With five berths for the Games up for grabs, Amouzad and Japanese Takuto Otoguro will headline a star-studded freestyle 65kg contests in Belgrade today.
In the absence of Otoguro on the global stage since his gold-winning run at the Tokyo Olympics, Amouzad has emerged as the dominant force of the weight class.
Nicknamed ‘Ruthless Rahman’, the 22-year-old Iranian stormed to the world gold in the Serbian capital last year but the scale of today’s campaign is in stark contrast with the previous one as 45 wrestlers will hope to have a decent finish – compared to 27 participating a year ago.
“I’ve worked my socks off in the training camps in recent months and will head to the World Championships in top form,” the Iranian, who won the Asian gold in April despite being far from his best, said last week.
“I’m thrilled to see all major contenders of the division coming to Belgrade. I don’t care who I will face as I’m in the peak of my physical and mental conditions,” added the Iranian.
Otoguro and Amouzad are in the same half of the draw and are likely to go head-to-head in the quarterfinals, a bout described as a “must-watch battle” by the United World Wrestling.
“Otoguro has been the weight’s most dangerous offensive threat since 2018 when he became the youngest Japanese male to win world gold. He’s a guy with cat-like reflexes, is highly elusive, and isn’t afraid to give up a point to get a point. His counter-offensive abilities make him super dangerous. He gets to his angles better than anyone in the weight. Though he has changed his style a little, Otoguro will need his old-school run-and-gun mentality to take out Amouzad,” UWW wrote of the Japanese.
“Amouzad is a tactician when it comes to breaking down his opponents – mentally and physically. He’s a guy with relentless forward pressure and a bottomless gas tank. He uses that patented Iranian underhook to close the distance on his opponents and control the mat area. He’s only 22 years old but remains poised like a veteran in close matches. He’s confident wrestling in a phone booth but can attack from space, and that makes him a nightmare to wrestle.
“This match comes down to Otoguro’s ability to solve Amouzad’s underhook and put six consecutive minutes together. On the other side, Amouzad has to be methodical when picking his shots and anticipate where and when Otoguro’s going to reattack.”
Also in the 65kg mix are three-time world champion Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Russian-born Hungarian Iszmail Muszukajev, a winner of double world bronzes, including last year.
Beaten by Otoguro in the Olympic final two years ago, Aliyev, 32, will hope to finish an illustrious career with a third successive medal in the Games next year, though he was thoroughly the second best against the young Iranian at the world event last year, falling to a 9-2 defeat before missing out on the bronze against Muszukajev.
The other contestant fancying his chances of glory in Belgrade is Russian Shamil Mamedov, taking part as a neutral athlete, who will step onto the mat on the back of a world junior gold in 2021 and the ultimate prize at Yasar Dogu Tournament last year in Istanbul.
Mongolian Tulga Tumur Ochir, who won the bronze in 2021, and reigning European and world under-23 champion Vazgen Tevanyan of Armenia, as well as American Nicholas Lee – victorious over last year’s silver winner John Diakomihalis in the domestic qualifiers – will also be the ones to watch in the 65kg class today.
Amouzad has insisted on several occasions that he has already set his sights of joining the long list of the decorated Iranians in the history of the sport and today’s event in Belgrade, the city in which he made his senior breakthrough, seems like a fitting challenge toward that stature.