Kyle Snyder wins wrestling worlds in rival’s absence; U.S. wins most medals for first time

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Kyle Snyder won his first global title in five years — in the absence of his Russian rival — and the U.S. finished the world wrestling championships with the most medals outright for the first time in history.

Snyder, a 2016 Olympic champion, grabbed his third world championships gold — and first since 2017 — by topping Russian-turned Slovak Batyrbek Tsakulov 6-0 in Sunday’s 97kg final in Belgrade.

Also Sunday, American Yianni Diakomihalis took 65kg silver, falling to Iranian Rahman Amouzad 13-8 in the final. Seth Gross lost his bronze-medal match at 61kg.

The U.S. finished the weeklong championships with a program record-tying 15 medals — two more than second-place Japan — and a program record seven gold medals — matching Japan’s total. The U.S. finished past worlds tied for the most medals, but never in first place alone until now.

The medal standings were impacted by the absence of Russia and Belarus, whose wrestlers are banned from international competition due to the war in Ukraine. Russian wrestlers won the most medals at the 2021 World Championships (18) and were second to the Americans with eight medals at the Tokyo Games.

Snyder’s primary rival is Russian Abdulrashid Sadulayev. They met in four of the previous five global championship finals, with Sadulayev, nicknamed the Russian Tank, winning the last three meetings.

Snyder spent a week with Sadulayev in his native Dagestan last year, after the Russian beat him in the Olympic and world championships finals. In June, Snyder called Sadulayev’s absence “a bummer.”

“World championships, I’m thinking Russia, USA versus Russia, that’s what it is in my mind,” he said. “So to not have him there really stinks.”

Sadulaev posted on Instagram after Snyder’s title Sunday.

“You know who was absent there,” he wrote. “My friend, I’m ready to give you another chance to become a real king in the 97 kg weight class. Our viewers deserve the continuance of story.”

Before that, Snyder’s next major challenge may be domestic.

J’den Cox, a two-time world champ in the non-Olympic 92kg class, said he plans to move up to 97kg for next year. Cox also moved up to 97kg last year, but a potential showdown with Snyder at Olympic Trials was nixed when Cox missed the weigh-in deadline to start the event.

Snyder then swept Cox in two 97kg matches on March 16 in a special event in Detroit.

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Kyle Dake wins fourth straight wrestling world title; U.S. breaks gold medals record

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Kyle Dake became the second American wrestler to win four consecutive world titles, pushing the U.S. to its most gold medals ever at a single world championships with one day left in Belgrade.

Dake notched the U.S.’ sixth gold medal this week, breaking the nation’s previous record of five golds in a single year, with a shot at two more on Sunday.

The U.S. is guaranteed to finish worlds with the most medals of any nation, its first time ever doing that outright. Russia, banned this year due to the war in Ukraine, won the most medals at the last three world championships.

Last year, the U.S. topped the Olympic wrestling total medal standings for the first time ever when it hasn’t been host nation.

Dake, a Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist, joined John Smith as the lone Americans to accomplish a four-peat at worlds. Dake won his first two at the non-Olympic 79kg weight class and the last two at 74kg, while Smith won all of his at 62kg (plus two Olympic golds).

Dake defeated Slovakian Tajmuraz Salkazanov 3-1 in a rematch of last year’s world final. Wrestlers from now banned Russia and Belarus earned gold and silver in the Tokyo Olympic 74kg division.

Next, Dake plans to move from Cornell, where he became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four different weights (2010-13), to Penn State to train with a club that includes Olympic champions Kyle Snyder and David Taylor.

The U.S. added silver medals Saturday from Olympic bronze medalists J’den Cox (92kg) and Thomas Gilman (57kg).

Cox was beaten by Iran’s Kamran Ghasempour at a second straight world championships, falling 2-0 in the final. Gilman fell 7-2 to Albanian Zelimkhan Abakarov in his final.

“I already got my tears out of me, and I’m probably going to have some more,” said Cox, who plans to move back up to 97kg in 2023 to challenge Snyder.

Also Saturday for the Americans, Snyder and three-time NCAA champion Yianni Diakomihalis (65kg) advanced to Sunday finals. Seth Gross (61kg) will wrestle for bronze.

If Gross wins his match, the U.S. will win its most-ever total medals at a single worlds, surpassing its 15 from last year.

U.S. men’s freestylers made the gold-medal final in eight of 10 weight classes, a program record (though in many years there have not been that many classes at worlds, and the absence of Belarus and Russia is noteworthy).

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Jordan Burroughs breaks U.S. wrestling record for Olympic, world titles

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Jordan Burroughs won his sixth world wrestling title, combining with his 2012 Olympic title to become the first U.S. wrestler with seven global gold medals.

Burroughs, 34, won all five of his matches over the last two days at the world championships in Belgrade in the 79kg division, which is not an Olympic weight class.

He beat Iran’s Mohammad Nokhodi 4-2 in Friday’s final, using his trademark double leg takedown, in a rematch of last October’s world final also won by Burroughs.

“I’m still at the top of my game,” said Burroughs, a father of four who won his first world title in 2011 and is 10-0 in medal matches between the Olympics and worlds. “Before every match, I always remind myself that I chose this. This is chosen suffering.

“Someone’s going to break this [record] one day. Today is my day.”

Burroughs, who said in June that he plans to retire after the 2024 Olympics (whether or not he makes the team), for years harbored a goal of breaking John Smith‘s American record of six combined Olympic and world titles. Adeline Gray complicated the quest by winning her sixth gold last October, as did Burroughs. Gray, 31, is on a break, giving birth to twins in July.

“I’m going until I absolutely can’t anymore,” he said Friday. “As of now, that day hasn’t come yet.”

Burroughs’ 10 medals of any color between the Olympics and worlds are second in U.S. history to Bruce Baumgartner‘s 13.

“I’m the standard now for USA wrestling,” he said. “I’ve been at this for 12 years, and there’s no one who can say that I don’t deserve this.”

Burroughs won his Olympic gold medal in 2012 in the 74kg division and competed there through last year’s Olympic Trials, where he was beaten by Kyle Dake. Burroughs then moved up to the non-Olympic 79kg division, since Dake received a bye into the October 2021 Worlds at 74kg as a reigning Olympic medalist (bronze).

Burroughs must move back into an Olympic weight class by 2024, likely returning to 74kg with an eye on dethroning Dake at Olympic Trials.

Also Friday, American David Taylor beat rival Hassan Yazdani of Iran 7-1 in a rematch of last year’s Olympic 86kg final (won by Taylor with a takedown with 17 seconds left) and last October’s world championships final (won by Yazdani).

Taylor, 31, “contemplated retiring multiple times” since his Olympic title in Tokyo and “was hurt all year, hardly could train,” due at least in part to knee swelling.

“I just didn’t know if I wanted to do it anymore,” he said. “I achieved my lifelong goal of Olympic champion. I believed if I could go to world championships eight weeks later, I’d probably be done. Going there and losing, it was hard.”

Two U.S. wrestlers won back-to-back Olympic titles, and just one in the last century — Smith in 1988 and 1992. Burroughs and Taylor are older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist, according to Olympedia.org.

“My wife, my coaches, my inner circle of people, they just sat me down and said, ‘What do you want? You’ve earned the right to do whatever you want to do.’ I’m not a loser. I’m not going out losing [at the October 2021 Worlds],” Taylor said. “[Yazdani] is burning that fire for me to continue going. He’s that barrier between me and a gold medal in Paris. World championships are great, but people remember us for the Olympics.”

American Zain Retherford, the 2017 and 2018 NCAA Wrestler of the Year at Penn State, took silver in the non-Olympic 70kg division. Retherford on Thursday clinched his first world medal in his third appearance, then on Friday fell 10-0 to Japan’s Taishi Narikuni in the final.

Earlier Friday, past world champions J’den Cox (92kg), Thomas Gilman (57kg) and Dake advanced to Saturday gold-medal matches.

Wrestlers from Belarus and Russia are banned due to the war in Ukraine. Russian wrestlers won the most medals at the 2021 World Championships (18) and were second to the Americans with eight medals at the Tokyo Games.

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