The biggest men’s freestyle rivalries we want to renew at Worlds


One of the best things about the World Championships is that they increase the chances that you will witness the renewal of some of the most radical international rivalries in the sport of wrestling. And what could be cooler than sports rivalries? Not much if we’re honest.

2022 Senior World Championships

Here are six of the most exciting rivalries we hope to see again at the 2022 World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

86kg David Taylor, USA vs. Hasan Yazdani, IRI

Let’s cut to the chase. This is the most anticipated match of the tournament. Two champions among the two favorites to fight for the tag team title.

And while yes, not having Russia and Belarus removes more than some great individual rivalries, it does actually improve the competition between Team USA and Iran. Both teams will be watching how the other is doing, and nowhere more than at 86kg.

A brief summary of the greatest Magic Man vs Yazdani:

Round 1: 2017 World Cup – David Taylor comes back from behind and pins Hassan Yazdani.

Round 2: 2018 World Championship – David comes from behind to beat Yazdani 11-6.

Round 3: Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – David comes from behind to beat Yazdani 4-3.

Round 4: 2021 World Championships – Yazdani defeats David 6-2.

One could extrapolate a trend from this progression of results and assume that Yazdani has passed David and is now favored to win if they meet again. I mean, I wouldn’t make that extrapolation, but we could.

A better guess to make in my humble opinion is that Taylor and Yazdani are two legends of the sport who are always at the top of their game and if we see them go head-to-head in Belgrade, the real winners will be the fans. Fingers crossed for round 5!

Hear David Taylor’s thoughts on the rivalry after his epic win in Tokyo:

125kg Taha Akgul, TUR vs Geno Petriashvili, GEO

It’s one of the biggest heavyweight rivalries of all time, and probably one of the biggest rivalries of any weight class of all time – by the way, who wants to take on this project? It’s up for grabs, go for it!

The all-time series favors Taha Akgul considerably (I have the count at 7-3 but I could miss a game or two), however, Geno Petriashvili has been more clutch recently at the World Championships where he was the winner in 2017 and 2019.

Where Taha was better was at the European Championships and Euro Games, where he won every game against his Georgian rival except the first round of Euro 2016.

Medal tallies for both are ridiculous, Petriashvili has 9 euro medals, 2 gold; 6 world medals, 3 gold; and two Olympic medals. Akgul has 9 Euro medals, all gold; 6 world medals, 2 gold; and 2 Olympic medals, 1 gold. Absurd.

Iranian Zare will have his say, as will Hayden Zillmer, but chances are we will see these two giants fight for another medal in Belgrade.

Watch the latest battle between these two Euro 2022 titans in March:

74kg Kyle Dake, USA vs. Frank Chamizo, CUB

Although they only met twice, with Kyle Dake winning both contests, this rivalry was intensified by the right amount of hype that fueled their headlining bout on FloWrestling’s first pro card at summer 2020. Dake, or ‘the blond’ as Frank Chamizo called him, won the dub in a 4-3 tactical fight.

Dake won fight number two in the Tokyo Olympics bronze medal match, robbing the Italian through Cuba of a second Olympic medal, which I’m sure Frank will consider heading to Belgrade .

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the medal chances for both wrestlers are bolstered by the absences of Kadimagomedov and Sidakov. This also applies to the rest of the medium.

It should also be noted that Chamizo will also seek revenge against Taimuraz Salkazanov, a Slovak passing through the Russian Republic of North Ossetia, who beat Frank in the final of Euro 2022 and the European Championships 2021. Dake , meanwhile, beat Big Salk in Oslo in the 2021 World Finals.

Watch the game from this historic event:


79kg Jordan Burroughs, USA vs. Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, UZB

Jordan Burroughs is 3-1 against Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, Uzbek through Clarion University, but that loss was one of the most memorable matches in American wrestling history, in the Olympics draft Rio 2016. Burroughs, after losing 4-3 to Russia’s Geduev in the quarter-finals, suffered a double dose of heartache as Bekzod administered an 11-1 defeat in the first round of the repechage, giving Burroughs the only defeat technique of his career at the senior level and eliminating him from the fight for the medal. It was the only Olympic or World Championship that Burroughs competed in that he did not medal.

Burroughs had already beaten Bekzod at the German Grand Prix just over a month earlier and would take revenge on Abdurakhmonov at the 2017 World Championships as well as the 2019 Kolov.

Although they are both true professionals in every sense of the word and have been involved in the sport for a long time (Bekzod finished third at the 2012 NCAAs, a year after Burroughs won his second NCAA title and the Hodge), there will be no love lost on the mat if these two face off.

Watch the 2019 Dan Kolov Finals:

65kg Haji Aliev, AZE vs. Ismail Musukaev, HUN

They have met twice recently, in both cases it was Ismail Musukaev (or Iszmail Muszukajev if you spell his name in Hungarian), who came out on top. Musukaev cruised to a 7-6 win in the 2020 Individual World Cup semi-final but then handed Haji Aliev a technical 12-1 fall in the 2022 European Championship final last March.

Musukaev and Aliyev are both veterans who have competed at the elite level for about a decade each (Ismail has a World Junior silver from 2013, Haji has a European Junior silver from 2011). 65 kilos is also probably the heaviest weight in freestyle wrestling, and there will be entertaining, high-level matches anywhere you look in the range. So while you can’t go wrong watching any of the 65kg fights, an Aliev-Musukaev tilt would be a very special treat.

Watch the Euro 2022 gold medal game:

Stevan Micic, SRB vs. Suleyman Atli, TUR

Maybe not the first rivalry you think of in international wrestling, but these two met three times between 2019 and 2020. Stevan Micic, the recent graduate from Michigan, won the first round, beating Suleyman Atli 6-5 in the quarter-finals of the 2019. European Games. Micic would end up placing second while Atli won a bronze medal.

Rounds 2 and 3 went to the Turk, who beat Stevan 5-4 in the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Championship, then again 7-5 in the round of 16 at the 2020 European Championships. They both qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, but none made it to the podium.

We’ll have to see if Micic and Atli wrestle at 61kg which we’re expecting but obviously can’t guarantee until we know if we have a round 4. But assuming they both register under 61kg then a fight eagerly awaited they will be.

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