Steveson Stuns Olympic Champion Akgul; Mukaida, Sidakov Reach Semis

By Vinay Siwach

CHIBA, Japan (August 5) --- USA entered Kyle DAKE (USA) and Gable STEVESON (USA) as their biggest hopes to enter the final and do the golden double. After the morning session Thursday at the Makuhari Messe Hall A, only one has that chance.

Dake fell to his worst defeat at the international level, losing 10-0 to Mahamedkhabib KADZIMAHAMEDAU (BLR) in the 74kg quarterfinal.

The two-time world champion, known for his powerful lifts and throws, got a taste of his own medicine when he was tossed around by the Belarusian wrestler, earning him a semifinal spot against Frank CHAMIZO (ITA).

Steveson at 125kg was in a zone of his own as he defeated defending champion Taha AKGUL (TUR) 8-0 in the quarterfinal to keep his gold medal hopes alive at his maiden Olympics. He will face Lkhagvagerel MUNKHTUR (MGL) in the semifinals. The Mongolian wrestler notched up a 6-5 win over Gennadij CUDINOVIC (GER).

Steveson's pace and athleticism was unmatchable for his two opponents as Aiaal LAZAREV (KGZ) found out in the first match. The USA wrestler decimated him in the first period to win 10-0.

If he wins his semifinal he will face the winner of Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) and Amir ZARE (IR) who wrestle it out in the other semifinal at 125kg in what will be a big test for Iran's young star Zare.

World champion Petriashvili opened the day with a win over Diaaeldin ABDELMOTTALEB (EGY) before ending the bid of Zhiwei DENG (CHN) in the quarterfinals. It won't be a cakewalk for him in the semifinals as Zare has a win over Petriashvili back in 2018 when he pinned him in the Iran league.

At 74kg, apart from the unexpected loss of Dake, world champion Zaurbek SIDAKOV (ROC) took a step closer to the Olympic title as he reached the semifinal and will wrestle Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ).

Sidakov will have to wrestle his best against Kaisanov especially after giving up six points against Bekzod ABDURAKHMONOV (UZB) in the 13-6 win.

Kaisanov ended local hopes as he pinned Keisuke OTOGURO (JPN) in the first round. He followed that up with a come-from-behind 8-5 win over Amr Reda Ramadan HUSSEN (EGY).

Kadzimahamedau had two of the most contrasting wins as he struggled to get past Jeandry GARZON CABALLERO (CUB) in the opening round. After leading, he gave up a big throw. But his crafty skills at the edge helped him secure a 12-8 win.

But against Dake, he managed to take the upper hand with two big throws from body looks which even Dake tried finishing but failed.

In the women's 53kg weight class, a fourth clash between Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) and Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) will not take place as the latter suffered a loss via fall against Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (BLR) in the quarterfinal.

Phogat, who looked a shadow of herself from past tournaments, defeated Rio bronze medalist Sofia MATTSSON (SWE) 7-1 in the opening round but could not outperform Kaladzinskaya.

The Belarus wrestler's defence and power were too much for Phogat as she defended a tripod position denying the Indian two points which could have shifted the momentum for her. At 5-3 and time running out, Phogat tried her tricks and when trying to do a front headlock, ended up with her back on the mat.

Kaladzinskaya will face Qianyu PANG (CHN) in the semifinal. The China wrestler defeated Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA) in the quarterfinals 6-2. The match was more or less decided in the first period when Pang got a takedown and two rolls with arm traps. Winchester's takedown in the end was not enough for her.

The last time the Pang and Kaladzinskaya met, the Chinese wrestler had a victory via fall but the Belarussian will like to avenge that loss and secure a place in the final.

The winner for the semifinal will get Mukaida or Bolortuya BAT OCHIR (MGL) as they wrestle in the other semifinal. Both have looked in great shape going into this bout as Mukaida secured a 10-0 win in the first bout and then a 12-2 win over Roksana ZASINA (POL) in the quarterfinal.

Bat Ochir has also dominated her opponents as he began with a win via fall followed by a 15-5 hammering of Luisa VALVERDE MELENDRES (ECU) in the quarterfinal.


Snyder Takes Olympic Loss to Sadulaev in Stride

By Ken Marantz

CHIBA, Japan (August 7)---The competitor in Kyle SNYDER (USA) hated the defeat. The wrestler in him loved the battle.

Snyder took his loss to rival Abdurashid SADULAEV (ROC) in the final of the freestyle 97kg class on Saturday night at the Tokyo Olympics in stride, already looking forward to the next chance for the two titans to clash.

"It is still exciting," Snyder said. "I love competition, I love wrestling, and I'm thankful to be able to compete." About facing Sadulaev again, he said, "I'd love it."

In the third meeting between the two since they both won gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics in different weight classes, Sadulaev beat the American for the second time with a 6-3 victory at Makuhari Messe Hall A to add a second Olympic gold to his four world titles.

Sadulaev, who had an activity point and a stepout in the first period, built up a 6-0 lead with a pair of tilts in countering Snyder's single-leg takedown attempts. On the first one, the wrestler known as The Russian Tank at one point lifted a prone Snyder completely off the mat, but not enough for a throw and instead settled for angling him over.

"There are definitely some positions that I have got to get better in," Snyder said. "That is what I'm thinking about. I have got to finish those attacks, so that is what I'm going to do. We had an idea of what it would be like."

Snyder, a two-time world champion, never gave up the fight, and came back to score a takedown and stepout in the final minute before Sadulaev ran out the clock.

"I'm a competitor so I hate to lose," Snyder said. "It's the spirit of Jesus that is strong in me. I'm not that strong as a guy, but Jesus is really strong and his spirit keeps me moving forward."

In the series dubbed "Snyderlaev" that drew worldwide attention, Snyder came out on top in their first clash in the final at the 2017 World Championships in Paris, Sadulaev's first after moving up to 97kg. Sadulaev had won the gold in Rio at 86kg, while Snyder had triumphed at 97kg.

Sadulaev gained his revenge at "Snyderlaev II" at the World Championships the next year in Budapest. He has not tasted defeat on the mat since that loss in Paris.

While it is uncertain what Sadulaev's plans are at the moment, Snyder would welcome a "Snyderlaev IV" at this year's World Championships in Oslo in October. Anyway, he intends to be there.

"Lord willing, I will be at the world championships," he said.

Like all American wrestlers, Snyder needs to constantly earn his spot on the national team to major tournaments. Having set the record as the youngest-ever US champion at both the worlds and Olympics, he knows there are always new faces coming along ready to knock him off.

"Guys are getting better and better," he said of prospects for U.S. wrestling. "Everybody is doing the right stuff. We have great coaches, support staff and training environments.

"I'm really happy for all my teammates who did a great job here, and all the coaches because they work so hard. I think we're going to dominate and keep getting better."

With Snyder's silver, the United States finished the Olympic wrestling tournament with nine medals overall, the most of any nation, including three golds.