Ahmadiyev stuns Szoke as Azerbaijan wins 3 golds at U23 Euros

By Vinay Siwach

BUCHAREST, Romania (March 15) -- Led by U23 world champion Gurban GURBANOV (AZE), Azerbaijan won three gold medals on Wednesday at the U23 European Championships.

As the Greco-Roman competition drew to a close, Azerbaijan crowned champions in Gurbanov, Elmir ALIYEV (AZE) and Murad AHMADIYEV (AZE) at 72kg, 60kg and 97kg.

While the three gold medals were not enough for Azerbaijan to claim the team title, they helped it jump to a fourth-place finish behind Turkiye, Ukraine and Georgia.

In a nail-biting team race, Turkiye claimed the team title with 127 points, Ukraine finished second with 126 points and Georgia was third with 125 points. Azerbaijan ended with 123 points.

While Gurbanov and Aliyev were cautious in their wins, it was Ahmadiyev who stunned everyone with a victory via fall over world silver medalist and U23 world champion Alex SZOKE (HUN) in the final.

A stunned Szoke argued with the officials and even tried to challenge the call but to no avail as the pin was called by the referees.

Ahmadiyev was called for passivity in the first period and when Szoke was trying to score a gut wrench, both wrestlers went up on their feet with Szoke still holding Ahmadiyev in a bodylock.

At this point, Ahmadiyev threw his arm around Szoke's head and brought him down with his back on the mat and held him there. The referee was about to call for a pin when Szoke jumped out of the hold.

However, the referee delegation intervened and announced that the pin was already called by the referees and it will stand, giving Ahmadiyev a stunning victory and his first major medal at any competition.

Szoke was agitated over the decision but was cooled down by his coach and Olympic champion Viktor LORINCZ (HUN).

Gurban GURBANOV (AZE)Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) won the 72kg gold medal in Bucharest. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 72kg, Gurbanov followed his U20 and U23 world titles with gold in Bucharest after a solid display of defense over the two days. In the semifinal, he defeated defending champion Girogi CHKHIKVADZE (GEO) 1-1 after the two wrestlers exchanged passivities.

In the final, he faced Irfan MIRZOIEV (UKR), an opponent he defeated 7-1 in the semifinal of U23 Worlds. Mirzoiev used different tactics but the result remained the same. Gurbanov claimed an 8-0 win over the Ukrainian.

Gurbanov, who scored an early stepout, ran to a 6-0 lead at the break after getting the par terre position. He scored two turns from that. In the second period, Mirzoiev never came close to troubling Gurbanov who scored a takedown with just under two minutes remaining in the final.

Elmir ALIYEV (AZE)Elmir ALIYEV (AZE) scored a 5-3 win over Melkamu FETENE (ISR) to win the 60kg gold medal. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 60kg, Elmir ALIYEV (AZE) denied Melkamu FETENE (ISR) a historic gold medal as the Azerbaijan youngster defeated Fetene 5-3 in the 60kg final.

Fetene was hoping to become the first wrestler from Israel to become a European champion since Stepan DUBOV (ISR) won the 2001 U17 European title.

The U23 World bronze medalist did have his chances in the final when he led 1-0 after the break and later managed to score two points on Aliyev. But Aliyev scored a stepout, a point for passivity and snapped Fetene for a takedown.

Fetene used a toss in the same sequence but challenged the call, asking for four. He lost the challenge and gave up another point which gave Aliyev a 5-3 win.

Jonni SARKKINEN (FIN)Jonni SARKKINEN (FIN) defeated U23 world champion Exauce MUKUBU (NOR) 6-0 in the 82kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Finland wins second gold

Exauce MUKUBU (NOR) could have been another U23 world champ to win gold but he suffered a shocking 6-0 loss to Jonni SARKKINEN (FIN) in the 82kg final.

Sarkkinen joined teammate Tino OJALA (FIN) as Finland's gold medalist at the event as the country which had only one U23 European champion so far added two more in two days.

The U20 European silver medalist Sarkkinen used his counter-attacking style to frustrate Mukubu and scored points when Mukubu thought he had the momentum.

After locking Sarkkinen's arms twice, Mukubu tried forcing a stepout but Sarkkinen had cleverly forced Mukubu to step out first, a point he won after a challenge.

In a similar move, Sarkkinen unleashed an arm throw when Mukubu was about to push him out of bounds. That got him four points and a surprise for Mukubu.

It was always difficult to come back from 5-0 down and then Mukubu conceded another stepout to make things even worse for himself. Sarkkinen managed to stay calm and defend against all other attacks and claim the gold.

Diego CHKHIKVADZE (GEO)Diego CHKHIKVADZE (GEO) defend his U23 European title in Bucharest. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 67kg, defending champion Diego CHKHIKVADZE (GEO) went back-to-back after beating Mustafa YILDIRIM (TUR) in a tight gold medal bout.

Chkhikvadze has continued to impress since winning the U20 European title in 2021. He has added a U20 world silver medal, U23 European gold and U23 world bronze since then.

In the final against Yildirim, Chkhikvadze had to work harder than in his previous bouts as he managed to win 2-1. Both wrestlers got a passivity each but Chkhikvadze got a stepout late in the bout which was the difference between the two and the gold medal.

On Tuesday, Chkhikvadze did not give up a single point in three bouts, winning 7-0 against Shon NADORGIN (ISR), 9-0 against Maksym LIU (UKR) and 11-0 against Ashot KHACHATRYAN (ARM).



GOLD: Elmir ALIYEV (AZE) df. Melkamu FETENE (ISR), 5-3

BRONZE: Mert ILBARS (TUR) df. Dimitri KHACHIDZE (GEO), 10-0
BRONZE: Vladyslav KUZKO (UKR) df. Georgios SCARPELLO (GER), 7-1


BRONZE: Ivo ILIEV (BUL) df. Hasan MAMMADLI (AZE), 10-8

GOLD: Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) df. Irfan MIRZOIEV (UKR), 8-0

BRONZE: Abdullah TOPRAK (TUR) df. Krisztofer KLANYI (HUN), 5-0

GOLD: Jonni SARKKINEN (FIN) df. Exauce MUKUBU (NOR), 6-0


GOLD: Murad AHMADIYEV (AZE) df. Alex SZOKE (HUN), via fall

BRONZE: Hayk KHLOYAN (ARM) df. Mindaugas VENCKAITIS (LTU), 6-0


Bayramov leads Azerbaijan to U23 Euro title

By Vinay Siwach

BUCHAREST, Romania (March 19) -- When the entry list for the U23 European Championships was released, Azerbaijan thew a surprise by naming Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) at 74kg.

Already an established name, Bayramov last competed at an age-group tournament in 2021. Last year, all his competitions were at the senior level and he won medals in five of them. The only competition he failed to win a medal was the World Championships.

But Bayramov, the leader of the team in Bucharest, made a comeback with a gold medal at the U23 Euros on Sunday, beating Vasil DAICON (MDA) 1-1 in the final to once again throw in his name for the national team.

Azerbaijan has built a massive core group of wrestlers at 70kg and 74kg. Last year, as many as 10 different wrestlers competed in these two weights for Azerbaijan in nine tournaments, all at the level U20 and above. Add U23 European champion at 70kg Magomed KHANIEV (AZE) to it and the list grows to 11.

Two names, however, have been present in more competitions than others and those are Bayramov's and U20 world champion Dzhabrail GADZHIEV (AZE).

The two began the year at the Dan Kolov tournament and Gadzhiev won that final over Bayramov. He also won the U23 Euros last year at 74kg while Bayramov finished third at the senior event.

As Gadzhiev racked up medals at age-group tournaments, Bayramov kept winning at the senior level including a win over Bayramov at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event which also pushed his case for the World Championships. But Bayramov slipped at the biggest event and finished 11th. That gave Gadzhiev new hope.

Come 2023 and Bayramov was asked to represent Azerbaijan at U23 Euros while Gadzhiev has been picked for the senior event in Zagreb, Croatia.

The selection, however, has not bogged Bayramov down. He took the task of reclaiming his spot on the senior team head-on and made a statement by winning the gold.

He also led Azerbaijan to the team title with 140 points, 11 more than Turkiye which finished second. Georgia finished third with 125 points.

In his first three bouts, Bayramov outscored his opponents 32-0. From the other side, Diacon had been equally dominant in reaching the final.

In the final on Sunday, Bayramov used a different tactic and brought out his strongest weapon -- his defense.

The two wrestlers exchanged passivity points with Bayramov getting the second one to lead 1-1 on criteria in the second period. Diacon still had over one minute to score a point and win. However, Bayramov managed to remain in contact and defend as well to win on criteria.

Depending on how Gadzhiev performs at the European Championships, it will be interesting to see how Azerbaijan decides its team for World Championships.

Rakhim MAGAMADOV (FRA)Rakhim MAGAMADOV (FRA) won the gold medal at 86kg in Bucharest. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

In other action, France crowned its second U23 European champion in two days as U20 world champion Rakhim MAGAMADOV (FRA) captured the gold medal at 86kg.

Before Bucharest, France did not have a single U23 Euro champion in freestyle but that record was broken by Khamzat ARSAMERZOUEV (FRA) as he won the gold medal at 65kg.

Magamadov, who finished fifth at last year's U23 Europeans, looked in better shape this year and won all but one bout via technical superiority. In the final, he faced Knyaz IBOYAN (ARM) and gave him no chance, finishing the bout with two minutes and 20 seconds remaining.

He began the gold medal bout with two stepouts before a takedown increased his lead to 4-0. He also appeared to be much stronger than Iboyan who could not pick up Magamadov's attacks. Magamadov ended the first period 8-1. He continued his relentless attacks in the second period as well and scored a takedown before a stepout confirmed his 11-1 win over Iboyan.

The gold once again confirmed Magamadov's rise at 86kg who has medaled at U17, U20 and now U23 Europeans along with U17 and U20 Worlds.

Andrii DZHELEP (UKR)Andrii DZHELEP (UKR) celebrates after beating Mezhlum MEZHLUMYAN (ARM) in the 61kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 61kg, '21 European silver medalist Andrii DZHELEP (UKR) lived up to the 'favorite' tag and won the gold in dominating fashion over Mezhlum MEZHLUMYAN (ARM).

Dzhelep, a former U17 world and European champion, failed to win a medal at his previous two competitions but made a comeback to start the new season with a bang.

Mezhlumyan did well to keep Dzhelep quiet for the opening minute but then got tossed for a four-pointer. He survived the pin but could not stop Dzhelep from scoring a gut wrench and a full 360-degree throw for another four.

The win puts Dzhelep as one of the front-runners to take the spot on the national team but Kamil KEYRMOV (UKR) is the most likely choice for now.

Andro MARGISHVILI (GEO)Andro MARGISHVILI (GEO) completes a takedown on Muhammed GIMRI (TUR) in the 92kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

U20 World and European silver medalist Andro MARGISHVILI (GEO) claimed his first international gold medal by beating Muhammed GIMRI (TUR), 7-1, in the 92kg final.

Margishvili shot a double-leg to catch Gimri off guard and scored a takedown soon after giving up a stepout. Gimri was penalized for intentionally going out of bounds and the bout restart in par terre with Margishvili leading 3-1. However, no more damage was done.

In the second period, Margishvili countered Gimri's attempt to reach for his far leg with a takedown to extend his lead to 5-1. Gimri got his opportunities as well as he got behind Margishvili twice but failed to score. It was another counter when Margishvili scored a takedown to lead 7-1.

Gimri had around two minutes to score and win but Margishvili's defense and Gimri's deteriorating conditioning meant that the latter held off for a win.

Georgi IVANOV (BUL)Georgi IVANOV (BUL) became the first Bulgarian to win the U23 European gold medal. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Bulgaria gets gold

Bulgaria crowned its first-ever U23 European champion as Georgi IVANOV (BUL) won the 125kg gold medal over Volodymyr KOCHANOV (UKR), 10-0.

Ivanov, who had a best finish of eighth at U23 Euros before Sunday, stunned everyone with the dominance he displayed in Bucharest. He defeated Azamat KHOSONOV (GRE) 6-0 before dealing with Efe AL (TUR) 6-2 in the semifinals.

In the final against Kochanov, Ivanov scored an arm throw but only for two. Kochanov and Ivanov were then involved in a mini-battle of arm throws but did not get much out of it. Before the break, Ivanov scored a stepout.

He then managed to hit a couple of counters and stepout and lead 8-0. The final move could not have been more Ivanov as he tried an arm spin, failed at it but jumped straight to hold one of the legs of Kochanov and complete a takedown to win 10-0.

Bulgaria has two silver medalists at U23 Euros before Sunday but now has the champion in Ivanov. Incidentally, one of the two silver medalists is Dimitar IVANOV (BUL), a brother of Georgi.

Kochanov would be thanking his stars after reaching the final he had no business being in. After Vakhit GALAYEV (AZE) and Solomon MANASHVILI (GEO) were disqualified, Kochanov got the chance to wrestle in a semifinal.

He had lost to Manashvili in the quarterfinals and was promoted to wrestle a semifinal against Martin SIMONYAN (ARM) who had lost to Galayev. 



GOLD: Andrii DZHELEP (UKR) df. Mezhlum MEZHLUMYAN (ARM), 10-0

BRONZE: Emre KURAL (TUR) df. Daviti ABDALADZE (GEO), 11-5

GOLD: Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) df. Vasile DIACON (MDA), 1-1

BRONZE: Krisztian BIRO (ROU) df. Nikolay DIMITROV (BUL), 10-0

GOLD: Rakhim MAGAMADOV (FRA) df. Knyaz IBOYAN (ARM), 11-1

BRONZE: Joshua MORODION (GER) df. Vladyslav PRUS (UKR), via fall

GOLD: Andro MARGISHVILI (GEO) df. Muhammed GIMRI (TUR), 7-1

BRONZE: Sergey SARGSYAN (ARM) df. Abduljalil SHABANOV (AZE), 8-5

GOLD: Georgi IVANOV (BUL) df. Volodymyr KOCHANOV (UKR), 10-0

BRONZE: Martin SIMONYAN (ARM) df. Solomon MANASHVILI (GEO), via disqualification
BRONZE: Efe AL (TUR) df. Azamat KHOSONOV (GRE), 6-3