Croatia to host 2025 World Championships, non-Olympic Worlds returns

By United World Wrestling Press

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY, Switzerland (February 15) -- For the first time in wrestling history, Zagreb, Croatia will host the World Championships in 2025. The mega event will take place in Zagreb from September 13-21.

The United World Wrestling Bureau held a meeting Friday to discuss future hosts and the Senior World Championships 2025 was awarded to Zagreb, a regular on the wrestling calendar for a decade now, hosting the European Championships and the Ranking Series regularly. The Zagreb Open has been the season opener for international wrestling on many occasions.

The World Championships will be another historic event in Croatia’s wrestling journey. In August, the country crowned its first-ever world champion when Veronika VILK (CRO) won the U17 World Championships in Istanbul, Turkiye.

Non-Olympic Worlds in Tirana

The Bureau also decided that a World Championships in non-Olympic weight classes will be held in 2024. The World Championships will be held in Tirana, Albania from October 28 to 31, right after the U23 World Championships which will be held in the same venue from October 21 to 27.

Non-Olympic weights World Championships in Tirana this year will be the first time it will be held since 2016 when Budapest became the host. Tirana will see wrestlers in 12 weight classes -- 61kg, 70kg, 79kg and 92kg in Freestyle; 55kg, 59kg, 65kg and 72kg in Women's Wrestling; 55kg, 63kg, 72kg and 82kg in Greco-Roman.

A detailed program of the World Championships will be sent to all National Federations later.


Zagreb Open: 'Calm' Khaslakhanau creates storm, Hedayati wins 130kg

By Vinay Siwach

ZAGREB, Croatia (January 14) -- Abubakar KHASLAKHANAU (AIN) had not wrestled Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN) before. But he had watched his World Championships loss in the pre-quarterfinals. A headlock throw saw Savolainen get pinned in Belgrade last year and end his chances of winning a senior World Championships medal and a Paris Olympic quota.

So when the two met in the Zagreb Open Ranking Series final at 97kg on Saturday, Khaslakhanau did not waste any time and hit a headlock for four. While he did not get the pin, he managed to finish the final in a minute and six seconds and claim the gold medal as the tournament came to a close with six Greco-Roman weight classes.

Khaslakhanau, who finished fifth at the World Championships after losing to Gabriel ROSILLO (CUB) and Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) in the bronze medal bout, showed why he could be a big medal threat in Paris as he calmly went about business and won five bouts in some fashion.

Beginning with a 13-5 win over Giorgi KATSANASHVILI (GEO), Khaslakhanau scored an 8-1 win over Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA). He defeated Aleksandar STJEPANETIC (SWE) 8-0 in the quarterfinals and faced Murad AHMADIYEV (AZE) in the semifinal which turned out to be a close one.

Ahmadiyev was quick to take an aggressive approach in the bout but Khaslakhanau kept himself calm and got the first par terre advantage. He scored a turn to lead 3-0 against Ahmadiyev who got par terre advantage in the second period but failed to score. Khaslakhanau decided to keep the 3-1 lead and thwarted every Ahmadiyev attack to win. A stepout in the final second of the bout made it 4-1.

In the final, Savolainen was just getting started when Khaslakhanau hit a stunning headlock and held the Finland wrestler on his back. Savolainen had Khaslakhanau on his back to earn two points but he could not do that for long. Khaslakhanau once again went on top, giving him two more points. Savolainen was cautioned for blocking and asked to return in par terre trailing 8-2.

Khaslakhanau lifted Savolainen for a big throw but managed only a two-point throw which ended the bout. Finland challenged that it was only a stepout which was the case but the replays showed Savolainen blocking Khalakhanau again. A second caution and two points were awarded against him, ending the bout 11-2.

Abubakar KHASLAKHANAU (AIN)Abubakar KHASLAKHANAU (AIN) won the 97kg gold medal in Zagreb. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

"Today’s matches went perfect," Khaslakhanau said. "All the five matches were tough apart from the final. I had to prepare for each one in the same way. That’s why I am satisfied with my performance, but it’s not a limit, I should still work more and achieve more."

Despite perfect bouts, the U20 world champion maintained an expressionless face and did not give away much.

"I am a very disciplined wrestler thanks to my coach Kiril FOMENKO," he said. "Being respectful to my opponents doesn’t let me show any emotions. That’s why I am so reserved when I lose and when I win."

Khaslakhanau will now head to the European Championships but a clash with U23 world champion Pavel HLINCHUK (AIN) did not take place after the latter lost his quarterfinal.

"We wrestle together at the training, we also wrestled each other two times at competitions, I lost both times," he said.

Just 19 years old, Khaslakhanau has added two world titles to his name and qualified for the Paris Olympics. But it was only a piece of luck that he ended up being a wrestler.

"I started wrestling when I was 10 years old," he said. "A coach came to school to choose the kids and he invited me and I decided to give it a try. I liked it. I train in the wrestling club “Legend”. I want to say that it’s the best club at least in our country, and soon will be the best one in the world."

Savolainen was satisfied with his wrestling till the final and said that he knows his weakness and will continue to work on it.

"I was quite happy until the evening. In the final, it was the same mistake as the World Championships where I lost because of the same head throw," he said. "It could have been my time on the mat in the second period but we never got there in the final."

Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI)Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI) defeated Oscar PINO (CUB) 8-2 in the 130kg quarterfinals. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Another U20 world champion had a great day in office as Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI) won the gold medal at 130kg after two big wins. His first big test came against world bronze medalist Oscar PINO (CUB) and he passed that with flying colors, winning 8-2.

In the final, Hedayati faced Asian silver medalist Lingzhe MENG (CHN). After giving up the first passivity, Hedayati scored two stepouts before getting a par terre advantage in the second period to win 3-1.

The victory makes Hedayati the real successor behind world champion Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) at 130kg. Only time will tell when Hedayati will take over the reins from Mirzazadeh who is likely to go to Paris and will have to wrestle Hedayati.

At 60kg, Victor CIOBANU (MDA) pulled out injured and Sadyk LALAEV (AIN) got the gold medal. That was after both Lalaev and Ciobanu had a dominant morning session. Ciobanu defeated Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL) 3-3 in an action-packed semifinal.

Nazaryan led 1-1 on criteria after par terre advantage. At one point, he lifted Ciobanu for a suplex but the Moldovan used his hands to avoid landing in danger position, saving him from giving up any points. Moldova challenged the call asking for two points as Ciobanu landed on top of Nazaryan but it was deemed clean with no points to any wrestler.

Ciobanu, trailing on criteria, got Nazaryan in a lock and as he tried to score a takedown, Nazaryan got the exposure and then Ciobanu scored a reversal. The referees ruled it two points only for Ciobanu. Bulgaria challenged the call and the judge ruled it two points each to both wrestlers with Ciobanu scoring later which gave him a 3-3 criteria and the win.

Lalaev defeated two Individual Neutral Athletes before beating Ihor KUROCHKIN (UKR) 9-0 in the semifinal.

Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE)Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE) won the 72kg gold medal in Zagreb. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

In the two non-Olympic weight classes of 72kg and 82kg, Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE) and Erik SZILVASSY (HUN) were the respective gold medalists.

Ganizade took on Levente LEVAI (HUN) and began with a big front headlock throw for four, got another point for par terre and got two more when Levai tried to throw him but landed on his own back. No more points were awarded and Ganizade won 7-0.

In the 82kg final Ezilvassy took on U20 world champion Alperen BERBER (TUR) and never gave the youngster a chance to trouble him. Ezilvassy scored a turn from par terre and added a takedown in the second period to rule out any passivity warning against him. He won 5-0.

Adem UZUN (TUR) and Maksim STUPAKEVICH (AIN) were the only two wrestlers entered in 55kg and Uzun was too good for Stupakevich, winning the gold medal 10-2.



GOLD: Adem UZUN (TUR) df. Maksim STUPAKEVICH (AIN), 10-2

GOLD: Sadyk LALAEV (AIN) df. Victor CIOBANU (MDA), via inj. def.

BRONZE: Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL) df. Hafizov ILDAR (USA), 5-1

GOLD: Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE) df. Levente LEVAI (HUN), 7-0

BRONZE: Dominik ETLINGER (CRO) df. Calebe CORREA (BRA), 9-0
BRONZE: Muhammed GOCMEN (TUR) df. Iulian LUNGU (ROU), 9-0

GOLD: Erik SZILVASSY (HUN) df. Alperen BERBER (TUR), 5-0

BRONZE: Deni NAKAEV (GER) df. Mahmoud SEBIE (USA), 6-2 


BRONZE: Pavel HLINCHUK (AIN) df. Alex SZOKE (HUN), via inj. def.

GOLD: Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI) df. Lingzhe MENG (CHN), 3-1

BRONZE: Dariusz VITEK (HUN) df. Beka KANDELAKI (AZE), 7-4
BRONZE: Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) df. Laszlo DARABOS (HUN), via inj. def.