Japan's Yuki Takahashi, the defending world champion, discusses what makes USA's Thomas Gilman so good.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Most of the 6,388 fans inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday had their eyes trained toward whichever mat Team USA wrestled on. But the visiting teams for the 2018 UWW Freestyle World Cup provided plenty of talent as well.
The only team the United States didn't wrestle on Saturday, Georgia, split its duals in Pool A competition. In Pool B, Azerbaijan sits at 2-0 and is in prime position to advance to the gold-medal dual after wins over Cuba and Kazakhstan.
There was lots of good action in the other six duals Saturday. A three-time world champion lost by fall. Other world and Olympic medalists put on a show. It was exciting, as international freestyle wrestling tends to be.
Here's how it all went down:
Japan 7, Georgia 3
Team Japan looked real good against a young Georgia lineup, opening the dual with seven straight victories, including three technical falls from Yuki Takahashi (57 kilograms), Yuhi Fujinami (74kg) and Sohsuke Takatani (79kg).
Georgia ultimately muscled out three wins to close the dual, wherein Dato Marsagishvili and Givi Matcharashvili scored technical falls at 92kg and 97kg, respectively. Zviad Metreveli then scored a takedown late in the second period to edge Taiki Yamamoto, 3-2, at 125kg.
Georgia 8, India 2
India went up 2-1 on Georgia after back-to-back wins from Sandeep Tomar and Sharvan Sharvan at 61 and 65 kilograms, respectively, but then Georgia ripped off seven straight victories, including technical falls from Tarzan Maisuradze (74kg), Tariel Gaphrindashvili (79kg), Dato Marsagishvili (92kg) and Givi Matcharashvili (97kg).
Mongolia 6, Kazakhstan 4
A fun dual that came down to the final match. Mongolia took the first two bouts, then Kazakhstan leveled the dual by taking the next two. Mongolia’s Bakhbayar Erdenebat, a two-time Senior world medalist and 2016 Olympian, opened the dual with a technical fall at 57 kilograms.
The countries then alternated victories, highlighted by a fall from Kazakhstan’s Saken Aitzhanov, but Mongolia’s Batzul Ulziisaikhan and Zolboo Natsagsuren both won by decision and tech fall, respectively, at 97 and 125, to seal their victories.
Azerbaijan 8, Cuba 2
Azerbaijan rolled here without too much drama, though the biggest win of this dual came at 65 kilograms. Cuba’s Alejandro Enrique Valdes Tobier went up 8-2 before securing a first-period pin over three-time world champion Haji Aliyev. A big-time win (although it should be noted that Aliyev won his world titles at 61kg).
Otherwise, Azerbaijan was just the better team here, though all but one of its eight victories were normal decisions. Jabrayil Hasanov, a two-time Senior world medalist, provided the fireworks, scoring a technical fall at 79kg.
Cuba 8, Mongolia 2
Cuba bounced back with a very nice win over Mongolia, taking eight of 10 bouts, including two technical falls from Alejandro Enrique Valdes Tobier and Reineris Salas Perez, two of Cuba’s world medalists at 65 and 97 kilograms, respectively.
Valdes Tobier provided the highlight of the dual with a five-point throw in his 11-0 victory over Batmagnai Batchuluun.
Mongolia’s Bakhbayar Erdenebat and Iderkhuu Gantulga recorded wins at 57 and 79 kilograms, respectively.
Azerbaijan 9, Kazakhstan 1
Azerbaijan nearly went perfect against Kazakhstan to stay perfect in pool competition, and with one more win on Sunday, they'll advance to the gold-medal match. The dual was highlighted by Akhmednabi Gvarzatilov's win by fall at 61 kilograms, and Aslanbek Alborov's technical fall at 92.
Kazakhstan's lone win came at 125 kilos, where Daulet Shabanbay scored a late takedown to tie and ultimately beat Jamaladdin Magomedov 3-3.
Day Two begins at 10 a.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, when the United States will wrestle Georgia and Mongolia will wrestle Azerbaijan. Shortly after, Japan will face India and Cuba will wrestle Kazakhstan.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.