Last year, Iran brought much of its heavy artillery to the Greco-Roman World Cup. It made sense. The annual event was held on home soil in Shiraz and with the Rio Olympics approaching, shuffling out the stars in front of an adoring, raucous crowd proved to be the show of strength the Iranians are known for. In the gold medal dual against Russia, Iran swept all eight bouts. In locking up its fifth title in seven years, the effort put an exclamation point on the festivities that was hard to miss.
Especially if you’re from Russia.
Unlike Iran, Russia did not overload its roster with the most accomplished wrestlers in the country. Instead, the powerhouse nation relied on its significant depth to put forth a representative effort, holding back its top-tier talent for (what could be construed as) the same reason Iran chose to do the opposite. The strategy proved to be a success — after all, it’s not like Russia went home empty-handed. Plus, the country’s lesser-known athletes got a chance to compete in a spotlight event, earning valuable experience for if/when they move up on the depth chart. However, things are going to be different for the 2017 Greco-Roman World Cup. Much different.
Russian Greco-Roman head coach Gogi Koguashvili announced the team roster for this year’s Cup, which takes place March 16th and 17th in Abadan City, Iran and as could be expected, it is positively stacked with recognizable names. Past Olympic champs Mingiyan Semenov (59 kg), Roman Vlasov (75 kg), and Davit Chakvetadze (85 kg) are all on board with Rio bronze medalist Sergey Semenov (130 kg). Also on the list are World gold medalists Genghis Labazanov (75 kg) and Ramadan Abacharaev (80 kg), who won his title at the Non-Olympic Weight Worlds in December. It is a formidable group of wrestlers, to be sure, and according to the coach, that isn’t by accident. “The European Championships were moved from March to May this year, so we’re taking our first team to Iran,” Koguashvili said. “The World Cup is a significant event for us. Here are the best teams and we want to show that we are the strongest in the world.”
It’s not so much about vengeance as it is rising to the challenge. 2017 marks the fifth consecutive year that Iran is hosting the event. Combining that fact with the considerable scope of talent Iran enjoys, and it’s no wonder why Koguashvili wants to be sure the squad he brings is up to the task. “We know that this is a struggle, the World Cup being held there for the fifth time in a row,” acknowledged Koguashvili. “We managed to win once there and now we are determined to repeat that success.”
The one curious name perhaps missing from the Russian 2017 Greco-Roman World Cup roster is 2013 World Champion and 2016 European Championships gold medalist Nikita Melnikov. Melnikov’s exclusion is nothing major. There are no injuries or other issues keeping him out. Rather, Koguashvili said that it is simply a matter of sticking to a training schedule. “He’s purposefully preparing for the European Championships,” noted the coach.
That brings us to two-time Olympic and World champ Vlasov. Following the Olympics, Vlasov reportedly took time off to recharge before returning to competition. He’s back for the World Cup and according to Koguashvili, things are going well. “He’s rested, training as hard, and is gaining form on the mat.”
Russia 2017 Greco-Roman World Cup Roster
Mingiyan Semenov (2012 Olympic Champion; 2014 World Champion, 2016 European Championships gold medalist)
Stepan Maryanayan (2015 European Games gold medalist)
Artem Surkov (2015 European Games gold medalist; 2015 World Cup gold medalist)
Abuyazidov Mantsigov (2016 Russian National Champion)
Yuri Denisov (2014 Russian National Champion)
Roman Vlasov (2012 & 2016 Olympic Champion; 2011 & 2015 World Champion; two-time European Championships gold medalist)
Genghis Labazanov (2014 World Champion)
Ramadan Abacharaev (2016 World Champion)
Adlan Akiev (2016 Bolat Turlykhanov Memorial gold medalist)
Davit Chakvetadze (2016 Olympic Champion; 2015 European Games gold medalist)
Eugene Saleev (2015 European Games gold medalist; 2014 World Cup gold medalist)
Musa Yevloyev (2014 Russian National Champion)
Maxim Safaryan (2016 Kristjan Paulusalu gold medalist; 2016 Haparanda Cup gold medalist)
Sergey Semenov (2016 Olympic bronze medalist; two-time Junior World Champion)