Last we left off at the conclusion of Part 1, things were bittersweet for young Rashidov.
The two-time Cadet World champion and two-time Junior World medalist had finally made his World debut at the senior level, and he reached the finals in what was a fantastic showing for him.
A tight match with four-time World and Olympic champion Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan left Rashidov desperate for points in the final moments. His Hail Mary head pinch attempt resulted in Aliyev sticking him for the pin.
While Rashidov picked up some of the best wins of his career, including one over World and Olympic champion Vladimir Khinchegashvili in the semifinals, he did not come to Paris for silver, and being pinned is always a massive blow to any wrestler’s pride.
But Rashidov never seemed to be one to lose faith in himself. He’s always gotten right back to work after a setback, showing constant improvement along the way.
He would be back in the World finals before long, assuming he could survive the gauntlet that is the Eastern European freestyle circuit. Wrestlers can take the few remaining months of the year to rest and lick their wounds, but by the new year it’s full speed ahead. Rashidov did not need for tuneups or an extended hiatus, his first competition back was the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix.
After an injury default by his opponent in the qualification round, Rashidov kept his undefeated streak against Americans alive.
In the quarterfinals he met three-time All-American (3rd, 2nd, 1st) and multiple-time freestyle national team member Tony Ramos, the former Iowa Hawkeye. He disposed of Ramos via 11-0 technical fall.
Next was another tightly contested clash with Aleksandr Bogomoev, but Rashidov emerged with the 2-0 victory. The impressive credentials of Bogomoev can be found in Part 1.
In the finals, Rashidov had the opportunity for revenge. He had lost to Ismail Musukaev in the Ali Aliev tournament all the way back in 2012. In 2019 Musukaev transferred to wrestle for Hungary, he has since garnered a bit of a cult following among international freestyle fans.
#2 Ismail MUSUKAEV (HUN)
Musukaev had stayed relatively active since their first meeting, medaling at major tournaments, but the closest he came to representing Russia was during the Olympic year, when Viktor Lebedev was unjustly awared the spot.
Now a shockingly explosive competitor, Musukaev was one of the hardest wrestlers to deny in the world even then, as long as his lungs weren’t failing him. Wrestling a slow, patient pace as Rashidov does is extremely risky against an opportunistic athlete of his caliber.
Cerebral as always, Rashidov kept the match in close quarters, taking away the space Musukaev needed to get to his dynamic motion.
Late in the match as Musukaev wore down, Rashidov picked up his aggression from short offense and knocked Musukaev off his feet with a slick drag from wrist control while snapping down on his head, then pouncing for the go-behind soon after. It was gorgeous.
A 3-2 win earned Rashidov his first Yarygin title, after bronze and silver finishes in the two years prior.
Rashidov followed up this performance by traveling to the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov Ranking Series tournament in March, where he defeated 2015 World bronze medalist Vasyl Shuptar in the finals.
2018 European Championship
In four matches, Rashidov allowed two points to be scored on him.
2016 Yarygin champion and Russian Nationals bronze medalist Nyurgun Skryabin (now wrestling for Belarus) was able to hold off a technical fall, although he was nearly pinned as well, but Rashidov absolutely dominated, 10-1.
Nyurgun SKRYABIN (BLR)
The Russian transfer’s sole point was awarded due to passivity calls on Rashidov.
The semifinals held current #13 Recep Topal of Turkey, who would go on to take bronze, beating Skryabin 6-6 on criteria.
Topal was incredibly stingy on his feet, forcing Rashidov to chain his attacks and chase finishes even when he got a bite on the leg or ankle after a deep entry from the outside. Although he did complete that first takedown, Rashidov switched off to an underhook throw-by for his second score at the end of the period, a technique that would bypass most of Topal’s scrambling and athleticism.
Comfortable with that 4-0 lead, Rashidov played defense for the remainder of the match, wary of Topal’s strength and dynamism.
Georgia’s Beka Lomtadze sat in the finals.
#1 Beka LOMTADZE (GEO)
He had come so close to gold in the 2016 non-Olympic World championship, but Lomtadze hadn’t yet quite reached the level he would rise to in late 2019. This year’s World champion at 61 kg, Lomtadze defeated former #1 Magomedrasul Idrisov of Russia to take his place at the top of the rankings.
In a fantastic match, Rashidov put on a defensive clinic, using his feet and hands to cut the attacks of Lomtadze short before countering with drags, underhook throw-bys, outside singles, and motion from front headlock.
Rashidov picked up his third gold medal of 2018, he was undefeated.
2018 Waclaw Ziolkowski Memorial
In another Ranking Series tournament appearance, Rashidov worked through a deep field to win gold once again.
First was a 6-1 win over 2019 Japanese Nationals bronze medalist Yo Nakata.
In the quarterfinals, Rashidov took out yet another credentialed American, his second Hawkeye, at that. He overwhelmed Cory Clark, a four-time All-American (5th, 2nd, 2nd, 1st), by 11-0 technical fall.
If you’re keeping track that’s Logan Stieber, Cody Brewer, Tony Ramos and Cory Clark that have lost wide to Rashidov.
As much as Rashidov probably enjoys beating Americans, he had no time to celebrate, as a massive Russian threat was ahead in the semis.
#2 Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS)
While his best results were still ahead of him, Idrisov was gearing up for a monster 2018, after taking the majority of 2017 off after a disappointing Yarygin 5th place finish.
An early score by Rashidov gave him the opportunity to focus largely on defense through the rest of the match, and he took it. Idrisov had a hard time getting past the hands of Rashidov and was unable to generate offense, losing 2-1.
Idrisov defaulted out of the bronze match, which was awarded to Cory Clark.
In the finals, Rashidov handled a dangerous 2017 U23 World silver medalist, Kazakhstan’s Kuat Amirtayev.
Amirtayev’s strategy clearly involved letting Rashidov lead, hoping to find counter opportunities. But the Russian’s setups are as clean as his defense, and he picked his spots for a flawless 5-0 win.
The wins over Idrisov and Musukaev, who would wrestle in the 2018 Russian Nationals finals, secured Rashidov his spot on the team.
2018 World Wrestling Championship
In Budapest, Hungary, Rashidov sought to end his perfect year with his first senior World gold. His performance in Rankings Series tournaments earned him a bye to the 1/8th finals.
1/8 Final: Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) df. Tuvshintulga TUMENBILEG (MGL)
#20 Tuvshintulga TUMENBILEG (MGL)
A fan favorite for his high-power attacks, the Mongolian Tumenbileg gave Rashidov everything he had.
Understandably concerned with Rashidov’s rettacks, Tumenbileg worked tirelessly to drive Rashidov to the edge, unleashing when he felt the step-out was near. But the incredible footwork and handfighting of Rashidov kept him in bounds more often than not.
An underhook throw-by off pressure was the clean attack Rashidov needed to gain an edge over Tumenbileg, winning 2-1.
1/4 Final: Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) df. Sonba Tanaji GONGANE (IND)
India’s Gongane still appears to be young in his competitive career, this tournament served as a bit of a debut for him. Since then he has medaled at the U23 Asian Championship (silver) and the Rankings Series tournament City of Sassari (gold).
A respectable resume for an up-and-comer, but nothing close to the dragons Rashidov had slain before.
For the most part, Rashidov worked at a leisurely pace, taking his time finishing his attacks. Once the tech fall was in reach, Rashidov suddenly exploded off the whistle to lift on a double leg, from which he nabbed a cradle to pick up four points.
1/2 Final: Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) df. Beka LOMTADZE (GEO)
Rashidov made a statement in this rematch of the 2018 European Championship finals.
Entry opportunities were not abundant for Rashidov in their first meeting, so to improve upon his performance in a short period of time, Rashidov looked to be more patient in his finishes. If he could trap and arm or cinch up a gut on the way down to the mat, his par terre offense could put up serious points.
So while Rashidov’s reattacks were there as always, he prioritized quick transitions into exposure positions. While we hadn’t seen it for some time, Rashidov’s tight waist and elbow block finished the job.
Final: Yowlys BONNE RODRIGUEZ (CUB) df. Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS)
#9 Yowlys BONNE RODRIGUEZ (CUB)
This match was covered in my career breakdown of YBR, and I have no problem plagiarizing myself to revisit material that has already been detailed.
“In one way, however, his style did favor Yowlys Bonne. He was willing to feel out the match and wrestle at a slower pace, a godsend for a clearly limited Bonne.
By the end of a fairly tepid first period, Bonne’s impressive balance and the threat of his counters kept things close, Rashidov lead by just two points. As the seconds ticked down leading to the break, Bonne unleashed the fireman’s carry heard ‘round the world, a five-point move.
But he still had a full period to fend off a surging Russian. In one of the most anxiety-provoking periods of wrestling of all time, Bonne survived eye pokes, near-pushouts and short offense from Rashidov, holding on just enough to maintain an edge on criteria. At one point, Bonne drops to his butt to elevator counter, fails, and pops back to his feet without giving up exposure.
In one of the gutsiest performances of all time, Yowlys Bonne cemented his status as an international hero and won gold.”
It took a legendary takedown to give Bonne a big enough lead to survive Rashidov, but I’m sure that fact was no consolation to the now two-time World silver medalist.
His undefeated year was over.
With the Olympic year around the corner, Rashidov moved up from the non-Olympic class of 61 kg to 65, a weight class with an even higher concentration of talent.
2019 Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix
But that didn’t mean he wouldn’t be troubled by some familiar faces along the way.
Rashidov’s first match came in the quarterfinals against an all-time great American folkstyle competitor, Zain Retherford.
A 2012 Cadet World champion, Retherford wrestled for the Penn State Nittany Lions where he was a four-time All-American, taking 5th in his true freshman season (in which he defeated senior Logan Stieber), then winning three NCAA titles and two Hodge Trophy awards, the Heisman of college wrestling.
While Retherford has fallen short of accolades at the senior freestyle level thus far, he proved to be a tier above the Americans Rashidov had faced thus far, giving him a highly competitive match.
Earning a point for passivity against Rashidov, Retherford got to the legs twice, the first time being thwarted by Rashidov’s incredible defense but finishing out the back door on his second try.
In the second period, perhaps becoming more comfortable with Retherford’s style of pressure, Rashidov passed the wrists and ducked under for a beautiful go-behind.
Holding off the attacks of Retherford, Rashidov iced the match with under 30 seconds to go, shooting across to the ankle and getting height to expose the American. 4-3, final.
The hard-fought win brought Rashidov to the semifinals, where Akhmed Chakaev was waiting, plotting revenge.
#10 Akhmed CHAKAEV (RUS)
Their last match was an 11-8 barnburner in the Russian National semifinals, the rematch was predictably tense.
The first period ended with just one point on the board, due to passivity by Rashidov.
But in the second, Chakaev struck. Lowering Rashidov with the collar and wrist, Chakaev exploded forward to pick the ankle, Rashidov instantly turned away and kicked, posting on the head and turning away just as he had against Retherford.
But Chakaev prepared himself, once Rashidov kicked away to escape, he was in hot pursuit, driving straight in to blow Rashidov over once his countryman turned in to face him. He planted him on his butt for two.
Rashidov flurried to take back the lead, but the front headlock game of Chakaev kept him away from the legs for long stretches, eating up clock.
Rashidov fell 3-2.
Chakaev went on to win gold, Rashidov wrestled back for bronze.
Rashidov returned to action a few months later at the World Cup held in Russia, where he was active in one match against Japan’s Daichi Takatani.
Daichi TAKATANI (JPN)
After a slick reattack, Rashidov dominated Takatani from the gut wrench to put him away via technical fall in a little over one minute.
Rashidov rested from there. He had taken a domestic loss in his match with Chakaev, he needed to focus fully on earning his third chance at a World title.
2019 Russian Nationals
With Akhmed Chakaev out of action due to injury, Rashidov glided through the early portions of his bracket, his toughest opponent before the quarterfinals was 2018 Korkin bronze medalist Aisen Potapov.
In the quarters he hit his first stiff test, 2017 national runner-up Murshid Mutalimov, now ranked #20 at 65 kg.
#20 Murshid MUTALIMOV (RUS)
The two had wrestled before in 2016, their familiarity led to a tight match.
It was a simple snapdown to go-behind that did the trick for Rashidov, leading him to a 2-1 victory.
In the semifinals Rashidov hit Bekkhan Goygereyev, a 2013 World champion that Rashidov had defeated several times over the years. The two had once been relatively closely matched, but this time around Rashidov punished every attack of the older man and solidified his superiority.
The shutout win took Rashidov to the finals where he would get a fresh challenge – Naachyin Kuular.
#6 Naachyin KUULAR (RUS)
The U23 World champion picked up wins over world #19 Islam Dudaev, 2018 Alans champion Muslim Saidulaev, and world #13 Julian Gergenov on his way to the finals.
Rashidov found most of his own offense off the underhook, mostly looking for his throw-by, but the attacks of Kuular led to dynamic scrambles where Rashidov could exploit small opens and get to the legs for quick finishes.
His par terre offense was not a factor, but Rashidov controlled the match for a 5-2 win.
Rashidov was expected to wrestle-off Akhmed Chakaev for the team spot at the Ziolkowski, but Chakaev was unable to compete and the spot was awarded to Rashidov without further competition.
2019 World Wrestling Championship
At weights like 65 kg, competition was even tougher than usual for some in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
Suspiciously drawn brackets protected the Kazakh side of many brackets, loading up one half with most of the serious talent. At 65, one side had a two-time Korkin medalist Tulga Tumur Ochir, Kazakhstan’s 2011 World bronze and three-time Asian champion Daulet Niyazbekov, and the #1 at the time, Bajrang Punia.
The other side held: then top 5 ranked Alejandro Valdes Tobier, Zain Retherford, Ismail Musukaev, Vladimir Khinchegashvili, Gadzhimurad Rashidov, Haji Aliyev, and returning World champion Takuto Otoguro.
Not exactly balanced. That’s how you end up with first-round matches like this:
Qualification: Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) df. Haji ALIYEV (AZE)
Rashidov’s revenge did not come without controversy.
Their first meeting in the 2017 World finals was close, but ended with Rashidov being pinned. This time, two-time World finalist Rashidov and four-time World and Olympic champion Aliyev put on a show with another chaotic finale.
In the first period, both men stayed active, short flurries saw both avoid precarious positions, but neither was able to get to the legs on a clean attack.
In the second, each began to take chances and open up for elite scrambling exchanges.
Getting to his underhook throw-by, Rashidov caught the ankle of Aliyev and shelved the leg, transitioning to rear-standing against the Olympic champion.
In a stroke of brilliance and balance, Aliyev worked to peel the hands and threw his hips forward, arching his back against Rashidov, who broke down to his knees. As soon as he felt space, Aliyev spun back into Rashidov, knocking him to his butt for two.
Then it was time for Aliyev to get to his own signature attack, shooting from his knees off the reaching arm of Rashidov for a swing single entry. Rashidov sprawled hard and pushed Aliyev’s face into the mat, controlling the ankle in preparation for Aliyev’s finish attempt.
As Aliyev looked to finish out the back door, Rashidov based on his own head to keep from exposing and emerged as the taller man in the scramble, hustling for the go-behind as Aliyev was briefly out of position. 3-2 Rashidov.
With just 20 seconds remaining, Aliyev got back on the attack, dropping for the ankle and transitioning to a head outside single. Rashidov turned and kicked out, then doubled down on his sprawl to avoid the desperate reach of Aliyev, who was now extended on his knees. Spinning effortlessly for the go-behind, Rashidov struggled to find a grip from rear-standing as Aliyev arched back and turned in once again.
Aliyev escaped, then began his final assault with 10 seconds remaining. Snapping Rashidov down, Aliyev ran his feet and reached for the ankle as he chased the go-behind, but Rashidov stepped back and turned in with little trouble. Aliyev wasted no time, pushing Rashidov’s elbow through and dropping for the far ankle, pouncing for rear-standing position as Rashidov turned his back and kicked away.
Rashidov stood quickly to avoid the takedown and began to run himself to the edge as the clock ticked down. In an extremely risky, perhaps brilliant maneuver, Rashidov realized Aliyev would likely score the winning push-out if he ran straight out. Instead, right before stepping out, Rashidov turned in toward Aliyev, pulling Aliyev’s wrist across his waist and raising his elbow to throw back the other arm.
The other side of this debate is that Rashidov obviously exposed his back. Ultimately, the officials ruled that Aliyev went out first, and Rashidov succeeded with this move.
Obviously, that exchange does not pass the eye test for most fans and there was international outrage. Nonetheless, there is ground within the rules to justify the win for Rashidov and he moved on.
1/16 Final: Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) df. Amr Reda Ramadan HUSSEN (EGY)
In a rare “easy” match in this bracket, Rashidov was able to take his foot off the gas against the Egyptian. There were reports that Rashidov was dealing with some semi-serious injuries after the Aliyev match, and that may explain his frankly lackadaisical 5-3 performance.
1/8 Final: Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) df. Takuto OTOGURO (JPN)
As a big fan of 2018 World champion Otoguro, this one stung a bit, but it was an incredibly masterful performance from Rashidov.
#3 Takuto OTOGURO (JPN)
Otoguro won his World title largely from attacks chaining off of his snapdowns, hitting angles from front headlock or blasting double legs when his opponents postured back up.
Knowing this, Rashidov prevented Otoguro from getting a secure hold of his neck and head and absolutely refused to be snapped down.
In one of Rashidov’s most defensive performances, he was definitely helped by the officials, who oddly enough directed their passivity calls at Otoguro, who was the one trying to create exchanges.
This played right into Rashidov’s hands, Otoguro grew increasingly frustrated and desperate, he left himself vulnerable as his attacks became reckless.
The most significant offense of the match came from Otoguro standing tall to latch onto the front headlock, from which Rashidov dropped down for an explosive double leg, lifting for the four point finish.
An 8-1 decision over the returning champion led Rashidov to the quarterfinals.
1/4 Final: Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) df. Haji Mohamad ALI (BRN)
Haji Ali’s win over Alejandro Valdes Tobier was suspicious. Tobier repeatedly threw himself to his back, and Cubans have been known to drop matches for the right price. However, he has truly had a solid few years, his 2019 was highlighted by a Yasar Dogu silver medal, an injury forced him to forfeit in the finals.
#17 Haji Mohamad ALI (BRN)
It was a vintage Rashidov performance, sharp reattacks and a powerful gut wrench put him up 9-0, and he cruised to the end.
1/2 Final: Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) df. Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN)
Our old friend Musukaev (name change due to the transfer to Hungary) was having a hell of a tournament.
In cycles of incredible sprints and hilarious fatigued theatrics, Musukaev put up 42 points on his way to the semis, knocking off Vladimir Khinchegashvili on his way.
For the first time, Rashidov and Musukaev met outside of domestic competition. The dynamics were largely the same as their last match, but Musukaev had kicked his athleticism into another gear when he moved up to 65 kg.
While Musukaev was not overwhelmed by Rashidov’s motion, ultimately he showed the significant technical gap between the two. It took a lightning-strike head outside single attempt for Musukaev to finally get to the legs, and the Russo-Hungarian was able to sprint and catch the back of Rashidov as he turned to kick out.
Ultimately Rashidov was in control, and he held position for a 3-2 win over an extremely dangerous opponent.
Final: Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS) df. Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ)
#14 Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ)
From the “weaker” side of the bracket emerged Kazakhstan’s Niyazbekov, a hoss among hosses. You may have read about the stocky brawler in the Yowlys Bonne Rodriguez career breakdown.
Niyazbekov did not have much fan support heading into the final. In the semis he won a controversial call against international sweetheart and #1 ranked Bajrang Punia, the officials awarded points to Niyazbekov off Punia’s successful move on the edge, for whatever reason.
It’s also worth noting that Niyazbekov was not called for repeatedly fouling Bajrang, clawing at his skin and roughing him up at every opportunity. Could Niyazbekov force an ugly match out of Rashidov?
The powerful forward pressure of Niyazbekov opened up the underhook for Rashidov, who was poised and ready to hit his throw-by, which led straight into his tight waist from par terre.
Even from Niyazbekov’s best position – front headlock, Rashidov was able to recover his posture and move Niyazbekov around from underhooks, an impressive physical feat.
Once he had effectively countered Niyazbekov’s offense, Rashidov got to his own, moving the well-muscled wrestler off front headlock and overwhelming him with his motion. It was his cleanest performance of the tournament.
11-0, technical fall.
After three straight appearances in the finals, Gadzhimurad Rashidov was a World champion.
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