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Andy’s Angles: No Championship Event Matches Worlds
By Andy Hamilton
I’m guessing you didn’t click on this link to read about me. You probably want to hear more about Jordan Burroughs and James Green and all the others world-class wrestlers, who took the mat Saturday inside Orleans Arena.
But stick with me for a minute.
I’ve never really had a great desire to cover the classic events than most of my colleagues would put at the top of their sports reporting bucket lists. Give me a World Championships in Russia over the Super Bowl. I’ll take a World Cup in Iran over the Final Four. The Olympics would be great, but I’d be content just going for the days set aside for wrestling.
Fact is, I didn’t care if the World Championships were in Las Vegas or Las Cruces. In my mind, this was a can’t-miss event.
Somehow, though, being here for the past six days blew away my grandest expectations.
Until you see the planet’s best wrestlers up close and in person, it’s hard to fully comprehend their immense talents.
I’ve never seen a man the size of Geno Petriashvili — the Georgian who won bronze at heavyweight in freestyle — take shots in rapid-fire succession, not to mention his celebratory gymnastics exhibition.
I’ve watched thousands of heavyweight matches, but prior Saturday, I can’t recall ever seeing simultaneous sub-minute technical falls at any level, let alone in the World semifinals.
At some point, I’ll go back and many of the same matches again on video. I want to see how Georgia’s Vladimer Khinchegashvili erased a three-point deficit in 30 seconds with a scramble takedown and the slickest duck-under you’ll ever see to stun 2013 World champ Hassan Rahimi of Iran in the match for gold at 57 kilograms.
I want to see that headlock that India’s Narsigh Pancham Yadav used to launch France’s Zelimkhan Khadjiev for a fall after trailing 12-4 in the final minute of the bout for bronze at 74 kilograms. There’s no such thing as a 100-percent foolproof lead in international wrestling anymore, and that makes it great.
I could write a book on Burroughs or Russian teen phenom Abdulrashid Sadulaev (Next goal: Learn how to speak Russian). Besides their monstrous skill sets and historic feats, they’re guys who enjoy the platform they’ve been given.
Burroughs spent roughly a half hour fielding questions from reporters after his fourth title. He was charismatic, candid and funny. Judging by the laughter of the Russian media and the smile on his face during his interview session Friday night, I’m guessing the same description fits Sadulaev as well.
I watched Sadulaev stop time and again to pose for photos this week with fans from all across the globe. On the other end of the spectrum, I watched heartbroken wrestlers — Brent Metcalf, Reece Humphrey, Jake Herbert and Tony Ramos, just to name a few — come out and answer questions from the media minutes after crushing defeats.
The point is, they were accessible to people who care about wrestling, in good times and less than idyllic circumstances.
People whose names I’ll never know left me with lasting memories from this week.
The Mongolians who sat in the front row Thursday, cheering with such joy as one of their own qualified for a bronze medal match.
The young Italian boy, sitting right behind me Saturday, who yelled louder than anyone in the building all week.
The Iranian with the horn, who played relentlessly from start to finish Saturday, no matter if his favorite wrestlers were getting techs or getting teched.
The American fans who roared when Kyle Snyder and Burroughs made the gold-lined march to the top of the podium.
Mostly, though, I’ll remember the fans who shoved aside language and political barriers, applauding wrestlers from rival countries in the name of appreciation for the sport.