Five-time world champion Hamid Soryan won Iran its first gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling when he defeated Azerbaijan’s Rovshan Bayramov at London 2012.
Soryan, 26, made it to the final having despatched Hungary’s Peter Modos in the quarter-finals and Denmark’s Haakan Nyblom in the semis. He entered the battle for gold in the 55kg category as favourite and didn’t disappoint. He gut-wrenched Bayramov in the first period, then took the second half of the bout 1-0. Soryan's assured victory inspired Iran to collect a further two wrestling gold medals, as well as a silver and bronze.
Unlike their freestyle counterparts, Greco-Roman wrestlers, who have competed at every Olympic Games since 1908, use only their upper bodies and arms, with below-waist holds banned. The aim is to force your opponent’s shoulders on to the mat. Points are awarded for throws and holds. A takedown can score one to five points, while a reversal – overcoming an opponent from a defensive position – is worth a single score. Exposure – when a wrestler exposes his rival’s back to the mat for a few seconds – can win three points.
Victory can come from a win by fall, technical superiority, default or injury. The number of cautions received can decide a tied contest, or the last wrestler to score a technical point.
Born in 1985, Soryan took up wrestling in 1998 at the encouragement of his father and was coached by Haj Abdullah Zareh. He achieved the remarkable feat of winning both the Junior World Championships and Senior World Championships in the same year, 2005, and in 2007 and 2008 took gold medals in the FILA World Wrestling Championships. But in Beijing in 2008 there was an upset in the quarter-final when the eventual champion, Nazyr Mankiev of Russia, knocked the Iranian out of the competition.
Despite being one of the powerhouses of Olympic wrestling, Iran had never topped the podium before Soryan's victory over his Azerbaijani opponent in the 55kg event.
Afterwards he said: “I am hoping that this will make everyone happy back home. We have got great people back home who are very kind to our sports people and I am hoping that I brought smiles to their faces for a little time today. I’ve completed my collection. I am happy that I have made the Iranian people happy. Now, I’m thinking about competing in the next Olympics.”
His countryman Ghasem Rezaei, who won the heavyweight division, said Iran’s success did not come as a surprise, despite the traditional domination of wrestling by Russian wrestlers. He said: “We expected this after the World Championships in Turkey. Everyone was certain then that we would achieve the best we can in London. All the athletes were expecting to do well because of all the hard work of the coaches. They built us all well physically. They understood the athletes as well as pushing them hard towards achieving their best.”