last year.
An ultimate prize at the Asian Championships also sealed a 74kg slot for Younes Emami, who will be after a second world medal, having won a 70kg bronze in 2019.
Mohammad-Hossein Mohammadian had a disappointing campaign at the Tokyo Olympics last year and was replaced by Mojtaba Goleij in Oslo, who went on to take the 97kg bronze.
However, an Asian gold in Mongolia was followed by double victories over Goleij at the domestic trials for Mohammadian, as he will eye a second world medal after a 2014 bronze.