Three Defending Champs Upended on Quest to Repeat as European Champions

By Eric Olanowski

ROME, Italy (February 13) --- Miglena SELISHKA (BUL), Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) and Ekaterina BUKINA (RUS) halted Thursday night’s trio of returning European champions from defending their crowns from a year ago. 

At 50kg, Selishka scored the two-point victory over defending European champion Oksana LIVACH (UKR) and flip-flopped the first and second positions on the podium from last year’s European Championships.

“I feel fantastic; I feel good. I can’t say it with words,” Selishka said after her European finals win. 

She trailed 1-0 after the first four minutes of wrestling but adjusted mid-way through the second period and solved the Ukrainian puzzle that stumped her for over half the match. “I was just thinking that I need to keep wrestling and try to score points.” 

Miglena SELISHKA (BUL) and her coach celebrate her 50kg gold-medal win. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

That’s precisely what she did, starting her five-point scoring run with a referee-given inactivity point. 

Selishka added a stepout point and a takedown and extended her lead to 4-1. She surrendered a two-point takedown and only led by a point, but capitalized on a Livach slip and scored her fifth and final point of the match. Selishka avenged her 2019 European finals loss and improved on that 2019 runner-up finish with the 5-3 win over third-ranked Livach.

Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) celebrates after picking up a last-second takedown over Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) in the 59kg finals. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Anastasia Nichita scored a dramatic comeback win over Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) and became the first Moldovan woman ever to win a European title.

“Firstly, for me, it means a lot because I train hard every day. I have done everything I could to win that medal,” said Nichita. “I was dreaming of it for so long. It means everything to me.”

Nichita trailed 2-0 after the first three minutes after she gave up the period's only takedown. The 21-year-old Moldovan evened the match with a takedown of her own with two-minutes left in the second period. 

But Nichita fell behind again after Dudova gained two points from a stepout and a failed challenge. 

When asked what her plan was heading into the final 25 seconds down by two points, Nachita said, “Honestly, I didn’t have any plans. I just wrestled till the very end. I only stopped when I saw 00:00 on the scoreboard.”

She fired off attack after attack, and with three seconds left, finally got to the legs of Dudoba. Nichita snuck behind Dudova and ended her hopes of repeating as European champion. “I didn’t expect it to happen,” Nachita said after scoring the takedown with three seconds left. 

Nichita qualified Moldova for the Olympic Games with a fifth-place finish in Nur-Sultan and will move back down to the Olympic weight of 57kg. “I will go on training hard. I want to win an Olympic medal for our country, for the Republic of Moldova.” 

Ekaterina Bukina finally captured her long-awaited European gold medal with a 4-3 victory over reigning champion Yasemin ADAR (TUR). 

Bukina fell in her previous three trips to the European finals and stopped Adar from adding a fifth consecutive continental crown to her resume. 

“It’s my first win at the European Championships. Even though I have the Olympic bronze, first place is always the first,” Bukina said after her big win. 

In the finals, Bukina blasted Adar in the opening period with an unexpected ankle pick and led 4-0. She said she saw the ankle pick present itself and capitalized on her one opportunity. “I saw that she put her foot close; I tried the chance that was given to me and it was successful.” 

She surrendered three points in the second period but stayed composed and stood atop the European podium for the first time in her career with her one-point finals victory. “I was very happy to win. I was happy that they played the Russian national anthem and gave me the medal,” said Bukina.

Bukina’s European title run puts the Russian coaching staff in a tough position moving forward. London Olympic champion Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS) is moving up from her 2019 world-title winning weight of 72kg to the Olympic weight of 76kg. 

Bukina said she's not sure where this win puts her in the race to represent Russia at the Olympic Games. “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.” 

Khanum VELIEVA (RUS) was one of three Russian women who won gold medals on Thursday night. She won the 68kg title with a 10-0 win over Dalma CANEVA (ITA). (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Russia Leads Team Race After Winning Three Golds on Thursday Night 
Olga KHOROSHAVTSEVA (RUS) and Khanum VELIEVA (RUS) joined Bukina as European champions on Thursday night. The trio of champions helped the Russian Federation (105 points) carry a 31 point lead over Ukraine  (74 points) into the final day of women’s wrestling. 

At 55kg, Khoroshavtseva only needed less than two minutes to pick up the 10-0 technical superiority victory over Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR) in the 55kg gold-medal match. She kickstarted the match with a slide-by and ended the match with back-to-back four-point throws. 

Khoroshavtseva's win handed Russia their first gold medal in any style of these European Championships.

Velieva was Russia’s second champion of the day. She put on a dominant display in the 68kg finals and joined Khoroshavtseva atop the continental podium with an 11-0 technical superiority victory over Dalma CANEVA (ITA). 

Bukina rounded out the three Russian gold medalists with her win over world champion Yasemin Adar in the 76kg finals. 

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

GOLD - Miglena Georgieva SELISHKA (BUL) df. Oksana LIVACH (UKR), 5-3
BRONZE - Milana DADASHEVA (RUS) df. Evin DEMIRHAN (TUR), 10-4 

GOLD - Olga KHOROSHAVTSEVA (RUS) df. Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR), 10-0 
BRONZE - Sofia Magdalena MATTSSON (SWE) df. Ellen RIESTERER (GER), 10-0 
BRONZE - Bediha GUN (TUR) df. Mariana DRAGUTAN (MDA), 11-4 

GOLD - Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) df. Bilyana Zhivkova DUDOVA (BUL), 6-5 
BRONZE - Anhelina LYSAK (UKR) df. Laura MERTENS (GER), via fall 
BRONZE - Liubov OVCHAROVA (RUS) df. Elif YANIK (TUR), 14-3 

GOLD - Khanum VELIEVA (RUS) df. Dalma CANEVA (ITA), 11-0 
BRONZE - Alla CHERKASOVA (UKR) df. Hanna SADCHANKA (BLR), via fall 
BRONZE - Danute DOMIKAITYTE (LTU) df. Anna Carmen SCHELL (GER), 9-0 

GOLD - Ekaterina BUKINA (RUS) df. Yasemin ADAR (TUR), 4-3 
BRONZE - Iselin SOLHEIM (NOR) df. Vasilisa MARZALIUK (BLR), 6-6 


USA closes out U17 Worlds with 3 golds, historic FS title

By Vinay Siwach

ROME, Italy (July 31) -- James GREEN (USA) was part of the USA team which won the freestyle team title for the first time in 22 years at the 2017 World Championships. The two-time world medalist won a silver medal in that edition.

Five years later, Green got another chance to hold the team trophy, this time as the chief coach of the USA team at the U17 World Championships in Rome on Sunday.

USA won a historic first U17 freestyle world title in Rome with nine out of their 10 wrestlers winning medals including four golds. It finished with 190 points which was more than enough to exchange places with defending champions India which finished with 126 points.

Azerbaijan, a nation that won the European team title, finished third with 122 points.

USA became the fourth nation to win the U17 world freestyle title after Russia, Iran and India since the U17 Worlds were reinstated in 2011. Russia won the title every year until 2018 when Iran broke that streak.

Russia won again in 2019 before India became only the third country to win the title in 2021.

USAUSA coach James GREEN, center, with the team title trophy. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

"It feels like it's straight out of a movie," he said. "It's like a reminiscent of 2017 when I was part of the world team that won the title for the USA after 22 years."

After finishing with a gold, three silver and a bronze medal on day six, the USA rocked again on the final day with three gold and a bronze to close out the tournament.

"I know how these guys are feeling," he said. "I am so excited to win this on my first trip and looking forward to more coaching."

Since 2011, the USA finished in the second spot five times in nine U17 Worlds with the latest being to India at the previous edition. But this year, all the USA wrestlers won their head-to-heads against India which ultimately proved to be the difference between who became the champions.

"The draw kind of worked in our favor," Green said. "We definitely had a gameplan not just for India but for everyone else including the Europeans as well.  But I can tell you one thing that our wrestlers wanted to get a hand on Indian wrestlers because we lost to them last time."

Luke LILLEDAHL (USA)Luke LILLEDAHL (USA), blue, upgraded his '21 silver to gold. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) finished with a silver medal in 2021 after suffering a loss against Aman GULIA (IND) but there was no stopping Lilledahl this year as he upgraded to gold with a dominating 10-1 win over Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI).

The 51kg final, pretty much controlled by Lilledahl, began with two exchanging stepout but then the USA wrestler switched levels after the break and scored takedowns whenever he found Asadi going for a half shot. He countered two of Asadi's attacks while he scored a takedown and added a leg lace in his 12-1 victory for the gold medal.

"Luke wrestlers at a hard pace," Green said. "He keeps a low head but is always moving and engaging. He takes the points as they come and doesn't rush into attacks."

Two other gold medalists for the USA on Sunday, Domenic MUNARETTO (USA) and Joseph SEALEY (USA), also impressed Green.

Munaretto won the 45kg gold medal by beating Bashir VERDIYEV (AZE), 2-0 in the final. Overall, the champion outscored his opponents 30-2 in the tournament.

Joseph SEALEY (USA)Joseph SEALEY (USA) outscored his opponents 55-1 in Rome. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

At 71kg, Sealey dashed local hopes to see a home champion by decimating Raul CASO (ITA), 12-0, in the gold medal bout.

Sealey, like his all other bouts, was wrestling at a completely different level and pace which Caso had no answer to. When Caso tried to engage in underhooks, he would get tripped by Sealey and when he tried to score a takedown, Sealey would easily stop any such attempts.

His two inside trips and two takedowns were enough to help Sealey win the crown and get some praise from coach Green.

"Sealey was very impressive," he said. "He wrestles like a senior athlete and can wrestle someone from that level. He conceded the least points in the whole tournament."

Sealey wrestled five bouts to win the gold and in an impressive record, scored 55 points and conceded only one.

Drawing experience from the title-winning run in 2017, Green had communicated to his team to 'have fun' during the tournament.

"I just told them that you are capable of being world champs and future Olympic champions," he said. "But more importantly I told them to have fun at this tournament. Most of these guys are wrestling for the first time and they can be hard on themselves so I didn't want that. And once we all met, they had the team chemistry and it clicked right away."

Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI)Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI), blue, pulled off a 5-4 win against Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ) in the 60kg final. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

The other gold medals of the night were shared between Iran and Kazakhstan.

At 60kg, Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI) defeated U17 Asian champion Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ), 5-4 to win the gold after trailing 3-1 at one point. Sharip Uulu scored the first points with a duck-under during the activity period against Elahi. It was initially awarded as four but Iran challenged the call and it was reversed to two points only.

But Elahi's constant moves towards Sharip Uulu's legs paid dividends as he leveled the score 3-3 and led on criteria. He then added a takedown against the tiring Kyrgyzstan wrestler to extend his lead to 5-3. He was warned for fleeing during the final 10 seconds which made the score 5-4 but did not change the result.

Elahi's gold was Iran's first of the tournament as it finished fifth in the team rankings.

Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ)Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ) won the 92kg gold, the second of the tournament for Kazakhstan. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Returning bronze medalist Kamil KURUGLIYEV (KAZ) went all the way this year and captured his maiden world title, a month after he had won the U17 Asian title.

Musza ARSUNKAEV (HUN) had no answers to Kurugliyev's style of wrestling, inspired by his former world bronze medalist father and cousin-brother, European champion Duaren KURUGLIEV (RWF).

After a 3-0 lead in the first period, Kurugliyev began the second with a huge double-leg for four and then added two takedowns to close out a statement win in Rome.

The World Championships season will now move to Sofia, Bulgaria with the U20 Worlds beginning August 15.




GOLD: Domenic MUNARETTO (USA) df. Bashir VERDIYEV (AZE), 2-0

BRONZE: Arman HARUTYUNYAN (ARM) df. Amirmohammad NAVAZI (IRI), via fall
BRONZE: Nikoloz BOTCHORISHVILI (GEO) df. Constantin RUSU (MDA), 5-4

GOLD: Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) df. Mohammad Reza ASADI (IRI), 10-1

BRONZE: Nurdanat AITANOV (KAZ) df. Ben TARIK (MAR), 1-1

GOLD: Ebrahim ELAHI (IRI) df. Bilol SHARIP UULU (KGZ), 5-4

BRONZE: Taiga OGINO (JPN) df. Alessandro NINI (ITA), 3-1

GOLD: Joseph SEALEY (USA) df. Raul CASO (ITA), 12-0



BRONZE: Maxwell MCENELLY (USA) df. Sahil JAGLAN (IND), 2-1