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    Saturday, September 19, 2009

    2009 World Wrestling Championships Predictions 

    Every year, TheMat.com, the web page of USA Wrestling, conducts a poll of international wrestling journalists about their predictions for the gold medal winners in the World Wrestling Championships and, when they are held, the Olympic Games. I have been a part of this group for many years now.

    Generally I am not too keen on making public predictions in the combat sports. They can bias your coverage, especially if there is a controversial decision and you want to “prove” your prediction right by crying about the officials. More importantly, they can simplify the analysis that is needed before the competition by not focusing specifically on what each athlete needs to do to win, and is likely to do. Plus, I prefer to be involved in controversies which are usually far more meaningful than debating who will win a particular fight or match. Just like the athletes, I like to pick and choose my battles.

    But wrestling presents a special case because it is so important as a combat sport, and at the same time so poorly marketed, promoted, and presented to the public. It thus still needs all the help it can get, and doing these predictions is not much to ask of me at all.

    The 2009 World Wrestling Championships take place Monday, September 21, through Sunday, September 27, in Herning, Denmark. Universal Sports in the U.S. will provide television coverage with one-hour primetime shows with highlights of the top matches at 7 PM ET nightly from Thursday, October 1, through Sunday, October 4. Also, beginning at 1:30 PM ET Monday, September 21, there will be a free, live, streaming video webcast of all the medal-match finals in each weight class, at UniversalSports.com.

    TheMat.com also has a special coverage section on the World Championships with numerous links and articles, from previews to results when they become available, here.

    We also did a special preview show of No Holds Barred about the 2009 World Wrestling Championships with Gary Abbott, the Director of Communications of USA Wrestling. You can play or download that edition of No Holds Barred here. You can also download it here.

    Among the various international wrestling journalists who have participated in these polls, I have recently finished first in 2007 and tied for first in 2008. Besides a healthy dose of luck, there is no secret to making these predictions. They are based on studying past results, on who has beaten whom on the mat, on looking for wrestlers on hot streaks, on focusing on major international tournaments like the European and Asian Championships as well as past World Championships and Olympics, and on adding in some subjective factors like hometown advantage and old-fashioned hunches.

    This method, of course, still produces numerous incorrect results, as it will no doubt again do this year. Regardless of how accurate, or, rather, inaccurate my predictions turn out to be, they will certainly serve to stimulate interest in the 2009 World Wrestling Championships, and will thus help the sport of wrestling.

    So here are my gold medal predictions for the 2009 World Wrestling Championships:

    55 kg/121 lbs. – Kohei Hasegawa (Japan)
    60 kg/132 lbs. – Islam-beka Albiev (Russia)
    66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Darkhan Bayakhmetov (Kazakhstan)
    74 kg/163 lbs. – Mark Madsen (Denmark)
    84 kg/185 lbs. – Alexej Mishin (Russia)
    96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Aslanbek Khushtov (Russia)
    120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Mijain Lopez (Cuba)

    Women’s freestyle
    48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Clarissa Chun (USA)
    51 kg/112.25 lbs. – Tatyana Bakatyuk (Kazakhstan)
    55 kg/132 lbs. - Saori Yoshida (Japan)
    59 kg/130 lbs. – Johanna Mattsson (Sweden)
    63 kg/138.75 lbs. – Mio Nishimaki (Japan)
    67 kg/147.5 lbs. - Katerina Burmistrova (Ukraine)
    72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Stanka Zlateva (Bulgaria)

    Men’s freestyle
    55 kg/121 lbs. – Viktor Lebedev (Russia)
    60 kg/132 lbs. – Zelimkhan Huseinov (Azerbaijan)
    66 kg/145.5 lbs. – Andriy Stadnik (Ukraine)
    74 kg/163 lbs. – Denis Tsargush (Russia)
    84 kg/185 lbs. – Abdulsalam Gadisov (Russia)
    96 kg/211.5 lbs. – Khadshimourad Gatsalov (Russia)
    120 kg/264.5 lbs. – Beylal Makhov (Russia)

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