Iran crowns trio of U20 world champs, wins team title

By Vinay Siwach

SOFIA, Bulgaria (August 21) -- When Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) was in Bulgaria last time, he was wrestling at his first senior tournament at the Dan Kolov in Sofia. Mohmadipiani finished with a bronze medal after losing the semifinal to European silver medalist Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO) in the semifinal.

Despite the loss, Mohmadipiani took home a lesson from the loss of being on the attack from the word go in a bout.

He used a similar strategy in the 82kg final against '21 U17 world champion Achiko BOLKVADZE (GEO) to win the gold medal at the U20 World Championships in Sofia.

Mohmadipiani was one of the three gold medalists for Iran on Sunday as the latest edition of the U20 World Championships came to an end with Iran winning the Greco-Roman title with 174 points. Azerbaijan finished second with 119 points while Ukraine managed to jump to third with 93 points.

The two other gold medals on Sunday were captured by wrestlers from Azerbaijan. A historic bronze medal was also won by Richard KARELSON (EST), becoming the first-ever medalist from the country at U20 Worlds.

For Iran, Mohmadipiani had the most convincing victory even though he faced one of the most accomplished wrestlers entered in the competition.

18-year-old Bolkvadze began aggressively against Mohmadipiani but lost some steam as the bout went on. He was called passive and Mohmadipiani failed to get a turn. But 20 seconds later, Mohmadipiani got him into a body lock and pushed him to the mat to get four points.

In the second period, Bolkvadze got the opportunity to level scores but he failed to get any points from par terre.

Bolkvadze struggled to keep up with the pace of the bout and the referee warned him for blocking. On the second warning, he was cautioned with two points. Mohmadipiani got the win when Bolkvadze received his second caution and two points.

"Bolkvadze is a good wrestler and he won a gold medal last year [at U17," Mohmadipiani said. "I won the Asian Championships. So great bout but I won against him at the end."

With the U20 title in the bag, the Iran youngster is hoping to quickly move to seniors from next year onwards. But he knows the challenge that comes with it.

"The weight class has many good wrestlers," he said. "We have Azerbaijan [Rafig HUSEYNOV] and Turkey [Burhan AKBUDAK] but I'm well trained and I think I can win.”

Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI)Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) defeated Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM) in the 60kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

At 60kg, Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) had all but lost the gold to Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM) as he trailed 6-2 with 22 seconds left in the final. But Esmaeili got his hands around Aghajanyan’s waist before moving into a bearhug and he secured a four-point throw to win 6-6.

Aghajanyan scored exposure from par terre to lead 3-2 before Esmaeili scored a takedown on the edge just before the break.

In the second period, Esmaeili worked more but there was no passivity call as Aghajanyan scored two stepouts to lead 5-2.

Esmaeili tried going for a takedown but his hands moved below the Aghajanyan’s waist and the move was illegal. Iran challenged the call but lost. It seemed that the final was all locked up when the U20 Asian champion stunned Aghajanyan, and the crowd with the throw to take the criteria lead.

Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI)Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI) scored six stepout points against Iussuf MATSIYEV (KAZ) in the 97kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

The third gold medal for Iran came in emphatic fashion as Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI) won the 97kg weight class over Iussuf MATSIYEV (KAZ).

Matsiyev took a 4-0 lead with a stepout and turn from par terre and Abedidarzi was struggling to get going with his attacks. But just before the break, he scored two stepouts and Matsiyev was hit with caution for fleeing.

Abedidarzi scored three more stepouts in the second period to claim the lead 5-4. When Matsiyev was called passive, Abedidarzi continued the bout from standing and scored three points to win 9-4.

Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE)Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE) won the gold at 67kg after beating Nika BROLADZE (GEO). (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Azerbaijan won the remaining two gold medals as Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE) won the 67kg weight class while Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) won at 72kg.

Abdullazade wrestled Nika BROLADZE (GEO) in the final and fell when the latter took the 1-1 criteria lead. Broladze planned to keep the lead until the end of the six minutes but Abdullazade scored a stepout with a minute and 13 seconds left.

Broladze, with time running out, tried to throw Abdullazade but both wrestlers fell with no control. But in the same sequence, Abdulladze managed to run around and score a go-behind to extend his lead to 4-1 for the win.

Gurban GURBANOV (AZE)Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) celebrates after emerging as the champion at 72kg. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Gurbanov had a similar script for his final as he defeated Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA), 4-0, in the 72kg final. Perhaps he did not plan to get the first passivity point but Solovei was called passive and forced into par terre.

The former U17 world champion got the turn using a gut wrench to lead 3-0 at the break. He then continued to wrestle aggressively in the second period and Solovei was again called passive. This time Gurbanov did not get the turn but the score read 4-0.

Solovei got his chance to score when the third passivity was called against Gurbanov but Solovei had nothing left in him to turn the Azerbaijan wrestler.

Richard KARELSON (EST)Richard KARELSON (EST), blue, won Estonia's first-ever medal at U20 World Championships. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Estonia’s historic medal

No Estonia Greco-Roman wrestler even won a medal at the U20 Worlds but Richard KARELSON (EST) changed that on Sunday as he won a bronze medal in the 97kg weight class after beating Roman BALCHIVSCHII (MDA), 8-0, in the bronze medal bout.

In June, Karelson had become the first U20 European champion from Estonia in Greco-Roman. He was the second ever Estonian Greco-Roman wrestler to enter the final.

Incidentally, his father is also named Richard.

“It’s a great feeling,” Karelson said. “I hope I can work on this and win at the U23 Worlds as well. I know that the competition will be harder than this.

Karelson's father was the one who forced his son into wrestling after he was growing too fast.

In the previous two U20 Worlds, Karelson had finished 15th in Ufa and 12th in Tallin, his hometown. But with the bronze medal in Sofia, Karelson hopes he can lift his performance moving forward.

"The U20 European gold and this bronze medal will help me get some funds," he said. "Now I hope to continue this performance and train more."

With the U17 and U20 behind, the action now moves on to the World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in two weeks. 

IranIran won the Greco-Roman team title at the U20 World Championships. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)



BRONZE: Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) df. Koto GOMI (JPN), 3-3 


BRONZE: Seyed SOHRABI (IRI) df. Nestori MANNILA (FIN), 11-2

GOLD: Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) df. Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA), 4-0

BRONZE: Irfan MIRZOIEV (UKR) df. Igor BOTEZ (ROU), 7-6




BRONZE: Rohit DAHIYA (IND) df. Ruslan ABDIIEV (UKR), 8-7 (via cautions)
BRONZE: Alperen BERBER (TUR) df. Fares GHALY (EGY), 9-1


BRONZE: Nurmanbet RAIMALY UULU (KGZ) df. Luka KATIC (SRB), 9-0


Nakaev wins Germany's first U20 Worlds gold in 23 years

By Vinay Siwach

SOFIA, Bulgaria (August 20) -- More than two hours after the final, Deni NAKAEV (GER) was still processing the win.

Nakaev was not the favorite but won the 77kg gold medal at the U20 World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria to give Germany its first Greco-Roman world champion in this age group in 23 years.

"I can't even explain how it feels," Nakaev said. "I haven't yet processed it or thought about it. I used the momentum and time when I got the opportunity to win."

Over the two days in Sofia, Nakaev scripted two comebacks and managed to win the 77kg gold over Yuksel SARICICEK (TUR). The German wrestler defeated Saricicek 9-4 in the final after trailing 4-0.

The two U20 European bronze medalists met in the final on Saturday and Nakaev fell behind early as Saricicek led 2-0 at the break. He added a takedown 15 seconds into the second period.

"When I was 4-0 down, I was thinking if I don't do it now, then when," he said. "You don't get too many opportunities to wrestle in the World Championships, forget in the final."

So he went for arm spin and scored the four points to take a 4-4 criteria lead. But he was not done yet. Nakaev broke Saricicek in the final minute and scored points via stepouts and takedown to secure the win.

"I did not know if it was a four-point move," he said. "But I saw it. So I was safe but then I thought if I lose from here, it will be because of my mentality. If I give up any points it will be my mental weakness."

He has been in situations like this before. Back in 2017, he wrestled at a tournament in North Macedonia and led 7-0. But he allowed the opponent to make a comeback and lost the bout. Since, Nakaev has felt that he needs to improve his mental strength.

"I remember at the earlier tournaments, there was one step missing," he said. "I had too much stress, mentally weak, tiny issues. But I worked hard especially between the U20 Europeans and Worlds now."

In Rome, Nakaev lost to (GEO) but came back to win the bronze medal. But since then, he was eager to win the World Championships.

"I was concentrated on myself," he said. "I had beat everyone to reach the final. I knew that the Asian champion was coming. I won that bout after being 4-0 down. I had to decide for myself if I wanted to wrestle for bronze or gold."

Nakaev began wrestling when he was nine years old when his father found a wrestling gym for his hyper-active son.

"I used to fight a lot on the streets," he said. 

While he won't be on the flight to Serbia, Nakaev wants to make the senior team as soon as possible.

"I still want to keep working and beat [Idris] IBAEV in Germany," he said. "So I have to step up like him and then move next."

Mykhailo VYSHNYVETSKYI (UKR)Mykhailo VYSHNYVETSKYI (UKR) defeated Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI) in the 130kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

In other finals, Mykhailo VYSHNYVETSKYI (UKR) enthralled the fans in the stands after a 6-4 win against Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI) in the 130kg final.

Hedayati tried hard to keep Vyshnyvetskyi quiet in the first period and even took a 4-2 lead. But he was called passive in the second period and Vyshnyvetskyi scored a gut wrench to lead 5-4.

Hedayati almost got the stepout late in the bout but the referee saw the Iran wrestler pull the singlet when pushing the Ukraine wrestler. Iran challenged the call but lost.

"The final match was tough," he said. "The quarterfinal against the Egypt wrestler wasn’t good enough. In the first period, I made a lot of mistakes, but in the second one I improved and got what I was supposed to."

In the quarterfinals, Fekry EISSA (EGY) almost pinned Vyshnyvetskyi but failed to hold him on the ground. Eissa countered every attack but Vyshnyvetskyi kept coming back to win 9-7.

The U20 European champion took a lesson from the U20 tournament in Rome which helped him in Sofia, especially to make comebacks.

"At the European championships, I realized that I can’t give up points for no reason," he said. "Because it is hard to make them up as all the wrestlers are the best representatives of their countries. So, I had to wrestle till the very last point."

A European final rematch was expected in the semifinal when Vyshnyvetskyi met Adolf BAZSO (HUN) but Aden ATTOO (USA) pinned Bazso.

"I was expecting the Iranian guy in the final because he is the Asian champion," Vyshnyvetskyi said. "I checked all his matches and I knew he is not an easy one. I tried to find the right way to wrestle him. The first period was a bit tough, but in the second period I got the par terre and made it work."

Iman Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI)Iman Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI) won the 63kg gold medal in Sofia. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

At 63kg, Iman Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI) controlled the final against Baiaman KARIMOV (KGZ) with ease and won 6-1, most of the points coming via stepouts.

Khoon Mohammadi, who also has a senior Asian bronze medalist, scored the first three points via steptouts before Karimov was called for passivity. At the break, he led 5-0.

Nihad GULUZADE (AZE)Nihad GULUZADE (AZE) won the 55kg gold after beating Denis MIHAI (ROU) in the final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

A rematch of the U20 European final occured at 55kg as both Nihad GULUZADE (AZE) and Denis MIHAI (ROU) made it to the gold medal bout. But like the Rome final, Guluzade defeated Mihai 6-1 to become Azerbaijan's U20 world champion.

Guluzade got the advantage when Mihai was called passive. The Azerbaijan wrestler scored two turns from par terre and led 5-0. He was called passive in the second period but Mihai was not able to level the score.

Vigen NAZARYAN (ARM)In a dramatic final, Vigen NAZARYAN (ARM) denied Abolfazl CHOUBANI (IRI) at 87kg. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Iran sent three in the finals but only won one. Vigen NAZARYAN (ARM) denied Abolfazl CHOUBANI (IRI), 1-1 at 87kg. The two exchanged passivity points but with just three seconds remaining on the clock, Choubani dragged Nazaryan towards the zone and pushout.

But Armenia challenged the call and in the review, it appeared that Choubani moved his hands below Nazaryan's waist while pushing him out. That prompted the jury to rule the decision in Armenia's favor.

While the Iran corner was not happy about it, Nazaryan won the bout 1-1 and become the U20 world champion, the first for Armenia since 2018.

The final five gold medals of the U20 World Championships will be handed out on Sunday.




GOLD: Nihad GULUZADE (AZE) df. Denis MIHAI (ROU), 6-1

BRONZE: Nuristan SUIORKULOV (KGZ) df. Tamazi GLONTI (GEO), 5-1
BRONZE: Taiga ONISHI (JPN) df. Karapet MANVELYAN (ARM), via fall

GOLD: Iman Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI) df. Baiaman KARIMOV (KGZ), 6-1


GOLD: Deni NAKAEV (GER) df. Yuksel SARICICEK (TUR), 9-4

BRONZE: Alexandrin GUTU (MDA) df. Khasay HASANLI (AZE), 11-5
BRONZE: Samandar BOBONAZAROV (UZB) df. Michal ZELENKA (CZE), 9-8

GOLD: Vigen NAZARYAN (ARM) df. Abolfazl CHOUBANI (IRI), 1-1

BRONZE: Lachin VALIYEV (AZE) df. Donghyun YUN (KOR), 9-0
BRONZE: Maksat SAILAU (KAZ) df. Mykyta ALIEKSIEIEV (UKR), via fall

GOLD: Mykhailo VYSHNYVETSKYI (UKR) df. Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI), 6-4 

BRONZE: Aden ATTAO (USA) df. Fekry EISSA (EGY), 11-3
BRONZE: Temurbek NASIMOV (UZB) df. Albert VARDANYAN (ARM), 11-5



SF 1: Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) df. Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE), 1-1
SF 2: Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM) df. SUMIT (IND), via fall


SF 1: Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE) df. Din KOSHKAR (KAZ), 9-2
SF 2: Nika BROLADZE (GEO) df. Seyed SOHRABI (IRI), via fall

GOLD: Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) vs. Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA)

SF 1: Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) df. Irfan MIRZOIEV (UKR), 5-0
SF 2: Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA) df. Amir ABDI (IRI), 5-2 


SF 1: Achiko BOLKVADZE (GEO) df. Ruslan ABDIIEV (UKR), 5-1
SF 2: Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) df. Alperen BERBER (TUR), 8-2


SF 1: Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI) df. Richard KARELSON (EST), 1-1
SF 2: Iussuf MATSIYEV (KAZ) df. Nurmanbet RAIMALY UULU (KGZ), 11-2