#WrestleOslo: Intrepid Geraei Adds World 67kg Greco Title to Olympic Gold

By Ken Marantz

OSLO, Norway (October 10) -- Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) ended the World Championships just as did at the Tokyo Olympics two months ago. At the top of the medal podium.

Geraei was one of two Iranian champions on the final night of the nine-day tournament in Oslo, winning the 67kg gold with a 5-2 victory over Nazir ABDULLAEV (RWF) as the last three titles in Greco-Roman were decided on Sunday night at the Jordal Amfi arena.

"After the lockdown, I was able to win the gold medal at the Olympics and World Championships, so 2021 is the best year of my life," Gereai said.

Meysam DALKHANI (IRI) preceded his fellow Shiraz city native as a world champion by taking the title at 63kg, while Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) capped the tournament with a dazzling 5-point throw that gave him the 87kg title and a long-awaited world gold.

The Russian Wrestling Federation, which earlier won the freestyle team title, had already clinched its fifth straight Greco-Roman crown heading into the final night. With Iran's two golds, the final tally put the RWF on top with 152, followed by Iran with 146. Azerbaijan was third with 107.

Geraei, the 2019 world U23 champion at 72kg, had a pair of very close calls in the opening rounds, but never wavered nor panicked as he battled his way to his first final on the senior level.

Against 2020 European silver medalist Abdullaev, Geraei was unable to score off the par terre in the first period and took a tenuous 1-0 lead into the second.

But the 25-year-old took matters into his own hands, transitioning from a body lock to a headlock and throwing Abdullaev to the mat for 4. Abdullaev, the 2020 Individual World Cup, picked up 2 points countering a throw attempt at the edge, but that was all he could muster against the cagey Iranian.

Mohammadreza GERAEIMohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) scored four points through a headlock. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Geraei's triumph came two days after older brother Mohammadali won a bronze at 77kg. "I want to thank everyone from my hometown Shiraz as we won medals," he said.

If Mohammadali is nicknamed "The Falcon," then Mohammadreza could be called "The Phoenix" for how he continually arose from the ashes of near-defeat.

In his opening match, Geraei fell behind 1-6 against Asian champion Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA (JPN), only to pull off a miracle comeback and score a fall with a bear hug. In the semifinals, a pair of 2-point fleeing penalties and an unsuccessful challenge in the final seconds gave him a 7- 6 win over Ramaz ZOIDZE (GEO).

"I know most of my victories were last-second, but I believed in myself and thank God that I was able to pull it off," Geraei said.

The 30-year-old Abdullaev made the final despite coming to Oslo without a long list of honors. He had a triumph at the Individual World Cup, however, that was noteworthy in that his quarterfinal victory over Davor STEFANEK (SRB) ended up being the final match of the 2016 Rio Olympic champion's career.

Meysam DALKHANIMeysam DALKHANI (IRI) won the 63kg in Oslo. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

In a seesaw battle between young, upcoming stars at 63kg, 2019 world U23 champion Dalkhani scored a decisive stepout with 1:08 left to defeat European bronze medalist Leri ABULADZE (GEO) 5-4.

"I am very happy and I was expected to get this gold," Dalkhani said. "It's been difficult since the corona pandemic and it's been an endeavour to get this title and I am happy that I would reach the expectations of my coaches and country. I am just a soldier for my country."

Dalkhani, this year's Asian silver medalist, took a 3-1 lead when he scored with a gut wrench from the par terre, off of which Abuladze gained a reversal. Abduladze then went up 4-3 in the second period when he mirrored Dalkhani with a gut wrench from par terre.

Meysam DALKHANIMeysam DALKHANI (IRI) won one of the four gold medalists from Iran. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

With the clock winding down, Dalkhani kept the pressure on, and just managed to force Abuladze to step outside the ring before the Georgian slapped him down and spun behind, putting the Iranian ahead on criteria.

The Georgian side challenged the call but was rejected, giving Dalkhani a fifth point, and he held on for the win. Abuladze flopped to the mat in misery, while Dalkhani's coach flung him to the mat in celebration.

The 24-year-old Dalkhani won a bronze medal at the 2016 world juniors, and finished fifth in his senior world debut in Nursultan in 2019. Abuladaze, 22, was a world junior silver medalist in 2019, and has a full set of European junior medals with a 2017 gold, 2019 silver and 2018 bronze.

"I was in Nursultan and I did not manage to get anything, but I thank God that I managed to get gold here," Dalkhani said.

Zaurabi DATUNASHVILIZaurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) won the 87kg gold medal after a big five point throw. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

The final match of the tournament ended with a bang, or more specifically, a thud -- the sound of Kiryl MASKEVICH (BLR) hitting the mat after being majestically tossed for 5 by four-time European champion Datunashvili in the 87kg final.

"It was a hard match but I had the strategy," Datunashvili said. "Me and my coach worked it out."

Datunashvili scored all of his points in the second period, capped with his arching 5-point throw that finished off a 9-1 technical fall at 3:46 and made his first medal in four senior world appearances a gold one.

Behind 0-1 in the second period, the Georgian-born Datunashvili stopped a lateral drop attempt for 2, then got 2 more when Maskevich was penalized for fleeing by bridging out of bounds. That also put Datunashvili into par terre, and he thrilled the crowd with the spectacular throw.

"I know a lot about him, his wrestling," Datunashvili said. "He made a mistake and I won at that moment."

Zaurabi DATUNASHVILIZaurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) is the third Greco-Roman world champion from Serbia. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

The two met twice before over the past 10 months, with each winning one. Maskevich won 11-3 in the semifinals en route to the gold at the 2020 Individual World Cup, while Datunashvili avenged the loss with a 5-1 win in the European final this past April.

"He is one of the best wrestlers in our weight category," Datunashvili said. "He won, then I won, and now I won. It was now the final. I am king."

The European gold preceded Datunashvili's run to the Olympic bronze, where he lost in the first round to eventual champion Zhan BELINIUK (UKR) but worked his way back through the repechage.

"In Tokyo, I won bronze and my psychology was very good after that," Datunashvili said. "I rested for one month and prepared for Oslo for one month."

Datunashvili, who began competing for Serbia in 2020, had qualified for his third Olympics at the last-chance qualifier by defeating 2016 Olympic champion Davit CHAKVETADZE (RUS).

Maskevich also qualified for Tokyo, but was eliminated after a first-round loss. The 2019 world U23 bronze medalist had been hoping to become Belarus' first senior world champion since 2011.

In the bronze-medal matches, Lasha GOBADZE (GEO), unable to win a second straight world gold, came away with a second career bronze by defeating Turpan BISULTANOV (DEN) 5-2 at 87kg.

Gobadze, the 2019 world champion at 82kg, scored 4 points with a crafty move from the par terre position to avenge a 4-3 loss to the 20-year-old Bisultanov in the 2019 European final.

Gobadze lifted Bisultanov into the air, but finding he could not get enough leverage for a throw, he just fell forward and dumped him onto his back for 4. Bisultanov scrambled behind for a 1-point reversal, but could not get points from par terre himself in the second period, sealing the win for Gobadze.

Bisultanov, just three years removed from winning a bronze at the world cadets, had lost in the bronze-medal match at this year's European Championships to Milad ALIRZAEV (RWF) -- who Gobadze defeated in the repechage earlier in the night.

In the other 87kg match, Arkadiusz KULYNYCZ (POL) took the lead in the second period, then scored a fall at 4:54 when he stuffed a desperate lateral drop attempt by Istvan TAKACS (HUN).

The unheralded Kulynycz, who had notched only one win at two previous World Championships, trailed 2-0 in the second period when he received a passivity point. From the par terre, he scored a 2-point exposure from a front reverse lock to go ahead 3-2.

The two had met earlier this year at the Poland Open in June, where Takacs defeated Kulynycz in the quarterfinals en route to taking the silver medal.

At 63kg, 2017 world junior champion Kensuke SHIMIZU (JPN) scored six points off the par terre position en route to a 10-1 technical fall over 2020 European bronze medalist Erik TORBA (HUN).

After Torba scored an early stepout, Shimizu received a passivity point. The 22-year-old made the most of the par terre, launching a 4-point throw, then adding a 2-point roll. He finished the match with a takedown at 2:47.

Shimizu hails from the northern island of Hokkaido, where winter sports hold sway, and his family is a household name in Japan for speed skating. His uncle, Hiroyasu SHIMIZU, was a three-time Olympic medalist, including a gold in the 500 meters at the 1998 Nagano Games, and former world record-holder.

Shimizu took a somewhat curious path to Oslo. He won the first of the two national championships that serve as domestic qualifiers for the world championships, and would have clinched his ticket outright with a win at the second. But he missed the tournament because his entry form was submitted too late, and he was forced to defeat the champion in a playoff.

At this year's Asian Championships, Shimizu was hampered by a knee injury suffered two weeks before the tournament and lost in the quarterfinals, making him the only Japanese in the four lightest weight classes to fail to win a medal.

Ironically, Sultan ASSUTULY (KAZ), whom Shimizu beat 4-1 in the repechage on Sunday, went on to win the Asian gold by fall over Dalkhani.

In the other 63kg match, Lenur TEMIROV (UKR) won his second career world bronze, going ahead in the second period with an arm-drag takedown and defeating European silver medalist Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) 5-4.

Temirov, a two-time European bronze medalist who finished fifth at the Tokyo Olympics, fell behind 4-2 in the first period, but went ahead on criteria with the takedown in the second. He received a passivity point to account for the final score as he added to the world bronze he won in 2018.

Mammodov came up short of the medals in his fourth World Championships, with his highest previous finish a seventh place in 2018.

At 67kg, Zoidze took teenager Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) to task, blasting his way to a quick-fire 8-0 technical fall to rebound from a fifth-place finish in Tokyo with his first senior world medal.

Zoidze used a slick arm throw for a 4-0 lead, then got 2 points tacked on when Jafarov, this year's world junior champion, was called for fleeing while on bottom. At the restart from par terre, Zoidze quickly executed a gut wrench to finish the match in 1:24.

Zoidze had previous success on the age-group levels, winning a world U23 silver and a European U23 gold, two world junior golds, and world cadet gold and silver medals.

Veteran Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ) captured his fourth world bronze over an 11-year span by rallying to a 7-4 victory over European bronze medalist Murat FIRAT (TUR) in the other 67kg match.

The 33-year-old Kebispayev, who won his third Asian silver medal this year, fell into a three-point hole after Firmat scored with a gut wrench from par terre in the first period.

But in his chance on the ground in the second, Kebispayev resourcefully changed direction after being unable to execute a roll, shifting to a front headlock and scoring a 4-point throw that he followed with a 2-point exposure.

Kebispayev, a two-time Olympian who missed out on Tokyo, and Firat had previously met in the semifinals at the 2018 Takhti Cup, with the Kazakh coming out on top 4-2.

Kebispayev previously won world bronzes in 2010, 2015 and 2019, and also has a silver medal from 2011. He was the Asian champion in 2011 and 2018.

RWFRussian Wrestling Federation won the Greco-Roman team title. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)



63kg (21 entries)
GOLD: Meysam DALKHANI (IRI) df. Leri ABULADZE (GEO), 5-4

BRONZE: Kensuke SHIMIZU (JPN) df. Erik TORBA (HUN) by TF, 10-1, 2:47

67kg (27 entries)
GOLD: Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) df. Nazir ABDULLAEV (RWF), 5-2

BRONZE: Ramaz ZOIDZE (GEO) df. Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) by TF, 8-0, 1:24

87kg (25 entries)
GOLD: Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) df. Kiryl MASKEVICH (BLR) by TF, 9-1, 3:46

BRONZE: Arkadiusz KULYNYCZ (POL) df. Istvan TAKACS (HUN) by Fall, 4:54 (5-2)


#WrestleOslo Top Historical Moments: Sadulaev, Geraei Double Up; Moldova Claims Firsts

By Vinay Siwach

OSLO, Norway (October 19) -- After the World Championships in Oslo, an uncharacteristic number of wrestlers etched their names in wrestling's history books. 

For the first time in wrestling's tradition-rich history, the World Championships and Olympics took place in the same year, which led few with the opportunity to become a champion at both events. Then, a few first-timers reached the pinnacle in Oslo. 

Here are the top moments from the annual event.

FS 97kg - Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF)


Abdulrashid SADULAEV (RWF) is chasing history and greatness. He became a two-time Olympic champion in Tokyo after winning the 97kg gold medal, adding to his 86kg gold from Rio.

In 2021, once the IOC announced the postponement of the Tokyo Games, it provided a unique opportunity for Sadulaev to win an Olympic and World Championships medal in the same year. A gold in both tournaments may well give the wrestlers extra motivation to wrestle at the highest level twice in two months.

Sadulaev did precisely that. After capturing the gold in Tokyo, he wrestled his arch-rival Kyle SNYDER (USA) in the 97kg final in Oslo, Norway and came home with a gold medal, making him the only freestyle wrestler to achieve the rare feat.

The Russian Wrestling Federation wrestler has seven World or Olympic gold medals. He's tied for fourth on the all-time list, which Alexander MEDVED leads with ten combined gold medals from Worlds or Olympics. Three former wrestlers have eight gold medals, while Buvaisar SAITIEV (RWF) sits number two with nine titles.

In a rematch of the Olympics final, Sadulaev won 6-3. He handed Snyder a 6-0 loss in Oslo and improved the head-to-head record to 3-1. His lone defeated came in 2017 at the Paris World Championships.

GR 67kg - Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI)


Like Sadulaev, Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) also wrote his name in history books after becoming an Olympic and world champion in the same year.

He won the top medal at the 67kg Greco-Roman weight class in Oslo, two months after Tokyo.

Geraei, the younger brother of world medalist at 77kg Mohammadali, was the only Olympic champion entered in the Greco-Roman. He proved why he's Iran's next superstar.

The U23 world champion burst into the scene when he won the senior Asian title in 2019 and followed that with the U23 world title. Earlier this year, he claimed the gold at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers and later the Olympics.

In Oslo, Geraei kept his fans on the edge of their seats. On multiple occasions, his bouts ended in a close affair. In the first bout against Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA (JPN), he trailed 6-1 in the second period before the Japan wrestler went for a big throw but got caught in the move and Geraei secured a pin. In the semifinal, Geraei defeated Ramaz ZOIDZE (GEO), 7-6, after the Georgian was cautioned twice for fleeing, giving up four points. He defeated Nazir ABDULLAEV (RWF) 5-2 in the final.

WW 65kg - Irina RINGACI (MDA)


For the 18 years Moldova participated in women's wrestling at the World Championships, they never won a medal. However, in Oslo, they had two. 

Irina RINGACI (MDA) won the country's first-ever world title in women's wrestling, while Iulia LEORDA (MDA) ended with a silver medal. Ringaci outperformed her 65kg rivals and claimed her second world title in less than two months.

Ringaci, who came to Oslo after winning the junior world title in August, defeated Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) 8-6 in the final. Earlier in the semifinal, she had a close call when she secured a fall over Tokyo Olympian Mimi HRITSOVA (BUL). Trailing 8-0, she completed a big throw for four and then kept the Bulgarian on her back to win.

Since winning the silver at the 2020 Individual World Cup in 2020, Rigaci has been on a stellar run which includes winning the senior and U23 European titles.

But the 20-year-old pioneer of Moldovan women's wrestling has already racked up wins at the senior level and will not be a pushover in the coming years.

GR 60kg - Victor CIOBANU (MDA)


It was a historical final and Victor CIOBANU (MDA) came out on top. The Moldovan wrestler won the gold medal at the 60kg weight class in Oslo, Norway, thus denying Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) and Kyrgzstan its first-ever Greco-Roman senior world title.

Ciobanu came close to winning the title in 2018 but reversed his luck this year and with his high-scoring throws, won 9-3 in the final. Sharshenbekov now has two silver medals from the World Championships as his country waits for the gold.

Earlier this year, the Moldova wrestler ended a 25-year-wait for his country to send a wrestler to the Olympics, and he came agonizingly close to winning a medal as well.

He wrestled Sharshenbekov in Tokyo as well and blanked him 9-0 in the quarterfinals.

Apart from the final, Ciobanu had a great run throughout the tournament. He began with a win over Zhora ABOVIAN (UKR), then defeated 2018 world champion Stepan MARYANYAN (RWF) and later won against Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM) in the semifinal. Barring the first match, his bouts were close-affairs as he beat Maryanyan, 7-6, and Gharibyan, 9-6.

With Ciobanu's win, Moldova now has atleast one senior world champion in each of the three wrestling styles.

FS 70kg - Mogomedmurad GADHIEV (POL)


The Russian Wrestling Federation dominated the freestyle competition, along with the USA and Iran. But among the three wrestling powerhouses, Poland had its first world champion in freestyle as Magomedmurad GADHIEV (POL) claimed the gold medal at the 70kg weight class.

Ever since his first senior World Championships in 2015, Gadzhiev had won two medals, including a silver in 2017 and a bronze medal at the 2019 edition.

But in a bid to qualify for the Olympics, the European champion dropped down to 65kg but failed to medal there. However, he came back to 70kg and claimed the gold medal in Oslo after beating Ernazar AKHMATALIEV (KGZ) in the final.

In the quarterfinal, he had to go past 2017 world champion Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO), 4-1, and the U23 world champion Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE), 4-2, in the semifinal.

In 2020, he claimed the gold medal at the Individual World Cup in Belgrade, Serbia at 70kg. The veteran was a former Russian Wrestling Federation wrestler till 2012 and also won a junior world title in 2008.

Before Gadzhiev, Pawel KURCZEWSKI (POL) in 1971, Wladyslaw STECYK (POL) in 1977, Marian SKUBAZ (POL) in 1981, Adam SANDURSKI (POL) in 1982 and 1983, and Marek GARMULEWICZ (POL) in 1998 had reached the final but fell short to claim the coveted gold.

WW 76kg - Samar HAMZA (EGY)


Samar HAMZA (EGY) could have retired after the Olympics (she did for a brief time), and yet she would have been the most successful women's wrestler from her country. But she decided to wrestle one more time at the Senior World Championships in Oslo.

The only female wrestler to compete at the Olympics for her country, Hamza improved her resume after she became Egypt's first-ever world medalist. She won a bronze medal in the 76kg weight-class

Hamza can be proud of herself as she reached the semifinal in Oslo and only lost to world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) in the tournament. Then, in the bronze-medal bout, she defeated Kiran GODARA (IND) to claim the historic medal.

FS 79kg - Jordan BURROUGHS (USA)


A familiar name was back on the top of the podium. Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) won his last world title in 2017 and after a gap of four years, he returned to the gold-medal position in Oslo, Norway, by winning the 79kg weight class.

With that, Burroughs became the first male wrestler from America to win the gold medal five times at the Worlds, surpassing John SMITH (USA) who has four of them. Combining World and Olympic titles, the two are tied with six each as Burroughs won the gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012.

In Oslo, Burroughs was wrestling at a new weight class for the first time internationally after giving up his position at 74kg to Kyle DAKE (USA). Burroughs failed to win the Olympic Team Trials as Dake claimed the best of three series. Dake later won a bronze medal at the Olympics to confirm his direct participation in Oslo.

But Burroughs was unchallenged in Oslo. He stormed to his fifth world title outscoring his opponents 30-6, including wins over Radik VALIEV (RWF) and junior world champion Mohammad NOKHODILARIMI (IRI).

The win gives him a shot at becoming the most successful male American wrestler if he can win another gold medal until the end of his career, which is likely to continue until the Paris Olympics in 2024.

Burroughs now has an Olympics gold, five gold and three bronze from the World Championships.

WW 57kg - Anshu MALIK (IND)


As a 20-year-old, Anshu MALIK (IND) did what no other Indian female wrestler ever could. The former cadet world champion reached the final of the Senior World Championships in Oslo and became the first wrestler to achieve the feat in women's wrestling. She won a silver medal in 57kg after losing to Helen MAROULIS (USA) in the final.

The Asian champion wrestled in Tokyo as well but lost in her first bout. After getting a chance in the repechage, she failed to get past Valeria KOBLOVA (RWF) and had to exit her first Olympics without a medal.

But in Oslo, she reached the final after beating junior world champion Nilufar RAIMOVA (KAZ) in the first bout, Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL), 5-1, in the quarterfinal, U23 European champion Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR) in the semifinal, but she suffered a fall in the final.

Before her, India had five bronze medalists at the World Championships dating back to 2006 when Alka TOMAR (IND) won a bronze. Geeta PHOGAT (IND) and Babita PHOGAT (IND) won in 2012, Pooja DHANDA (IND) won one in 2018 while Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) won the medal in 2019. In Oslo, Sarita MOR (IND) also won a bronze, making it the first time that Indian women's wrestlers had two medals at the same Championships.

WW 76kg - Epp MAEE (EST)


Epp MAEE (EST) has been the pioneer of women's wrestling for Estonia. She is the only wrestler to compete at the senior level be it the World Championships or Olympics. In 2015, she became the first female wrestler from the country to win a medal at the World Championships. She repeated the feat in 2019.

Two years later in Oslo, she became the first wrestler from Estonia to reach a World Championships final in women's wrestling. At 76kg, she made a spectacular run and reached another milestone for her country. However, she fell to six-time world champion Adeline GRAY (USA) in the final.

Back in 2014, Maee wrestled in her first-ever medal bout but ended up losing that in Tashkent. After winning the medal in 2015 which also gave her the qualification for Rio Olympics, she finished fifth in 2017 and 2018. But she was once again back on the podium in Nursultan.

At the 2021 Worlds, Maee won her first two bout via technical superiority and survived a scare against Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) in the semifinal, winning 3-3 on criteria. Trailing 1-3 with 20 seconds remaining, Maee hit a single-leg and continued the pressure to claim an exposure with five seconds remaining to enter the final.

GR 130kg - Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI)


Iran brought the best to Oslo and did not disappoint. After their freestyle team put on a show, the Greco-Roman team also mesmerized the fans with four gold medals. Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI) won the 130kg gold medal and became Iran's first-ever Greco-Roman heavyweight world champion.

Yousofi earned his shot in Iran's lineup after a lucky break. It was only after the original entry, Tokyo bronze medalist Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) tested positive for COVID-19 infection that Yousofi earned his berth to Oslo. 

And he returned home with the gold medal, defeating Zurabi GEDEKHAURI (RWF) in the final.

He began with a win over David OVASAPYAN (ARM) and later handed local boy Oskar MARVIK (NOR) in the quarterfinal. In the semifinal, he faced the tough task of beating Tokyo Olympic fifth-place finisher Yasmani ACOSTA FERNANDEZ (CHI). But a perfectly planned bout helped him go past the Chilean wrestler, 2-1. The final was also a story of passivity and stepout points as he won 6-1.