Europe's best in Baku for Paris 2024 qualification in Greco-Roman

By United World Wrestling Press

BAKU, Azerbaijan (April 4) -- Europe qualified four wrestlers for the Paris Olympics at 87kg from the World Championships in Belgrade. That number is the highest for Europe in any Greco-Roman weight class.

Yet, some of the top wrestlers in the continent have not been able to earn a Paris 2024 spot. Those stars will clash at the European OG Qualifier in Baku from April 5 to 7 to earn the two quotas available at 87kg.

Leading the field at 87kg is newly minted European champion Aleksandr KOMAROV (SRB) who looked in top form at the European Championships. In the final, he even convincingly beat world champion Ali CENGIZ (TUR).

Islam ABBASOV (AZE) is seeded number one at 87kg and Komarov is number four resulting in the two falling on the same side of the bracket. The two met in the semifinal at the European Championships which Komarov won 3-1. European bronze medalist Kiyrl MASKEVICH (AIN) gets the second seed and Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) is third, putting them together on the lower side of the bracket.

Though they will be unseeded, former U23 world champion Milad ALIRZAEV (AIN) and former European champion Turpal BISULTANOV (DEN) will be roaring to go as the latter returns from injury. Former U23 world champion Exauce MUKUBU (NOR) also hopes to earn the quota.

A few other big clashes are expected in Baku, especially with wrestlers from non-Olympic weight classes moving to the Olympic ones.

Leri ABULADZE (GEO), a 63kg world champion, is moving down to 60kg to earn an Olympic quota. But it won't be easy for him. A two-time U23 world champion Anvar ALLAKHIAROV (AIN) and European champion Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) will be the biggest challenges for the unseeded Abuladze.

Add to the line-up top seed and Tokyo Olympian Victor CIOBANU (MDA) who reached the final at the European Championships before losing to Mammadli. Ciobanu and Mammadli are separated by seeding and will not face each other in Baku. Leo TUDEZCA (FRA) enjoys the third seed and Jacopo SANDRON (ITA) will be seeded fourth.

Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Parviz NASIBOV (UKR) will be looking to return to the Olympics by winning a quota in Baku. He was at 72kg at the European Championships and won a bronze medal. The European champion at 72kg, Selcuk CAN (TUR), is dropping to 67kg.

Nasibov will be seeded number four in Baku which pits him on the same side as top seed Krisztian VANCZA (HUN). Mamadassa SYLLA (FRA) is seeded second with Mihai MIHUT (ROU) getting the third seed.

European bronze medalist Abu AMAEV (BUL) is entered for the tournament along with some hammers like Diego CHKHIKVADZE (GEO), Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU), Morten THORESEN (NOR), Gevorg SAHAKYAN (POL) and Niklas OEHLEN (SWE).

At 97kg, Magomed MURTAZALIEV (AIN) will look to build on his silver-medal finish at the European Championships and earn a spot for the Paris Games. He defeated Kiril MILOV (BUL) and Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN) before losing to Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM).

Milov has pulled out due to an injury and will not be competing at the Paris Olympics. Savolainen will be in Baku and seeded number one for the competition followed by Mindaugas VENCKAITIS (LTU) at number two and Mihail KAJAIA (SRB) at three. Aleksandar STJEPANETIC (SWE) is seeded number four.

Alex SZOKE (HUN), Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA), Tyrone STERKENBURG (NED) and Felix BALDAUF (NOR), among others, will be drawn randomly.

European champion and two-time Olympic medalist Sergei SEMENOV (AIN) has the best chance to earn a Paris 2024 spot. He stunned Riza KAYAALP (TUR) in the 130kg final, denying the legend a record-breaking 13th European title. Despite his gold, Semenov will be unseeded in Baku.

Romas FRIDRIKAS (LTU) is the top seed followed by 2012 London Olympic silver medalist Heiki NABI (EST) at second. Beka KANDELAKI (AZE) will be number three and Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU) is number four.

At 77kg, world champion at 72kg Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA), former world silver medalist Zoltan LEVAI (HUN), U23 world champion Alexandrin GUTU (MDA), Viktor NEMES (SRB) and former world champion Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) will battle for the two spots.


Golden hattrick for Kougiomtsidis, historic gold for Lefter at U23 Euros

By United World Wrestling Press

BAKU, Azerbaijan (May 25) -- Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE) seems to enjoy competing against Azerbaijani wrestlers.

In September last year at the World Championships, the former European champion got the better of Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) in the fifth-place bout to book his Paris Olympics quota. On Saturday, he underlined his preparedness for this summer’s Games by defeating another Azerbaijan wrestler, Ali TCOKAEV (AZE).

And in doing so, he completed a rare golden hat-trick. A U23 European champion in 2022 and 2023, Kougioumtsidis completed the ‘three-peat’ in style. The 22-year-old needed barely five minutes to reach the semifinals, where he had to dig into his experience to overcome rookie wrestler Arsen BALAIAN (AIN).

Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE)Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE) won his third successive U23 European Championships gold medal. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

In the final, Kougioumtsidis was up against the local hero Tcokaev. Only 21, the Azerbaijan wrestler was looking for his first-ever gold medal in this competition. Like his opponent, Tcokaev looked sharp coming into the final and he was the one making all the early moves. But in a blink of an eye, the wrestler from Greece turned the 79kg final on its head.

Kougioumtsidis was placed on the passivity clock just over a minute into the bout. That call seemed to have woken him up from his slumber. As the clock ticked down, Kougioumtsidis first went for Tcokaev’s left leg but the Azerbaijani was quick to defend. He then went for the right. This time, not only did he successfully execute the single-leg attack, but Kougioumtsidis also tripped him for a four-pointer.

Tcokaev tried making a comeback but Kougioumtsidis used his long limbs to keep his opponent at bay and closed out the match 4-1, not scoring any more points.

It was a statement win. But it also broke the hearts of the home fans who were expecting to see their wrestlers turn on the style on the penultimate day of the championships. Instead, they had to witness two Azerbaijani defeats in the finals.

Inalbek SHERIEV (AIN)Inalbek SHERIEV (AIN) won the 70kg gold medal after beating Kanan HEYBATOV (AZE) in the final. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

Moments before Tcokaev lost to Kougioumtsidis, Kanan HEYBATOV (AZE) was defeated 6-2 by Inalbek SHERIEV (AIN) in the 70kg final.

Sheriev’s was one of the three Individual Neutral Athletes who won gold medals on Saturday. The finals session on the second last day of championships began with Artem GOBAEV (AIN) beating Muhammet KARAVUS (TUR) 8-3 for the 57kg gold medal.

Gobaev was dominant throughout the final, deftly evading Karavus’s moves and launching vicious counterattacks to give his Turkish rival no chance of winning and being crowned as the U23 continental champion for the first time.

Ibragim IBRAGIMOV (AIN)Ibragim IBRAGIMOV (AIN) captured the 65kg title after beating defending champion Khamzat ARSAMERZOUEV (FRA). (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

If Gobaev was patient enough to capitalize on his opponent’s mistakes, Ibragim IBRAGIMOV (AIN) was like a flashy sports car that takes less than 10 seconds to go full throttle.

Since winning the U23 World Championship title last year, Ibragimov hasn’t had a lot to show from his fledgling wrestling career. Big wins and titles have both been missing. That drought ended in Baku.

Ibragimov had spent less than 10 minutes on the mat on Friday to reach the final, scoring 21 points and allowing just one. But in Khamzat ARSAMERZOUEV (FRA), he was up against the defending U23 European Championship gold medallist in the 65kg final.

He might not have won anything eye-popping of late, but Ibragimov didn’t look too overwhelmed by the quality of his opponent. The Frenchman was still to settle into the final when Ibragimov bent forward and got a grip of his leg for a swift two-point takedown.

The bout was only eight seconds old, but from that moment on, the writing was on the wall. Ibragimov kept chipping away constantly at his opponent to keep the scorecard ticking in his favor through a series of push-outs and passivity points Arsamerzouev conceded.

Eventually, in the battle between the U23 world champion, Ibragimov, and the U23 European champion, it was the former who prevailed 6-2.

Radu LEFTER (MDA)Radu LEFTER (MDA) celebrates after winning the 97kg gold medal, a first for Moldova at the U23 European Championships in Freestyle. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

Lefter wins historic gold

Radu LEFTER (MDA) will remember this day for a long time. Not only did he win his first gold medal at a championship, Lefter became the first wrestler from Moldova to win a Freestyle gold medal at the U23 European Championships after he defeated Soslan DZHAGAEV (AIN) in the final.

A two-time U23 World Championships silver medalist, Lefter got a huge baggage off his back after winning the gold in Baku. This was Lefter's fourth U23 European Championships where he has previously won a silver and two bronze medals. He also has a silver at the U20 and a bronze at the U17 European Championships.

In Baku, Lefter reached the final after two technical superiority wins but was challenged by Dzhagaev. He was put on the activity clock in the first period and trailed 1-0 at the break. But the second period was a completely different story.

Dzhagaev was put on the activity clock during which he hit a single-leg attack but Lefter countered it with exposure to get two points in addition to one after the activity clock expired to lead 3-1. With the clock ticking, Dzhagaev felt the pressure and made half-attacks, including an inside trip in the final 10 seconds which Lefter countered for a takedown and secure the historic win.

Dzhabrail GADZHIEV (AZE)2022 U23 European champion Dzhabrail GADZHIEV (AZE) will look to win his second title on Sunday. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Jake Kirkman)

Gadzhiev, Magamadov eye titles

On the final day of the competition, former U23 European champion Dzhabrail GADZHIEV (AZE) will face Kamil ABDULVAGABOV (AIN) for the bragging rights in the 74kg.

Abdulvagabov had to overcome a tough opening round where he was stretched all the way by Irahim YAPRAK (TUR) before winning 5-4. After that initial hiccup, Abdulvagabov had little trouble beating other opponents, winning the quarterfinal by technical superiority and scoring a 7-3 win over Krisztian BIRO (ROU).

Gadzhiev’s route was a lot more straightforward wherein he didn’t have to survive any scares, scoring 28 points so far and conceding only 6.

The battle in the 86kg weight class, too, promises to be a mouthwatering as defending champion Rakhim MAGAMADOV (FRA) will face Arslan BAGAEV (AIN). Only 20, Magamadov has a slew of titles to his name and will hope to add another U23 European title to his already impressive trophy cabinet.

In the 125kg class, Alen KHUBULOV (BUL) gave himself a fighting chance to win his first-ever gold medal at an international level after he reached the final, where he will face SOLOMON MANASHVILI (GEO).

Both wrestlers have had more or less an identical path to the final, with Khubulov playing an extra bout as he had to first compete in the qualifying round, which he convincingly won.



GOLD: Artem GOBAEV (AIN) df. Muhammet KARAVUS (TUR), 8-3

BRONZE: Luka GVINJILIA (GEO) df. Thomas EPP (SUI), 4-1
BRONZE: Vladyslav ABRAMOV (UKR) df. Herbert AKAPIAN (AIN), 8-3


BRONZE: Serghei CILCIC (MDA) df. Daniel KULCZYNSKI (POL), 4-0
BRONZE: Abdullah TOPRAK (TUR) df. Ayub MUSAEV (BEL), 3-2

GOLD: Inalbek SHERIEV (AIN) df. Kanan HEYBATOV (AZE), 6-2

BRONZE: Constantin CHIRILOV (MDA) df. Bohdan OLIINYK (UKR), 3-1


BRONZE: Radomir STOYANOV (BUL) df. Marius RETCO (MDA), 6-4

GOLD: Radu LEFTER (MDA) df. Soslan DZHAGAEV (AIN), 6-1

BRONZE: Rifat GIDAK (TUR) df. Ravan MUSAYEV (AZE), 2-2

Freestyle Semifinals


SF 1: Mykyta ABRAMOV (UKR) df. Nuraddin NOVRUZOV (AZE), 15-12
SF 2: Bashir MAGOMEDOV (AIN) df. Simone PIRODDU (ITA), 10-0


SF 1: Dzhabrail GADZHIEV (AZE) df. Luka CHKHITUNIDZE (GEO), 7-4
SF 2: Kamil ABDULVAGABOV (AIN) df. Krisztian BIRO (ROU), 7-3


SF 1: Arslan BAGAEV (AIN) df. Arsenii DZHIOEV (AZE), 5-1
SF 2: Rakhim MAGAMADOV (FRA) df. Emre CIFTCI (TUR), 11-0


SF 1: Adlan VISKHANOV (FRA) df. Mustafagadzhi MALACHDIBIROV (AIN), 10-4
SF 2: Gkivi BLIATZE (GRE) df. Ion DEMIAN (MDA), 4-2


SF 1: Alen KHUBULOV (BUL) df. Abdulla KURBANOV (AIN), 3-2
SF 2: Solomon MANASHVILI (GEO) df. Milan KORCSOG (HUN), 4-1