ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (February 26) -- Suleyman ATLI's (TUR) 2022 was rather lackluster as he failed to win a gold medal in three competitions and finished eighth at the World Championships. But as the year was ending, Atli sent a strong message through his social media, "no worries. I am doing my best to make 2023 my year. Stay tuned."

Atli took the first step in that direction on Sunday by winning the first gold medal of the year at the Ibrahim Moustafa Ranking Series event in Alexandria, Egypt.

Atli, who spent last year at 61kg, made the move back to 57kg, a weight in which he competed at the Rio and Tokyo Olympics. While he looked wanting last year, Atli's physical capacity and athleticism looked better than ever Sunday, enabling him to dominate his opponents.

In the gold medal bout, he faced a familiar foe in Andrii YATSENKO (UKR), a former two-time U17 world champion, and both put on a show. Atli scraped through to win 12-11 in a final which tested him both technically and physically.

Suleyman ATLI (TUR)Suleyman ATLI (TUR) outscored his opponents 40-3 before the final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Before the final, Atli outscored his opponents 40-3 with a semifinal win over Nicholas SURIANO (USA) with smart tactics of keeping his energy conserved to outperform Suriano.

The former European champion coming down to 57kg also means that he is slightly bigger for this weight. Though it gives him the advantage of strength over his opponents, it also exposes the limitation of a wrestler when it comes to wrestling at the same pace for six minutes.

Like his semifinal, Atli took a smart approach conserving his energy in the first period of the final against Yatsenko and going for smart shots in the second. Hence, the score at the break read 1-0 for Yatsenko.

He came out firing in the second period, scoring ten points in the opening 55 seconds using a deep double, then gave up two from a crotch lift when trying to pick up an exposure. The two broke containment when Atli shot back in on another double leg, scoring a takedown before transitioning into a pair of ankle laces. After being down 1-0 in the opening period, Atli led 10-3 one minute into the second.

Yatsenko stormed back with a vengeance, quickly adding eight points from a takedown and three exposures, cutting Atli’s lead to 12-11. But it wasn’t enough to win, as the Turk bellied down in the final 10 seconds to hold Yatsenko’s comeback hopes.

Suleyman ATLI (TUR)Suleyman ATLI (TUR) raises Andrii YATSENKO's (UKR) hand after winning the 57kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Atli congratulated Yatsenko on a great final and as a sign of a good show of sportsmanship, the Turk raised his Ukrainian opponent's hand as if signifying support for Ukraine even as his country recovers from the devasting earthquakes which occurred three weeks ago.

After the final, Atli posted an emotional message to lift the spirits of his countrymen in these testing times.

"I started the 2023 season with a gold," Atli wrote and added, "I will do my best to continue with gold. It is so important for me and on the other hand, my joy of winning the championships was bad because of the earthquakes in our country. I hope I made you happy and smile. My only wish is that we will get over this disaster together as soon as possible."

On Saturday, world champion Taha AKGUL (TUR) also won the gold but wore a black-colored tracksuit instead of Turkiye's traditional red for the medal ceremony.

"In these days when we were in mourning and low morale as a country, I was fortunate to win a gold medal in an important tournament in Alexandria, Egypt," Akgul wrote. "I went out with a black tracksuit on purpose because our sadness has not passed and our hearts are still with them [earthquake victims]. May the gold medal I won be a gift to all our earthquake victims."

The two also received 1500 Swiss Francs for winning gold medals as United World Wrestling awards prize money to all the medal winners of the Ranking Series events from this year. The gold medalists get 1500 Swiss Francs, the silver medalists get 750 Swiss Francs and the two bronze medalists get 500 Swiss Francs each. The tournaments also allow wrestlers to compete with a two-kilogram weight allowance.

Vazgen TEVANYAN (ARM)Vazgen TEVANYAN (ARM) scores using a gut wrench against Joseph MCKENNA (USA) in the 65kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

In other gold medal bouts of the evening, Vazgen TEVANYAN (ARM) defeated Joseph MCKENNA (USA) to win the 65kg gold medal and continue his growth at 65kg in which he also won a U23 world title last year.

In typical Tevanyan style, he kept Mckenna at bay in the first period as both wrestlers began on a slow note. Tevanyan called passive and gave up points as well. But for action points, Tevanyan struck first with a single leg to lead 2-1. He added another as he passed McKenna’s left elbow and found his near ankle followed by a gut wrench.

McKenna, trying to find an opening to cut the lead, shot a swing single with his elbows wide, when Tevanyan used an underhook throw-by for a third takedown which was enough to win 8-2.

Tevanyan's ability to dictate terms in a wrestling bout was on display in Alexandria as he waited to hit his counters, defended like his life depends on a single point and used a few big moves one of which was a roll for four in his first bout.

Ernazar AKMATALIEV (KGZ)Ernazar AKMATALIEV (KGZ) won the 70kg gold medal over Lucas CHITTUM (USA). (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Another U23 world champion who won gold in Alexandria was Ernazar AKMATALIEV (KGZ), claiming 70kg gold over Lucas CHITTUM (USA) with a 10-0 win.

Like always, Akmataliev was involved in some exciting bouts right from the start. He wrestled Zafarbek OTAKHONOV (UZB) in the opening bout and sneaked past him with a 7-5 win with a late stepout.

He then got 2022 U23 world champion Giorgi ELBAKIDZE (GEO) and it was only the Georgian's conditioning, or rather a lack of it, which let him down as Akmataliev scored a fall after leading 14-7.

Orozobek TOKTOMAMBETOV (KGZ) thought he could get the better of his compatriot but Akmataliev never allowed the former to dominate and won the semifinal 2-2. He set up a final with Chittum who had defeated AGUDAMU (CHN), Cuneyt BUDAK (TUR) and Ihor NYKYFORUK (UKR) to reach the final.

Akmataliev, well recovered from the tough morning session, began the final against Chittum with an arm throw which was stopped by Chittum who only gave up a point step out.

Akmataliev extended his lead to 5-0 using two counter-offensive exposures off of Chittum’s head inside a single leg. He then slipped out of a Chittum underhook and got to a single leg for two additional points. A step out shortly after pushed his lead to 8-0. He ended the match with another single leg, claiming technical superiority.

After the whistle, Akmataliev seemed to be upset with Chittum and added a slap to his back. As both guys got up, they had to be separated by the official, both wagging their fingers at each other. But after his hand was raised, Akmataliev did tone down and shook hands with his American opponent.

Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR)Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR) tries a double-leg against Zahid VALENCIA (USA) in the 86kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Another American finished with a silver medal as Zahid VALENCIA (USA) fell in the 86kg final after some solid wins in the morning session.

Vasil MYKHAILOV (UKR), a veteran at 79kg, made the move up to 86kg and tasted success in his first tournament with a gold over a strong field in Alexandria.

The World Championships bronze medalist has wrestled at 86kg once before -- at the 2019 Alexander Medved Ranking Series -- but finished 14th. He then shuffled between 74kg and 79kg, and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics but failed to win a medal. For Paris, Mykhailov is switching to 86kg and will take home a lot of confidence along with the gold.

In his first bout, he defeated world medalist Boris MAKOEV (SVK) and with wins over Islyambek ILYASSOV (KAZ) in the quarterfinal and Tariel GAPHRINDASHVILI (GEO) in the semifinals, Mykhailov showed that he can handle tough bouts. He capped the day with perhaps his biggest win over Valencia.

Mykhailov took the early 4-0 lead with a chest wrap off of Valencia’s double leg but Valencia bounced back and picked up two for the exposure after his misfortunes on the double, then tacked on two step-outs, tying the match 4-4 but Mykhailov holding criteria.

The Ukrainian head-pinched Valencia for two, regaining the outright 6-4 lead but Valencia once again came back to make it 6-6. Mykhailov used a head pinch to score and seal up the win, 8-6.

Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO)Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO) defeated Amirhossein KAVOUSI (IRI) in the 79kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 79kg, Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO) had to survive a late comeback from Amirhossein KAVOUSI (IRI) to win the gold medal.

In the final, Kentchadze used a Greco-esk high-dive double-leg to put Kavousi on his back, nearly picking up the fall. The Iranian bellied out, giving up his left arm to a trapped arm gut wrench and a pair of exposures. Kentchadze raced to an 8-0 lead after the 30-second exchange.

Kavousi brought life back into the final as he foot swept Kentchadze from his feet to his back and cut the deficit to 8-4 after the opening three minutes.

In the second period, Kavousi doubled Kentchadze in front of the Iranian corner, cutting his opponent's lead to 8-6. Kentchadze, however, weathered the storm and used a go-behind off of Kavousi’s single-leg attempt to increase his lead to 10-6. Despite giving up a late step out, the Georgian hung on to win, 10-7.

This was Kentchadze's second tournament at 79kg after the Zagreb Open in which he won the silver medal. The upgrade in Alexandria saw him win 9-6 against Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE) in the opening bout, 12-2 over Arman AVAGYAN (ARM) in the quarterfinals and beat Bekzod ABDURAKHMONOV (UZB) 10-5 in the semifinal.

Taiyrbek ZHUMASHBEK UULU (KGZ)Taiyrbek ZHUMASHBEK UULU (KGZ) defends a shot from Taras MARKOVYCH (UKR) in the 61kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 61kg, Taiyrbek ZHUMASHBEK UULU (KGZ) defeated Taras MARKOVYCH (UKR) 9-2 to pocket the gold medal on his Ranking Series debut.

Zhumashbek Uulu had made the day significant for himself well before the final as he defeated U23 world champion Arsen HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) 10-0 in the bout. He had lost to the Armenian in the final of the U23 Worlds in Pontevedra, Spain last year.

He followed up that win with a 9-6 win over Jahongirmirza TUROBOV (UZB) and an 18-6 destruction of Yasin REZAEI (IRI) in the semifinal.

In the final, he attacked Markovych relentlessly and was rewarded with two takedowns in the first period and two more in the second. He also scored a point via stepout.

Kollin MOORE (USA)Kollin MOORE (USA) won the 92kg gold, second Ranking Series title in three weeks. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

The gold medal bouts at 74kg and 92kg saw medical forfeits and saw Iakub SHIKHDZHAMALOV (ROU) and Kollin MOORE (USA) winning the gold respectively.

Moore was supposed to face teammate Nathan JACKSON (USA) in the final but the latter pulled out, perhaps because of the bleeding from the head he struggled with throughout the day.

Moore and Jackson looked in great touch on Sunday and deserved to be the finalists. Jackson began his day with a 5-2 win over Feyzullah AKTURK (TUR) before handling Pruthviraj PATIL (IND) 10-0. He defeated Rizabek AITMUKHAN (KAZ) 8-2.

From the other side of the bracket, Moore reached the final by beating world bronze medalist Miriani MAISURADZE (GEO) 12-2, a far more convincing victory than 4-3 in the Zagreb Open final, and Khaled ELMOATAMADAWI (EGY), 11-1. Moore has now won two Ranking Series gold medals in the space of three weeks.

Iakub SHIKHDZHAMALOV (ROU)Iakub SHIKHDZHAMALOV (ROU), center, alongwith the other medalists at 74kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 74kg, Vincenzo JOSEPH (USA) forfeited his final bout to give the gold medal to Shikhdzhamalov who now has won two Ranking Series medals. He won a silver at 79kg in Matteo Pellicone last year.

While he did not wrestle in the final, Shikhdzhamalov displayed his skills on the mat which stunned everyone. After winning against Darkhan YESSENGALI (KAZ) in the first bout, Magomedrasul ASLUEV (BRN) in the second and Mohamed ABDELHADY (EGY) in the quarterfinal, he set up a semifinal against Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR).

Demitras had it all figured out and did not let Shikhdzhamalov get near him for four minutes and 30 seconds, leading 3-0. That is when Shikhdzhamalov used his craft and pulled off a scoop to takedown in which he faked Demirtas to cut the lead 3-2.

Shikhdzhamalov still needed at least a point to win and with the clock ticking down, he went for a desperate move. Demirtas was backing away, defending his one-point lead in the final 25 seconds when Shikhdzhamalov launched a duck under to score the match-winning takedown.

The focus will now shift to the continental championships with the first being the U23 European Championships beginning March 13.

The Asian Championships begins April 9 in Astana, Kazakhstan and the European Championships will be held in Zagreb, Croatia from April 17.




GOLD - Suleyman ATLI (TUR) df. Andrii YATSENKO (UKR), 12-11

BRONZE - Rakhat KALZHAN (KAZ) df. Nicholas SURIANO (USA), 2-1

BRONZE - Austin DESANTO (USA) df. Shota PHARTENADZE (GEO), via fall

GOLD -  Vazgen TEVANYAN (ARM) df. Joseph MC KENNA (USA), 8-2

BRONZE - Erik ARUSHANIAN (UKR) df. Sebastian RIVERA (PUR), 7-2
BRONZE - Umidjon JALOLOV (UZB) df. Edemi BOLKVADZE (GEO), 10-0

GOLD - Ernazar AKMATALIEV (KGZ) df. Lucas CHITTUM (USA), 10-0

BRONZE - Ihor NYKYFORUK (UKR) df. Cuneyt BUDAK (TUR), via fall

GOLD - Iakub SHIKHDZHAMALOV (ROU) df. Vincenzo JOSEPH (USA), via inj. def.

BRONZE - Mitchell FINESILVER (ISR) df. Semen RADULOV (UKR), 7-2

GOLD - Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO) df. Amirhossein KAVOUSI (IRI), 10-7

BRONZE - Chandler MARSTELLER (USA) df. Bolat SAKAYEV (KAZ), 2-1

GOLD - Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR) df. Zahid VALENCIA (USA), 8-6

BRONZE - Sebastian JEZIERZANSKI (POL) df. Ethan RAMOS (PUR), 11-8

GOLD - Kollin MOORE (USA) df. Nathan JACKSON (USA), via inj. def.

BRONZE - Feyzullah AKTURK (TUR) df. Rizabek AITMUKHAN (KAZ), 10-0