Chakvetadze Lone Olympic Medalist of 3 to Reach Greco Semis

By Ken Marantz

SOFIA, Bulgaria (May 8) --- Of the three Olympic medalists in action on Saturday, only Davit CHAKVETADZE (RUS) still has a chance to pick up more of the shiny hardware in Tokyo this summer.

Chakvetadze advanced to the semifinals at 87kg as the Greco-Roman competition got underway in the six Olympic weight classes at the final world Olympic qualifying tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Chakvetadze, the Rio 2016 Olympic champion at 85kg, will face Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) -- a fellow Georgian native who now competes for another nation -- for the ticket to Tokyo that will go to each semifinal winner in the night session at the spectator-less Arena Armeec Sport Hall.

Chakvetadze will also be looking to fill the lone remaining Olympic berth for Russia, joining Cuba as the only nations with six entrants in Greco. Over the past two days in Sofia, the European powerhouse completed its Olympic lineup in freestyle and women's wrestling.

Datunashvili, the newly minted European champion, spoiled Iran's bid to also have a full Greco lineup in Tokyo when he edged Asian gold medalist Naser ALIZADEH (IRI) 1-1 on last-point criteria.

"All of today's bouts were hard for me, but right now I am feeling good after winning the quarterfinal," Datunashvili said. "I have one more match and I am prepared to win it. Hard work, that's my secret."

In the other semifinal at 87kg, Kristoffer BERG (SWE) will face Ivan HUKLEK (CRO) after knocking off two-time former world champion Metehan BASAR (TUR) 3-2 by getting a takedown while going out of bounds with :58 left. Huklek advanced with a 9-0 technical fall over Petr NOVAK (CZE).

"I have been wrestling well but I am only getting started," Berg said. "Most important thing is still left and I can evaluate after that. I am trying to remain calm like I have been throughout the day."

Rio 2016 bronze medalist Rasul CHUNAYEV (AZE) saw his Tokyo Olympic hopes dashed when he came out on the short side of a 3-2 decision to Parviz NASIBOV (UKR), who made his go-ahead takedown late in the first period hold up for the victory.

Chunayev, a two-time world medalist, had barely survived a qualification round clash with Donior ISLAMOV (MDA), as his early 4-point headlock proved the difference in a 4-4 victory on criteria.

Nasibov will next face Shogo TAKAHASHI (JPN), who will attempt to give the Olympic host a third Greco spot. Takahashi, a 2019 Asian bronze medalist, is one of just two Asians to make it to the semifinals; Europeans filled all of the other berths, spread out over 20 countries.

"I want to emerge with a win using Japanese-style wrestling," said Takahashi, who defeated Aliaksandr LIAVONCHYK (BLR) 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

The other 67kg semifinal will pit three-time European bronze medalist Karen ASLANYAN (ARM) against Mamadassa SYLLA (FRA), after both ousted Asian opponents in the quarterfinals.

Aslyanyan defeated Asian bronze medalist Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) 10-5, while Sylla held on for a 5-2 victory over Asian silver medalist Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ), a two-time world medalist who failed in a bid to appear at a third Olympics.

The third Olympic medalist to fall was Stig-Andre BERGE (NOR), and the Rio bronze medalist's exit at 60kg came early on with a 4-1 loss in the qualification round to Murad MAMMADOV (AZE).

Mammodov will also be no more than a spectator during the Olympics, as his tournament ended with a 2-1 loss in the quarterfinals to Hanjae CHUNG (KOR), an Asian bronze medalist at 63kg.

Chung's path to Tokyo will have to go through 2019 world U23 champion Armen MELIKYAN (ARM), who defeated European bronze medalist Razvan ARNAUT (ROU) 3-1.

Earlier, Arnaut chalked up a 3-1 win over Michal TRACZ (POL), who will have to wait three more years to follow in the footsteps of his uncle and coach, three-time Olympic medalist Jozef TRACZ.

Former world silver medalist Victor CIOBANU (MDA), making his third attempt at qualifying for the Olympics, moved closer when he advanced to the other 60kg semifinal with a display of big throws, routing Firuz MIRZORAJABOV (TJK) by 14-0 technical fall.

Ciobanu will face Dato CHKHARTISHVILI (GEO), a two-time European bronze medalist who edged Ivo ANGELOV (BUL) 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

The 77kg division was deprived of what would have been a fourth Olympic medalist, as 2012 Olympic champion and 2016 bronze medalist Hyeonwoo KIM (KOR) had to withdraw due to a pandemic-related issue.

There is no shortage of top-level wrestlers to fill the void, including Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE), the 2020 European champion at 82kg who got the bye left by Kim's absence and ran with it all the way to the semifinals with a pair of a technical falls.

Huseynov will face a formidable foe for the Olympic ticket in Viktor NEMES (SRB), who placed eighth at the Rio Games.

"I know him very well and I think he is a very good wrestler," Huseynov said. "But as they say, may the best wrestler win on the mat."

Nemes advanced with a 2-0 victory over Viktar SASUNOUSKI (BLR), with whom he was a co-bronze medalist at the 2018 World Championships.

"The journey has been long," Nemes said. "The World Championships in 2019 and there also I was a match away from qualifying for the Olympics. But I think now I am in good form."

Nemes said that he is focused on avoiding the mistakes that cost him at the European Olympic qualifer, where he placed third. And he has a score to settle.

"I wrestle the Azerbaijan guy and I want revenge a loss from the 2013 World Championships as he won. It's time for revenge and going to the Olympics with my twin brother," he said, referring to sibling Mate, who qualified for Tokyo at 67kg by placing third at the 2019 World Championships.

In the other 77kg semifinal, two-time world bronze medalist Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL) will clash with 2017 world U23 champion Fatih CENGIZ (TUR).

Another native Georgian will get a chance to represent his adopted country at 97kg, where European silver medalist Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA) advanced to the semifinals by edging 2017 European champion Felix BALDAUF (NOR) 2-1. He will face Alex SZOKE (HUN), a 9-0 technical fall winner over Jesus GASCA (ESP).

Vilius LAURINAITIS (LTU) and Artur OMAROV (CZE) will battle in the other semifinal. Laurinaitis made it through with a nail-biting 4-4 win over veteran Melonin NOUMONVI (FRA), with his early 4-point arm throw giving him the edge on criteria.

The 38-year-old Noumonvi had been aiming to appear at a fourth career Olympics -- and that's after missing out on Rio 2016. The 2014 world champion made his Olympic debut at Athens 2004, and finished fifth at both Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

At 130kg, 2020 European champion Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU) will take on Rafal KRAJEWSKI (POL), while Matti KUOSMANEN (FIN) will face Mykola KUCHMII (UKR) in a battle of European bronze medalists from the past two years.

Alexuc Ciurariu eked past Asian silver medalist Alimkhan SYZDYKOV (KAZ) 1-1 before scoring a 10-1 technical fall over Arata SONODA (JPN) in the quarterfinals.

Day 3 Results


60kg (25 entries)

Armen MELIKYAN (ARM) vs Hanjae CHUNG (KOR)

Victor CIOBANU (MDA) df. Firuz MIRZORAJABOV (TJK) by TF, 14-0, 1:58
Armen MELIKYAN (ARM) df. Razvan ARNAUT (ROU), 3-1
Hanjae CHUNG (KOR) df. Murad MAMMADOV (AZE), 2-1

67kg (26 entries)

Karen ASLANYAN (ARM) vs Mamadassa SYLLA (FRA)

Karen ASLANYAN (ARM) df. Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ), 10-5
Mamadassa SYLLA (FRA) df. Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ), 5-2
Parviz NASIBOV (UKR) df. Rasul CHUNAYEV (AZE), 3-2
Shogo TAKAHASHI (JPN) df. Aliaksandr LIAVONCHYK (BLR), 2-1

77kg (30 entries)

Viktor NEMES (SRB) vs Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE)

Viktor NEMES (SRB) df. Viktar SASUNOUSKI (BLR), 2-0
Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) df. Abd OUAKALI (ALG) by TF, 9-0, 2:39
Fatih CENGIZ (TUR) df. Paulius GALKINAS (LTU), 7-1

87kg (27 entries)

Ivan HUKLEK (CRO) vs Kristoffer BERG (SWE)

Davit CHAKVETADZE (RUS) df. Michael WAGNER (AUT), 6-0
Ivan HUKLEK (CRO) df. Petr NOVAK (CZE) by TF, 9-0, 2:20
Kristoffer BERG (SWE) df. Metehan BASAR (TUR), 3-2

97kg (21 entries)


Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA) df. Felix BALDAUF (NOR), 2-1
Alex SZOKE (HUN) df. Jesus GASCA (ESP) by TF, 9-0, 2:09
Vilius LAURINAITIS (LTU) df. Melonin NOUMONVI (FRA), 4-4
Artur OMAROV (CZE) df. Peter OEHLER (GER), 3-2

130kg (19 entries)


Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU) df. Arata SONODA (JPN) by TF, 10-1, 4:30
Rafal KRAJEWSKI (POL) df. Beka KANDELAKI (AZE) by Fall, 1:52 (4-4)
Matti KUOSMANEN (FIN) df. Radoslav GEORGIEV (BUL), 1-1
Mykola KUCHMII (UKR) df. Adam COON (USA), 6-3


Datunashvili Denies Rio champ Chakvetadze Ticket to Tokyo; Armenia Grabs 2 Greco spots

By Ken Marantz

SOFIA, Bulgaria (May 8) -- After appearing in two Olympics for his native Georgia, Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) will now get to represent his adopted country of Serbia. It took a victory over the defending Olympic champion to do it, and one that also spoiled Russia's perfect record in qualifying.

Datunashvili did what needed to be done to forge out a 1-1 victory on criteria over Rio 2016 gold medalist Davit CHAKVETADZE (RUS) in the semifinals at 87kg, earning his country one of the 12 Greco-Roman spots allocated at the final world Olympic qualifying tournament on Saturday night in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Both wrestlers were limited to a passivity point, but Datunashvili's came later to give him the victory as the semifinal winners in each of the six weight classes clinched tickets to Tokyo for their country.

In the last 10 seconds, the Georgian-born Chakvetadze got in on a body lock, but Datunashvili whizzered his way out of danger to give Serbia a third Greco spot at the Tokyo Games.

"It's been hard for me," said Datunashvili, who won his third career European championship this year and first for Serbia. "He is also a Georgian and I am, too. We wrestled in training when we were younger. This is the first time we met in a competition and I won."

Competing for Georgia, Datunashvili finished seventh at the London 2012 Olympics, then dropped to 18th four years later in Rio. He made his debut for Serbia last year.

"I had many problems in Georgia but Serbia adopted me," he said. "I say thanks to them."

For Russia, Greco 87kg will be the only weight class without an entry, after the country completed the sets in freestyle and women's wrestling on the first two days of the tournament.

In Greco, only Cuba will have the full six-member squad.

In the other 87kg semifinal, Ivan HUKLEK (CRO) stuffed a tiring Kristoffer BERG (SWE) on a back drop in the last 50 seconds for 2 points, then added a stepout for a 4-1 victory to give Croatia a second Olympic spot.

"I wrestled him in camp but this was the first time in competition," Huklek said. "This will be my first Olympics and I am going to take a medal from Tokyo."

Huklek added he was dedicating his triumph to his sister who died recently.

It was a good night for Armenia, which doubled its allotment of Greco places with victories by Armen MELIKYAN (ARM) at 60kg and Karen ASLANYAN (ARM) at 67kg. For both, the ability to convert in the par terre position became the difference between victory and defeat.

Melikyan coverted from the down position in the first period, then added a late takedown for a 5-2 victory over Hanjae CHUNG (KOR), one of just two Asians who appeared in the semifinals.

Both lost.

The other winner at 60kg was Victor CIOBANU (MDA), the 2018 world silver medalist who finally made it to the Olympics in his third try with a stunning victory by fall over Dato CHKHARTISHVILI (GEO).

Ciobanu used an arm throw to get behind, and when Chkhartishvili tried to escape by sitting out, the Moldovan sucked him back to put him on his back, then clamped down for a fall at 2:11.

"This was so hard but I kept on fighting," Ciobanu said. "I just thought to continue wrestling and thank God I won in this manner."

Aslanyan's victory at 67kg came at the expense of Mamadassa SYLLA (FRA), as he was able to convert in par terre after his opponent couldn't for a 3-1 victory.

In the other semifinal, 2018 world junior bronze medalist Parviz NASIBOV (UKR) scored a pair of four-point moves in the first period of a 10-3 victory that denied Shogo TAKAHASHI (JPN) a spot in the Olympics in his home country.

The Czech Republic became the 61st and last country to grab a ticket to Tokyo in wrestling when Artur OMAROV (CZE) secured one of the two places at 97kg.

Omarov, who finished third at at last December's Individual World Cup, outclassed Vilius LAURINAITIS (LTU) in an 8-0 technical fall in 5:12 that he capped with his third stepout point of the match.

A transplanted Georgian came out on the losing end in the other semifinal, in which Alex SZOKE (HUN) defeated Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA) 6-1 after scoring a pair of two-point rolls from the par terre position.

"The scoreboard shows that it was an easy match but it was not easy," said Szoke, who finished second at the Individual World Cup. "It was hard but I was very strong mentally to win this and qualify."

Host Bulgaria came away with an Olympic spot at 77kg -- although there were no spectators at Arena Armeec Sport Hall to appreciate it -- when Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL) defeated Fatih CENGIZ (TUR) 3-2.

Mnatsakanian, a two-time world bronze medalist at 72kg, gave up a stepout and a passivity point before getting a takedown to go ahead on criteria. He received a passivity point in the second period then protected the lead to the end.

In the other 77kg semifinal, Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) scored a pair of takedowns in the first period and defeated former world champion Viktor NEMES (SRB) 4-1.

"This win is so hard for me because my opponent is a famous wrestler – world and European champion," said Huseynov, the 2020 European champion himself at 82kg and a former world silver medalist. "I am very happy to win this match.

"This is my first Olympics and I think I will be better there because after 2014 and after seven years, this is my first competition in this category."

For the 33-year-old Huseynov, much of the battle was with the scale in dropping to the lower weight.

"I reduced 12 kgs for this competition, but for the Olympics I will be good," he said. "I was very strong in March 2020 but then COVID happened. We had to wait. I was trying to go to 87kg, but we have strong wrestlers in that category. So I decided to drop to 77kg."

At 130kg, 2020 European champion Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU) earned his third trip to the Olympics by putting up a solid wall of defense to shut out Rafal KRAJEWSKI (POL) 5-0.

Alexuc Ciurariu scored his first two points on passivity calls, and even though he could not convert in the par terre position, he put the match out of reach with a spin-behind takedown. An unsuccessful challenge added the final point.

"Not many people believed in me but I always believed that I would qualify," Alexuc Ciurariu said. "The bouts were very hard but I wanted to win."

In the final bout of the night at 130kg, Matti KUOSMANEN (FIN) defeated Mykola KUCHMII (UKR) 1-1 on criteria, with both points allocated for passivity.

Interestingly, Kuosmanen opted to remain on his feet in lieu of the par terre position. In the end, it neither helped nor harmed him, as neither wrestler could launch an effective attack.

Day 3 Results: Greco-Roman

60kg (25 entries)
SEMIFINAL - Victor CIOBANU (MDA) df. Dato CHKHARTISHVILI (GEO) by Fall, 2:11 (2-1)
SEMIFINAL - Armen MELIKYAN (ARM) df. Hanjae CHUNG (KOR), 5-2

67kg (26 entries)
SEMIFINAL - Karen ASLANYAN (ARM) df. Mamadassa SYLLA (FRA), 3-1

77kg (30 entries)
SEMIFINAL - Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) df. Viktor NEMES (SRB), 4-1

87kg (27 entries)
SEMIFINAL - Ivan HUKLEK (CRO) df. Kristoffer BERG (SWE), 4-1

97kg (21 entries)
SEMIFINAL - Artur OMAROV (CZE) df. Vilius LAURINAITIS (LTU) by TF, 8-0, 5:13

130kg (19 entries)