Gutu returns, Mihai ends drought at U23 Europeans

By Vinay Siwach

BUCHAREST, Romania (March 14) -- For a period of one year from mid-2018, Alexandrin GUTU (MDA) dominated every competition participated in. He won the U17 World and European Championships along with the Youth Olympics sandwiched between the two.

But for the next six tournaments, Gutu failed to win a gold medal and reached the final in only one. He ended the title drought with a gold at the U20 European Championships in 2021. He defended his title a year later but that was the only highlight of the year as he fell in the U20 and U23 World Championships.

After beginning 2023 with silver and bronze at the two Ranking Series, Gutu on Tuesday warmed up for the European Championships with a gold medal at the U23 European Championships in Bucharest, Romania. The U23 title means that only the senior gold is left to win and complete the set of continental titles.

The 21-year-old wrestled defending champion Khasay HASANLI (AZE) in the 77kg final and was in trouble early as Hasanli got the par terre. Gutu wanted to sneak out of the position but got stuck and gave up two points. But when Hasanli tried to lift Gutu for another throw, he lost balance and Gutu got the two points for exposure. Then came the trademark front headlock by which he scored another two points to lead 4-3 at the break.

Gutu did not relent in the second period as well and scored two pushouts as Hasanli struggled to match his pace for six minutes. The Moldovan won 6-3 for his first gold of the year.

David LOSONCZI (HUN)David LOSONCZI (HUN) celebrates after beating Turpal BISULTANOV (DEN) in the 87kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostandin Andonov)

Turpal BISULTANOV (DEN) was not as lucky as Gutu and failed to complete his set of European titles as he fell in the 87kg final for the second straight year.

David LOSONCZI (HUN) followed Istvan TAKACS (HUN) in denying Bisultanov in the final as he scrambled through for a 4-3 win in Bucharest.

World silver medalist Bisultanov got the par terre in the first period and scored an arm trap gut to lead 3-0. He did remain aggressive in the second period but the referees called him passive and Losonczi got the par terre.

Losonczi, a bronze medalist at the 2022 World Championships, managed to get a turn just in time to gain a 3-3 criteria lead which Bisultanov challenged for a foul. However, he lost the challenge as the referees deemed it a clean move and Losonczi got a 4-3 lead.

Despite his desperate efforts to score a point, Bisultanov, who got a second par terre position, fell short. But he would be hoping to turn around things by the time the European Championships, in which he is the defending champion, knock on the door in a month's time.

Denis MIHAI (ROU)Denis MIHAI (ROU) won the 55kg gold medal at home. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Mihai's home run

After 13 attempts, Denis MIHAI (ROU) finally got his much-deserved gold medal at a championships as he won the 55kg weight class. The victory was made sweeter as he made a comeback in the final to win at home.

Mihai has been in the finals of different championships over the years but failed to win a gold medal. But Tuesday was different as he defeated Karapet MANVELYAN (ARM) 7-3 in the final.

After a slow first period in which Mihai led 1-0 for Manvelyan's passivity, wrestling picked up pace in the second as Mihai was called passive and Manvelyan scored from par terre to lead 3-1.

Mihai received a second par terre position and this time made no mistake, scoring a stunning front throw for four points for a 5-3 lead. As Manvelyan tried to regain the lead, he got countered by Mihai who scored two more points to win 7-3.

The crowd went into a frenzy as soon as the final whistle blew with Mihai acknowledging the praise and falling onto the mat to soak the moment.

Tino OJALA (FIN)Tino OJALA (FIN) defeated Giorgi SHOTADZE (GEO) in the 63kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Ojala gets one for Finland

As an early contender for breakout performer of the tournament, Tino OJALA (FIN) won his first major gold medal on Tuesday. The wrestler became only the second from Finland to win a gold medal at U23 European Championships after Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN) who won at 97kg in 2019.

Ojala's victory at 63kg meant that defending champion Giorgi SHOTADZE (GEO), who lost 5-4, was denied a second straight gold medal.

A correct throw from par terre in the first period gave Ojala a 3-0 lead in the final but Shotadze answered with a takedown using an arm throw 30 seconds before the break to cut the lead to 3-2.

Shotadze got the par terre position in the second period but failed to score. However, he still led 3-3 on criteria for scoring the last point.

Ojala got his chance to reverse the lead as Shotadze was called for passivity. He scored a gut wrench to take a 5-3 lead, a huge moment in the bout which saw only a stepout more action and Ojala winning 5-4.

Mykhailo VYSHNYVETSKYI (UKR)Mykhailo VYSHNYVETSKYI (UKR) won his first U23 European title after beating Giorgi TSOPURASHVILI (UKR). (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 130kg, U20 world champion Mykhailo VYSHNYVETSKYI (UKR) won his first U23 European title after beating Giorgi TSOPURASHVILI (GEO), 4-1, in the final.

Vyshnyvetskyi led only 1-0 at the break, a point for Tsopurashvili's passivity. But he did not slow down in the second and scored via exposure when Tsopurashvili tried doing a bearhug. Georgia challenged the call and lost to give Vyshnyvetskyi a 4-0 lead in the final. 

The Ukrainian was called passive later in the second period but that was all the damage that occurred to him as Tsopurashvili failed to score from par terre and left the gold medal to his opponent.



GOLD: Denis MIHAI (ROU) df. Karapet MANVELYAN (ARM), 7-3

BRONZE: Muhammet CAKIR (TUR) df. Sabolc LOSONC (SRB), 9-0
BRONZE: Eduard STRILCHUK (UKR) df. Leonid MOROZ (MDA), 8-3

GOLD: Tino OJALA (FIN) df. Giorgi SHOTADZE (GEO), 5-4

BRONZE: Vitalie ERIOMENCO (MDA) df. Andrii SEMENCHUK (UKR), 11-0
BRONZE: Mairbek SALIMOV (POL) df. Ismail CULFA (TUR), 10-2

GOLD: Alexandrin GUTU (MDA) df. Khasay HASANLI (AZE), 6-3

BRONZE: Deni NAKAEV (GER) df. Khvicha ANANIDZE (GEO), 9-1
BRONZE: Mykyta POLITAIEV (UKR) df. Sahan ACAR (TUR), 3-2


BRONZE: Hovhannes HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) df. Gabriel LUPASCO (MDA), via fall


BRONZE: Albert VARDANYAN (ARM) df. Marcel ALBINI (CZE), 6-1
BRONZE: Muhammet BAKIR (TUR) df. Sarkhan MAMMADOV (AZE), 4-0


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