Two-time US World Team member Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP) has himself a familiar opponent with which to start off the 2020 Olympic Games.
Hafizov’s round-of-16 counterpart will be Luis Orta Sanchez (CUB). The pair have met only once prior, with Orta Sanchez earning a 7-0 decision in the final round of last year’s Pan-American Qualifier. In that match, the Cuban raced out to a 3-0 lead thanks to a passive/turn combination before adding another point via step-out. The second period saw Hafizov clamp for a lift but lose his grip, which allowed Orta Sanchez to cover for two more points. A failed US challenge on the sequence added one more point to Orta Sanchez’s tally.
Hafizov’s first bout with Orta Sanchez came in the last round of a tournament that had relieved a heavy emotional burden from a US perspective. Hafizov had qualified 60 kilograms in the match prior; and though it should not be construed as an excuse, there might have been a letdown effect considering how important qualifying is/was to the WCAP rep. Nevertheless, Orta Sanchez is an extremely-skilled opponent with sincere athletic gifts, and a force with whom to be reckoned in par terre.
If Hafizov is successful against Orta Sanchez, he will face the winner of #2 seed (and ’18 World champ/2X medalist) Sergey Emelin (RUS) and Haithem Mahmoud (EGY). Emelin is strongly favored to prevail in that one. Should Hafizov advance and defeat Emelin, he could face any of the following in the semifinals:
Kerem Kamal (TUR, #3 seed) — 3X Junior World Champion
Victor Ciobanu (MDA) — ’18 World silver
Mirembek Ainagulov (KAZ) — ’17 World silver, ’19 World bronze
Zholaman Sharshenbekov (KGZ) — ’18 World silver, ’19 U23 World silver
Athlete Insights Into Hafizov
“It’s a given that everyone at the Games is tough and gritty, but the under-appreciated attribute is craftiness — and I believe Ildar has that, especially in his par terre offense. His variety of techniques from top and ability to put them all together is a major threat for anyone he faces.”
— Dalton Roberts (60 kg, Army/WCAP, 2X National Champion, ’18 US World Team)
“Ildar has an amazing capability to score from any position. He’s dynamic and diverse in his strengths. An Ildar Hafizov firing on all cylinders is the best wrestler in the world at 60 kilograms.”
— Max Nowry (55 kg, Army/WCAP, 3X National Champion, ’19 US World Team)
“Ildar brings a lot of experience to the table having been a 2008 Olympian for Uzbekistan. He is by far, I would say, the most knowledgable and technical Greco-Roman wrestler in the United States, and the most technical we have seen here in a very long time. He brings that Eastern European attitude and technique that the Russians bring to the Olympics, but he also has the grit that you see from American wrestlers. It’s a great combination, and I am very excited to watch him wrestle in Tokyo.”
— Michael Hooker (72 kg, Army/WCAP, ’19 US National Team, 4X Armed Forces Champion)
*Ildar Hafizov takes the mat at 11:00am in Tokyo (+13 hours ET) and can be viewed live here.
2020 Tokyo Olympics
August 1-4 — Tokyo, JPN
DAY 1 TEAM USA DRAW
60 kg: Ildar Hafizov (Army/WCAP)
vs. Luis Orta Sanchez (CUB)
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