Adekuoroye Shuts Maroulis Out in Build Up to Tokyo Games

By Vinay Siwach

WARSAW, Poland (June 11) -- It was the calm before the storm. Odunayo ADEKUOROYE (NGR) jumped before the start while Helen MAROULIS (USA) was focused in her customary prayer before the bout. But by the end of it, the Nigerian let out a loud scream as she punched the air after winning her quarterfinal at the Poland Open Ranking Series. Perhaps she would not have done it if it was someone else. But Adekuoroye knew a win over an Olympic champion is no mean feat.

What made the win special over Maroulis was that she had lost to her in the previous two meetings. Back in 2018, the USA wrestler won 4-1 at Beat the Streets competition and she won a tight bout six years ago at the Golden Grand Prix, Baku in 2015.

“When we saw the entries of the Poland Open competition, we only focused on Helen,” Purity AKUH, Adekuoroye's coach, said. “We rewatched the two videos where she had lost to Helen and planned.”

The plan was successful as Adekuoroye chalked out a shutout 13-0 win over Maroulis in the quarterfinal of the 57kg weight class. So dominant was the Nigerian that she finished the bout with a minute and 32 seconds remaining. Helen, a two-time world champion as well, was competing for the first time since winning the gold medal at January's Henri Delegane tournament in France.

Unfazed by her opponent's stardom, Adekuoroye paced the bout according to herself and both wrestlers waited for an opening for the first two minutes of the bout. But there was none. The USA wrestler gave up a point for passivity as well.

But as the first period neared its end, Adekuoroye went for it. Perhaps Maroulis was waiting for a single leg attack like their previous meetings. She was wrong. Adekuoroye blasted a double-leg and got a takedown to lead 3-0. In the past, Maroulis has blocked the left hand of her rival to close out that space and only allow single leg attacks which she manages to defend more often than not.

“Odunayo is a very aggressive wrestler,” her coach said. “I have to calm her every time she goes over board. I just tell her to breath and today as well we wanted her to be calm.”

When the second period began, Adekuoroye kept Maroulis' combination of ankle-pick and trip in check. A move that has given Maroulis decent success was tried in vain.

It gave way for a counter from Adekuoroye as she brought out another double and got four points after a successful challenge. The lead was now 7-0. Maroulis was restless as she tried to shoot for her legs in vain.

As the Nigerian's confidence grew, she finally attempted a single leg as well and off-balanced Maroulis. The score was 9-0 in favor of Adekuoroye. Maroulis has fallen on the defensive mode long ago in the bout. That takedown tore her down.

Adekuoroye shot again for the left leg and lifted her opponent over her shoulders. Instead of slamming her down, Adekuoroye flipped Maroulis back,  got four points and won the bout 13-0.

There was no crowd at the Ursynow Arena in Warsaw, but if there was, it would have witnessed the tension between the two despite the score suggesting a one-sided contest. The two exchanged a few words after the bout, but Adekuoroye just ran off to the warm-up fall to prepare for the next bout.

She now faced an Olympic silver medalist in Valeria KOBLOVA ZHOLOBOVA (RUS) in the semifinals. However, it was anti-climatic as the Russian surrendered the bout in just a minute and 10 seconds. A series of double leg attacks from Adekuoroye combined with a leg lace was enough for a 10-0 win for her.

There were no singing celebrations but those may be reserved after the final but Adekuoroye announced herself as a serious contender for gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and stir up the storm.


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