The owner of some of the most memorable moments at Jersey Mike’s Arena over the past two seasons, four-time All-American Sebastian Rivera, has received his draw and now knows what his path to a world medal looks like in the 65kg bracket at the 2022 United World Wrestling (UWW) World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.
The 2022 NCAA Tournament third-place finisher for the Scarlet Knights, Rivera earned the three seed at the world championships based on his performance while competing at international qualifying tournaments throughout 2022.
Leading up to the world championships, Rivera won both the Matteo Pellicone in Italy and the Grand Prix of Spain, while also picking up a 2nd place finish at the Pan American Championships.
Two of the best wrestlers in the world at 65kg, 2020 Olympic gold medalist Takuto Otoguru of Japan (injury) and Tokyo bronze medalist Gadzhimurad Rashidov of Russia (Russian competition ban) will both miss the tournament, perhaps giving a new face a chance to shine on the big stage.
In terms of his road to a gold medal, Rivera has a bye in the opening round of the tournament and will await the winner of Cavit “Pinot Grigio” Acar, a Turkish wrestler who picked up a bronze medal at the 2021 U23 World Championships and Armon Eloyan of France, a wrestler who’s highest placing internationally appears to be a 5th place finish at the 2018 Junior European Championships, according to the UWW website.
If Rivera can prevail in his second round matchup, he’ll potentially have an opportunity to avenge a stinging loss as the second highest ranked wrestler in his quad is Krzysztof Bienkowski of Poland, the sixth seed, who knocked Rivera out of last year’s tournament.
Rivera was one win away from the opportunity to wrestle for a bronze medal at the 2021 Senior World Championships when he faced off against Bienkowski. It was a match that ended quite controversially, so you have to imagine the former Scarlet Knight has been eager for this moment since last October.
A quarterfinal win here would put Rivera in the semi-finals where he could see his American counterpart at 65kg, Yianni Diakomilhalis, a three-time National Champion from Cornell who looks to end the 16 year medal drought at this weight for the United States.
If the seeds hold true though, Rivera would see second ranked Bajrang Punia of India, a 2020 Olympic bronze medalist who has also claimed a silver and bronze medal at the 2018 and 2019 world championships, respectively. Punia would be Rivera’s toughest test of the year, but a win in this spot would guarantee the Jersey shore native at minimum a silver medal, with a chance to claim gold in the finals.
The two top seeds on the other side of the 65kg bracket that Rivera could see in the finals are both decorated wrestlers with lots of experience on the international circuit. Number one overall seed Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan is the reigning Olympic silver medalist, along with being a three-time world champion (2014, 15, 17), Aliyev also earned a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic games.
The fourth seed, Ismail Muszukajev, is a Russian native who has represented Hungary since 2019, who picked up a bronze medal at that year’s world championships. He wrestles at an incredible pace, but is also known to completely run out of gas late in matches.
The 2022 UWW World Wrestling Championships from Belgrade, Serbia started September 10th with the Greco Roman and Women’s Freestyle slate preceeded the Men’s Freestyle competition, which kicked off his morning (9/15) and will continue until Sunday the 18th.
Rivera will begin his quest for a world medal very early Saturday morning and you can watch his matches via FloWrestling. You can check out his bracket, along with the draws of all the USA wrestlers here.