Hrushyna, Koliadenko lift Ukraine to Euro title

By Vinay Siwach

ZAGREB, Croatia (April 21) -- As Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR) prepared for her gold medal bout at the European Championships in Zagreb, her attention was divided between the task at hand and her phone. She couldn't help but feel a twinge of anxiety. It wasn't the usual pre-competition jitters that she had grown accustomed to over the years. She was worried about her family back in her hometown Irpin, Ukraine.

"A shell landed on my apartment and destroyed everything," Koliadenko said. "Training is difficult due to the constant air raids. In fact, before the national competition [February], I received a notification on my phone that there was an air raid warning in the Kyiv region. It's not easy leaving your loved ones in a war zone while you're competing abroad."

But as her name was called, Koliadenko put aside the worries of home and stepped on the mat for the 62kg gold medal bout at the European Championships and showed the world who is best in the weight class in Europe.

Koliadenko won the gold medal, her second at the European Championships, by defeating Grace BULLEN (NOR) via fall. With her victory, Ukraine won the team title with 157 points. Turkiye finished second with 136 points and Bulgaria was third with 94 points.

In addition to Koliadenko's win, Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR) defended her title at 57kg, giving Ukraine two gold medals for the night. At 53kg, Jonna MALMGREN (SWE) won back-to-back European titles while Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) stunned Irina RINGACI (MDA) in the 65kg final. At 72kg, Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU) became the second wrestler from Romania to win a European title in women's wrestling.

After winning bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, Koliadenko has been off the mat for a year, marking her return at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series in which she won a bronze medal. She was part of the Ukraine team which won its first-ever World Cup in December before finishing with another bronze at the Ibrahim Moustafa Ranking Series in February.

There, Koliadenko faced Bullen in the quarterfinals and managed to scrape out a 14-12 win, a match that was dominated by Bullen. But for the European Championships, Koliadenko came prepared.

"This was a tough competition and we had to prepare for each match," she said. "I prepared for Grace just like I did for all the other matches that I fought with the wrestlers who became my best friends."

In the final, Koliadenko began with a snap to go behind to score her first points. Bullen was put on the activity clock but Koliadenko continued her aggressive wrestling and scored another takedown using a similar technique to lead 5-0. Just before the break, Bullen shot a double-leg and while Koliadenko managed to survive a big throw, she did give up two points.

Bullen did not give up though and used the same shot at the start of the second period and got the four points to lead 6-5. Bullen tried another leg attack and hit her head on Koliadenko's knee, forcing a medical timeout for concussion.

After a thorough examination, the doctors confirmed that Bullen can continue but it disturbed her momentum as Koliadenko scored a takedown to lead again. Bullen made a half-hearted attack which Koliadenko countered to secure the fall.

And as Koliadenko walked off the mat, she felt a sense of relief wash over her. Perhaps for a brief moment, she was able to put those thoughts away she had before the bout.

"We needed to show the strength of our city," Koliadenko said. "It was a motivation for me to bring victory to our country. It was a difficult time, but we brought back two gold medals."

Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR)Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR) defended her 57kg European title by pinning Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE). (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

The second was from Hrushyna who won her fourth European title overall and second consecutive win in the 57kg weight class. In the final, she made short work of Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE).

"Alina inspires me to win and I was well-prepared for the victory," Koliadenko said regarding Hrushyna's performance.

Beginning the gold medal bout with an arm drag for a takedown, Hrushyna managed to get a turn as well, just, to lead 4-0. Aliyeva never looked in the class of Hrushyna who managed to defend against almost every attack on her. She used an arm bar to secure the fall with 15 seconds remaining in the first period.

With that, Hrushyna claimed the European title with three consecutive falls in Zagreb as Mathilde RIVIERE (FRA) and Tokyo bronze medalist Evelina NIKOLOVA (BUL) also met the same fate.

"I was well prepared," Hrushyna said. "I didn't even expect to do what I did, but I was ready and in a very good mood, and everything turned out that way."

Despite her dominant performance in winning gold, Hrushyna said that she did not expect herself to stand on the top of the podium this year.

"The whole process was difficult for me, both physically and mentally, because I didn't have high hopes of winning the gold," she said. "Everyone understood that I was ready and that I could potentially win the gold, but the preparation was always tough for me. There were a lot of worries, but I'm very happy that I was able to perform at my best in the competition."

Looking ahead to future competitions, Hrushyna wants to be ready for the World Championships, especially for her Japanese opponents who have defeated her at three different World Championships.

"I understand that Japanese are the strongest in wrestling," she said. "We are constantly preparing for their fights and know that they are our biggest competitors. We will work with the coach to become the best. There will be training sessions in the Olympic base. We will do our job, and everyone will work on their part to do their best."

Jonna MALMGREN (SWE)Jonna MALMGREN (SWE) gets emotional after winning the gold medal at 53kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Jonna MALMGREN (SWE) was another returning champion who won the gold medal once again in Zagreb as she defeated Stalvira ORSHUSH (HUN) 9-3 in the 53kg final.

Just two months ago, Orshush had rolled Malmgren for a 10-0 win at the Ibrahim Moustafa Ranking Series event. A dejected Malmgren, instead of dwelling over the loss, got to work soon and fine-tuned her defense.

“I used to get upset and I lost a lot,” she said before the European Championships. “From last year I am better. Sometimes it doesn't work. That match was one of those. My head was not with me. After Egypt, I thought it was bad. It was like a wake-up call.”

The wake-up call was at the right time as Malmgren faced Orshush with tighter defense and did not commit to half attacks during the match.

“I think we had a better plan this time,” she said. “I really knew what to do and what she would do. So I just followed our plan and it worked out really well.”

In the 9-3 win, Malmgren used a leg lace to score six points which proved to be vital in the end even though Orhush scored a takedown.

An emotional Malmgren ran towards her coach Sofia MATTSSON (SWE), a virtual thank you for her work on the 2021 U20 world champion.

Malmgren is coached by two former European champions -- Mattsson won the title five times while Yuliya RATKEVICH (AZE) won the title in 2011. Both Mattsson and Ratkevich are world champions from 2009.

“I know all the work she [Mattsson] has put in and I see it in myself,” she said. “When I was growing up, I saw her in training and saw her in competition. She was more surprised if she lost than if she won. She is a great inspiration and I am so proud of having her as my coach.”

Another special moment for Malmgren was when her parents were present in the Zagreb Arena, watching their 21-year-old daughter win the gold.

“I heard my parents the most [from the stands],” Malmgren laughed.

At 65kg, Hristova managed to keep Ringaci under check and win the gold after a thrilling 6-4 bout.

Four seconds into the final, Hristova scored the takedown as Ringaci fell off balance. But she answered with a takedown after sneaking out of a lock from Hristova.

The second period was more action-packed as both wrestlers tried for takedowns. However, both wrestlers were up to the mark in the defense. Ringaci broke the deadlock when she circled around the zone and pushed Hristova out, claiming a point.

At one point, Hristova almost got a takedown but the referees deemed her action invalid as she was folding Ringaci's knee more than 90 degrees. Bulgaria challenged the call but lost, adding one more point to Ringaci's score.

Now, Hristova had 27 seconds to turn around and she used snap downs on a tiring Ringaci to go behind in standing. Rigaci tried the hip toss to fend Hristova off but she fell on her back. The judges awarded two points to Hristova which meant a 4-4 win for her.

As time ran out, Moldova challenged the call but on review, it was called four points for Hristova, improving her win to 6-4. This was Hristova's second European gold as she won one in 2020.

Ringaci, on the other hand, lay inconsolable on the mat, having missed her third European title after winning previously in 2020 at 65kg and 2022 at 68kg.

Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU)Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU) celebrates after winning the 72kg gold medal. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

The session and women's wrestling closed out on a perfect note as Romania got its second-ever women's wrestling European champion as Anghel won the gold at 72kg. By virtue of Anghel's 4-4 win, Buse TOSUN (TUR) had to finish with a silver medal for the second straight year.

Tosun led 1-0 at the break after Anghel failed to score in the 30-second activity time in the first period. But this changed quickly in the second as Anghel tossed Bosun for two points out of the zone.

Turkiye challenged that call with the intention that Tosun never fell in danger and it should only be a single point. On review, the two points were upheld and Anghel got one more for the lost challenge.

Tosun got a single leg and tried to transition into a cradle but managed only a stepout to cut the lead to 3-2. 20 seconds later, she got the takedown and the lead, 4-3, which she had to defend for 27 seconds.

Anghel, desperate for gold, went all out against a defensive Tosun and to a stepout by the barest of margins, win 4-4 on criteria.

Riza KAYAALP (TUR)Riza KAYAALP (TUR) reached the 130kg final in Zagreb. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Kayaalp moves closer

ZAGREB, Croatia (April 21) -- Riza KAYAALP (TUR) stands on the brink of history after reaching the final of the 130kg weight class in the European Championships. A gold medal on Saturday would bring him level with Alexander KARELIN's record of 12 gold medals at the event.

The three-time Olympic medalist and four-time world champion dominated his semifinal match against Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU), scoring a step out, receiving an activity point, and landing three gut wrenches to win 8-0 in just two minutes. His opponent in the final will be Sabah SHARIATI (AZE), who won a close 1-1 bout against Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO) in the other semifinal.

In the 77kg weight class, Viktor NEMES (SRB) returned to the final of the European Championships after five years, defeating World Championships silver medalist Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) 1-1. Nemes had finished with silver in 2018 and will face defending champion Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) in the gold medal match on Saturday. Amoyan defeated Yunus BASAR (TUR) 6-1 in his semifinal match, a rematch of last year's final in Budapest.

The final of the 87kg weight class will see Ali CENGIZ (TUR) take on Istvan TAKACS (HUN). In the semifinals, Cengiz avenged his loss from the final of the Ibrahim Moustafa Ranking Series two months ago by defeating Lasha GOBADZE (GEO) 3-1, while Takacs won his match against Damian VON EUW (SUI) 5-1. Being the deepest weight class in Zagreb, 87kg saw a number of upsets, most notably Turpal BISULTANOV's (DEN) 12-3 loss to Semen NOVIKOV (BUL). In the quarterfinals, Cengiz defeated Islam ABBASOV (AZE) 1-1, Takacs beat Novikov 3-2, and Gobadze overcame Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) 6-0.

The final in the 63kg weight class will be a repeat of last year's gold medal bout in Budapest, with both Leri ABULADZE (GEO) and Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) winning their respective semifinals. Abuladze dominated his semifinal match against Abu AMAEV (BUL) with an 11-2 victory, while Mammadov defeated Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM) 5-1. In the 2022 final, Abuladze had defeated Mammadov.

Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) will defend his title at 55kg after making it to the final. However, his opponent won't be his arch-rival Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) but Adem UZUN (TUR) as the Turkiye wrestled upset returning silver medalist Tsurtsumi 13-3 in the semifinal. Azizli defeated Denis MIHAI (ROU) in the other semifinal match 9-1.



GOLD: Jonna MALMGREN (SWE) df. Stalvira ORSHUSH (HUN), 9-3

BRONZE: Zeynep YETGIL (TUR) df. Turkan NASIROVA (AZE), 10-0

GOLD: Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR) df. Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE), via fall (10-0)

BRONZE: Elena BRUGGER (GER) df. Jowita WRZESIEN (POL), 3-1
BRONZE: Evelina NIKOLOVA (BUL) df. Mathilde RIVIERE (FRA), 4-2

GOLD:  Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR) df. Grace BULLEN (NOR), via fall (9-6)

BRONZE: Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) df. Selvi ILYASOGLU (TUR), 3-2
BRONZE: Luisa NIEMESCH (GER) df. Johanna LINDBORG (SWE), 8-1

GOLD: Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) df. Irina RINGACI (MDA), 6-4

BRONZE: Tetiana RIZHKO (UKR) df. Kendra DACHER (FRA), 10-2
BRONZE: Kriszta INCZE (ROU) df. Busra EFE (TUR), 9-0

GOLD: Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU) df. Buse TOSUN (TUR), 4-4

BRONZE: Dalma CANEVA (ITA) df. Ilana KRATYSH (ISR), via fall

UkraineUkraine won the women's team title with 157 points. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Greco-Roman Semifinals

GOLD: Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) vs. Adem UZUN (TUR)

SF 1: Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) df. Denis MIHAI (ROU), 9-1
SF 2: Adem UZUN (TUR) df. Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO), 13-3


SF 1: Leri ABULADZE (GEO) df. Abu AMAEV (BUL), 11-2
SF 2: Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) df. Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM), 5-1

GOLD: Viktor NEMES (SRB) vs. Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM)

SF 1: Viktor NEMES (SRB) df. Zoltan LEVAI (HUN), 1-1
SF 2: Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) df. Yunus BASAR (TUR), 6-1


SF 1: Ali CENGIZ (TUR) df. Lasha GOBADZE (GEO), 3-1
SF 2: Istvan TAKACS (HUN) df. Damian VON EUW (SUI), 5-1


SF 1: Riza KAYAALP (TUR) df. Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU), 8-0
SF 2: Sabah SHARIATI (AZE) df. Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO), 1-1


WATCH: 10 freestyle finals from European Championships

By Vinay Siwach

ZAGREB, Croatia (May 11) -- The European Championships in Zagreb gave wrestling fans epic bouts from day one. The continent's freestyle stars fought for the top honors and it was a neck-to-beck battle for supremacy.

Azerbaijan, Turkiye and Armenia won two gold medals each in the competition and Ukraine, Greece, Georgia, and Slovakia took home a gold medal each.

Relive the action from the 10 gold medal bouts of the freestyle competition at the European Championships

GOLD: 57kg - Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) vs. Suleyman ATLI (TUR)