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By Mike Finn
(Editor’s Note: This is the fourth of 11 weekly previews of this summer’s Olympics in London. In last week’s WIN eNews, we looked at the 121-, 132- and 145.5-pound weight classes in Greco-Roman. Next week, WIN will preview the first of seven men’s freestyle weight classes — 121 pounds — before the start of the Games on August 5. There is no preview of the 211.5-pound weight class in Greco since the U.S. did not qualify a wrestler at this weight.)
74 kilos / 163 pounds (Competition held August 5)
U.S. Entry: Ben Provisor, 21, Stevens Point, Wisc.
Not only is this the first Olympics for the former Wisconsin native — who failed to win a state championship for Stevens Point High School, where his highest finish was third — this marks the first time Provisor has competed in such an international event.
Before Provisor defeated Aaron Sieracki for this spot on the U.S. team at the Olympic Trials in April, four different Americans qualified the past four years: T.C. Dantzler at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, Justin Lester (the 2012 Olympian at 145.5 pounds) at the 2009 Worlds, Jake Fisher at the 2010 Worlds and Andrew Bisek at the 2011 Worlds. Together this group combined to win just win one of six matches.
Provisor, who attends the USOEC in Marquette, Mich., nearly earned a spot on the 2011 U.S. World Team but lost in the finals to Bisek. Earlier that year, Provisor won the 2011 U.S. Open. Coached by former World and Olympic wrestler Dennis Hall, who also hailed from Stevens Point, Provisor managed just a fourth-place finish in the 2012 U.S. Open.
• Selcuk Cebi, Turkey — This marks just the first Olympics for the 30-year-old Turk, who has won three World medals, all in the past three years: gold in 2009 and 2010 and a silver in 2011.
• Roman Vlasov, Russia — The 22-year-old Russian ended the two-year World championship run of Cebi in last year’s Worlds in Istanbul. One year earlier, Vlasov won a gold medal at the Junior Worlds.
• Arsen Julfalakyan, Armenia — The 25-year-old also competed in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, where he split two bouts and claimed tenth place. Since then, he has wrestled in two World meets; claiming a silver in 2010 and a bronze in 2011. His only losses in those two Worlds came against Cebi.
84 kilos / 185 pounds (Competition held August 6)
U.S. Entry: Chas Betts, 25, St. Michael, Minn.
Competing in his first Olympics, the former Minnesota state champion (2004) for St. Michael-Albertville High School has competed in one World Championship (2009) and actually qualified this weight class for the U.S. in this spring’s Pan-Am Games. At the 2009 Worlds in Herning, Denmark, Betts lost his only bout to Finland’s Antti Hakala.
Since then, Betts finished second at the 2010 World Team Trials — Jake Clark represented the U.S at those Worlds and finished 11th — then claimed third in the 2011 World Team Trials as Cheyney Haight went 0-1 for the U.S. last September in Istanbul, Turkey. (Brad Vering competed for the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics and split two bouts.)
On the Junior level, Betts competed at the 2005 Worlds and finished ninth.
• Nazmi Avluca, Turkey — The Turk, who will turn 36 this November, has competed in three previous Olympics; finished 13th at 163 pounds in both 1996 and 2000 before earning a bronze medal at the 2008 Games in Beijing, where his only loss came to Hungarian Zolton Fodor in the semifinals. Avluca’s first World tournament came in 1995 and has earned six medals: gold in 1999 and 2009, silver in 2006, and bronze in 1998 and 2005 and 2011.
• Alim Selimov, Belarus — The 29-year-old won his first World championship last September, nearly six years after also winning a gold medal at the 2005 Worlds. This is his first Olympic experience.
• Pablo Shorey Hernandez, Cuba — Now 28, this Cuban has dominated his country’s line-up since 2009 when he appeared in the first of three World Championships. He has medaled in two: earning a bronze in 2009 — when he lost a first-round match to Avluca before winning three consolation bouts — and a silver in 2010 — when he beat Avluca but lost to Bulgarian Hristo Marinov in the finals. In last year’s Worlds, the Cuban split two matches and failed to medal.
120 kilos / 264.5 pounds (Competition held August 6)
U.S. Entry: Dremiel Byers, 37, Kings Mountain, N.C.
Many consider this the final go-around for the three-time World medalist who has a force at this weight class for the U.S. over the past 12 years. Even though Rulon Gardner grabbed international headlines at the 2000 Olympics — where he upset Russia’s Alexander Karelin — and in the 2004 Games in Athens where he earned a bronze medal — Byers has been a mainstay at this weight as well. This started in 1999 — when he earned the first of ten U.S. Opens and competed in his first of nine World/Olympic tournaments — and was highlighted by a gold medal in the 2002 Worlds., He also won a silver at the 2009 Worlds and bronze medal at the 2007 Worlds.
Byers, a member of the Army’s World Class Athlete Program, also represented the U.S. in the 2008 Olympics, where he won two of three bouts to finish seventh. He earned a silver medal at the 2009 Worlds after he lost to Cuba’s Mijain Lopez Nunez in the finals. He reached the quarterfinals of the 2010 Worlds, but then was defeated. In last year’s Worlds, Byers lost his only match to two-time World bronze medal to Nurmakhan Tinaliev of Kazahkstan.
• Mijain Lopez, Cuba — The 29-year-old has appeared in every World and Olympic competition since 2001 and medaled in seven. In his two Olympic tournaments, Lopez finished fifth in Athens in 2004, where he lost to Russian gold medalist Khassan Baroev, before claiming gold in Beijing where he beat Baroev. Lopez won his first of four World Championships in 2005 before adding titles in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Lopez settled for silver in the 2011 Worlds where he lost to Turkey’s Riza Kayaalp.
• Riza Kayaalp (Turkey) — Just 22 years old, this Turk enters his second Olympics with three consecutive World titles, including a gold-medal performance last September in his home country’s capitol of Istanbul. This came after Kayaalp collected a pair of bronze medals in 2009 and 2010. In his only other Olympics, Kayaalp lost his only bout to Lithuanian Mindaugas Mizgaitis.
• Nurmakhan Tinaliev, Kazahkstan — The 23-year-old first appeared on the World stage on the Senior level in 2009 when he lost his only bout. He followed that with a pair of bronze medals in 2010 — when he beat Baroev but lost to Lopez — and 2011 — when he beat Dremiel Byers in the first round.