1244 GMT December 01, 2022
The second day of the Wrestling World Championships will see two reigning champions kick off their Greco-Roman campaigns for Iran in Belgrade, Serbia.
While the Russians will not defend their team title in the Serbian capital, a repeat of last year’s triumphs by Mohammadreza Geraei and Mohammad-Hadi Saravi will boost Iran’s chances of bettering the runner-up finish in Oslo.
Geraei will surely be the man to beat at the 67kg contests as the Iranian sensation will be chasing a third major gold, having also bagged the ultimate prize at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Iranian will enter the fray in the round of 16, taking on the winner of the bout between Hungarian Istvan Vancza and Kyrgyzstan’s Amantur Ismailov – an Asian bronze medalist in 2021.
Should all results go as expected, Geraei will face two-time world champion Ryu Han-su of South Korea in the quarterfinals with Ukrainian Parviz Nasibov or Egypt’s Mohamed el-Sayed – silver and bronze winners in Tokyo – waiting in the semifinals.
Azerbaijani rising star Hasrat Jafarov – the world U23 champion – and European gold medalist Murat Firat of Turkey are in the other side of the bracket.
Meanwhile, Saravi will face a much tougher task in defending his 97kg title as both Armenian Artur Aleksanyan, who beat the Iranian in the Olympic semifinals, and Poland’s Tadeusz Michalik, who shared the Games’ bronze with Saravi, are back in the competitions and will be in the same half of the bracket with the reigning champion.
Saravi will square off against either ex-European champion Felix Baldauf of Norway or China’s Liu Yan in the last-16 round.
Hungary’s Alex Szoke – beaten by Saravi in last year’s final – and Bulgarian Kiril Milov – the European champion who won a world silver in 2018 – are in the bottom half of the draw.
Alireza Nejati and Pejman Poshtam are the other two Iranians in action on Sunday.
A world bronze winner in 2019, Nejati replaced Meysam Dalkhani in the Iranian squad after last year’s champion was ruled out of the event with an elbow injury.
Nejati will go head-to-head with Turkey’s fifth-seed and the European bronze winner Ahmet Uyar in the first round of the 63kg competitions, with the winner locking horns with either José Rodriguez of Mexico or Abdolmohammad Papi – an Iranian-born wrestler now representing Germany – in the second round.
Georgian Leri Abuladze, who finished second Dalkhani in Oslo, is in the same side of the draw with Nejati, as well as the current world 60kg champion Victor Ciobanu of Moldova.
Cuba’s Luis Orta, who won the Olympic 60kg gold in Tokyo, will be looking to go all the way to the top podium in his 63kg debut.
Poshtam, meanwhile, will be chasing a better result than last year’s bronze-winning campaign, starting with a last-16 clash against Armenia’s Karapet Chalyan or Croatian Filip Sacic in the 82kg weight class.
If the Iranian makes it to the semifinals he will likely have the opportunity to avenge last year’s defeat at the same round against Turkey’s Burhan Akbudak.