The Beach Wrestling World Series returns to the sandy circles for its fourth edition, and the season opener is just a short time away as the first stop takes place near the Olympic Training Center in beautiful Buenos Aires. Seven of the eight reigning world champions, several former title holders and familiar faces will travel to South America. The registration list features the longest ever list of beach wrestlers competing for the first time, as well as several participants from more than a dozen countries that are completely new to the World Series.
This is the Series’ second South American stop, having visited Brazil in its inaugural season and will come hot on the heels of Wrestling’s Pan-American championships which will take place in Buenos Aires immediately before the sand starts to fly. The Argentine capital provides a stunning backdrop for the duel of superstars on the sand - it will be great to see and hear the South American passion and flair on the beach as the action unfolds.
The Buenos Aires stop is also the penultimate chance to gain ranking points for the ANOC World Beach Games, which take place in Bali in August. Only one athlete per country will qualify for the World Beach Games in their weight division, so every ranking point gained could prove vital for the wrestlers as they bid to make the list.
The interest in this stop was enormous with over 140 athletes (50 women and 91 men) from 30 countries, including for the first time the Bahamas, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Jamacia, Japan, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela, making this the largest field of World Series participants to date.
It promises to be quite the opener as the quest to be the kings and queens of the sand gets underway.
First up is the woman’s division where Stefania PRICEPUTU (ROU, 50kg) will be looking to get the defence of her title off to a winning start. Emine CATALOGLU (TUR) has her eye on dethroning Priceputu having seen her beaten in the 2022 final leg in Constanta. There are also Beach Wrestling World Series debuts for Panama, Peru and Venezuela in this division as Yusneiry Najai AGRAZAL WEST (PAN), Nathaly Marilu HERRERA HUACRE (PER) and Naiyeliz Silvana GUTIERREZ RIVAS (VEN) take to the sand for the first time.
Having not taken part last year, the 2021 60kg queen of the sand, Italy’s Francesca INDELICATO has registered to make a return to the sandy circle and will be in the hunt for gold. With no Ukrainian team travelling to Argentina, current 60kg champion Iryna KHARIV will miss out this time which could open the door for Elena IONESCU. The Romanian finished third in 2022. Keep an eye out also for Mia MACALUSO (USA) and Maria BAEZ DILONE (ESP) who impressed in the category last season and currently both sit in the top 10 in the rankings.
70kg World Champion Adina IRIMIA from Romania will make her way to Argentina looking to get her year off to a winning start but with a host of new names registered for this category it could be a tricky proposition as at least six debutants will showcase their talents on the beach. Will Adina’s experience give her the edge, or will a newcomer take the gold?
In the women’s +70kg back-to-back World Champion Catalina AXENTE (ROU) returns looking to make it a three-peat of titles; however the Greek pair, Series bronze medallist Stefania ZACHEILA and Aikaterini Eirini PITSIAVA, who ended the rankings in 5th last season, will want to put their own markers down to set the tone for the season. There are also debuts in the category for Venezuela’s Maria Jose ACOSTA, Barbados’ Ricandrea BECKLES and Colombian Tatiana RENTERIA.
Over to the men’s, the golden Georgian, triple World Series Champion Levan KELEKHSASHVILI (70kg) has an unprecedented quadruple World Series Championship Gold in his sights as he returns to the sand looking to retain the form that saw him dominate the division. It won’t be an easy task though, as he could come up against stiff opposition from Azerbaijani Rubali IBRAHIMLI. Challenges from one of the newcomers to the division could spice up this category as there are debutants from nine new countries including Yoshiki YAMADA (JPN), Albaro RUDECINDO CAMACHO (DOM) and Jordan Mitchell (JAM).
In the 80kg weight category, another glorious Georgian and current world champion, Nika KENTCHADZE, will be looking to continue his reign as king of the sand. The 26-year-old will face a big challenge from, amongst others, Azerbaijan’s Ramiz HASANOV who will be having golden dreams of his own having stepped up from the -70kg category he competed in last time round. USA’s Jamal MORRIS and Latrell DAVIS are also in the mix.
As in all weight classes this season, debutants like Manuel BROWN (PAN), Hirotaka ABE (JPN) and Justin BOYCE (BAR) will be competing, all hoping to be in the mix at the end of the leg.
Ibrahim YUSUBOV (AZE) knows his way to gold, and the current 90kg king of the sand will have that golden glint in his eye again as he makes his way to start the defence of his title. He won’t have it all his own way though, as silver medallist from the last edition, Davit KHUTSISHVILI (GEO) will have redemption in his sights when he looks to bounce back with a title tilt of his own. Muhammad INAM (PAK) had become his country’s first ever gold medal winner back in 2021 with victory in Rome; and he will be flying the flag as Pakistan’s only competitor in Argentina hungry to bring the gold back. Can he challenge Yusubov and Khutsishvili?
Fatih YASARLI (TUR) holds the +90kg title having just pipped Georgia’s Mamuka KORDZAIA to the top spot; both men will want to lay down a marker to the rest of the field with a win as the Series gets underway. With “The Big Gun” Oyan NAZARIANI (AZE) back from an injury that saw him miss the majority of last season, there could be a three-way battle for the title. Unless one of the debutants will sweep the legs of everyone and come from nowhere to take the gold in Argentina.
It promises to be an amazing opening leg of the Beach Wrestling World Series full of throws, thrills, and spills for the beginning of the campaign in beautiful Buenos Aires. If you can’t be there in person then watching the live stream is the next best thing as all of the action is available on the official YouTube channel.