Four Russians Reach European Finals; Karadeniz Erases Five-Point Deficit

By Eric Olanowski

WARSAW, Poland (April 19) --- The Russian Federation emerged victorious in 12 of 13 matches on the opening day of wrestling at the Hala Widowiskowo-Sportowa and have a quartet of wrestlers vying for European gold on Tuesday night.

Nachyn MONGUSH (57kg) cruised to the finals while Zagir SHAKHIEV (65kg), Israil KASUMOV (70kg) and Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (97kg) scored come-from-behind wins to punch their tickets to the finals.

Mongush started the fire for Russia with a 2-0 win over 23-year-old Afgan KHASHALOV (AZE). The talented young Russian’s defensive skills were on display throughout the day, but his most significant defensive stop came in the closing seconds against Khashalov. Mongush fended off Khashalov’s only attack of the match and hung on to the two-point win. After reaching the finals, Mongush said, “I wanted to win or die on the wrestling mat.” He’ll wrestle two-time world medalist and returning European silver-medal winner Suleyman ATLI (TUR) for 57kg gold.

Atli looked in mid-season form during his run to the 57kg finals. The 26-year-old breezed his way to the finals with a pair of Monday wins. Atli started his day with an 11-0 shutout over Kamil KERYMOV (UKR), then beat 23-year-old Mikyay NAIM (BUL) to earn his second straight European finals berth.

In his semifinals match against Naim, Atli controlled the match's tempo and secured an inactivity point halfway through the period. Then, with 10 ticks left in the first, the 26-year-old added two points to the scoreboard with a takedown and commanded the three-point advantage. Atli gave up a stepout point but held center in the closing frame and will look to improve his European silver medal from a year ago.

Zagir SHAKHIEV (RUS) gets tangled up with Ali RAHIMZADE (AZE) in their semifinals meeting. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

At 65kg, Zagir Shakhiev rallied off eight unanswered points against Ali RAHIMZADE (AZE) and moved into the finals. He’ll take on Poland’s 30-year-old veteran Krzysztof BIENKOWSKI (POL) for gold on Tuesday night.

Shakiev found himself in a big hole after the opening 30 seconds but showed no signs of panic. Early in the first period, he shot a single leg, came up to his feet, and had his 23-year-old opponent’s leg dangling in the air. Shakiev's opponent used a slick back trip to sit him on his rear end. At first, the scoreboard showed that two points were awarded for the unconventional maneuver, but two additional points were awarded after a successful Azeri challenge. Shakiev stayed offensive late in the first period and cut Rahimzade’s lead to two points with a swing single.

Despite falling behind early, Shakiev scored eight unanswered points and moved into the finals with an 8-5 victory.

As he made his way back to the locker room, Shakiev said, “I imagined that the hall was full of fans and it helped me find the strength to win.” 

He’ll square off with Polish vet Krzysztof Bienkowski in the finals. The hometown hero spoiled Maxim SACULTAN’s (MDA) hopes of reaching the finals with a 7-3 victory.

The match was dull and had limited action for the first 5:50. But, in the closing 10 seconds, Bienkowski stopped a low-level attack and capitalized on a pair of exposures. Although he conceded an exposure himself, the 30-year-old will wrestle for European gold for the first time in nine tries.

Israil Kasumov was the third Russian who was victorious on Monday night. He’ll take on U23 world champion Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) for 70kg gold tomorrow night. 

Kasumov’s semifinal opponent Arman ANDREASYAN (ARM) came out hot with a single leg. Still, after the two were twisted in a pretzel-like scramble, it was the Russian who grabbed the takedown before transitioning into a right-side gut wrench. Kasumov nearly gave up a takedown with 10 seconds left but squared his hips up just enough to not give up the two-point takedown.

Bayramov had a much easier time making it to the finals. He picked up two takedowns and a stepout and defeated Ihor NYKYFORUK (UKR), 5-0.

When asked about his thoughts on tomorrow’s match against Bayramov, Kasumov said, “Tomorrow will be better than today!”

Alikhan Zhabrailov was Russia’s fourth and final semifinal winner. He gave up a late takedown and fell behind 3-1 with less than 20 seconds left. But, with ice water running through his veins, he scored a takedown with 9 seconds left and stole a 97kg finals appearance from Radoslaw BARAN (POL).

Suleyman KARADENIZ (TUR) stuffs a shot attempt from world bronze medalist Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO). (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Zhabrailov will try to stop Suleyman KARADENIZ (TUR) from winning a second consecutive European title.

Karadeniz, last year’s 92kg European champion, was getting blown out of the water in the opening period against six-time European bronze medalist Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO) but held it together long enough for the Georgian to run out of gas.

In the second period, Karadeniz, who qualified Turkey for the Olympic Games through his 97kg runner-up finish at the European Olympic Qualifier, completely gassed Odikade and scored seven unanswered points to reach the finals in back-to-back years.

Akhsarbek GULAEV (SVK) stops a dump attempt and puts Nika KENTCHADZE (GEO) on his back. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Gulaev and Alekma Make 79kg Finals
Akhsarbek GULAEV (SVK) and Saifedine ALEKMA (FRA) will wrestle for 79kg gold -- the lone finals match that won't feature a Russian wrestler.

Early in the first, Gulaev stopped a Nika KENTCHADZE (GEO) dump attempt and opened the match up with a two-point exposure. The pair traded exposures off each other shots, but a one-point reversal gave the Slovakian a 4-3 lead. Then, in the second period, the 23-year-old scored the match-deciding step out and reached the finals with a 5-4 win.

While trailing 1-1, Alekma showed off his world-class timing by capitalizing on the inactivity clock point before stopping a half-hearted shot attempt, which he turned into a takedown and gut wrench. He went from trailing 1-1 to leading 6-1 and punching his ticket to the European finals in a matter of seconds.

Freestyle action resumes tomorrow morning in Poland at 11:30 and can be followed live on www.uww.org.


GOLD - Suleyman ATLI (TUR) vs. Nachyn MONGUSH (RUS)
SEMIFINAL - Suleyman ATLI (TUR) df. Mikyay NAIM (BUL), 3-1




GOLD - Akhsarbek GULAEV (SVK) vs. Saifedine ALEKMA (FRA)
SEMIFINAL - Saifedine ALEKMA (FRA) df. Rashad YUSIFLI (AZE), 6-1

SEMIFINAL - Suleyman KARADENIZ (TUR) df. Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO), 7-5
SEMIFINAL - Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (RUS) df. Radoslaw BARAN (POL), 3-3


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