Sports Illustrated had their Olympic Preview issue of sorts come out with a nice feature that included Jordan Burroughs along with gold medal picks for all 18 classes. At Men's Freestyle 97 kg, they chose Russia's Anzor Boltukayev aka the "God of Thunder".
I don't know who or how they came up with these picks and honestly it'll be tough to predict especially if Russia is allowed to compete at the Olympics. Assuming so, the Russian rep known as a lord of storm sounds sounds like a safe choice, but who is he?
In most recent memory, Boltukayev is on a bit of a roll. He beat Kyle Sndyer & Jake Varner on his way to gold at the Yarygin this winter. He also won the European Championship before an impressive 10-0 tech of Russian great, Gatislov.
The 3-0 win over Snyder wasn't exactly the most impressive thing. He was able to get a defensive exposure off a Snyder low-single and a shot clock point. The shot clock was borderline hilarious as Snyder attacked over and over for the remaining 75% of the match after giving up the 2, but hey this was in Russia. To Bolt's credit, the spin out of the single in the 2nd period was pretty awesome.
Outside of this year, Boltukayev's biggest accomplishment was a World Bronze in 2013. On one hand you could think the 30-year old Russian coming out of nowhere seems a bit suspicious and weird to consider such a favorite. On the other hand, he may just be our version of a Kyle Dake. Gadisov took silver last year to Snyder and won gold at the 2014 World Championships. Totrov took silver at the 2012 Olympics so Boltukayev's 2013 bronze is actually the worst Russia has done in the last four years.
In conclusion, I do think the hype is probably a bit high. Yet, it should be known that the God of Thunder is a legit gold medal threat for this year's Olympics like anyone who represents Russia at 97 kg should be.