Wrestling Nationals Wrap

20 April 2015

Australia's best wrestlers competed for a spot on the world championships team, at the national championships in Canberra on 17 April-19 April. 

The Wrestling World Championships will be held in Las Vegas on 7-12 September. 


Five years ago Ivan Popov was the toast of Australian wrestling, breaking through to win his country’s first Commonwealth Games gold medal in 32 years.

But since then the Siberian-born Greco Roman specialist has dropped off the radar, missing the London Olympics and then taking time out from the sport.

But the 130kg wrestler is back, and with an Australian title to his name in Canberra this weekend, he’s ready to have another crack at the top level.

“I took a break for a year or more, I got married, moved back to Australia with my wife,” Popov said in Canberra.

“I did miss it. I watched it all. Soon in a year will be the Olympics, I will be preparing, with more training.”

28-year-old Popov says a major problem is the lack of wrestlers in Australia in his weight division, meaning he will have to spend more time overseas.

But he has pedigree on his side, his father winning an Olympic bronze and a World Championship title for Russia.

And sitting in his corner in Canberra, and then going on to win his own gold in the 85kg class, was his younger brother, Vladimir.

South Australia’s Jake Dornford was the other outstanding perform on Sunday, beating a strong field to secure the 75kg Greco Roman title.

“I’ve been training every day, twice a day, for the past couple of years,” Dornford said.

“I’m not quite at my top yet, but over the next couple of years if I can get a bit of International experience I know I’ll improve.”


A two-time Olympian who carried the flag for Albania, and a wrestler who had his Olympic debut thwarted by injury more than a decade ago, were among the winners on the opening day of the Australian Wrestling Championships in Canberra.

Talgat Ilyasov was selected to wrestle for Australia at the 2004 Olympics, but had to withdraw on the eve of the Games with a neck injury.

Ilyasov retired after Athens, but has decided to make a comeback to try and fulfill his Olympic dream.

He took his first step on Saturday by winning the 74kg title in Canberra.

“Every athlete wants to be on an Olympic team,” Ilyasov said.

“It’s not a good memory, when you have to pull out. It’s like, you almost had it. It took me a few years to get over it.”

Sahit Prizremi has competed at two Olympics for Albania, in 2004 and 2008, when he carried his country’s flag at the opening ceremony.

He has now qualified to compete for Australia, and was a stand-out performer in the 65kg class on Saturday.

“It would be a payback for Australia if I can get to Rio,” Prizremi said.

“I think I owe Australia something. Olympics is the only medal missing in my career, so hopefully I can do it for Australia.

“It would be good for me, for wrestling for Australia. This is a new start for me.”

The other impressive performer in Saturday’s freestyle competition was Victoria’s Connor Evans in the 86kg division.

Evans has had an outstanding year, winning gold at the Oceania Championships.

“I started wrestling when I was seven, and going to the Olympics has always been a dream.

“If you grow up your entire life wanting to go to an Olympics, I can’t even describe what it would be like.”

The Australian Championships continue on Sunday with the Greco Roman discipline.


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