The stunning news of four-time World champion Besik Kudukhov’s death Sunday rippled from Russia to Welsh-Ryan Arena, where athletes and coaches mourned the sudden passing of a wrestling icon seemingly still in his prime.
The Russian Wrestling Federation said that Kudukhov was killed Sunday when his vehicle collided with a truck near the southern Russia city of Armavir. He was 27.
“I was a fan of his,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “He wrestled hard, he was very good in some positions that I’m partial to — front headlocks, hustle. He won a lot of matches with that kind of energy. … He was a pretty good representative of the sport of wrestling with how he wrestled. You don’t get too many chances to see that kind of competitor ever and now he’s gone. Your heart aches.”
Kudukhov became a global wrestling icon with a fast-paced, high-scoring style. The Russian won his first world title in 2007 at 21, claimed Olympic bronze the next year and then reeled off three straight international golds.
“It kind of hits me pretty deep,” said Iowa freshman Thomas Gilman, who studied Kudukhov’s technique online. “I remember watching Kudukhov at Russian Nationals for the first time and the first thing that came to mind was Iowa style. In the interview after that, he said his favorite wrestlers were Tom and Terry Brands.”
Said Terry Brands: “I think he admired our pace and our pressure and our Iowa style of wrestling. He would always come up and say, ‘Brands, tough, wrestle hard, I like Brands.’”
LOWMAN’S RECOVERY: Grand View’s Chad Lowman spent the first night of December in a Des Moines hospital after sustaining a concussion in a car wreck.
He might finish the month with a prize that seemed improbable four weeks ago.
With one consolation victory today, the NAIA national champion will leave the Midlands with a medal.
“I was looking at it as an opportunity to make myself better,” Lowman said. “I’ve got to put more time on the mat now because I took a couple weeks off trying to recover. But it’s going to make me tougher for March.”
That seemed to be the mantra for the Vikings throughout the day. They won their first four matches before dropping three of four bouts in the third round. They finished the day with two wrestlers left in the consolation bracket — Lowman and two-time NAIA heavyweight champion Eric Thompson, who dropped an 11-5 decision against Michigan freshman Adam Coon.
“Some of these guys are real successful throughout the year and that’s why we come here,” Grand View coach Nick Mitchell said. “We’ve got to find somebody to push them. They’re getting pushed here, obviously.”
EVENT CHANGES: The Midlands adjusted to college wrestling’s new edge-of-the-mat rules with changes of its own. The tournament staff kept six mats inside Welsh-Ryan Arena but moved two to a back gymnasium, allowing for more space outside the circles.