Despite never having competed in a senior World Championship, Russia’s Dzhamal Otarsultanov was considered the favorite for the men’s freestyle featherweight event at the 2012 Olympics. Having won the last two European Championships, Otarsultanov defeated compatriot Viktor Lebedev, the reigning World Champion for the past two years, for Russia’s flyweight spot at the London Games. Among his most prominent challengers were Yang Kyong-Il of North Korea, the 2009 World Champion and 2011 Asian Champion, and Hassan Rahimi of Iran, the reigning Asian Champion. Notable as an underdog was Brandon Escobar of Honduras, his nation’s first Olympic wrestler.
Yang and Otarsultanov were drawn in the same half, with the latter defeating the former in the quarterfinals on his way to the gold medal match. This left Rahimi as his most likely challenger, but the Iranian was defeated by 18 year-old Indian Amit Kumar, who had débuted on the international scene earlier in the year with a bronze medal at the 2012 Asian Championships, a tournament won by Rahimi. Kumar in turn was overcome by Georgia’s Vladimer Khinchegashvili, a two-time junior World Champion (2010 and 2011) who had finished seventh at the senior World Championships and only reached the Olympics by winning the European qualifier. With his subsequent defeat of Japan’s Shinichi Yumoto, the 2010 Asian Champion, however, he guaranteed himself a medal in London. The first period of the final went to par terre, where Otarsultanov drew the advantaged position and converted it into a score to win the round. In the second period, the Russian scored point with a takedown in the first ten seconds that was answered soon after by the Georgian pushing his opponent out of the ring. Each scored another point in the second half of the round, but an unsuccessful challenge from the Russian coaches put Khinchegashvili ahead 3-2. Refusing to drag the match on to a third period, Otarsultanov scored another point, to which the Georgian attempted to respond in the dying seconds of the round. When he was not awarded the points, and with nothing to lose (since Otarsultanov had scored the last point and would have won the period anyways), it was the Georgian coaches’ turn for an unsuccessful challenge, leaving the Russian to win the round and capture the gold medal.
For the first of the two third-place podium spots, Yang squared off against Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan, a bronze medalist from the most recent World Championships. The two seemed evenly, and aggressively, matched at first, with almost the entire first minute spent on the ground and each scoring two points in a first round that went to Yang for having scored the last point. In a conclusion to perhaps one of the most entertaining matches of the tournament, however, Yang displayed complete dominance and won the round early by scoring six unanswered points, earning himself a victory in the match. In the second bronze medal bout, Yumoto faced Radoslav Velikov of Bulgaria, a distinguished wrestler who had won, among other accolades, a bronze medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, gold at the 2006 World Championships, and silver at the 2005 and 2011 editions. They too were evenly matched, scoring one point each in the first two rounds, but Yumoto was declared the winner of the period in each case and, consequently, of the second bronze medal.