Top wrestlers to watch in Rio
With the 2016 Rio Games just days away, here are five athletes to keep an eye on when wrestling competition gets underway.
Mijain Lopez, Cuba
Day 10 (Monday, Aug. 15)
Men's Greco-Roman 130kg (286.5 lbs)
The two-time reigning gold medalist will compete at his fourth Olympics. Now 33, Mijain Lopez could join elite company by winning a third straight gold medal. (The only athlete to ever secure three consecutive gold medals in Greco-Roman wrestling is former Russian and Soviet superstar Aleksandr Karelin.) It won't be an easy task though – winning gold may require a rematch with Turkey's Riza Kayaalp. Lopez defeated Kayaalp in the semifinals of the 2012 Games, but Kayaalp flipped the script in the final round of the 2015 World Championships.
Adeline Gray, United States
Day 13 (Thursday, Aug. 18)
Women's freestyle 75kg (165 lbs)
Three-time world champion Adeline Gray (pictured above) currently holds a 38-match winning streak and has emerged as one of the world's most dominant wrestlers. The U.S. has yet to earn Olympic gold in women's wrestling, but Gray could change that, as she is heavily favored to win her division in her Olympic debut. Watch out for her "leg lace," a move that allows her to repeatedly roll her opponents around the mat and rapidly accumulate points.
Jordan Burroughs, United States
Day 14 (Friday, Aug. 19)
Men's freestyle 74kg (163 lbs)
The charismatic Jordan Burroughs has developed into one of Team USA's budding superstars since claiming gold at the London Olympics. A master of a technique called the "double leg," the three-time world champion is ranked No. 1 in the world at 74kg, has only lost two matches in his international career, and enters the Rio Games as the favorite for a second straight gold medal.
Abdulrashid Sadulaev, Russia
Day 15 (Saturday, Aug. 20)
Men's freestyle 86kg (189.5 lbs)
Few wrestlers can claim to have reached as dominant a level as Abdulrashid Sadulaev. The Russian has won back-to-back world titles, giving up just four points combined between all his matches in those two world championship tournaments. As a result, he is in the discussion for best pound-for-pound wrestler in the world and is the favorite at 86kg.
Kyle Snyder, United States
Day 16 (Sunday, Aug. 21)
Men's freestyle 97kg (214 lbs)
Last year, Kyle Snyder became Team USA's youngest ever world champion at 19 years old. In March, he won the NCAA heavyweight championship while wrestling for Ohio State. Now expected to contend for a medal in his first Olympics, a big showdown could be looming in Rio against Russia's Anzor Boltukaev.
Men's Greco-Roman: Team USA's Andy Bisek won a 75kg bronze medal at the 2015 World Championships.
Women's freestyle: U.S. wrestler Helen Maroulis is a reigning world champion at the non-Olympic weight class of 55kg. She will compete at 53kg in Rio. … Japan's Saori Yoshida (53kg) and Kaori Icho (58kg) could make history by becoming the first wrestlers (male or female) to win four gold medals.
Men's freestyle: Team USA's 57kg wrestler Daniel Dennis left the sport for two years – a time which included a five-month stint living out of his truck – before making a comeback in 2015. … Italy's Frank Chamizo is the reigning world champion at 65kg. … Aniuar Geduev was chosen as Russia's 74kg representative and could be Jordan Burroughs' biggest obstacle in his quest for repeat gold. … U.S. 86kg entrant J'den Cox won his second NCAA championship in March while wrestling for the University of Missouri. … Russia's Anzor Boltukaev, nicknamed the "God of Thunder," is ranked No. 1 in the world at 97kg by United World Wrestling. … Russian heavyweight Bilyal Makhov, a 2012 bronze medalist, will compete at 125kg in Rio before transitioning into a mixed martial arts career. He is already signed to a contract with the UFC.