Vitaly Kuznetsov participated in wrestling before taking up sambo (a Soviet wrestling style similar to judo) in 1961 while serving in the Soviet Army. During his career Kuznetsov won a 1972 Olympic open class silver, the 1971 European Championships open class title, the 1972 European Championships team title, 1969 and 1972 European Championships heavyweight bronzes and 1969 and 1971 European Championship team bronzes. Kuznetsov also won the sambo World Championships heavyweight title in 1975 and the sambo European Championships heavyweight title in 1972. Domestically, Kuznetsov never won a Soviet judo title, but he was Soviet sambo heavyweight champion in 1968, 1971-72, 1975, and 1978-79 and Soviet sambo open class champion in 1974 and 1976-77.
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