Mirzazadeh ready for Kayaalp test in Alexandria

By Vinay Siwach

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (February 17) -- Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) has watched his World Championships final against Riza KAYAALP (TUR) numerous times in the last five months to understand what he could have done differently to change the result.

The 1-1 victory for Kayaalp gave the Turkish legend his fifth world title, denying Mirzazadeh his first. But there were moments in the final that Mirzazadeh rues, a few that proved to be detrimental.

"I watched that final again," Mirzazadeh said. "There were some problems. I know that."

But not long after that bout, Mirzazadeh will get a chance to reverse the results albeit not in a World Championships. The two wrestlers head to the historic city of Alexandria, Egypt for the second Ranking Series event from February 23 to 26.

The two are among the 463 wrestlers who will compete at the Ibrahim Moustafa tournament and try to win the 1500 Swiss Francs on offer for the gold medal.

Starting this year, every Ranking Series will offer prize money -- 1500 Swiss Francs for gold, 750 Swiss Francs for silver and 500 Swiss Francs each for the bronze medalists. The tournaments will also allow two-kilogram weight tolerance.

Iran is bringing only four wrestlers but all are among the best in their weight classes. Mirzazadeh will be at 130kg while Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) will wrestle at 97kg. Olympic champion Mohammaedreza GERAEI (IRI) is registered at 72kg while Meysam DALKHANI (IRI) is wrestling at 63kg.

Mirzazadeh, a native of Khozestan, is visibly smaller than Kayaalp which has hampered his quest to beat the latter. But over time, the Iranian believes that he has improved his strength and size which can help him beat Kayaalp in near future.

"The Turkish wrestler is experienced," Mirzazadeh said. "But I will use my power as I am younger."

In Belgrade, late in the final, Mirzazadeh managed to put Kayaapl in a tricky position and could have scored a go behind or a stepout. However, it was the strength of Kayaalp that prevented that from happening.

Another huge shortcoming for Mirzazadeh is his failure to score from par terre against Kayaalp. It is one of the reasons that despite getting the advantage for the third passivity, he asked Kayaalp to resume in standing and not par terre in the Belgrade bout.

"In the previous bouts, I was underweight," he said. "But now I have increased my weight and strength to a great extent, and I will definitely look more powerful in my next match."

The two have met twice before in their careers and a positive, if any, for Mirzazadeh is the improvement in his defense. At the Tokyo Olympics, Kayaalp managed to turn Mirzazadeh from par terre while the same did not happen at the Belgrade World Championships.

With the growing years, it may well be true that Mirzazadeh's physical strength increased while Kayaalp's conditioning takes a hit with age.

Despite all this, Kayaalp, who has been busy with relief work after the February 6 earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria, will still be the favorite to win the gold at 130kg.

The participation in relief work in the Hatay province of Turkiye may affect his preparation for his first tournament of the year, but with tons of experience on his side and the European Championships scheduled in two months, Kayaalp will still be a force to reckon with.

On the other hand, this well may be the best chance for Mirzazadeh to get a win over Kayaalp.

"We have the plans," the 25-year-old said. "We have been working in the off-season with my coach Sina TALEBVAND and now at the national camp in Tehran."

Irrespective of the result of this potential bout on February 23, the two wrestlers will get a dress rehearsal for their respective continental championships.

Kayaalp will have Iakobi KAJAIA (GEO), Zviadi PATARIDZE (GEO), Jello KRAHMER (GER) and Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU) in the field while Mirzazadeh will likely face Lingzhe MENG (CHN), NAVEEN (IND), Anton SAVENKO (KAZ), Alimkhan SYZDYKOV (KAZ) and Roman KIM (KGZ).

Kayaalp will be looking to extend his record title run at European Championships in April in Croatia as last year he won his 11th continental title.

But Mirzazadeh is waiting for a showdown at the World Championships, incidentally, which will be held in Stark Arena, Belgrade like last year.

"I will do my best to improve in terms of physical and technical preparation," he said. "My goal is to reach my best state and to be able to win the gold medal in the 2023 World Championship and after that in the 2024 Olympics."


Shikhdzhamalov explains the mystery move in Alexandria

By Vinay Siwach

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt (March 5) -- Iakub SHIKHDZHAMALOV (ROU) is looking for a name for his move that broke the internet.

At the Ibrahim Moustafa Ranking Series tournament in Alexandria, Egypt last week, Shikhdzhamalpv won his 74kg semifinal against Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR) after trailing 3-0. Nothing was working for him until he hit a "scoop", an unofficial name for the same in the wrestling lingo.

However, Shikhdzhamalov says that he does not know what to call the move which has been shared and viewed by millions on social media.

"There is no name for this move," Shikhdzhamalov said. "I am now thinking of a name for this move. I guess it will be my personal move."

It is not the first time Shikhdzhamalov has performed the move, a mix of cut-back and outside trip. Over the years, he has used it in various competitions and even during training but Shikhdzhamalov says one cannot prepare to execute it.

"I’ve been using this move for quite a long time," he said. "Nobody showed it to me. I managed to do it once at the training around 7-8 years ago. My coach noticed that I was good at doing it, and we tried to practice it together, but it was not even possible to do it during the training bout. It only works during the real match when you are concentrated."

Shikhdzhamalov explained the setup and execution of the same. He stressed that a wrestler should perform it at a very high speed to catch his opponent by surprise.

"When the opponent is pushing you and putting his hand underhook, that’s the right moment to do it," he said. "It’s very difficult to explain the technical part of it and also difficult to show how to do it, but it really works well. The most important is the high speed while making the move." 

After the tournament, Shikhdzhamalov opened his social media and to his surprise, he received praise and feedback about the skill which he is proud of.

"Since I performed it at this tournament, there were so many comments and feedback about it," he said. It wasn’t just an occasional move. Yet, no one can do it. Even in my wrestling gym, the guys know that I can make this move, but no one can repeat it. If someone learns to do it, I would be really glad."

Training in Dagestan has helped Shikhdzhamalov improve his skills with the guidance of Gamid GAMIDOV and his personal coach Anvar MAGOMEDGADZHIEV.

After struggling at 79kg weight class last year where he failed to win a gold medal, Shikhdzhamalov has emerged as a contender for the gold at the European Championships.

"The 74kg weight class is preferable for my body," he said. "Last year I wrestled at 79kg because I had some health issues, I had to figure out what the problem was. The doctors advised me not to cut my weight at all. Last year my weight was about 77-78kg, although I wrestled at 79kg. This year I’ve solved all the problems and I went down to my weight class, since it’s more comfortable for me.

"I will wrestle for gold at the Europeans and the World Championships. I know most of the leaders in this weight class."

The European Championships in Zagreb, Croatia next month will be the first big test that Shikhdzhamalov will face before the World Championships. But after the gold medal in Alexandria, he hopes he can create more upsets in the weight class as the Olympics approach.

"Next tournament for me is the European championships," he said. "I don’t want to mention specific names that I would like to wrestle at 74kg, but for later tournaments, I am getting ready for the American, Iranian, Italian and all other leaders. I am getting ready to wrestle anybody and win. It's certainly interesting to wrestle against the top guys."