When the 2019 Wrestling World Championships begin on Saturday, Kazakhstan's Nur-Sultan will see action across 30 weight classes. However, just 18 of these weight classes will offer quota places for competitors.
While in the men's freestyle event, 57kg, 65kg, 74kg, 86kg, 97kg and 125kg will offer six quota spots each for next year's Olympics, 60kg, 67kg, 77kg, 87kg, 97kg and 130kg will be the quota weight classes for Greco-Roman wrestling. In women's wrestling, 50kg, 53kg, 57kg, 62kg, 68kg and 76kg are the events to watch out for, with six quota spots in each weight class on offer.
Here's a look at the Indian contenders in each of the 18 categories besides the biggest contenders from across the world:
Men's freestyle 57kg
Featuring Turkey's Suleyman Atli, who was a bronze medallist at the last World Championships, and Russian Zaur Uguev, who is the reigning world champion, this weight class will test the mettle of Ravi Kumar Dahiya, who made it to the Indian team after outfoxing the likes of Sandeep Tomar, Rahul Aware and Utkarsh Kale. Ravi has already given early signs of his promise by winning silver at the U-23 World Championships in November last year.
The weight class also features Japan's Yuki Takahashi, who was named by the UWW as the 2017 Breakout Wrestler of the Year, and Kazakh grappler Nurislam Sanayev, last year's silver medallist.
Men's freestyle 65kg
India's Bajrang Punia is the top seed in the 65kg freestyle category. Image courtesy: Wrestling Federation of India
Not surprisingly, this is the category that will grab all the eyeballs as far as India is concerned. Bajrang Punia, who finished with a silver medal in the last edition, has emerged as one of India's best hopes for a medal at the Tokyo Olympics next year. But before that, he needs to navigate the minefield that this weight class represents. For, it features Japan's Takuto Otaguro, the man who handed Bajrang that defeat a year ago in the World Championships final. Over the past few months, he has claimed gold medals at the Yasar Dogu tournament, Tbilisi Grand Prix, Asian Championships, Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov tournament, and Ali Aliev Wrestling Tournament. He comes into the Worlds as the World No 1 and the top seed.
The other contenders in this category include Selahattin Kilicsallayan of Turkey and Sayatbek Okassov, who Bajrang beat in the final of the Asian Championships.
Azerbaijan's three-time world champion and Rio Olympics bronze medallist Haji Aliyev and Russia's two-time Worlds silver medallist Gadzhimurad Rashidov also feature in this weight class. The Russian has moved up weight classes and will add to the already tough mix.
Men's freestyle 74kg
Sushil Kumar is returning to the World Championships after eight years. Image courtesy: Wrestling Federation of India
Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar will return to the World Championships competition after a span of eight years looking to seal a quota for the Olympics. While the top six spots in all categories assure a quota spot, Sushil will be keen to win a medal to prove his detractors wrong. His gold in 2010 was the last time an Indian wrestler stood on the top spot of the podium at the Worlds. Standing in his way are the formidable figures of Italian Frank Chamizo and American Jordan Burroughs. The Italian is the top seed, with two World Championships medals to his name beside an Olympic bronze. His achievements are dwarfed only by Burroughs who has four World Championship golds besides being the 2012 London Olympics champion. The American also has a pair of bronze medals at the Worlds.
Adding their names to the mix are Russia's Zaurbek Sidakov and Georgia's Avtandil Kentchadze. Sidakov's gold medal at last year's Budapest World Championships marks him as one of the favourites, but what makes him even more menacing is how he got to that gold: He took down both Chamizo and Burroughs en route! His rival in that final was Kentchadze.
Men's freestyle 86kg
With reigning world champion David Taylor missing this edition after undergoing surgery on his knee " an injury he picked up during his Beat The Streets showdown with Drew Foster " the Iranian Hassan Yazdanicharati and Turkey's Fatih Erdin have risen to the tag of favourites.
Erdin was a silver medallist at last year's World Championships and starts this edition as the top seed. The second seeding, meanwhile, has gone to Boris Makoev, who is a silver medallist at the 2017 World Championships and a bronze winner in the 2015 edition. Yazdanicharati, meanwhile, also has the credentials to be called the favourite. After all, he has won Olympic and World Championship gold medals in the past.
Representing India in this category will be young Deepak Punia, who won India's first Junior World Championships gold medal in 18 years in August this year. He bolstered his reputation in the senior category with medals at Sassarri and Yasar Dogu ranking tournaments. Then Punia overcame Pawan Kumar in the national trials to seal a spot at the World Championships. Not just that, he will be the fourth seed in the 86kg weight class.
Men's freestyle 97kg
This is the weight class which will have the eyes of the wrestling world trained on it for it features the clash of titans: Russia's Abdulrashid Sadulaev and America's Kyle Snyder. The US grappler is a two-time World Championships gold medallist besides being the Rio Olympic champion. The Russian is a three-time world champion besides also being an Olympic medallist. But since the Rio Olympics, the duo has met twice in the final of the World Championships. While Snyder won the 2017 title at Paris, Sadulaev got revenge a year later in Budapest. With them getting the top two seedings, it could be the third time they meet in the final.
Mausam Khatri is India's entry in this weight class. He sealed his spot at the World Championships by beating Satyawart Kadian in the national trials.
Men's freestyle 125kg
This weight class has become the fiefdom of two men: the Georgian Geno Petrishvili and the Turk Taha Akgul. The two have shared the spoils at every World Championships since 2014. While Akgul is the reigning Olympic gold medallist in the weight class besides being a two-time World champion, Petrishvili comes to the 2019 World Championships seeking his third consecutive gold at the Worlds. At the recent European Championships, he was handed a resounding defeat at the hands of the Turk, a loss he will want to avenge.
China's Deng Zhiwei is seeded second, while USA's Nicholas Gwiazdowski, a two-time world bronze medallist, is seeded fourth.
India's entry in this category is Sumit Malik, who beat Satender in the national trials to book his ticket to Kazakhstan.
Women's wrestling 50kg
Ukraine's Oksana Livach will be the top seed in this category after the high-rated Japanese grappler Yui Sasaki was beaten in the Japanese national trials by Yuki Irie for a spot at the Worlds. Livach was a bronze medallist last time around, and standing in her way will be the China's Sun Yunan, who is a bronze medallist as well at the last edition of the World Championships as well as the Rio Olympics, and Turkey's Evin Demirhan, who is a bronze medallist from the 2017 World Championships.
But the surprise second seed in this weight class is India's Seema, who won a gold medal at the Yasar Dogu and Sassari ranking series tournament which propelled her to World No 3 ranking and earned her the second seed in this category. While India's most prolific female wrestler, Vinesh Phogat, moved up into the 53kg weight class, Seema dropped into the 50kg category after starting the season in the 53kg event.
The other big name in this event is Mariya Stadnik, who has three Olympic medals to her name.
Women's wrestling 53kg
Having moved into the 53kg weight class, the World Championships will be a real test of Vinesh Phogat's credentials. Image courtesy: Wrestling Federation of India
USA's Sarah Hildebrandt starts as the top seed in this weight class after reigning world champion Haruna Okuno lost in the Japanese national trials to Mayu Mukaida. Makaida is the reigning 55kg world champion, but she dropped to the 53kg recently. A gold medal at the Ivan Yariguin ranking series event and a bronze at the Dan Kolov have underlined her title credentials coming into the World Championships. The bronze medallists from last year, China's Pang Qianyu and Diana Weicker of Canada, are the second and third seeds respectively.
The category also has the imposing presence of Sweden's Safia Mattsson, who has six medals at the World Championships, and Vanesa Kaladzinskaya, who is a two-time Worlds champion.
India's Vinesh Phogat will have to contend with this minefield of a group if she has to seal a medal or even just seal a quota place for Tokyo Olympics. Ranked sixth in the world, Vinesh has won three consecutive medals at the Grand Prix of Spain, Yasar Dogu and Poland Open events after switching to the new weight class.
Women's wrestling 57kg
Not unexpectedly, China's Ningning Rong is the top seed in this category. She's the reigning champion and is undefeated so far this season, wrapping up titles at the Asian Championships, Klippan Lady Open and the Dan Kolov championship. In fact, her almost unbeaten streak has continued ever since she won the World Championships in Budapest last year. Almost, because she lost the final of the U23 World Championships.
The woman to hand Rong that defeat is Norway's Grace Bullen, who is seeded second. And while Odunayo Adekuoroye from Nigeria and Hungary's Emese Barka are the third and fourth seeds respectively, arguably the biggest name in the mix is that of Japan's Risako Kawai. She's dropped down from the 59kg weight class and edged out Kaori Icho in the trials back home to seal her ticket to Kazakhstan. In the 59kg, she was a gold medallist at Rio Olympics three years ago, besides being World Championships gold medallist in 2017 and 2018. India will be represented by Sarita Mor in the weight class. Sarita edged out World Championships bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda, who now competes in the 59kg category, which is not an Olympic category.
Women's wrestling 62kg
The biggest curiosity in this loaded weight class is the presence of Petra Olli. The Finnish grappler dropped down from the 65kg weight class and has been the flagbearer of Finland's wrestling for a few years, winning a silver and a gold in the Worlds. Now in the 62kg category, she will have the likes of Bulgaria's Taybe Mustafa Yusein and Brazil's Lais Nunes De Oliveira contending for the gold. Yusein was the world champion last year in 62kg while Oliveira proved her credentials with a victory over World Championships bronze medallist Mallory Maxine Velte in the Pan American Games.
Japan's Yukako Kawai had a blockbuster 2018, winning the gold in the U23 World Championships and a silver in the senior Worlds last year. She's locked up the third seed over Hungary's Marianna Sastin. India's Sakshi Malik, who was one of the only two medallists at Rio Olympics in 2016, is also in this group.
Women's wrestling 68kg
Ukraine's Alla Cherkasova has impeccable credentials coming into the World Championships. She's not only the World No 1, but has also won medals at 12 consecutive tournaments, a string of results dating back to 2016! Understandably, she's the top seed in this weight class. The only wrestler with as good a resume as Cherkasova is the second-seeded American, Tamyra Mensah. Mensah comes into the World Championships undefeated in this season with gold medals at the Ivan Yariguin, Dan Kolov and the City of Sassari Tournament!
The person with the most to prove in this weight class is undoubtedly Maryia Mamashuk. She has the Rio Olympics silver medal to her credit, but has never medalled at the Worlds.
Also in the mix is Divya Kakran, who won gold at the Grand Prix of Spain this season besides a bronze in the Asian Wrestling Championships.
Women's wrestling 76kg
Turkey's Yasemin Adar has a gold medal at the Worlds and a silver. Yet, her position as the top seed in the weight class looks shaky when you stack her credentials against that of Adeline Maria Gray, who is a four-time World Champion, her titles ranging from 2012 to 2018. Adar comes into this Worlds at the back of gold medals at the Dan Kolov and European Championships. But in Gray she will face someone who knows exactly how to peak at the right moment.
Germany's Aline Focken and Canadian grappler Erica Wiebe round up the seeds in this weight class. Wiebe is the Rio Olympics gold medallist and is coming into this tournament on the back of a hot streak. India will be represented in this weight class by Kiran.
Greco-Roman wrestling 60kg
If Russia's Sergey Emelin starts as the top seed in this weight class, Korea's Seunghak Kim is the grappler coming into the World Championships on a hot streak of form. Emelin is the reigning World Champion while third seed Victor Ciobanu was the losing finalist at Budapest 2018. At that World Championships, Kim finished a lowly 28th! But in 2019, he has been a different beast, winning gold medals at the City of Sassari Tournament, the Hungarian Grand Prix, and the Oleg Karavaev event, besides almost winning bronze at the Grand Prix of Zagreb. Those four results propelled him into the second seeding spot for the World Championships.
Ciobanu and Emelin have emerged as the rivalry to watch out for in this weight class over the past few months, trading victories. India's representative in this category is Manish.
Greco-Roman wrestling 67kg
Artem Surkov may be the top seed in the weight class, but ever since he won the World Championships in Budapest last year, he's not won a title at a major event. The Russian ended up with a silver at the Dan Kolov tournament and the Grand Prix of Germany, besides claiming bronze at the European Championships.
In his path for reasserting his dominance, he will find the familiar figure of Korean Hansu Ryu, who has two World Championships golds. This season, the Korean has been on a hot streak, winning at the Hungarian Grand Prix, and the Asian Championships, besides claiming medals at Ranking Series tournaments like the City of Sassari Tournament and Oleg Karavaev.
While unseeded, Germany's Frank Staebler is a threat to anyone who stands in his way in this weight class. Just ask Surkov, who he trounced in the final of the German Grand Prix recently despite recently dropping into the 67kg weight class to make the cut for the Olympics.
The category also has the imposing presence of names such as Poland's Gevorg Sahakyan, Kazakh Meiirzhan Shermakhanbet, who won bronze a year ago at the Worlds, and Cuban Ismael Borrero Molina, who is a World and Olympic champion.
India's representative in this category is Manish.
Greco-Roman wrestling 77kg
This is one of the rare Greco-Roman weight classes where an Indian Greco-Roman wrestler could earn a quota place for the Tokyo Olympics. Gurpreet Singh has given some measure of his promise in recent times, but as India's national Greco-Roman coach, Hargobind Singh, said to the media recently a quota will depend on luck of the draw.
Standing in his way are the hulking figures of Hyeonwoo Kim, the Korean who won the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics, Serbian Viktor Nemes, the 2017 World Championship gold medallist, and Russia's Roman Vlasov, a two-time Olympic champion.
Greco-Roman wrestling 87kg
This is another weight class which sees an engaging rivalry at the top. Ukrainian Zhan Beleniuk and Turkey's Metehan Basar are expected to meet again in the final of the World Championships in 2019 after Basar beat Beleniuk for gold at Budapest 2018. Since that defeat, the Ukrainian, who is also an Olympic silver medallist, has won the gold at the European Championships and will be keen to add the World Championships gold to his medal cabinet as well.
Meanwhile, keep an eye out for Hungarian Viktor Lorincz, who is ranked fourth in the world, but edged out compatriot Erik Szilvassy, ranked third, to clinch Hungary's lone spot. He also comes into the World Championships at the back of a rampaging run which has got him golds at the Zagreb Grand Prix, Hungarian Grand Prix and City of Sassari Tournament. India will be represented in this weight class by Sunil Kumar.
Greco-Roman wrestling 97kg
If you had to sum up Musa Evloev in one word, it would be gold! The Russian has racked up so many of them in 2019 that at the 2019 World Championships a medal of any other colour will seem like a failure for him. He's won the titles at the Dan Kolov, European Championships and the Grand Prix of Germany so far in 2019. Speaking of rampaging runs, USA's Tracy Hancock is also in the middle of a searing run which has seen him compete in seven tournaments this season and win medals in all seven of them.
Bulgarian Kiril Milov and Serbian Mihail Kajala round up the seeds in this weight class. India's Ravi will also take the mat in this category.
Greco-Roman wrestling 130kg
This heavyweight weight class is stacked with big names. Russia's Sergey Semenov the reigning champion is the top seed while Adam Coon, the man he beat in that final at Budapest a year ago, is the second seed.
Korean Minseok Kim was a bronze medallist at that championship is the third seed this time around. Estonia's Heiki Nabi wraps up the seeds in this category.
India's entry into this event is Naveen.