Akgul Bests Geno and Salkazanov Shocks 74kg Field in Warsaw

By Eric Olanowski

WARSAW, Poland (April 20) – In a colossal battle of titans, Taha AKGUL (TUR) avenged his ’19 world finals loss to Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) and kept his hopes of winning an eighth continental title alive.

The two superstars who have won every continental gold medal since the ’12 European Championships met early Tuesday morning in the opening round at European Championships in Poland’s Hala Widowiskowo-Sportowa COS Torwar.

“My last match before surgery was against Geno, and my first match back was against Geno,” said the Rio Olympic champion who returned from a 15-month layoff after undergoing shoulder surgery last January. He continued, saying, “It’s been well over a year since I wrestled, but I felt good. I think it’s a good point to move forward to the Olympics and I’ll continue to train and hopefully get better before Tokyo.”

Akgul put on a near-flawless performance and controlled the match from whistle to whistle. He scored a trio of takedowns against the reigning three-time world champ – two of which came from go behinds off Petriashvili’s shot attempts – and won the match 6-1.

“For me, I don’t care too much about when Geno and I wrestle. I knew we were going to wrestle at some point during the competition, so It didn’t change much whether it was in the qualification round, semifinals or finals.”

Akgul continued to roll throughout the day and picked up wins against Kamil Tomasz KOSCIOLEK (POL) and Dzianis KHRAMIANKOU (BLR) en route to the 125kg finals where he’ll wrestle Russia’s Sergei KOZYREV (RUS).

Meanwhile, underdog Tajmuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) scored three shocking wins on Tuesday and punched his ticket to the 74kg finals. The former Russian-turned-Slovakian picked up wins over a two-time world champion, U23 world champion and world silver medalist.

After running through Switzerland’s Marc DIETSCHE, Salkazanov threw two-time world champion Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) to his back with less than 10 seconds left and won, 6-2. That set up a quarterfinals match against ’18 world silver medalist Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO).

Salkazanov trailed Kentchadze, 5-0, but scored six unanswered points in the second period and upset the Georgian Tokyo Olympian, 6-5. Then, in the semifinals, he erased a five-point deficit for a second consecutive match and moved into the finals with a surprising 6-5 win over tournament-favorite and Individual World Cup champion Razambek ZHAMALOV (RUS).

Salkazanov will square off with Miroslav Stefanov KIROV (BUL) on Wednesday night for 74kg gold.

On the finals side of the day, Zagir SHAKHIEV (61kg), Israil KASUMOV (70kg) and Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (97kg) finished atop the podium for the Russian Federation, while Nachyn MONGUSH (57kg) finished in second place.

Shakhiev slashed the title hopes of Poland’s battle-tested 30-year-old veteran Krzysztof BIENKOWSKI. After the heavy-footed Russian surrendered a takedown from a snatch single, he scored 13 unanswered points from two takedowns and four leg laces to win the 61kg title, 13-2.

The second Russian to hoist his nation’s flag was Israil Kasumov. The reigning Russian National champion had a slender 1-0 disadvantage after the first period but struck early in the second period with a stepout and a takedown. Despite leading by two points, Kasumov was never threatened offensively by Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE). Last year’s 12th-place European finisher played defense for the final two minutes and walked away with the 3-1 win.

Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (RUS) grabbed Russia’s third gold of the night. He stopped Suleyman KARADENIZ (TUR) from winning back-to-back European titles with a 6-4 victory.

In the opening period, Zhabrailov got to a low-level attack and chased down the ankles of Karadeniz. The pair went out of bounds and the Russian thought he had a takedown near the edge, but the refs had differing opinions. Zharailov’s corner threw the brick but lost the challenge and headed into the second period with the 2-1 advantage.

In the closing frame, Zhabrailov fired off an attack and transitioned to a gut wrench. He extended his lead to 6-2 before conceding a takedown but hung on to win 97kg gold, 6-4.

The other two golds on the night went to Suleyman ATLI (TUR) and Akhsarbek GULAEV (SVK).

At 57kg, Atli wrestled until exhaustion and claimed his second European title in the last three years with a 6-5 win over Russia’s Nachyn Mongush.

“This gold medal shows me that I'm on the right track,” said Atli. “For me, it's one of the main stages before the Olympics. Now, I have a gold medal to win, and I'll be training more to win it.”

This is an improvement from his silver medal from a year ago, but the goal for Atli is to remain on top. “It is not important to become a champion, but to remain the champion.” He’ll have the opportunity to stay on top as he’s set to compete in three upcoming competitions before Tokyo. “I want to wrestle in as many tournaments as possible before the Olympic Games. I’d like to take part in the Polish Ranking Series event, the Ivan Yariguin and Yasar Dogu.”

Akhsarbek GULAEV (SVK) defeated Saifedine ALEKMA (FRA), 2-1, in the 79kg finals and became Slovakia's second-ever freestyle European champion. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

The final gold of the night went to Slovakia's Akhsarbek Gulaev. He planted Saifedine ALEKMA (FRA) on his back and had the French wrestler dead to rights but the clock expired and the Slovakian led, 2-1, heading into the final period. After a scoreless second period, Gulaev hung on to improve on his ninth-place finish from a year ago and became Slovakia's second-ever freestyle European champion.

Wrestling resumes tomorrow at 11:30 (local time) with women’s wrestling action. The freestyle medal matches are set to begin at 18:00.

Semifinal Results

GOLD - Andrii DZHELEP (UKR) vs. Abasgadzhi MAGOMEDOV (RUS)
SEMIFINAL - Abasgadzhi MAGOMEDOV (RUS) df. Eduard GRIGOREV (POL), 4-2

GOLD - Tajmuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) vs. Miroslav Stefanov KIROV (BUL)
SEMIFINAL - Miroslav Stefanov KIROV (BUL) df. Valentin BORZIN (MDA), 5-0



GOLD - Taha AKGUL (TUR) vs. Sergei KOZYREV (RUS)
SEMIFINAL - Sergei KOZYREV (RUS) df . Daniel LIGETI (HUN), 10-0

Final Results
GOLD - Suleyman ATLI (TUR) vdf Nachyn MONGUSH (RUS), 6-5
BRONZE - Kamil KERYMOV (UKR) df. Mikyay Salim NAIM (BUL), 9-4

GOLD - Zagir SHAKHIEV (RUS) df. Krzysztof BIENKOWSKI (POL), 13-2
BRONZE – Maxim SACULTAN (MDA) df. Andrei BEKRENEU (BLR), 5 - 2

GOLD - Israil KASUMOV (RUS) df. Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE), 3-1
BRONZE - Arman ANDREASYAN (ARM) df. Mihail SAVA (MDA), 4-3
BRONZE - Ihor NYKYFORUK (UKR) df. Nicolae COJOCARU (GBR), via inj. def.

GOLD - Akhsarbek GULAEV (SVK) vs. Saifedine ALEKMA (FRA), 2-1
BRONZE - Alans AMIROVS (LAT) vs. Rashad YUSIFLI (AZE), 4-3

GOLD - Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (RUS) df. Suleyman KARADENIZ (TUR), 6-4
BRONZE - Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO) df. Shamil ZUBAIROV (AZE), via fall

BRONZE - Radoslaw BARAN (POL) df. Murazi MCHEDLIDZE (UKR), 8-1


Saravi Dominates #WrestleWarsaw to Claim Spot on Iran Olympic Team

By Vinay Siwach

WARSAW, Poland (June 13) --- After the 97kg Greco-Roman final, Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI) went up to the judge to seek answers. His actions were justified as he had not only lost the gold medal to compatriot Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) but also the opportunity to represent Iran at the Tokyo Olympics.

Iran, treating the Poland Open as the selection trial for Tokyo Games, had entered the two and on Sunday, they dominated the field and reached the final. This was the last category that was undecided for Iran after three freestyle and one Greco-Roman class finalized in Warsaw.


Poland Open

They had to wait till the end of the day as it was the final bout and then more as both Iran wrestlers had mistakenly wore opposite singlets. 50 seconds into the bout they changed the singlets and resumed the bout. Saravi got the advantage of Balihamzehdeh being passive in the first period and he got an exposure to lead 3-0.

Balihamzehdeh was hoping that Saravi will be warned for inactivity as well but that did not happen as the latter kept on the pressure throughout the period. It ended 3-0 in favour of Saravi, completing the Iran team for the upcoming Games.

His gold medal also pushes him to third position in the Tokyo seeding as he collected 16 points. His total of 52 points takes him ahead of Cenk ILDEM (TUR) who is now out of the seeding.

Tadeusz MICHALIK (POL) finished fifth in Warsaw and collected 10 points for a total of 42 to edge past Ildem by a point.

There was no other major shuffle in the Olympic seedings for the weight classes that were in action on Sunday.

At 87kg, veteran Uzbek wrestler Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB) won a bronze medal to collect 12 points but that doesn't change his third position in the seedings.


The gold medal was captured but he upcoming star and two-time U23 world champion Semen NAVIKOV (UKR). In the final, he defeated Istvan TAKACS (HUN) 2-1 with all points scored on referees call.

Takacs had earlier stopped Rio Olympic bronze medalist Assakalov's run in the tournament with a 2-1 win in the semifinal. The Uzbek then came back in the bronze medal bout against Arkadiusz KULYNYCZ (POL) with a big fall.

The next big thing in Ukrainian wrestling Navikov will not be at the Olympics as another star wrestler Zhan BELENIUK (UKR) is scheduled to wrestle in the Japanese capital city.

In the remaining three weight categories, hosts Poland captured two gold medals while the third went to Uzbekistan.

Michal TRACZ (POL) wrestled Ekrem OZTURK (TUR) in the 60kg final and held on for 3-2 win for his home country. In the nordic style bracket, he won two bouts to reach the semifinal in which he came out on top against Mukhammadkodir YUSUPOV (UZB) 3-2.

Ozturk had a back-and-forth semifinal against Olivier SKRZYPCZAK (POL) as the two scored 26 points in the stipulated six minutes. In the end, Ozturk won 15-11 to reach the final.

Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL) won the second gold medal for Poland as he defeated Mirzobek RAKHMATOV (UZB) 4-3 in the 72kg final.

The Pole had some tough bouts throughout the day as he began with a 3-1 win against Krisztian VANCZA (HUN) 3-1 before pulling through a 1-1 win against compatriot Roman PACURKOWSKI (POL).

From the other side, Rakhmatov defeated Juan AAK (NOR) 9-0 in the qualification before clinching a 7-0 win over Mateusz BERNATEK (POL) in the quarterfinal. He had a tough one against Cengiz ARSLAN (TUR) in the semifinal but managed to pull off 5-4.

Uzbekistan did get it's gold medal on Sunday as five-time ranking series finalist Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB) managed to hang on and defeat Ayata SUZUKI (JPN) 5-3 in the 63kg final. Suzuki was awarded a point for Bakhramov's passivity and he later got an exposure from par terre to lead 3-0. But Bakhramov reversed it and completed a head-pinch to make it 3-2.

In the second period, he got the point for Suzuki's inactivity and then exposed him from the par terre position to lead 5-3. The Japanese did try quite a few arm throws but failed to get any points.

From Japan, world champion Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) was also scheduled to make the Poland trip but pulled out at the last moment due to unforeseen circumstances. Fumita has now not competed internationally since winning the gold medal at the Asian Championships in New Delhi in February, 2020.

Poland Open 63kg


GOLD: Michal TRACZ (POL) df Ekrem OZTURK (TUR), 3-2
BRONZE: Mukhammadkodir YUSUPOV (UZB) df Olivier SKRZYPCZAK (POL), 10-2

GOLD: Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB) df. Ayata SUZUKI (JPN), 5-3
BRONZE: Christopher KRAEMER (GER) df. Artor HAGERUP (NOR), via fall
BRONZE: Krisztian KECSKEMETI (HUN) df. Mairbek SALIMOV (POL), 4-0

GOLD: Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL) df. Mirzobek RAKHMATOV (UZB), 4-3
BRONZE: Cengiz ARSLAN (TUR) df. Juan AAK (NOR), 2-1
BRONZE: Krisztian VANCZA (HUN) df. Roman PACURKOWSKI (POL), 3-1

GOLD: Semen NOVIKOV (UKR) df. Istvan TAKACS (HUN), 2-1
BRONZE: Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB) df. Arkadiusz KULYNYCZ (POL), via fall
BRONZE: Metehan BASAR (TUR) df. Bachir SID AZARA (ALG), 1-1

GOLD: Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) df. Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI), 3-0
BRONZE: Islam ABBASOV (AZE) df. Gerard Cyprian KURNICZAK (POL), 4-0