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) 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) 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) 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) 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
BRONZE: Simone PIRODDU (ITA) df. Adam BIBOULATOV (FRA), 9-3
GOLD: Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) df. Vasile DIACON (MDA), 1-1
BRONZE: Giorgi GOGRITCHIANI (GEO) df. Szymon WOJTKOWSKI (POL), 10-0
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
BRONZE: Ismail KUCUKSOLAK (TUR) df. Ivan ICHIZLI (MDA), 7-6
GOLD: Andro MARGISHVILI (GEO) df. Muhammed GIMRI (TUR), 7-1
BRONZE: Adlan VISKHANOV (FRA) df. Roman RYCHKO (UKR), 9-1
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
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