Kougioumtsidis repeats as U23 European champion

By Vinay Siwach

BUCHAREST, Romania (March 18) -- Between his U23 European title last year and today, Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE) has managed only one gold medal -- the senior European gold in Budapest. He failed to win a medal in the last five events he has wrestled.

However, he ended that drought by reaching the 79kg final for the second year on the trot at the U23 European Championships on Friday and defended his title in a thrilling gold medal bout against U23 world champion Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO).

Kougioumtsidis wasn't as aggressive as he was last year. Yet, he found ways to deal with tricky situations and score when it mattered most. Gamkrelidze clearly dominated the tournament with two technical superiority wins before the final which he at one point led 4-0.

But Gamkrelidze should have accepted that it won't be this simple with Kougioumtsidis. He gave up three points before both wrestlers separated for the break.

When the bout resumed, it was a little surprising that Kougioumtsidis did not show intent. He was warned for passivity, however, he did enough to avoid the second call.

With 15 seconds remaining on the clock, it was now or never for Kougioumtsidis, who never has the slightest worry on his face.

He went for three fakes before a half-hearted duck-under which forced Gamkrelidze to transfer his balance to the front and he did not see Kougioumtsidis changing his attack to a single leg. The Greek wrestler elevated his leg and moved behind Gamkrelidze to bring him down.

It looked like a half throw but was good enough for two points and a 5-4 lead with four seconds remaining. Georgia challenged the call but lost, winning Kougioumtsidis a 6-4 win.

Last year, Kougioumtsidis won the U23 Euros and a month later won the senior continental title as well. The senior Europeans are a month away from Saturday, a day on which Kougioumtsidis won his second U23 Euro title.

Islam ILYASOV (AZE)Islam ILYASOV (AZE) became two-time U23 European champion. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Another defending champion won gold as Islam ILYASOV (AZE) went past Oktay CIFTCI (TUR), 6-1, in the 97kg final.

The gold medal bout began on a very slow note with Ilyasov picking up a point for Ciftci's passivity after two minutes. He added a takedown and gut wrench before the break to lead 5-0.

As he tried defending his lead in the second period, Ilyasov was called passive and he gave up a point after 30 seconds but that did not cause much harm.

Ciftci dragged Ilyasov out of bounds but the referee called it neutral and did not give any point. Turkiye challenged the call but lost to add another point to Ilyasov's score.

The last 30 seconds did not yield any more points and U23 world bronze medalist Ilyasov won his second gold and third medal overall at U23 European Championships.

Niklas STECHELE (GER)Niklas STECHELE (GER) tries to score on Tolga OZBEK (TUR) in the 57kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

It was not defending champion Horst LEHR (GER) but Niklas STECHELE (GER) made sure the 57kg U23 European gold medal remains in Germany.

Stechele, like Horst, claimed the gold medal in a low-scoring final against Tolga OZBEK (TUR) and won by a score of 4-2.

Ozbek opened the final with a low single which Stechele managed to fend off before going on one of his own. After a little scramble, he managed to score a takedown and lead 2-0.

A little later, Ozbek once again tried to get hold of Stechele's leg but failed. His weak positioning cost him another two points as Stechele went for the counter and scored.

A crotch lift just before the break made it 4-2 but Ozbek was still trying to find a way to break Stechele's defense which became even stronger in the second period.

Stechele gave a little throwback to Lehr's tactics in the final last year as he completely shutdown in the second period, just like his senior. Despite Ozbek getting on a couple of shots, Stechele gave up no points and won the gold medal 4-2.

Magomed KHANIEV (AZE)Magomed KHANIEV (AZE) won the 70kg gold medal in Bucharest. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 70kg, a new star was born as Magomed KHANIEV (AZE) announced his arrival at the international scene with the U23 European Championships gold medal.

Wrestling against Hayk PAPIKYAN (ARM) in the final, Khaniev was slow to start and only led 1-0 at the break. But he cut loose in the second.

Papikyan tried avoiding a leg grab but fell on his back which gave Khaniev four points and he dragged him out of bounds with exposure to lead 7-0.

Armenia challenged the four point call but it stood, adding one more point to Khaniev's account. Khaniev finished the bout with a duck under and captured the gold medal.

Interestingly, Khaniev is the younger brother of 2019 U17 world champion Mukhamed KHANIEV (RWF).

Khamzat ARSAMERZOUEV (FRA), who won all his three bouts 10-0 on Friday, was crowned as the U23 European champion at 65kg after his opponent Rashid BABAZADE (AZE) forfeited due to injury.

Although he did not get to wrestle, Arsamerzouev became the first French freestyle wrestler to win a gold medal at the U23 Europeans.


GOLD: Niklas STECHELE (GER) df. Tolga OZBEK (TUR), 4-2

BRONZE: Luka GVINJILIA (GEO) df. Thomas EPP (SUI), 5-0

GOLD: Khamzat ARSAMERZOUEV (FRA) df. Rashid BABAZADE (AZE), via inj. def.

BRONZE: Goga OTINASHVILI (GEO) df. Hamza ZOPALI (TUR), via fall
BRONZE: Mykyta HONCHAROV (UKR) df. Bozhidar DZHOROV (BUL), 6-0

GOLD: Magomed KHANIEV (AZE) df. Hayk PAPIKYAN (ARM), 10-0

BRONZE: Davit PATSINASHVILI (GEO) df. Benedikt HUBER (AUT), 10-0
BRONZE: Shamil USTAEV (GER) df. Moukhammad SANGARIEV (FRA), 4-2


BRONZE: Eugeniu MIHALCEAN (MDA) df. Gigi SUBTIRICA (ROU), via fall

GOLD: Islam ILYASOV (AZE) df. Oktay CIFTCI (TUR), 6-1

BRONZE: Ertugrul AGCA (GER) df. Richard VEGH (HUN), 10-0


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