Zayn Rutherford will represent the United States in the 70kg at the World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, from 15-16 September. Where does Zayn stack up against the best of the world? Find out below to see a full preview along with medal predictions for this incredibly deep 70kg field.
2022 Senior World Championship
The 2022 World Championships will mark the first time the top 8 will be seeded on the basis of ranking points accumulated over the past year. Most of the top contenders have earned seeds, although there are a few notable wrestlers who will be randomly drawn into the bracket. We’ll look into those during the preview but for now, it’s worth noting that Zayn Rutherford is currently projected just outside the top 8. However, Rutherford has the ninth-highest ranking points, meaning if none of the bottom 8 wrestlers entered the bracket. , Rutherford will come in at seed #8.
- Ernazar Akmataliev, KGZ
- Zurabi Ikobishvili, GEO
- Magomedmurad Gadziev, Poli
- Arman Andreasian, ARM
- Sirbaz Talgat, Qazi
- Nikolai Graham, MDA
- Nikolay Kojokaru, GBR
- Amir Yazdani, IRI
Best wrestler in the region:
Magomedmurad Gadziev is the defending world champion in the 70kg, but has wrestled only once since last year’s world championships. Gadziev won the Polish national tournament in June, competing in the 74kg. He is expected to return to defend his title in Serbia. Gadzhiev has a remarkable grounded defense and savvy match strategy that makes him a unique challenger for anyone in the world in the 70kg. In 5 matches at last year’s worlds, Gadziev gave only 8 total points on his way to the world title.
Gadziev’s win over Ernazar Akmataliev in the 2022 World Finals:
Amir Yazdani, who won a silver medal at the World Championships last year, is moving up to 70kg in his hunt for gold. Yazdani has been impressive in weight, winning two loaded tournaments at the start of the year – the Yasser Dogu and the Takhtik Cup. At Dogu in February, Yazdani knocked out 2017 world champion Zurabi Ikobishvili (10-0) before defeating James Green in the final (8-2). Then at the Takhtik Cup in June, Yazdani defeated 2022 European silver medalist Arman Andreasyan 3–1 in the final. Currently, Yazdani is seeded #8 and will face a crucial quarterfinal bout against the return of world silver medalist Ernazar Akmataliev. If he manages to win that match, Yazdani will be the favorite to reach the final.
Yazdani’s win over James Green from 2022 Yasser Dogu:
Taishi Narikuni exploded on everyone’s radar in the 70kg when she won the Asian Championships and defeated the aforementioned Akmatliev 4-3 in the final. In that tournament, Narikuni showed his excellent defensive abilities and some high-flying offense. His style is a match nightmare for anyone in the world in 70kg. Why is Narikuni so clueless? He reportedly tested positive for the banned substance in 2017 and was forced to face a 4-year suspension. Due to lack of competition, Narikuni will not be seeded and the wild card will fall into this bracket.
Narikuni’s victory over Akmatalive in the 2022 Asian Championship final:
The group most likely to win a medal or challenge the favourite:
Ernazar Akmataliev will be the #1 seed in Serbia in 70kg and is one of the most exciting wrestlers in the world. Akmatliev wrestles in a wide-open style and always has the ability to score on a big throw or end the match with a pin. Akmataliev’s offense propelled him to a world silver medal last year as he scored 40 points from 4 matches to reach the final, before beating Magomedmurad Gadziev 2–1. For Akmataliev to win gold this year, he has to figure out how to beat some of the better defensive wrestlers in this bracket.
Watch Akmataliev’s quarterfinal thriller against Iran’s Irfan Elahi:
Zayn Rutherford looks to be wrestling as usual this year and has a great chance to challenge for a medal. American fans surely know that Rutherford made the world team by defeating nemesis Jordan Oliver in an epic, 3-match series at Stillwater. However, he has impressed internationally by winning the Dan Kolov tournament in February and the ranking tournament in Tunisia in July. In both of those tournaments, Rutherford proved himself as a contender in the 70kg in Serbia by beating experienced senior level athletes.
Rutherford’s win over Syrbaz Talgat of Kazakhstan since July 2022:
How can we not include a past world champion in the list of contenders? Zurabi Ikobishvili won the world title in 2017 and has won the bronze medal twice – in 2018 and 2021. This year, Ikobishvili has had mixed results. He won the European Championships in March and won bronze medals at both Yasser Dogu in February and Ziolkowski in July. However, at Mateo Pelicone in June, Ikobishvili failed to make the place and surprisingly lost to Joshgun Azimov (AZE) and Servat Koskun (TUR). This performance shows why Ikobishvili isn’t the favorite – while he appears to wrestle well in some of the biggest tournaments, he has a tendency to lose to lower-ranked wrestlers more often than he does.
Sleepers and Landmines
The group that is not yet anticipated for a medal, but has great potential to “blow up” the bracket:
- Joshgun Azimov, AZE
- Ramzan Ramazanov, Bully
- Arman Andreasian, ARM
The above three wrestlers have not yet won a medal at a senior world championship, but they have shown great potential within the past year. First, the only seeded wrestler of the bunch – Arman Andreasyan. The Armenian almost broke for a medal at last year’s World Championships, but finished 5th after losing in the bronze medal match to Russia’s Evgeny Zherbaev. More recently, Andreasian won the silver medal at the European Championships, losing to Iobishvili in the final, and then won the Ziolkowski tournament in Poland, where he defeated Alec Pantaleo 3–2 in the final.
Joshgun Azimov has been wrestling at the senior level for the past 10 years, but has only represented Azerbaijan at the world championships once – last year in 74kg. Azimov lost 1-1 in Oslo last year and failed to bring home a medal. However, now below 70kg, Azimov looks in danger to challenge some of the best in the world in this bracket. In June, Azimov won the Mateo Pelicone with impressive victories over Murad Avlov (AZE), Servat Koskun, and Zurabi Ikobishvili. It is clear that wherever Azimov lands in the bracket in Serbia, there will be a dangerous draw.
Azimov’s victory over Zuraby Ikobishvili since June 2022:
Ramzan Ramazanov is a Russian transfer who now represents Bulgaria. This year Ramazanov won a silver medal at the Dan Kolov tournament in February, and then a bronze at the European Championships in March. In that time, Ramazanov’s only losses came from Zhan Rutherford (10–6) and Zurabi Ikobishvili (12–2). While he would be an underdog to win the gold, Ramazanov certainly has the ability to run a deep run in this bracket and stand an outside chance to bring home a medal.
Zayn Rutherford is progressively improving at the senior level and I believe this will be the year he wins a medal at the World Championships. Rutherford is able to bring home the gold but due to the depth of field, I’ll be conservative and say he gets the bronze.
In terms of gold, I have been most impressed by Amir Yazdani this year and he is my pick to win this bracket. Yazdani is a complete wrestler with strong defense, varied offensive attacks and a dangerous parter game at the top. It is going to be an incredible performance to win 70kg in the world, but I believe it is time to show Yazdani that he is the best in the world.
Gold: Amir Yazdani, IRI
Silver: Magomedmurad Gadziev, Poli
Bronze: Zayn Rutherford, USA
Bronze: Taishi Narikuni, JPN
Get to know the 70kg field even better by looking at our World Championship Rankings – ranking the top 10 people in each weight category based on head-to-head wins.