Russian Women Win Team Title on Back of Four Individual Gold Medalists

By Eric Olanowski

ROME, Italy (February 13) --- Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS) stuck Maria SELMAIER (GER) in the short-lived 72kg finals and closed out the Russian Federation’s run to the team title with a fourth women’s wrestling gold medal. 

Vorobeva, the reigning world champion at 72kg, joined fellow Russians Olga KHOROSHAVTSEVA (RUS), Khanum VELIEVA (RUS) and Ekaterina BUKINA (RUS) atop the continental podium after her win via fall on Friday night.  

Russia (190 points) won the women’s wrestling team title 35 points ahead of the defending champions, Ukraine (155 points). Belarus rounded out the top-three in the women's race with 97 points.

Vorobeva, Russia's women's captain, said being cool and confident helped them win the team title. "The team was so successful because our girls are really cool. They started to believe in themselves. In general, our team is very cool, friendly, strong and ready to win."

Vorobeva sealed up Russia’s fourth gold of the tournament with a fall in 85 seconds of the opening period against Selmaier and won her third European title. After securing the fall, the two-time world champion said, "Yesterday, I couldn’t pin my rival, so today I was a bit unsure that I could keep her pinned. The position was a bit uncomfortable, but when I caught her head, I was sure it was gonna work." 

She’ll now move up to the Olympic weight of 76kg for a run at a potential third Olympic medal. She won gold in London and silver in Rio.

Vorobeva’s move leaves the Russian coaching staff with a tough decision to make before the European Qualifier. Do they stick with Bukina who just won the 76kg title, or do they go with Vorobeva, who’ll be moving up from the non-Olympic weight of 72kg? 

On Thursday, Bukina was asked about where her European title win at 76kg puts her in the race to represent Russia at the Olympic Games. She said, “It depends on who will be in better shape. Right now, she is wrestling in the other weight category, but we will decide later when it’s closer to the Olympics. It’s too early to talk about it.”

When Vorobeva was asked about the log jam between herself and Bukina at 76kg, she said, "I gave Bukina this place and it's good for her that she used her chance. But if there is a need for me to wrestle at 76kg, we'll both go on the mat, wrestle and see who is the best."

Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (BLR) won her second European title with a win over Jessica BLASZKA (NED)  (Photo: Gabor Martin)

World Champions Kazldzinskaya and Tkach Ostaphuk Win European Golds on Friday Night
World champions Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (BLR) and Yuliia TKACH OSTAPCHUK (UKR) added European titles to their resumes with wins on Friday night in Rome. 

Kaladzinskaya, a two-time world champion, denied Jessica BLASZKA (NED) the opportunity to become the Netherlands’ first-ever women’s wrestling European champion and now owns as many European titles as world golds. "I think that when something happens once, it might not happen again. If something happens twice, it means that it would happen for the third time as well," Kaladzinskaya said about evening her world and continental gold medal count.

Yuliia TKACH OSTAPCHUK (UKR) edged fellow world champion Inna TRAZHUKOVA (RUS) in the 62kg finals and won her fourth European gold medal. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Tkach Ostaphuk won the low-scoring battle against fellow world champion Inna TRAZHUKOVA (RUS) and claimed her fourth European title. "It was the final match for the gold medal and any mistake could have been fatal. I had to wrestle well to achieve success," said Tkach Ostaphuk. 

In the 62kg finals, she trailed 1-0, but after a pair of second-period inactivity points, Tkach Ostaphuk handed Ukraine their lone women’s wrestling title of the tournament.

"I knew it would be difficult. It’s not the first year we've been wrestling together. We know each other very well and it's difficult to wrestle when you have known your rival for a long time," said Tkach Ostaphuk.  "I think the luckiest one has won tonight. Well, actually, the one who was stronger won tonight."

After stepping off the podium, Tkach Ostaphuk was asked what it feels like to hold her fourth European gold medal. She said, "I am so happy because it’s my 30’th birthday this year, and it feels like I have already been an athlete for a century. It’s a pleasure to win and to prove that I am the best in this weight category."

Tkach Ostaphuk will travel back to Ukraine to train before heading to Budapest, Hungary, to try to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games. In order to earn a berth to the Olympic Games, Tkach Ostaphuk said she needs to enjoy the moment. "I just need to step on the mat, wrestle and enjoy it. I hope I will be able to qualify for the Olympics, those will be my 4th Olympic Games, I would finally like to win a medal so that my sporting career will have a nice ending." 

Grace BULLEN (NOR) is the first women's wrestler from Norway to win two European titles. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Bullen First Norwegian Woman to win Two European Titles 
Grace BULLEN (NOR) became the first Norwegian woman to win two European titles after bulldozing Alina AKOBIIA (UKR) in the 57kg finals. “It’s awesome. I like that I can make history and make the path for younger generation wrestlers in Norway,” Bullen said about her history-making performance.  

Bullen stopped five Ukrainian shots in the opening period and capitalized on the fifth defensive stop with a counter-offensive takedown. She transitioned into a gut wrench, and after trailing 1-0 for nearly the entire first period, she ended up leading by three points.

The second period was a somewhat dull one. Bullen stopped Akobiia’s high crotch attempt and tossed her to her back with a whip over. She held her Ukrainian opponent on her back for the final two minutes of the period and claimed the gold medal with the 6-1 victory.

Bullen knew it was risky to try to adjust her grip, so she stayed put and watched the clock expire. “I was thinking about controlling (the fall). My grip could easily fall out and we’d probably have to go (on our feet) again.” And she didn't want that, She’d rather play it safe. “Just knowing you can count down to a win is a good thing, and it’s safe that way. I’d rather be safe than sorry.” 

Bullen plans to wrestle at the European qualifier in March then hopefully to the Tokyo Olympic Games later this year. And to do that, Bullen said it needs to be herself. “First of all, I have to get to the Olympics. To do that, I have to be myself. I want to impress people with my wrestling and make it interesting for people to watch. If I do that, I’ll win matches, and I’ll get there.”

Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) stopped Elis MANOLOVA (AZE) from repeating as European champion. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Hristova Stops Manolova from Repeating as European Champion
Defending European champions had a difficult night on Thursday, going 0-3 in gold-medal matches. On Friday, their luck was eerily similar, as Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) stopped Elis MANOLOVA (AZE) from defending her European crown from 2019. 

Hristova and Manolva combined to score three points in the first five and a half minutes of the bout, but a late scramble that ended in an awkward flurry lit the score up with six additional points. Hristova went from leading 2-1 to ending the match with Manolva on her back while controlling the 6-3 advantage. 

The European Championships resume tomorrow at 11:30 (local time) and can be followed live on www.unitedworldwrestling.org. 

GOLD - Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (BLR) df. Jessica BLASZKA (NED), 3-1 
BRONZE - Annika WENDLE (GER) df. Suzanna Georgiana SEICARIU (ROU), via fall 
BRONZE - Stalvira ORSHUSH (RUS) df. Katarzyna KRAWCZYK (POL), 6-0 

GOLD - Grace Jacob BULLEN (NOR) vs. Alina AKOBIIA (UKR), 6-1
BRONZE - Sara Johanna LINDBORG (SWE) df. Marina SIMONYAN (RUS), 7 - 4

BRONZE - Taybe Mustafa YUSEIN (BUL) df. Mariana CHERDIVARA ESANU (MDA), 12 - 0
BRONZE - Tetiana OMELCHENKO (AZE) df. Veranika IVANOVA (BLR), 4-0

GOLD - Mimi Nikolova HRISTOVA (BUL) df. Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), 6-3 
BRONZE - Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR) df. Kriszta Tunde INCZE (ROU), 8-0 
BRONZE - Mariia KUZNETSOVA (RUS) df. Petra Maarit OLLI (FIN), 8-4

GOLD - Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS) df. Maria SELMAIER (GER), via fall 
BRONZE - Catalina AXENTE (ROU) df. Enrica RINALDI (ITA), 5-1 


'Focused' Chamizo Steals Gold Against Burroughs at Matteo Pellicone

By Vinay Siwach

OSTIA (Italy), March 8 --- After a 25-month wait, Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) and Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) finally met again on the mat.

At the Yasar Dogu in 2019, Chamizo had decided to sit out of the final, giving Burroughs the win. This was five months after the American had scored his third win over Chamizo at the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov event in February.

Sure, the pandemic delayed the matchup but Burroughs' loss at the 2019 World Championships  semifinal to Zaurbek SIDAKOV (RUS) in September deprived the fans of a rematch in NurSultan, Kazakhstan. Chamizo was on the other side of the bracket and reached the final against Sidakov.

But on a blockbuster Sunday at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event in Rome, the two superstars clashed for the sixth time in what is quickly becoming wrestling's prized rivalry in recent years.

For the record, Chamizo closed the gap with Burroughs in head-to-head to 4-2 after winning a tense gold medal bout 3-2 at 74kg. Two of Chamizo's points were step out while one was for Burroughs passivity. Even Burroughs scored his two via step outs.

“I am feeling good. I did not even know he (Jordan) will be here,” Chamizo said. “I thought it would be an easy competition. My training is less but I am focused. That's what it is right now. I'm focused on my goals.”

Both wrestlers got into an intense scramble in the first period of the bout which resulted in Chamizo scoring a step out from a situation that seemed advantageous for Burroughs.

Chamizo explained the situation in the post-final interview. “I think he is a little bit scared when there's a scramble,” he said. “He loses focus and that's when I attack. When there is a scramble, he loses focus. He is like I don't want to be here.”

The bout was once again the most anticipated bout in Rome and like always was a medal bout. The two have wrestled for world medals, Ranking Series medals including the title which shows how dominant the two have been in their weight categories.

While Burroughs had talked about how is focused on winning his second Olympic gold medal after missing it in 2016 at Rio, Chamizo has been particularly expressive about being the top guy at 74kg.

Every tournament before the grand event in August will only be a virtual pit stop for wrestler but Chamizo thinks that the changes he has brought in himself will be enough to propel him to the top when it will matter the most five months from now.

“Before, I had training but I had no focus,” he said. “Now, I am a real 74kg. You see the difference between 2018 and now. Jordan is the best. For me, I always prepare for him. But I am the champion. I don't want to say but I the new man.”

It was evident in the final bout as well as Chamizo controlled the center of the mat instead of chasing Burroughs who has a tendency to pounce on the slightest of openings offered the opponent.

“I am training for this. I want to be in the center against him,” he said. “He has good scrambles and attacks. He is like a train. So I want to stay in the center and see what happens.”

Leading into the finals, Burroughs outscored his opponents 9-1 in the two bouts. 2019 Asian champion and world bronze medalist Daniyar KAISINOV (KAZ) was the first to fall to the American 5-0 before he beat Narsingh YADAV (IND) 4-1 in the semifinal.

On the other side, Chamizo had a roller-coaster especially in the quarter-final against Malik AMINE (SMR). Chamizo was at one point trailing Amine but managed to come back and win 13-8.

In the semifinal, Chamizo closed a 6-0 win over Franklin GOMEZ (PUR) to set up the summit clash against Burroughs.

Bajrang PUNIA (IND)

In other freestyle action, Bajrang PUNIA (IND) defended his title at 65kg with a tense 2-2 win over Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (MGL) in the gold medal bout. This was Punia's fifth gold medal at a Ranking Series event, making him the most successful freestyle wrestler at the series.

In a far from ideal bout in the final, Punia was left struggling to find an opening against Ochir. He was put on shot-clock and did not score giving a 1-0 lead to Ochir, who later scored a step out to lead 2-0. With 30 seconds to go, Ochir went for a shot but missed, while Punia capitalized on it to take a takedown with 14 seconds remaining.

“It was a good match with him. I am wrestling after a year off and he is also an Olympic qualified wrestler so it was a tough bout,” Punia said. “Before the Olympics, I want to wrestle every Tokyo qualified wrestler..”

Punia began with a 7-0 win over Selim KOZAN (TUR) but was tested by Joseph McKEENA (USA) in the semifinal. It was a rematch from last year which Punia won 4-2. This time, he improved the score to 6-3.

Ochir, on the other hand, dominated his opponents starting with Hamza ALACA (TUR) who he beat 10-0 before a 4-0 win against ROHIT (IND).


In an all-USA final at 86kg, former junior world silver medalist Zahid VALENCIA claimed a stunning 11-0 victory over Mark HALL (USA), himself a two-time junior world champion at 74kg.

Valencia was undoubtedly the top performer of the day as he outscored his opponents 34-2, winning all his bouts via technical superiority.

Another American wrestler who struck gold was Alec PANTALEO (USA) at 70kg. He defeated world silver medalist at 65kg Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ) twice in the day to claim the gold medal.

The surprise came at 61kg where U23 World Championships silver medalist Adlan ASKAROV (KAZ) defeated world and European silver medalist Suleyman ATLI (TUR) 8-3 in the first bout of the day. The Kazak youngster remained unbeaten for the day and claimed the gold medal while Atli settled for silver.  

World Championships bronze medalist Nurislam SANAYEV captured the top position at 57kg by defeating Nicholas SUNIARO (USA) twice in the day. In the final, Sanayev beat the US wrestler 4-2 while in the day the score was 3-2.

The 79kg gold medal was captured by veteran Galymzhan USSERBAYEV (KAZ). He had to see off a late challenge from David Vincent MC FADDEN (USA) before winning 6-5.

Rio Olympics silver medalist at 86kg Selim YASAR (TUR) won the gold medal at 92kg to close out the competition which was the first Ranking Series event of the year.


Final #WrestleRome MFS team scores

GOLD: USA (190 points)
SILVER: Kazakhstan (178 points)
BRONZE: Turkey (113 points)
FOURTH: India (98 points)
FIFTH: Italy (48 points)

Men's freestyle

GOLD: Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ) df. Nicholas Raymond SURIANO (USA) 4-2


GOLD: Bajrang PUNIA (IND) df. Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (MGL) 2-2
BRONZE: Hamza ALACA (TUR) df. ROHIT (IND) 12-10
BRONZE: Joseph Christopher McKENNA 8-2 Selim KOZAN (TUR)

GOLD: Alec William PANTALEO (USA) df. Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ) 4-0

GOLD: Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) df. Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) 3-2
BRONZE: Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ) df. Franklin GOMEZ MATOS (PUR) 8-1
BRONZE: Daniyar KAISANOV df. Narsingh Pancham YADAV (IND) 5-0

GOLD: Galymzhan USSERBAYEV (KAZ) df. David Vincent MC FADDEN (USA) 6-5
BRONZE: Muhammet Nuri KOTANOGLU (TUR) df. Ramazan Ishak SARI (TUR) 6-0

GOLD: Zahid VALENCIA (USA) df. Mark HALL (USA) 11-0
BRONZE: Myles Najee MARTIN (USA) df. Clayton Steven PYE (CAN) 12-2