Olympic Greco-Roman Wrestling Preview: Russia Looks to Dominate in London

Yahoo Contributor Network

Greco-Roman wrestling was contested at the first modern Summer Olympics in 1896. After a hiatus from the next two Games, it has been included on the Olympic schedule every four years up to the present.

There will be seven weight classes for the sport in London, with competitors at weights ranging from 55 kilograms to 120 kilograms.

Since the collapse of the former Soviet Union and Russia's readmittance to Olympic competition in 1996, Greco-Roman wrestlers performing under the Russian flag have fared well, taking 15 medals, with eight golds.

The following list includes brief profiles of all six of Russia's entrants in London and the top competitors overall in each weight class:

BANTAMWEIGHT: Mingiyan Semenov has performed well so far in 2012 and should be a factor for a medal in London. The cream of the crop in a deep, talented weight class also includes Iran's Hamid Sorian, who has five world titles to his credit, and Azerbaijan's Ravshan Bayramov, the current world champion.

FEATHERWEIGHT: Zaur Kuramagomedov will represent Russia at 60 kilograms in what appears to be a wide-open race for the gold. The best bets for medals include Omid Noroozi of Iran, Almet Kebispayev of Kazakhstan, and South Korea's veteran standout, Jung Ji-Hyun, who won the 2004 Olympic gold medal.

WELTERWEIGHT: Roman Vlasov, an up-and-coming performer at just 21 years of age, has a legitimate shot at the gold at 74 kilograms. Others to watch for include Christophe Guenot of France and Turkey's Selcuk Cebi, a two-time world titlist seeking his first Olympic medal.

MIDDLEWEIGHT: Alan Khugaev is Russia's entrant at 84 kilograms. This weight class also features a pair of top-notch veterans in Alim Selimov of Belarus and Turkey's talented but aging Nazmi Avluca, with Poland's Damian Janikowski the best of the younger competitors.

HEAVYWEIGHT: Rustam Totrov will take to the mat for Russia in the Heavyweight class. He was a bronze medalist at last year's World Championships and has high hopes of a medal in London. Elis Guri of Bulgaria is expected to be in the mix for the gold, as well as Iran's representative, Reza Yazdani, the reigning world champion at 96 kilograms.

SUPER-HEAVYWEIGHT: Khasan Baroev is a two-time Olympic medalist in the Super-Heavyweight class, taking gold in 2004 and following it up with the silver four years ago in Beijing. He will be challenged by Cuban star Mijain Lopez and Turkey's Riza Kayaalp-the current world champion at 120 kilograms. Others who could figure in the medal-podium finishes include Nurmakhan Tinaliev of Kazakhstan and American Dremiel Byers.

Patrick Hattman covers the Olympics for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and looks forward to the drama and excitement of the upcoming London Games.

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