Kyle Snyder and Abdulrashid Sadulaev battled in the most-hyped wrestling match in recent memory at last year's World Senior Freestyle Championships in Paris, and Captain America walked away with his third world or Olympic gold in as many years.
After defeating all other comers, Captain America and "The Russian Tank" will square off again with a world title on the line and potential team title implications in play.
Snyder opened his world title defense in Budapest early Monday morning, and has thus far shown no sign of weakness. From the UWW official recap:
Snyder, the reigning world and Olympic champion, was pushed early in his first match against Batzul ULZIISAIKHAN (MGL). He was trailing 3-1 at one point, but turned up his offense in the second period and pulled away for a five-point victory. Snyder then dominated his next two opponents, winning by technical fall over both Nathaniel TUAMOHELOA (ASA) and Abraham de Jesus CONYEDO RUANO (ITA) to reach tonight's semifinals.
The Ohio State graduate defeated two-time world bronze medalist Pavlo Olinyk of Hungary via 3-0 decision in the semifinals.
Sadulaev, meanwhile, has been cruising through the other side of the bracket:
Sadulaev, an Olympic champion and two-time world champion, was untested in the opening session, picking up three technical falls and outscoring his opposition 35-3. He defeated 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB) 10-0 in the quarterfinals. He now faces Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO), who edged multiple-time world bronze medalist Aslanbek ALBOROV (AZE) 4-3 in the quarterfinals.
The Russian had no trouble upending Odikadze, advancing to the finals on the strength of another 10-0 tech fall. As fans of the sport hoped and many analysts expected, the rivals will face each other for the 97kg world championship for the second straight year.
Snyder vs. Sadulaev Volume 2 is slated for High Noon Tuesday. Streaming is available via TrackWrestling ($), and broadcast coverage is expected to air via NBC Sports' Olympic Channel.
Stieber's Tough Draw
The tournament is already over for another Buckeye legend, Logan Stieber. The four-time NCAA champ and 2016 World Champion at 61kg dropped his first match of the tournament, to Akhmed Chakaev of Russia.
Stieber defeated Chakaev 13-11 at the 2016 world championship en route to winning gold, while the Russian settled for bronze. History was not to be repeated this time, however, as a pair of step-outs in the final period gave Chakaev the 7-5 victory. Unfortunately the Russian did not advance to the finals, so Stieber was not pulled back into repechage and will leave Budapest without a medal.
Defending the Team Title
Team USA is still in the running for a second-straight team title. To put things into perspective, over the previous 44 years, the Russian or Soviet team won 33 world titles, while the U.S. won just three.
Last year, the American team won the title on Kyle Snyder's victory at 97 kg. This year, the team race may again come down to Snyder's ability to win his fourth world or Olympic title in a row.
The U.S. is in a dogfight with Russia in the team race. Team USA entered day three of competition with a 120-113 lead on the Russians, with each team fielding three wrestlers in medal rounds and two each starting their tournaments.
David Taylor won a gold medal for the Americans on Day Two, while Jordan Burroughs, Nick Gwiazdowski and Joe Colon each earned bronze at their respective weight classes.
Kyle Dake and J'Den Cox are wrestling for gold Monday, with Thomas Gilman wrestling for bronze. With Stieber and James Green both out of the tournament, that leaves just Snyder wrestling for gold tomorrow, the final day of freestyle competition.