The Panther of Mazandaran

The Junior World Championships in amateur wrestling have always been viewed as a catalyst as it represents the future athletes that will go onto dominate the sport at the senior level.

In 2014 in Zagreb, Croatia this was no different as there was a lot of eyes on American hopeful Aaron Pico.

The amount of hype around Aaron was gargantuan, to say the least, having articles written about him in MMA magazines such as Fighters Only with coaches hailing praise onto him such as American Kickboxing Academy coach Javier Mendez stating that Pico is the finest talent that he had ever seen.

On the wrestling mats he was seen as the man to beat at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro (he, however, failed to qualify at the national Olympic trials).

In Zagreb, Aaron Pico made it to the final, where he was met opposite the Iranian wrestler Hassan Yazdanicharati.

What proved to be shocking was just how non-competitive the match actually was with the Iranian dominating the American hopeful 9-2 en route to an easy win to claim Junior World Championship Gold.

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Taking Gold the following year at the World Cup meant that there was a lot of momentum of the fierce Iranian’s side.

Heading into the 2016 Olympic Games though that was not relevant as nobody was expected to stand atop the podium with that Gold medal around their neck other than the USA’s own Jordan Burroughs, entering the Olympics as a massive 10/11 favourite (massive considering tournament odds) he was expected to run through his opposition, he was the second-biggest favourite in the tournament (including Greco-Roman) to place as a Gold medallist, the first being Dagestan’s Abdulrashid Sadulaev (he did win Gold).

Burroughs drew the Republic of Guinea-Bissau’s Augusto Midana, cruising to an 8-3 victory, dominant but not surprising. In the next round, Burroughs faced a man he had already defeated the year prior, World Bronze medalist Aniuar Geduev. 

Throughout the contest Geduev was able to repeatedly drive Burroughs off of the mat, earning 1 point each time.

Burroughs eventually scored a takedown near the end of the contest earning him 2 points but it was too little too late, Geduev had just shocked the World, putting the Olympic favourite out in the second round.

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Geduev was able to get to the Olympic finals, he had looked very impressive.

All that stood between the Russian and Olympic immortality was the 21-year-old Iranian Hassan Yazdanicharati.

The contest looked as good as over as the Russian dominated Yazdani to a 6 point lead.

The match looked as good as over until suddenly the Iranian started to rally back, racking up point to tie the 6 point lead, this lead to the contest being decided in the Iranian’s favour and just like that, his comeback performance in the Olympic finals helped secure him an Olympic Gold medal.

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The contest was exciting and it had drama and without the presence of Jordan Burroughs it felt like a real wildcard final as Burroughs was expected to win Gold and the fact that he didn’t even recover to win Bronze, he lost his next match 1-11 to Uzbekistan’s Bekzod Abdurakhmonov (who didn’t medal himself).

In 2016, we truly got to see the young Prince of Persia.

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