Host Serbia puts two into GR finals on opening day of Worlds
Saturday, September 10, 2022 - 20:16 By Ken Marantz
BELGRADE, Serbia (September 10) -- The opening act of the World Championships was a smash for the home team, as host Serbia saw two wrestlers advance to the finals of the four Greco-Roman weight classes that kicked off the tournament on Saturday in Belgrade.
Defending champion Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) put himself in a position for a repeat of the 87kg gold medal he won last year in Oslo, while Iran-born Ali ARSALAN (SRB) earned a shot at a first world title at 72kg.
Azerbaijan will also have two wrestlers in action on the first night of finals at Stark Arena on Sunday when Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) will look to regain the world 55kg title that he won in 2018, and European bronze medalist Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE) will go for gold at 72kg.
Meanwhile, Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) made his first world final at 77kg, earning a clash with surprising Zoltan LEVAI (HUN), who denied Serbia a third finalist when he knocked off former world champion Viktor NEMES (SRB).
Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) won his 87kg semifinal 4-3. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
Datunashvili, sporting his trademark cornrow braids, had to scrape his way into the 87kg final, where he will try to prevent European champion Turpan BISULTANOV (DEN) from becoming Denmark's first-ever world champion in Greco-Roman.
"For the Serbian people, for Serbian sports, I want to win it tomorrow," Datunashvili said.
All three of Datsunashvili's matches went the distance, including a 4-3 nail-biter in the semifinals over 2021 world U23 silver medalist David LOSONCZI (HUN). His ability to stay calm under pressure earned the Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist a trip back to the finals.
Against Losonczi, Datunashvili barely managed to gain a 2-point exposure from par terre, then managed to hang on after Losonczi scored a stepout that had a one-point fleeing penalty tacked on and cut the gap to a point.
Turpan BISULTANOV (DEN), blue, defeated Ali CENGIZ (TUR) 6-0 in the semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
In the final match of the session, Bisultanov took advantage of a rare second passivity call in his favor against Ali CENGIZ (TUR), scoring a 4-point throw in the second period to secure a 6-0 victory. That made him the first Dane to make a world Greco final since 2015 when Mark MADSEN (DEN) won the fourth and last of his silver medals at 74-75kg.
"I am very looking forward to it [the final]," Bisultanov said. "I was thinking that he or Hungarian will go to the final and yeah, they were both in the semifinals and had a very close match. I don't know, we will see what happens tomorrow, I and my coaches will see what we can do and I will do my best tomorrow."
Bisultanov said the vocal group of Danish fans in the venue will take away some of the home-field advantage of his opponent.
"Of course, every time you are at home you feel more energy, you have to do something for your home, for your fans," he said. "But luckily I got my crazy Danish fans here. I hope my fans will beat the Serbian fans, and I'll beat him as well."
Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) celebrates after scoring a 9-0 win over Max NOWRY (USA) in the 55kg semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
At 55kg, the final will be a clash between the two bronze medalists from Oslo 2021 -- both former world champions, as well -- although Azizli will seem to have the upper hand on Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO), having beaten him six months ago in the final at the European Championships.
Azizli stormed into the final with his third technical fall of the day, overwhelming Max NOWRY (USA) 9-0 in 1:44 in the first semifinal. Put on top in par terre, Azizli went right to work, ripping off a pair of gut wrenches before transitioning to a 4-point throw.
Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) will try to win his second world title on Sunday. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
Tsurtsumia, the 2019 world champion, advanced to the final with a 5-3 victory over Asian silver medalist Amangali BEKBOLATOV (KAZ). Tsurtsumia fell behind 3-3 on criteria when he gave up a defensive takedown early in the second period, but he immediately came back with a stepout to regain the lead.
The final will be the third meeting between Azizli and Tsurtsumia in two years. The two also met in the quarterfinals of the 2021 European Championships, with Azizli winning 10-1 en route to a bronze medal.
"I've lost to Azizli around seven or even eight times," Tsurtsumia said. "But it doesn't matter, because tomorrow I will wrestle till the very end. I'm not going to tell you now what exactly I'm gonna do, but you will see it all tomorrow. I'll take revenge."
Ali ARSALAN (SRB) pinned Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA) in the 72kg semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
In the 72kg semifinals, Arsalan had the play of the day when he used a slick duck-under to a half-nelson that put Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA) onto his back, where he secured a fall at 2:33.
That had come after Arsalan, a 2017 Asian bronze medalist who began competing for Serbia last year, had scored a reversal from the bottom of par terre.
"First of all, I am so glad that I made it to the final, it's really good for me," Arsalan said, "but it's not enough for me. I should recover myself and my body and my mind. Tomorrow I should be myself on the mat."
Earlier in the day, Arsalan defeated Robert FRITSCH (HUN) 7-3 to avenge a loss in the quarterfinals of the European Championships in June, where he won a bronze medal.
Ganizade made the final by edging Selcuk CAN (TUR) 4-3 in a battle of 2020 European bronze medalists. Both scored 2-point throws from par terre, but Ganizade added a stepout after his to provide the margin of difference.
Olympic silver medalist Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ), red, defeated Hyeonwoo KIM (KOR) 4-1 in the 77kg semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
At 77kg, Makhmudov and Levai made it through a grueling gauntlet of 33 entries which saw three world medalists from 2021, including the champion at 72kg, and an Olympic bronze medalist fall by the wayside.
"Tomorrow there will be revenge against Zoltan Levai," Makhmudov said. "I already lost to him once and I defeated him once as well. I want to do my best to show the Kyrgyz soul, to show what our wrestlers are capable of."
Makhmudov once again confirmed a changing of the guard in Asia when the 23-year-old knocked off veteran Hyeonwoo KIM (KOR) 4-1 in the semifinals. After a successful defense from the bottom of par terre, Makhmudov scored with a roll during his turn on top.
"I am really satisfied with today's performance," said Makhmudov, who beat Kim in the semifinals of the Asian Championships in April, where he won his second continental title.
Kim won a silver medal at the 2012 London Olympics and bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) celebrates after beating Viktor NEMES (SRB) 3-1 in the 72kg semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
Levai finished off a long and exhausting day by beating Nemes 3-1 in the other semifinal. It was his fifth match of the day, which started with a 3-3 win over 2021 world 72kg champion Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM).
It's been a good year for Levai. He came into Belgrade having won international tournaments in Rome, Warsaw and Mladenovac, Serbia, over a three-month span through August.
At least Amoyan still has a shot at a bronze medal. Among those who didn't make it to the repechage were 2021 silver medalist Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE), 2021 bronze medalist Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) and Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Shohei YABIKU (JPN).
On Sunday, competition through the semifinals will be held in Greco 63kg, 67kg, 82kg and 97kg.
Day 1 Greco-Roman Results
55kg (18 entries)
Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) df. Max NOWRY (USA) by TF, 9-0, 1:44
Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) df. Amangali BEKBOLATOV (KAZ), 5-3
72kg (25 entries)
Ali ARSALAN (SRB) df. Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA) by fall, 2:33 (5-1)
Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE) df. Selcuk CAN (TUR), 4-3
77kg (33 entries)
Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) df. Viktor NEMES (SRB), 3-1
Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) df. Hyeonwoo KIM (KOR), 4-1
87kg (30 entries)
Zurabi DATUNASHVILI (SRB) df. David LOSONCZI (HUN), 4-3
Turpan BISULTANOV (DEN) df. Ali CENGIZ (TUR), 6-0