For the third straight year, a major global championship in 130kg Greco-Roman wrestling will come down to a battle between Mijain Lopez and Riza Kayaalp.
Lopez, now a four-time Olympian, is one of the most accomplished wresters competing in Rio. With a win today, the Cuban could win his third straight gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling. Only Aleksander Karelin has done that. He would also be just the ninth wrestler in any discipline to accumulate three Olympic gold medals in their careers.
Meanwhile Kayaalp, who is from Turkey, is the reigning world champion and enters as the world’s No. 1 ranked wrestler in the 130kg division.
At the 2012 Games, Lopez and Kayaalp met in the semifinals. Lopez won the match and went on to take gold; Kayaalp ended up with bronze.
Lopez and Kayaalp also met in the final round of the world championships each of the last two years. Lopez won the match in 2014, Kayaalp won in 2015.
Once again a gold medal will be on the line when they face off in the 130kg final coming up during the medal round session of wrestling this afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET; live stream on NBCOlympics.com).
Neither Lopez nor Kayaalp gave up a single point in the preliminary rounds. They each won three matches to reach the final.
Kayaalp was particularly dominant en route to the final, winning his first match by technical fall, then pinning Azerbaijan’s Sabah Shariati just over a minute into his quarterfinal bout. Kayaalp ended his semifinal match with Germany’s Eduard Popp in less than two minutes after a well-executed gut wrench allowed him to repeatedly turn Popp enough times for another technical fall.
The Gold Medal match in the 85kg division will feature reigning world champion Zhan Beleniuk of Ukraine against world No. 3 Davit Chakvetadze of Russia.
Both Americans competing this morning were knocked out in their opening matches. Two-time Olympian Ben Provisor, competing at 85kg, lost 6-3 to Uzbekistan’s Rustam Assakalov. Robby Smith, Team USA’s 130kg entrant, took an 8-2 defeat at the hands of Azerbaijan’s Sabah Shariati. Neither U.S. wrestler is eligible for the repechage.
85kg Greco-Roman quarterfinals
Beleniuk (UKR) wins by tech fall 10-1 vs. Bayryakov (BUL)
Lorincz (HUN) wins 2-1 vs. Assakalov (UZB)
Hamzatau (BLR) wins by tech fall 9-0 vs. Hrustanovic (AUT)
Chakvetadze (RUS) wins by tech fall 8-0 vs. Kudla (GER)
85kg Greco-Roman semifinals
Beleniuk (UKR) wins 6-0 vs. Hamzatau (BLR)
Chakvetadze (RUS) wins 7-1 vs. Lorincz (HUN)
85kg Greco-Roman final
Beleniuk (UKR) vs. Chakvetadze (RUS)
130kg Greco-Roman quarterfinals
Kayaalp (TUR) wins by fall (1:03) vs. Shariati (AZE)
Lopez (CUB) wins 4-0 vs. Euren (SWE)
Popp (GER) wins 3-1 vs. Babajanzadeh (IRI)
Semenov (RUS) wins 5-0 vs. Kajaia (GEO)
130kg Greco-Roman semifinals
Kayaalp (TUR) wins by tech fall 8-0 vs. Popp (GER)
Lopez (CUB) wins 3-0 vs. Semenov (RUS)
130kg Greco-Roman final
Kayaalp (TUR) vs. Lopez (CUB)